4.24.2015

REMEMBERING THE OKLAHOMA RUIN OF 1889






By Gloria Dulan-Wilson

Hello All:

There has been something weighing heavy on my consciousness over the past several days - especially leading up to, and on April 22 - and I just had to deal with it before going forward to other matters.

Most of the US celebrates April 22 as Earth Day - and there are a whole slew of activities that have been invented to reinforce this.  And that's wonderful, well and good.




However, in Oklahoma April 22 has a more ominous meaning:  it was the date of the infamous OKLAHOMA RUIN - known to the meanstream as the Oklahoma Run - the biggest landgrab in the history of the US, where millions of families Black and Indian (Native American to the PCs) were forcibly removed for their homes so that they could be taken over and settled by jealous whites who had already ruined the other land they touched. 


THE OKLAHOMA RUIN OF 1889 - BIGGEST LAND GRAB IN THE HISTORY OF THE US WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE BUSH ERA HOUSING COLLAPSE

It took place in what was then Oklahoma Territory in 1889 - on land that had been set aside for the five civilized tribes - Cherokee, Chocktaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, and Creek - who were pushed out of Louisiana, the Carolinas and Georgia onto land that was supposed to be only for them as long as the "grass was green and the waters flowed" - i.e. forever.  

THEY WERE CALLED "CIVILIZED" BECAUSE THEY COULD READ, WRITE, RUN THEIR OWN BUSINESSES
 
And they didn't reach that precious red earth by any easy  means either - after having been forced in the 1830s to relinquish their original lands in the south, they were forced marched to Oklahoma Territory, in the freezing cold - they were given blankets that was supposed to protect them from the harsh winter weather - generally speaking, Indian Nations had the good sense to go south for the winter, and generally were not in that portion of the US when it was bitter cold - they were summering in Florida along the Gulf Coast.  This was President Andrew Jackson's (a/k/a Ol' Hickory) Indian Removal Act.  (by the way the Oklahoma Territory was part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1804 - after Dessalines and L'Oveture kicked Napoleon's butt out of Haiti, they decided they didn't want any part of this hemisphere, so they sold the land to the US - Oklahoma was considered undesirable - so they gave it to the Indians). 


OL' HICKORY NUT ANDREW JACKSON STARTED THE WHOLE THING

Now, being forced through the harsh winter to a place they had never been - being given rations of meat that had sat so long that even in the winter they had begun to decay and develop maggots; and the harshest insult of all was the fact that the blankets the soldiers so "generously" gave them were blankets that had been discarded by the Army because the soldiers that had used them had died of smallpox - which later decimated the Indians as well - wiping out nearly half of the population.

Along with the major members of the Five Civilized Tribes who made that initial trip were Black families who had been held as "slaves" and were being evicted as well.  The reason the word "slaves" is in quotes is because whites had tried to force Indians to maintain slavery in the South the way whites did as a condition for their being able to "relate" to each other.  They basically said that in order to be accepted, Indians had to do like wites - or they would not be considered civilized.  So the Indians had Black "slaves."  They did the work, cooked the food, helped with the crops - and after a period of 6 months to a year married into the tribe - which was the tradition.  There was no real concept of slavery among Native Americans.  If you work that intimately with someone, they were considered family.  The next step was marriage - so the Blacks that accompanied the Indians on the trek across the US were family members. 

The Blacks and Indians who lived in Oklahoma lived charmed lives.  It had been deemed illegal for whites to go into Oklahoma Territory for any reason, unless given express permission from the US Government - so we thrived.  When I say we - I mean there were some of my ancestors among those who made that arduous trek across the US.  My mother's mother was a descendant of the Hornbeaks of Oklahoma - Cherokee and proud!


MY GRANDMOMMY CORNELIA HORNBEAK-GAINES  HER FOREBEARERS MADE THAT HORRIBLE TREK ALONG THE TRAIL OF TEARS
Now moving forward Oklahoma Territory became a "steal away" spot for many slaves along the borders of Missouri, Texas and other slave holding plantations - but whites could not legitimately go in and bring them back.  Additionally, after the Civil War, Oklahoma became a destination for many upscale Black families who wanted to raise their children in a land where there was little to no white interference - even Ida B. Wells Barnett had considered moving there. Frederick Douglass, a hero in Oklahoma, had several schools named after him, and visited Oilahoma frequently.

There were originally 67 All Black Towns in Oklahoma, along with of course wonderful outspread of Indian lands - businesses thrived, farms were bountiful, kids were well educated, women were beautiful, you had Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Seminole, African American, and a mix of all that in some form or another - we were absolutely gorgeous - when I look at my Mom Ruby Love and my aunts, I am always reminded of what beautiful creatures Black Indian women and men are - jess sayin'!   


