History of Bartlesville & Washington County, Oklahoma

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Indian Tribes of Washington County

Paraphrased from Franks and Standley's Oklahoma Indians Map
with later additions from other sources

The Delaware

Originally from the De La Warr River in the northeastern United States, this tribe is also called Lenape, meaning "real men". There were three tribal bands: the Minsi, Unami, and Unalachitigo. They were among the first Indians to encounter Europeans, which was devastating because of their lack of immunity to the smallpox virus brought to America by the Europeans. In 1682 the tribe had dealings with William Penn, who founded the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. By 1700 their numbers had been reduced by smallpox from 24,000 to 3,000. They were allied with the Iroquois Confederation for awhile, but declared independence during the French and Indian War. Pushed westward by colonists, they settled in Ohio.

The Delaware signed the first treaty between the U.S. and an Indian tribe in 1778. The Delaware moved across the Mississippi River to Spanish Missouri to escape the fighting begun by the Wyoming Valley Massacre of 1782. In 1794, the Delaware and their allies were defeated at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. They signed the Treaty of Greenville, which gave them hunting rights in the upper Midwest. Some Delaware hunted and traded in Indian Territory in the early nineteenth century, and many settled in the Cherokee and Choctaw Nations. In 1844 the Choctaw granted a number of Delaware settlement rights.

Between 1795 and 1830, the Delaware signed 12 treaties surrendering land. Some Delaware bands joined the Caddo and Wichita tribes in Texas and eventually became the Delaware of Western Oklahoma, with tribal headquarters in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Others settled on a reservation in Kansas. Their Kansas lands were greatly reduced by 1854 and in 1860 they received 80-acre allotments of the remaining lands. White settlers nevertheless continued to encroach on the allotted lands.

JourneycakeIn 1866 a treaty allowed Kansas Delawares to either become U.S. citizens and remain in Kansas or retain tribal affiliation and remove to the Cherokee Nation as the Registered Delaware. The Registered Delaware paid the Cherokee $1 an acre for 157,000 acres in modern-day Washington County in 1867. Pictured is Delaware Chief Charles Journeycake (1817-1894), who was the father of Nannie Journeycake, who married Bartlesville founder Jacob Bartles. Nannie Journeycake Pratt Bartles established the town's first church and Sunday school. Later the first commercial oil well in Oklahoma was named after Delaware maiden Nellie Johnstone.

Nora Dean, a Delaware whose parents met at the Jacob Bartles mill, said there were two groups of Delawares in northeast Oklahoma. One group, who settled around Alluwe, Lenapah, Delaware, and east of Nowata embraced Christianity. The other, more traditional group settled around Copan and Dewey. They had a "Big House Church" about four miles west of Copan until 1924. This log building was about 40 feet long and had twelve "Messingw" faces inside, representing the guardian of game animals. Services were held annually for 12 days during the fall months, with people speaking of their visions as they passed around a turtle shell rattle. A man would tell some of his vision, dance a few feet, stop and shake the rattle, and tell more of the vision. Other men repeated his vision after him, in the tradition of oral memories. Part of the religion was sending young boys out on vision quests without food or water. The Delaware language was only spoken; it had no written or sign language. They also held pow-wows and stomp dances.

The Registered Delaware are now concentrated in present Delaware County, while the Delaware of Eastern Oklahoma are concentrated in and around Bartlesville. That Delaware Tribe of Indians was the 25th largest tribe in the U.S. with a membership of approximately 10,500 until its tribal status was revoked in 2005. The Registered Delaware shared in Cherokee tribal government and revenues, and for many years were governed by the Cherokee Nation constitution. In 1979 the Bureau of Indian Affairs revoked federal recognition of the tribe at the request of the Cherokee. This was reversed in 1996, a reversal upheld in U.S. District Court in 2002, but in 2004 the U.S. Court of Appeals denied the tribe their rights as a sovereign nation. This placed it back under the supervision of the Cherokees. So as of March, 2005 it is ironic that the first tribe of native Americans to recognize the United States government is no longer recognized by that government. The ruling forced the tribe, which was Bartlesville's 4th-largest employer, to lay off the majority of its employees, discontinue most tribal services, and to eventually sell the headquarters building near downtown Bartlesville. In 2013 the tribe began exploring the option of moving its headquarters to Kansas to circumvent restrictions on gaming because its Bartlesville headquarters was located on land administered by the Cherokee tribe.

Delaware (Lenape) Tribe Website


The Osage

Osage is a French corruption of Wa-zha-zhe. They were a migratory tribe moving from the west to the Atlantic Coast and then west again to the Mississippi. The Osage were once part of a larger tribal group of what are today known as the Quapaw, Omaha, Ponca, and Kaw. The other groups moved away, with the Osage group remaining on the Osage River in Missouri. In 1802 two French traders reportedly convinced the tribe to split into the Little and Greater Osage.

French trader Pierre Chouteau brought two bands of Osage Indians into the Oklahoma region and they had driven Caddoan tribes out of the area by 1805, bringing the region's French fur trade to a close. They had established a camp at Silver Lake by 1805. Warlike and feared by neighboring tribes, the Osage often fought Cherokee hunting parties from the East. Between 1808 and 1825 they ceded their homeland and were removed to a Kansas reservation. During the Civil War, the Greater Osage allied with the Confederacy, while the Little Osage fought for the Union. After the war, the government forced the tribe to cede much of their Kansas land as punishment for the acts of the Greater Osage and their Confederate Osage Battalion.

