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Sequoyah's name pops up everywhere except the Hall of Fame


Emily Jerman March 6th, 2008

More than 100 years ago, the Oklahoma and Indian territories made efforts to enter the United States as separate states. Those championing the cause for the Indian territory "“ what is now eastern Okla...

More than 100 years ago, the Oklahoma and Indian territories made efforts to enter the United States as separate states. Those championing the cause for the Indian territory "“ what is now eastern Oklahoma "“ used Sequoyah as the name for their proposed state when they met in Muskogee in 1905.

 

Sequoyah -- who introduced the Cherokee syllabary in 1821, making literacy among his people in their own language possible -- lived briefly in Indian Territory. Still, one place Sequoyah is absent today is in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, a roster celebrating contributors to the state's heritage, accepting nominations through Friday.

 

Governed by the five tribes " the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole and Chickasha " Sequoyah could have entered the union as the 46th state.

 

The state of Sequoyah effort resulted from increasing pressure from the rest of the country to create a federal territorial government in Indian Territory in preparation for statehood, according to Dan Littlefield, director of the Sequoyah Research Center at the University of Arkansas.

 

By the time of what became the Sequoyah Constitutional Convention in Muskogee in 1905, statehood already loomed; the question was whether to admit the twin territories as two states or one. With Republicans controlling the White House and Congress, the high number of Southern Democrats in the territories had President Theodore Roosevelt dragging his feet, loath to give them more power.

 

SINGLE STATE

 "Single statehood did not grow out of any demand from the people of the two territories," Charles Haskell said later, recorded in the 1936 "Chronicles of Oklahoma."

 

"It was forced upon us by the political powers at Washington. As far back as 1898 when states then recently admitted to the union returned votes against the party in power, prominent Republican leaders took the stand that no more territories should be admitted."

 

According to Amos Maxwell, the day after the single Sequoyah statehood bill was introduced, Roosevelt recommended the twin territories be admitted together, preventing a double dose of likely Democratic delegates entering Congress. Maxwell called this an "undoubted blow," which violated earlier treaties with the five tribes.

 

The possible state of Sequoyah disappeared from history, and on Nov. 16, 1907, the combined territories entered the union as Oklahoma.

 

SHADES OF SEQUOYAH

Today, shades of the once-proposed Indian state color Oklahoma's own government.

 

The Oklahoma Constitution was framed by men who had already written that of Sequoyah. The visually similar seal was likewise designed by the same man: A. Grant Evans, an India-born missionary who later became University of Oklahoma president. The counties in eastern Oklahoma reflect those state of Sequoyah proponents detailed in their constitution.  "“ Emily Jerman

 
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