Look upon the serene fields and forests of today’s Oklahoma and it’s hard to imagine the frantic, even desperate, activity that took place. Native American tribes forced to relocate here. Crazed settlers rushing to claim a piece of ground. Dust Bowl farmers escaping a state that was literally blowing away. Maybe all the turmoil made Oklahomans long for some quiet and relaxation and that’s what we find there today. Even the large cities of Tulsa and Oklahoma City seem uncrowded and unhurried. More than 50 languages are spoken in the state of Oklahoma. There are 55 distinct Indian tribes that make the state their home, and each of these tribes has its own language or dialect. The colorful history of the state includes Indians, cowboys, battles, oil discoveries, dust storms, settlements initiated by offers of free land, and forced resettlements of entire tribes.

Oklahoma’s Indian heritage is honored in its official state seal and flag. At the center of the seal is a star, and within each of the five arms of the star are symbols representing each of the five tribes (the “Five Civilized Tribes”) that were forcefully resettled into the territory of Oklahoma. The tribes depicted on the seal are the Creeks, the Chickasaw, the Choctaw, the Cherokee, and the Seminoles. The Oklahoma state flag depicts an Indian war shield, stars, eagle feathers, and an Indian peace pipe, as well as the white man’s symbol for peace, an olive branch.

Oklahoma has plenty of attractions for tranquil sightseeing, many of them related to the state’s past, turbulent and otherwise. There are museums about cowboys, about cowboy philosophers (Will Rogers) and about the white settlers who moved into the area in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. There are majestic tallgrass prairies that show the way the region looked before the cowboys and pioneers got there. Where Oklahoma really stands out, though, is in its wealth of Native American museums, historic sites and cultural gatherings. Once known as the Indian Territory, it still has the largest Native American population of any U. S. state, numbering more than 500,000.

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