- History & Culture
Sequoyah, the U.S. state that almost existed
It was planned as a Native American-governed state, until politicians folded Indigenous lands into Oklahoma—a decision that still impacts life there today.
Its name is derived from a Choctaw term for “red people,” yet Oklahoma’s nickname—the Sooner State—comes from the white settlers who descended on it to claim Native lands. That tension is nothing new: Once divided into one territory for whites and another for Native Americans, Oklahoma has not buried the legacy of its frontier past.
In July 2020, the Supreme Court ruled that, despite its location inside a U.S. state, much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation. The landmark decision is the latest foray in a long battle over who should own and inhabit Oklahoma’s prairies and mesas—a battle that almost led to Oklahoma becoming two different states.
The conflict was born in the southeastern United States, the ancestral