Description and geography
Indian Country 1834 (in Red)
Indian Territory in 1885 (top) and 1891 (bottom)
Indian Territory, also known as the Indian Territories and the Indian Country, was land within the
United States of America reserved for the forced re-settlement of
Native Americans. The general borders were set by the
Indian Intercourse Act of 1834. The territory was located in the
Central United States.
While Congress passed several
Organic Acts that provided a path for statehood for much of the original
Indian Country, Congress never passed an Organic Act for the Indian Territory. Indian Territory was never an
organized incorporated territory of the United States. In general, tribes could not sell land to non-Indians (
Johnson v. M'Intosh). Treaties with the tribes restricted entry of non-Indians into tribal areas; Indian tribes were largely self-governing, were
suzerain nations, with established tribal governments and well established cultures. The region never had a formal government until after the
American Civil War. Therefore, the geographical location commonly called Indian Territory was not a traditional territory.
After the Civil War, the Southern Treaty Commission re-wrote treaties with tribes that sided with the Confederacy, reducing the territory of the
Five Civilized Tribes and providing land to resettle
Plains Indians and tribes of the
Midwestern United States.
 These re-written treaties included provisions for a territorial legislature with proportional representation from various tribes.
In time, the Indian Territory was reduced to what is now
Organic Act of 1890 reduced Indian Territory to the lands occupied by the Five Civilized Tribes and the Tribes of the
Quapaw Indian Agency (at the borders of Kansas and Missouri). The remaining western portion of the former Indian Territory became the
Gray's new map of Texas and Indian Territory (c. 1876)
The Oklahoma organic act applied the laws of
Nebraska to the
incorporated territory of Oklahoma Territory, and the laws of
Arkansas to the still
unincorporated Indian Territory (for years the federal court in
Ft. Smith, Arkansas had jurisdiction).