One of the best-known aspects of Oklahoma’s history is the dramatic and poignant story of the withdrawal of the Five Civilized Tribes from the Southeastern States. But this is not the start of Native American migrations to and through the state. Even before European colonization of the American continents, native tribes often felt compelled to move to new locations.
Sometimes this pressure is due to natural conditions such as flooding or prolonged drought. At other times, the pressure came from a rival tribe contesting them for the right to live or hunt in a certain area. Thus, among the number of tribes considered to originate from Oklahoma, such as the Caddo, the Comanches, the Wichita and the Kiowa, all migrated to this region from elsewhere long before the Spanish and the French sent exploration teams in Oklahoma.
It is believed that the Caddoan people once lived along the Gulf Coast of Texas and Louisiana. By the time the Spaniards were exploring this region, however, the Caddos had settled in the Red River valley. Perhaps the tropical storms and hurricanes that can plague the coastal region were the cause of the Caddo migration. When French expeditions moved to the Oklahoma area, Caddo tribes such as the Tawakoni and Wichita lived along the Canadian and Arkansas rivers.
The Apaches are believed to have migrated north from Mexico. They settled for a time in the western sections of Oklahoma, including the panhandle. But the Apaches were driven out of the area by the Comanches, who were a Shoshonean tribe coming from northwestern Oklahoma and settling in the Wichita Mountain region.
Siouan tribes such as the Quapaws and Osage are believed to have lived in the Southeastern United States centuries ago, but they were pushed west by the Muscogean tribes, such as the Creeks and the Choctaws. They settled for a while in the Missouri area, but then went their separate ways. The Quapaws moved south to Arkansas and the Osages stayed in Missouri. Eventually, the two tribes settled on Indian territory.
Oklahoma is a state that can proudly claim more Native American tribes than any other, but most were from elsewhere. But what better place to finally settle down and call home than Oklahoma.
Contact Jonita Mullins at [email protected]