Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With an estimated 3,579,212 residents in 2006 and a land area of 68,667 square miles (177,847 km²), Oklahoma is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state.
Its name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people", and is known informally by its nickname, The Sooner State.
Formed from Indian Territory on November 16, 1907, Oklahoma was the 46th state to enter the union.
Its citizens are known as Oklahomans, and the state’s capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.
A major producer of natural gas, oil and food, Oklahoma relies on an economic base of aviation, energy, telecommunications, and biotechnology.
It has one of the fastest growing economies in the nation, ranking third in per capita income growth and leading in gross domestic product growth.
Oklahoma City and Tulsa serve as Oklahoma’s primary economic anchors, with nearly 60 percent of Oklahomans living in their metropolitan statistical areas.
The state holds a mixed record in education and healthcare, and its largest universities participate in the NCAA and NAIA athletic associations, while two house athletic departments rated among the most successful in American history.
With small mountain ranges, prairie, and eastern forests, most of Oklahoma lies in the Great Plains and the U.S. Interior Highlands—a region especially prone to severe weather.
With a prevalence of German, Irish, British and Native American ancestry, more than 25 Native American languages are spoken in Oklahoma, the most of any state.
It is located on a confluence of three major American cultural regions and historically served as a route for cattle drives, a destination for southern settlers, and a government-sanctioned territory for Native Americans.
Part of the Bible Belt, widespread belief in evangelical Christianity makes it one of the most politically conservative states, though voter registration is largest in the Democratic Party.
The name Oklahoma comes from the Choctaw phrase okla humma, literally meaning red people.
Choctaw Chief Allen Wright suggested the name in 1866 during treaty negotiations with the federal government regarding the use of Indian Territory, in which he envisioned an all-Indian state controlled by the United States Superintendent of Indian Affairs.
Equivalent to the English word Indian, okla humma was a phrase in the Choctaw language used to describe the Native American race as a whole. Oklahoma later became the de-facto name for Oklahoma Territory, and it was officially approved in 1890, two years after the area was opened to White settlers.
Oklahoma is the 20th-largest state in the United States, covering an area of 69,898 square miles (181,035 km²), with 68,667 square miles (177847 km²) of land and 1,231 square miles (3,188 km²) of water.
It is one of six states on the Frontier Strip, and lies partly in the Great Plains near the geographical center of the 48 contiguous states. It is bounded on the east by Arkansas and Missouri, on the north by Kansas, on the northwest by Colorado, on the far west by New Mexico, and on the south and near-west by Texas.
Oklahoma is situated between the Great Plains and the Ozark Plateau in the Gulf of Mexico watershed, generally sloping from the high plains of its western boundary to the low wetlands of its southeastern boundary.Its highest and lowest points follow this trend, with its highest peak, Black Mesa, at 4,973 feet (1,516 m) above sea level, situated near its far northwest corner in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The state’s lowest point is on the Little River near its far southeastern bo
undary, which dips to 289 feet (88 m) above sea level.
The state has four primary mountain ranges: the Ouachita Mountains, the Arbuckle Mountains, the Wichita Mountains, and the Ozark Mountains.
The U.S. Interior Highlands Region, which contains the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains, is the only major mountainous region between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians.
A portion of the Flint Hills stretches into north-central Oklahoma, and in the state’s southeastern corner, Cavanal Hill is officially regarded as the world’s tallest hill; at 1,999 feet (609 m), it fails the definition of a mountain by one foot.
More than 500 named creeks and rivers make up Oklahoma’s waterways, and with 200 lakes created by dams, it holds the highest number of artificial reservoirs in the nation.
Among the most geographically diverse states, Oklahoma is one of four to harbor more than 10 distinct ecological regions, containing eleven within its borders, more per square mile than in any other state by a wide margin.
Marked by differences in geographical diversity between its western and eastern halves, eastern Oklahoma touches eight ecological regions, while its western half holds three.
Most of the state lies in two primary drainage basins belonging to the Red and Arkansas rivers, though the Lee and Little rivers also contain significant drainage basins.
In the state’s northwestern corner, semi-arid high plains harbor few natural forests and rolling to flat landscape with intermittent canyons and mesa ranges like the Glass Mountains. Partial plains interrupted by small mountain ranges like the Antelope Hills and the Wichita Mountains dot southwestern Oklahoma, and transitional prairie and woodlands cover the central portion of the state.
The Ozark and Ouachita Mountains rise from west to east over the state’s eastern third, gradually increasing in elevation in an eastward direction.
Oklahoma is located in a temperate region and experiences occasional extremes of temperature and precipitation typical in a continental climate.
Most of the state lies in an area known as Tornado Alley characterized by frequent interaction between cold and warm air masses producing severe weather.
An average 54 tornadoes strike the state per year—one of the highest rates in the world.
