Oklahoma became the 46th state to join the Union on November 16, 1907. Long before its official statehood, the territory now known as Oklahoma played an important, if controversial, role in a young United States. From the Trail of Tears to Tornado Alley, the Sooner State has an intriguing background.
Here are seven facts about Oklahoma you might not know:
In 1838 and 1839, roughly 15,000 Cherokee were forced to leave their native lands east of the Mississippi River and settle in parts of present-day Oklahoma as part of then-President Andrew Jackson's Indian removal policy. Native Americans called this journey the Trail of Tears. About 4,000 Cherokee died from hunger and disease. The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail in Oklahoma follows the path the Cherokee took.
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The nickname for Oklahoma is older than the state itself. At noon on April 22, 1889, eager settlers rushed into the Oklahoma Territory to claim 160 acres of unassigned land under the Homestead Act. While the rule was that everyone was supposed to begin their stake for acreage at exactly the same time, land surveyors, deputy marshals and others who were able to enter the land early did so in order to select prime real estate. The people who went too soon were called the Sooners.
Native American symbols dominate the state flag. Even the blue background pays homage to Oklahoma's earliest inhabitants: It is the color of a flag that the Choctaw carried during the Civil War.
"Oklahoma," the title song from the play of the same name, is both the state song and the state anthem. Written by Oscar Hammerstein, the lyrics include the lines, "We know we belong to the land/And the land we belong to is grand."
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Famous people who hail from Oklahoma include Ron Howard, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks, Blake Griffin, Brad Pitt, and Chuck Norris.
In 2014, Oklahoma had 564 earthquakes registering a magnitude of 3.0 or higher - more than any other state in the country. Speculation remains as to whether the seismologic activity is related to underground disposal of energy waste fluid from the state’s booming oil and gas industries, according to E&E Publishing.
Tornado Alley refers to a swath of land running north and south in the middle of the country that is prone to dangerous storms. As part of the core of Tornado Alley, Oklahoma typically endures the strongest storms, although it does not see the most tornadoes. That distinction goes to Texas.
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