By 1870 the Osage's Kansas lands were under intense white settlement pressure. The tribe sold its remaining Kansas land and purchased a new reservation in Indian Territory. Their initial choice was a 640,000 acre tract split by the 96th meridian as set by a special survey. The Cherokee tribe objected, but nevertheless perhaps six hundred Osage moved to Silver Lake by 1871. The Cherokee treaty of 1866 only allowed "civilized" tribes in their reservation, and the Cherokee successfully argued that the Osage were "blanket" indians who lived by the chase and thus could not settle east of the 96th meridian, and further they fought for a new survey that showed the 96th meridian was actually 3.5 miles west of the location set by the earlier survey.

So the Osage moved west and in 1872 obtained the land between the 86th meridian and the Arkansas River up to the Kansas border: modern-day Osage County. They were exempted from allotment until 1906, and the early tribal roll held 2,228 names. The mineral rights remained with the tribe as a whole. The Osage reservation proved to be a treasure-trove of oil and each member of the tribe received an equal share in the oil royalty at allotment in 1906.

Bacon RindA funny story involves Chief Bacon Rind of that era. K.S. "Boots" Adams, a young Phillips Petroleum employee, was checking in guests at Frank Phillips' Woolaroc Ranch. Frank Phillips, who had never met Boots, came out and asked if he had seen the guest of honor, whose goodwill was very important to the company. Boots was horrified to learn that the guest was Chief Bacon Rind, realizing that he must have been in a car of Osage Indians Boots had told to wait while earlier arrivals unloaded. The car had finally driven off, tired of waiting. Frank Phillips drove 30 miles to Pawhuska to make amends, where Bacon Rind complained loudly about the "young upstart" who wouldn't let him into the party. Adams had to write an apology to Bacon Rind, but evidently Frank didn't hold a grudge since five years later he would name Boots his personal assistant, and eventually Boots would run the entire company for many years.

By 1950 the Osage "headright" holders who received the mineral rights had received more than $300 million, making them the richest Indians in American history. The Osage were not organized under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936, and until 2004 they had the distinction of being the only American Indian tribe barred by federal law from choosing its own citizens. Only about 4,300 Osages had inherited a headright share while nearly 16,000 others of Osage ancestry had no tribal voting rights. In 2004 federal legislation affirmed the tribe's rights to select its citizenry and government but left the members' mineral rights untouched. Tribal headquarters is at Pawhuska in Osage County.


The Cherokee

Cherokee is a corruption of the word Tsalagi, Muskogean for "people of a different speech". Originally from the Ohio River Valley, the Cherokee migrated south and east into the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia. They often struggled with neighboring tribes and fought against the French and then the English during the French and English War. Throughout their history they ceded land tracts to encroaching whites.

One branch, the Chickamaugas or Western or Arkansas Cherokees, exchanged their homeland in 1828 for land in northwestern Oklahoma and a perpetual outlet to their western hunting grounds, the Cherokee Outlet. Here they established the Cherokee Nation-West. The main body of the Cherokee or Cherokee Nation-East were considered one of the Five Civilized Tribes, adopting a constitution and codified laws. Many become prosperous merchants and farmers, and a Cherokee alphabet was developed by Sequoyah. Gold was discovered on their lands in 1830, and Georgia began demanding their removal. The Indians won a Supreme Court case against Georgia, but President Andrew Jackson refused to enforce it. A tribal minority group signed a treaty in 1835 committing the tribe to a new home in Oklahoma. This group moved west in 1835-36 with little difficulty.

John RossThe majority of the tribe, under chief John Ross (1827-1866), resisted removal and were forced by the U.S. to migrate west on the tragic "Trail of Tears". About 25% of the roughly 14,000 people on the trail died along the journey. About 1,000 Cherokees escaped into North Carolina to form the Eastern Band of Cherokees and were eventually allocated a reservation there. The three groups of Cherokee reunited in 1839, and Stand Watie led them to ally with the Confederacy in the Civil War. They lost one-third of their population in the war, and were forced to concede much of their western lands when the Union won.

By 1890 the Cherokees had recovered to become one of Oklahoma's most successful tribes. Washington County was part of the Cherokee Nation's Cooweescoowee district. The Cherokee domains dwindled with the sale of the Cherokee Outlet to the federal government in 1893 and subsequent homesteading. In 1903 the tribe agreed to allotment, with each member receiving 160 acres of land. In 1906 the tribal government disbanded, with Oklahoma statehood following in 1907. The tribal government reorganized in 1936 under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act and ratified a constitution in 1976. Tribal headquarters is at Tahlequah, Oklahoma.


The Caddo

The first known humans in the Oklahoma area were the Caddoan Pani, Wichita (Wickita), Tawakoni (Tawakany), and Caddo Indian tribes. These nomadic people gained the horse in 1540 due to a visit by the Spanish explorer Coronado to one of their villages on the Arkansas River. They were involved in the fur trade with the French from 1750 until 1796. At that time French trader Pierre Chouteau brought in two bands of Osage Indians and when the Osage had driven the Caddoan tribes out of the area by 1805, the region's French fur trade came to a close. The Caddo migrated from Louisiana to Texas and Oklahoma. The Wichita were from Missouri and migrated into northern and western Oklahoma and then to the Red River. A Wichita-Caddo reservation was established in western Oklahoma in present-day Caddo County and the Tawakoni blended with the Wichita tribe at this time. Many Wichita and Tawakoni fled to Kansas in the Civil War, but later returned. The Caddo eventually received 160-acre allotments, mostly in Caddo County; their tribal headquarters is at Binger, Oklahoma. The Wichita (and Tawakoni) received allotments beginning in 1894, and their tribal headquarters is in Anadarko, Oklahoma.