They men on the other hand, in addition to being extraordinarly handsome, were independent, self confident, skilled, intelligent, brave, - did I say handsome (like my dad), and determined.  {In fact, in Jake Simpson's book "STAKING A CLAIM" he tells of how whites wouldn't work with Black Indians because they were too independent, too arrogant, had their own land, and looked down on the white settlers.  Great book, by the way - you should really read it.}

Back to the jealous whites - led by David L. Payne -  they were sitting all over on their barren properties that they had over cultivated, not fertilized, depleted of the nutrients, and being totally pissed that the Black and  Indians had it so good - they began lobbying the President to open up the territory to the whites - their reason?  The Blacks and Indians were living too good.  Never mind that there was a treaty.  Never mind that there hadn't been a problem between them for nearly 40 years  - these greedy s.o.b.s wanted the land - and they wrangled, weedled, bribed, and cajoled until they found a president weak and spineless enough to say yes - and that President was Benjamin Harrison - never heard of him? Small wonder - never amounted to much.  However, he and his henchmen actually had the audacity to name the portions of land that were originally Indian territory "unassigned lands."  Now isn't that a hoot.  Clearly families there were living there - but somehow the whites had deemed it unassigned. 

CREEK FARMERS WHO HAD BEEN PUSHED OFF THEIR LAND
 Payne had been sneaking across the border into Oklahoma Territory scouting out these properties and targeting them for his henchmen.  Altogether 2 million acres of property was taken away from Black and Indian families by whites - when, at 12:00 noon on April 22, 1889, people on horseback, buckboard, carriages, and some on feet, made the mad dash for Indian land.  
CLIPPING FROM LOCAL PAPER ANNOUNCING THE RUIN
The true thieves sneaked over the night before and pretended to participate in the race - and were there to stake their claim on the choicest pieces land ahead of the rush.  They are called "Sooners" for which the football team is named.  Whenever I think of Sooners, I think of thieves. They have the audacity to call David Payne the "father of Oklahoma."  By whose history?  Blacks and Indians have been living and thriving in Oklahoma long before his greed.  The name Oklahoma means LAND OF THE RED PEOPLE!!! Not land of David Payne!!! 




Okay - so now I'm ranting!!  And that's just how I felt when I was 10 years old and found out the real truth about Oklahoma. I was pissed off - I could see my grandmom's people being pushed off their land - my grandmom was later forced to go to missionary school where they cut her hair to make her look less appealing to white men (sickos).  Fortunately, my grandfather (on my mother's side) a FINE BLACK MAN had managed to get 180 acres of land on the Texas/Oklahoma border, long before the run - and he wasn't giving it up to no rednecks no matter what - This is a matter of where stand your ground played out on our side - with a double barrelled sawed off shotgun and a Winchester, my granddaddy, Enoch Gaines, held them off - that land stayed in the family until his passing in 1963 (he lived to be 93).  Needless to say, I'm proud of my granddaddy!

But, I was furious because we used to go to celebrations of the Oklahoma Ruin without any indication of what it really stood for - not that my parents didn't know -  they did - they just didn't want to spoil it for us - they thought we were too young to absorb that kind of information - and at the time, there was no civil rights organization addressing the issues.   It was kind of like telling a kid there is no tooth fairy - Mom felt that we would know the harsh truth about the world soon enough - and she was right - because at the age of 10 I joined the NAACP Youth Council. 

It was quite fortunate, as well that I and most of my peers attended  Black schools (yay for segregation)  - Dunbar Elementary School from Kindergarten through 6th grade, and had all Black teachers who were determined to educate us as though each of us was a part of WEB DuBois' Talented 10th, meant that nothing that affected us as Black people was off the table.  


Thank goodness to Ms. Cannon, 4th Grade, Ms. Mukes 5th grade and my favorite, Mr. Hancock 6th grade - who taught us how to take full notes, do research, write term papers, and to know and  love our history - all of it!

So while everybody is going tra-la-la tripping through the tulips and trying to out green one another, I also want to pay homage to those Indian and Black families that were the true, original early settlers in Oklahoma.  It was a thriving great place to live back then because there was very little crime; no racism - Blacks and Indians intercooperated with each other; high education standards; lots of fun - great cross cultural intra action. 

A BLACK INDIAN FAMILY IN OKLAHOMA (BLACK IN THE DAY)





As Ralph Ellison said, Oklahoma was a wonderful place to grow up until they (the whites) came and messed it all up.

Many people talk endlessly about the incident that happened in Greenville, an All Black community outside of Tulsa.  What they forget to say is that the Blacks of the towns and neighboring communities got together and rebuilt the entire town - and it stayed a thriving town until dis"integration" in the 60s.   You'd think they would have learned a thing or two by then, wouldn't you?  Of the 67 All Black towns, 13 remain and are thriving - one of which is Boley, OK - someone mentioned them on FaceBook the other day. 

