Indian Territory

Indian Territory
Unorganized territory of the United States
1834–1907
Location of Oklahoma
Oklahoma and Indian Territories, 1890's
Government Self government
History
 •  Indian Intercourse Act June 30, 1834
 •  Platte Purchase 1836
 •  Kansas–Nebraska Act May 30, 1854
 •  Oklahoma Territory May 2, 1890
 •  Oklahoma statehood November 16, 1907
Today part of Oklahoma
Kansas
Nebraska
Missouri ( Platte Purchase)
Colorado
North Dakota
South Dakota
Montana
Wyoming

As general terms, Indian Territory, the Indian Territories, or Indian country describe an evolving land area set aside by the United States Government for the relocation of Native Americans who held aboriginal title to their land. In general, the tribes ceded land they occupied in exchange for land grants in an area purchased by the United States federal government from Napoleonic France, the Louisiana Purchase. The concept of an Indian Territory was an outcome of the 18th- and 19th-century policy of Indian removal. After the Civil War, the policy of the government was one of assimilation.

The term Indian Reserve describes lands the British government set aside for indigenous tribes between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River in the time before the American Revolutionary War.

Indian Territory later came to refer to an unorganized territory whose general borders were initially set by the Indian Intercourse Act of 1834, and was the successor to Missouri Territory after Missouri received statehood. The borders of Indian Territory were reduced in size as various Organic Acts were passed by Congress to create incorporated territories of the United States. The 1907 Oklahoma Enabling Act created the single state of Oklahoma by combining Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, ending the existence of an Indian Territory.

Description and geography

Indian Country 1834 (in Red)
1885 government map of Indian Territory
1891 government map of Indian Territory
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. [1]

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. [2] 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 Oklahoma. The 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 Oklahoma Territory.

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).

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