The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

23 April 2005

Side by side

The 22nd of April went unmentioned at this outpost, not because I wanted to minimize its significance — it was on that date in 1889, which, contrary to popular belief, was 116 years ago, when the Land Run which created Oklahoma City took place — but because, well, it's not exactly news, you know?

Then I happened upon this piece, in which Louis Gray, head of the Tulsa Indian Coalition Against Racism, makes a reasonable case against re-enactments of the Run in schools — right up there with a victory parade in Custer's home town, he says — and indeed it does seem rather churlish for the winners to rub it in, as it were.

George Milburn wrote in the Yale Review in 1946:

A hundred years ago Oklahoma was turned into a vast concentration camp for Red Indians, because it was such worthless land. Fifty years ago, white people from every State in the Union swarmed in to dispossess the banished Indians, because Oklahoma was such valuable land.

I think, though, that the complaint about the Land Run is not so much for what it did to the tribes, which in reality was not all that much — the area defined for the Run was not part of any of the existing reservations and was largely unoccupied, and the Seminoles and Creeks, who had claims to the territory, were bought out by the US government — as for what it stands for: the entire westward movement, the whole history of the frontier, the arrival of white settlers and the displacement of the natives, boiled down to a single day in the spring of 1889. A natural focal point, if you have grievances, and certainly the tribes had.

By default or by design, the Land Run Monument and the American Indian Cultural Center will be more or less cheek-by-jowl east of downtown Oklahoma City. The juxtaposition, from a historical standpoint, makes perfect sense.

(Submitted to Wizbang's Carnival of the Trackbacks.)

Posted at 9:12 AM to Soonerland