5 Eye-Opening Books about Oklahoma History
In the Choctaw language, “okla humma” means “red people.” In fact, the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek –an agreement between the United States and the Choctaw tribe signed in 1830—refers to “the Choctaw Nation of Red People.”
Hundreds of years before the Choctaw lived in the land we now call Oklahoma, other people made their homes in the region. People referred to as Spiro Indians (who have been linked to the Aztecs) left behind burial mounds filled with artifacts that provide clues to their way of living. Vikings showed up about a thousand years ago. By the mid-sixteenth century, Spanish explorers encountered native people who called themselves the Teyas and the Escanjaques. The United States acquired most of the land as part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, and on November 16, 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state of the Union.
Kids who are discovering their state’s rich past in fourth or fifth grade can learn even more reading books set in Oklahoma at various points in time. These five children’s chapter books about Oklahoma’s history include historical fiction novels and nonfiction retellings that are as engaging as they are educational:
Out of the Dust
By Karen Hesse
Fourteen-year-old Billie Jo has lived her whole life on a farm in Oklahoma. The thing that she loves the most is playing the piano. However, a freak accident causes a fire that severely burns Billie Jo’s hands and ultimately results in the death of her mother and unborn baby brother.
In an attempt to escape the Dust Bowl and find work, many families in Billie Jo’s farming community have headed west. Billie Jo decides to go to California herself and runs away from home by train. Kids who read this Newbery Medal winner will learn about the hardships suffered by those who lived in Oklahoma during the Dust Bowl.
The Ghost of Mingo Creek and other Spooky Oklahoma Legends
By Greg Rodgers
Whether you’ve heard about the Ghost of Mingo Creek (aka Kiamichi Bigfoot) or he’s completely new to you, these riveting and slightly scary stories are an entertaining way to learn more about Oklahoma’s past.
Written by the late Choctaw storyteller Greg Rodgers, the book includes a collection of eight longstanding legends from the Choctaw nation and from across Oklahoma. Each tale begins with a brief history of the town, village or other locale from which the story originates. The short stories will be especially appealing to reluctant readers.
I Have Heard of a Land
By Joyce Carol Thomas
The Oklahoma Land Rush was open to everyone: young or old; male or female; black or white. Thousands of pioneers raced to find their American dream. Many of these pioneers were former slaves who were freed by the 13th Amendment in 1865.
The author of this book used her own family’s history to share the experiences of African American pioneers who bravely settled in Oklahoma in the late nineteenth century. Along with transfixing stories and stirring prose, this book is filled with eye-catching illustrations that help bring history to life.
The Legend of Bass Reeves
By Gary Paulsen
Born a slave of Arkansas state legislator William Steele Reeves in 1838, Bass Reeves was freed by the 13th Amendment in 1865. At first, he got married, became a farmer, and raised ten children. However, when James F. Fagan became U.S. Marshal and discovered that Reeves knew the Indian Territory and could speak several Indian languages, Fagan promptly made him a Deputy U.S. Marshall.
This fact-based book explains how Bass Reeves became the first black U.S. Marshal west of the Mississippi River, working in the Oklahoma Territory and Arkansas. Not only that, he was the most successful Federal Marshal of his time, arresting more than 3,000 felons.
Beautiful Land: A Story of the Oklahoma Land Rush
By Nancy Antle
Annie Mae has been waiting to live on a beautiful piece of land since she was 10 years old. Now she is 12 and her mother has passed away, but things are looking up.
The year is 1889 and the Oklahoma Land Rush has begun. Annie Mae, her father, her brother and her uncle’s family are starting their journey to Oklahoma, where they will be able to choose their very own plot of land and build their very own farm after living in a dugout. However, there are struggles along the way, such as dangerous trails and claim jumpers.
Do you have a favorite book about Oklahoma history for kids? Please share the title with us!
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