Monday, December 2, 2019

Oklahoma Indians

Hi Kids,
     Have you seen this building? It's the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City. Miss Elaine and I visited recently because she is working on a story about Oklahoma Indians.
     Did you know there are members of 39 different Indian tribes living in Oklahoma? Here's a map that shows all the different parts of the United States that they came from.
     There have been Native Americans living in Oklahoma for thousands of years. At the History Center we saw sandals and a moccasin that are very old.
     The two flat things on the top shelf were sandals maybe made 10,000 years ago! On the bottom is a newer sandal, about 6,000 years old. The lumpy one is a moccasin made from buffalo hide. It's the newest one -- perhaps less than 1000 years old.
     Many native tribes traveled around following the buffalo others settled more permanently and farmed. There were several tribes in Oklahoma who lived here most of the time. Many other tribes came through the area for hunting.
     So how did all those other tribes get here? When European explorers discovered this country, they went back to Europe and told stories about what an amazing land this was. Some people decided they wanted to move to this new land.
     The country started to get a little crowded so pioneers began to move west. The Indians who had roamed freely got pushed out of their lands. By that time, the country had a government. The government made many of the tribes move to our part of the country. It's a long and unhappy story which you will learn in history class when you are a bit older.
     The tribes had their own cultures and traditions. In the History Center you will learn about them. I'll show you some of my favorite exhibits.
     Did you know that different tribes lived in different kinds of houses? Some lived in tepees, but others built homes of wood, bark, clay or rushes. Here are examples of two different kinds of native houses.
     Look at the ceiling in this picture:
     It's a copy of a star chart made several hundred years ago by Pawnee Indians. They were known as the star people of the plains. They mapped the sky and used the information on the movement of planets and positions of stars to help them in traveling, hunting, farming and war.
     I loved this dress. It was made for a little Cheyenne girl by her grandmother over 100 years ago. It is made out of deer skin and decorated with thousands of tiny beads. She must have been proud of this dress and took very good care of it.
     I like horses, too. The Comanche Indians were famous for their horses. I don't think that saddle looks very comfortable, do you?

     This is one of the most valuable pieces in the museum. It is a friendship certificate given to Chief Big Axe of the Otoe-Missouria tribe by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark in 1804. 

     Several European countries had explored parts of what would become the United States. They claimed ownership of the land. In 1803, President Jefferson bought a big bunch of it for the U.S. This was called the Louisiana Purchase. He sent Lewis and Clark to explore the land he had just bought. He knew they would meet Indians and gave them papers to give to the tribe's leaders saying they would be friends. Only two of these certificates are known to exist. And we have one here in Oklahoma. It was saved by Chief Big Axe's family and now, 200 years later, they gave it to the museum so we all can see it.
     This is a long letter -- but there's so much to see in the Oklahoma History Center. And the Native American part is just one part. Miss Elaine and I were there for hours and we didn't even get to see the rest of the museum!
     Here is a picture of me on another of my favorite things:
     This is a travois (say: tra-vwah). The poles are from a teepee and it was pulled by a horse. When some of the tribes moved around, they just took their tepees down and turned them into a kind of trailer. Wasn't that smart?
     I hope you will get to visit this museum yourself. It's fun to see how people lived in the past. 
Your friend,

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