I've heard so many folks say they didn't know there were Black people in Oklahoma.  The interesting thing for those of us who grew up in the fifties and sixties in OKC, during the Civil Rights Era, was we didn't know how bad our brothers and sisters had it in other parts of the US.   I think we were kind of naive.  We'd read about it, but never experienced it up front.  In Oklahoma City, we had real neighborhoods, no gangs; very few, if any slums; we were segregated, but we had followed the "separate but equal" route, as enunciated by Booker T. Washington.  Our neighborhoods were as nice, if not nicer than the whites because we kept them that way - not because someone else came in and did it for us!  Our schools, places of business, homes - all of which we owned outright were kept clean and bright, not because someone else came in and gave us some funds; but because we did it together - ourselves.    Does that mean there was no discrimination?  Of course not!  Crackers are crackers - and Oklahoma City had more than its share.  They had signs in the window saying they reserved the right to refuse service to anyone - we just reserved the right to ignore it. 

We didn't let the fact that they stole our land, literally pushed us off of it, dampen our spirits or stop us for doing what we knew how to do - doesn't mean we didn't care or mind - we were out gunned by the federal authorities - but they couldn't out think us.  My dad's granddad built a sod house out of mud until he could come up with something sturdier.  They didn't let the Oklahoma Ruin ruin their dreams of having their own farm - he later was able to get 86 acres from a white farmer who gave up because he didn't know what he was doing to begin with.  (Though I was raised in Oklahoma City, we had several relatives in Boley and would visit there frequently - it never struck me that it being an all Black town was significant back then.  Now it's even more special because they're still here and thriving.)





BLACK FOUNDING FATHERS OF BOLEY OKLAHOMA 125 + YEARS AGO
 We had actively resisted being dictated to by the meanstream rednecks of OKC, designed our own curriculum, which incorporated the teachings and philosophies of Carter G. Woodson, DuBois, E. Franklin Frazier, Lerone Bennett, John Hope Franklin, Langston Hughes, and so many other great Black writers and philosophers.  We had managed to complete our education without one white teacher or administrator in our classroom - giving us pretty much "carte noire" to study them as well as ourselves - what a rich body of knowledge we garnered. 
GLORIA DULAN-WILSON - 12TH GRADE DOUGLASS SR. HIGH SCHOOL, OKC/OK!!  

                                         (PS: I made the dress in Home Economics - lol)

 I must express gratitude to my Moon Junior High and Douglass Senior High School teachers:  Ms Lola B. Greer (Homeroom/ Exelerated Math, Ms. Maleen Lee Gallimore (Gen. Science), Ms. Scobey (English Comp), Mr. Emory (Bio - I learned to dissect frogs and worms), Mr. Rucker (Math), Mr. Buford (Political Science), Mr. Sherman (History),  Mr, Mosley (Trigonometry), Otis Dulan, Jr (yes my cousin - Physics & Chemistry), Ms. Lea Wiley (Great Books), Ms. Daisy Harris Server (Aunt), Clara Luper (civil rights mentor/leader), and a  host of others.   And of course, Mr. Perry - even though I never took a class with him, he was the orchestra and band director, and he was tall, fine and spectacular.  And could that brother march!!!  He was a fantabulous drum major!!

Okay, this is beginning to sound more like a homage to my educators - which is as it should be - because, with few exceptions, they were wonderful - and without whom I, and so many of my classmates who came before me, or were my contemporaries, I would not have this fantastic body of knowledge, or love for education.  I would not have known my history or about Carter G. Woodson, or Sequoiah, or the many things meanstream white historians try to hide or distort. 

CARTER G. WOODSON THE FATHER OF BLACK HISTORY

So, next year, as you look forward to the upcoming Earth Day set on April 22, please give a moment of silence for those whose lives were irrevocably changed in the biggest land grab ever.  Also a moment of silence for the Oklahoma bombing of April 19, which took place 20 years ago in 1995. 




Of course, the Oklahoma City we have now is a mere shadow of its former self - many of my peers, including yours truly, have moved away; many of the Black owned businesses no longer exist - however, the pride is still there.  The sense of community is still there - and we  (at least in my family) still call it the OKLAHOMA RUIN.  Those who were born in my Mom Ruby Love's day and time, and know how much we lost as a result of the invasion are fading fast from among us.  It is up to the generation in front of me to tell the history and keep the facts straight - it's an example of what we were able to accomplish without any help or interference from whites; and how whites deliberately went out of their way to destroy all that had been built or developed as the result of a cooperative coalition between Blacks and Indians - and then held a celebration and named an entire football team in honor of it.  

That said - I'm still extremely proud of being an Oklahoma Kid - I'm from that part of Oklahoma City where people stood for something accomplished great things, stood for and by each other; didn't double deal; backed each other up - and still do - I wouldn't trade my childhood for anything in the world - even the Oklahoma Ruin couldn't take away the spirit that exists among and between us.   As my favorite music teacher, Ms. Evelyn La Rue Pittman used to say, "we have a rich heritage!"   

Now that I've gotten that rant off my chest, I can continue with the other articles for my blog - hope you got something positive out of it.  Wow!! That feels so much better!!!   :)

Stay Blessed & 
ECLECTICALLY BLACK 
Gloria 











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