History 430: Theory and Practice

Document Type

Undergraduate Research

Publication Date

Fall 12-13-2011


Until the early 1800s, the state of Oklahoma was only open prairie. Unsettled and mainly used as a yearly hunting ground for some Plains Indians, Oklahoma was, to French travelers, land of little opportunity. It was Indian land; therefore it was not available to the French. Yet when they sold the land to the United States in 1803, the young government took control of the land and the people who have been living there for thousands of years. One-hundred years later when minerals were found on Quapaw-restricted land in Oklahoma, the government attempted to pass legislation in order to protect those Indians' interest. But the government's plan failed. The Indians still ended up with usable land once the mines depleted and mining companies left. Although the federal government attempted to protect the rights of the Quapaw Indians who leased their land, it was the local bureaucrats of Oklahoma that allowed the abuse of Indian land to happen. This is important because for most of history people believed the government took no acknowledgement of Indian rights, yet it was the local government's lack of enforcement that has led to years of land right struggles on the Quapaw tribal lands.