November 20, 2006

"Land run" = theft

In commemorating the Centennial, remember all of Oklahoma’s historyOur true history includes a public school system that has oversimplified Oklahoma’s past, starting with elementary school playground re-enactments of the land run. The common sight was of small children streaking across the playground to stake their claim of Indian Territory. Rarely taught was that the land was being taken away from its American Indian owners.

The oft-missed truth of Oklahoma history is that there were several land runs and a lottery held for lands that already had lawful owners—American Indian owners. Instead our history has been rewritten to reflect a more romantic version of the settlement of Oklahoma Territory.
For more on the subject of land ownership, see Indians Owned the United States.


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
In 1956, NBC's Sunday afternoon spectacular human interest TV series, WIDE WIDE WORLD, came to Anadarko, OK. The producers' intent was to stage a re-enactment of the Oklahoma Land Runs for the American TV audience. WKY-TV in Oklahoma City, the NBC affiliate, recruited volunteer townspeople to portray the assembled settlers who were to be lined up in wagons and buggies and on horseback in large open fields west of town. On live TV, when a pistol was fired in the air, the huge line of people rushed forward across the grassy land over hills and down valleys while an off-camera Dave Garroway, the host, told the story. It was magnificent and made local and national news for weeks thereafter.
But the element that made it especially poignant and meaningful was the face of a stern and disapproving Plains Native in headdress superimposed over the re-enactment. writerfella knows this because the re-enactment was held on his grandmother's reservation allotment land and the Kiowa face that America saw glaring back at them was that of his maternal uncle, Victor Paddlety. Few remember, writerfella included, just how it was that a Native presence became a part of the story or just how writerfella's uncle got the role. But writerfella, who was 15, has several photos of the preparation for the broadcast that he personally took, though it meant that he missed seeing the event live on TV (he did see it later on NBC News, however). He walked down from the Paddlety Great House and just aimed his camera at what looked likely. At least once, the Land Runs were depicted for the American public with the all-too-telling representation of the helplessness of Native people when their lands were being stolen from under their very feet, on national television as well.
writerfella will e-mail to Rob two of the photos showing his uncle on the TV platforms that very afternoon. Perhaps they can be shown in another post later on.
It is fortunate that writerfella always was the young man with a camera because no one else has these photos but he.
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

To be accurate, the reenactment should've shown Indians standing on the land and getting trampled in the rush. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Not a Sioux said...

Are the settlers who rushed into Oklahoma's Native lands in 1956 called "Laters"?