Slate: Non-Indians were encouraged to move to tribal territory

Poster encourages non-Indians to move to Indian Territory in present-day Oklahoma. Image from National Archives

The Vault at Slate looks at a document from a railroad company that encouraged non-Indians to move to tribal lands in the late 1800s:
As nineteenth-century homesteaders moved west, the lands in present-day Oklahoma where eastern tribes had been resettled after removal earlier in the century came under threat of settlement. This flier, printed on behalf of the Kansas City, Lawrence, & Southern Railroad in anticipation of the opening of unassigned lands in the state’s “Indian Territory,” shows how railroads whipped prospective emigrants into an anticipatory frenzy. “The rush will be great, and early comers will have every advantage,” the flier warns.

After the Homestead Act of 1862, which opened western lands to qualified citizens, the Indian Territory of Kansas and Oklahoma—home to more than three dozen tribes—was subject to a series of legal measures that reduced its extent. A new philosophy of assimilation favored bringing Native Americans into the United States as individual citizens, rather than allowing them lands and tribal sovereignty—a philosophy that conveniently left many acres open for settlement.

During the decades after the Homestead Act, settlers acting illegally forced the government’s hand by squatting on Indian land. The Ingalls family, of Little House on the Prairie fame, was one of a group of white settlers who set up house on Osage lands in Kansas in the 1860s, before that tribe was removed (again) to Oklahoma.

Get the Story:
The Vault: How Railroads Advertised For Homesteaders to Settle in Indian Territory (Slate 11/25)

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