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Oklahoma at the beginning of the 20th century


Oklahoma photo
Oklahoma photo

Oklahoma Territory nearly became a state without the Indian Territory several times prior to 1907, but Congress finally decided that the area of both the Oklahoma Territory and the Indian Territory should be admitted as a single state. Congress also decided that Indian Territory, as a political entity with land held in common by the tribe, had to be eliminated and individual Native Americans transformed into United States citizens before the Oklahoma Territory could become a state. The federal Dawes Commission, formed in 1893, forcibly divided tribal lands into allotments given to individual Native American families in 1896, beginning the process; the Curtis Act of 1898 helped finish it by placing all residents under federal laws and abolishing the tribal courts. In 1906 Congress passed the Oklahoma Enabling Act, which authorized a convention to meet at Guthrie to write a state constitution.

The delegates convened on November 20, 1906, and elected William (Alfalfa Bill) Murray of Tishomingo in the old Chickasaw Nation president of the convention. The convention completed its work in the summer of 1907, and on September 17 the voters of the two territories approved the constitution. The most revolutionary of the constitutional provisions were the initiative, which allowed citizens to write and submit their own laws to a direct vote, and the referendum, which permitted voters to accept or reject laws the legislature had made. The new constitution also included the long ballot, which made all high state offices elective, including the judiciary. The Oklahoma Enabling Act had also required that alcohol be prohibited in the Indian Territory for a period of 21 years, and since prohibition was a popular social reform at this time, the constitution extended this principle to the entire state. President Theodore Roosevelt officially welcomed Oklahoma to the Union as the 46th state on November 16, 1907. "Oklahoma" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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