Because of its position between zones of differing prevailing temperature and winds, weather patterns within the state can vary widely between relatively short distances.
The humid subtropical climate (Koppen Cfa) of the eastern part of Oklahoma influenced heavily by southerly winds bringing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, but transitions progressively to a semi-arid zone (Koppen BSk) in the High Plains of the Panhandle and other western areas from about Lawton westward less frequently touched by southern moisture.
Precipitation and temperatures fall from east to west accordingly, with areas in the southeast averaging an annual temperature of 62 °F (17 °C) and an annual rainfall of 56 inches (1,420 mm), while areas of the panhandle average 58 °F (14 °C), with an annual rainfall under 17 inches (430 mm).
All of the state frequently experiences temperatures above 100 °F (38 °C) or below 0 °F (−18 °C), and snowfall ranges from an average of less than 4 inches (10 cm) in the south to just over 20 inches (51 cm) on the border of Colorado in the panhandle.
The state is home to the National Storm Prediction Center of the National Weather Service located at Norman.
Evidence exists that native peoples traveled through Oklahoma as early as the last ice age, but the state’s first permanent inhabitants settled in communities accentuated with mound-like structures near the Arkansas border between 850 and 1450 AD.
Spaniard Francisco Vásquez de Coronado traveled through the state in 1541,but French explorers claimed the area in the 1700s and it remained under French rule until 1803, when all the French territory west of the Mississippi River was purchased by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.
Thousands of Native Americans, including those making up the "Five Civilized Tribes", were removed from their lands in Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee and transported to Oklahoma in the 1830s.
The area, already occupied by Osage and Quapaw tribes, was designated Indian Territory by the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the Indian Intercourse Act of 1834.
Fifteen tribes were given land within the territory in 1830, but by 1890, more than 30 tribes had been allocated federal land.
In the period between 1866 and 1899, cattle ranches in Texas strived to meet the demands for food in eastern cities, and railroads in Kansas promised to deliver in a timely manner.
Cattle trails and cattle ranches developed as cowboys either drove their product north or settled illegally in Indian Territory.
In 1881, four of five major cattle trails on the western frontier traveled through Indian Territory.
Increased presence of white settlers in Indian Territory prompted the United States Government to establish the Dawes Act in 1887, which divided the lands of individual tribes into allotments for individual families, encouraging farming and private land ownership among native americans, but giving excess land to the federal government.
In the process, nearly half of Indian-held land within the territory was made open to outside settlers and for purchase by railroad companies.
Major land runs, including the Land Run of 1889, were held for settlers on the hour that certain territories were opened to settlement.
Usually, land was allocated to settlers on a first come, first served basis.
Those who broke the rules by crossing the border into the territory before it was allowed were said to have been crossing the border sooner, leading to the term sooners, which eventually became the state’s official nickname. Delegations to make the territory into a state began near the turn of the 20th century, when the Curius Act abolished all tribal jurisdiction in Indian Territory.
Attempts to create an all-Indian state named Oklahoma, and a later attempt to create an all-Indian state named Sequoyah failed, but the Sequoyah Statehood Convention of 1905 eventually laid the groundwork for the Oklahoma Statehood Convention, which took place two years later. On November 16, 1907, Oklahoma was established as the 46th state in the Union.
The new state became a focal point for the emerging oil industry, as discoveries of oil pools prompted towns to grow rapidly in population and wealth. Tulsa eventually became known as the "Oil Capital of the World" for most of the 20th century, and oil investments fueled much of the state’s early economy.
In 1927, Oklahoma businessman Cyrus Avery, known as the "Father of Route 66", began a campaign to create Route 66. Using an existing stretch of highway from Amarillo, Texas to Tulsa, Oklahoma to form the original portion of Highway 66, Avery spearheaded the creation of the U.S. Highway 66 Association to oversee the planning of Route 66, based in his hometown of Tulsa.
During the 1930s, parts of the state began feeling the consequences of poor farming practices, drought, and high winds. Known as the Dust Bowl, areas of Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, and northwestern Oklahoma were hampered by long periods of little rainfall and abnormally high temperatures, sending thousands of farmers into poverty and forcing them to relocate to more fertile areas of the western United States.
Over a twenty-year period ending in 1950, the state saw its only historical decline in population, dropping 6.9 percent.
In response, dramatic efforts in soil and water conservation led to massive flood control systems and dams, creating hundreds of reservoirs and man-made lakes. By the 1960s, more than 200 man-made lakes had been created, the most in the nation.
In 1995, Oklahoma City became the scene of one of the worst acts of terrorism ever committed in American history. The Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995, in which Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols detonated an explosive outside of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killed 168 people, including 19 children.
Timothy McVeigh was later sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection, while his partner, Terry Nichols, was convicted of 161 counts of first degree murder and received life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Based in the sectors of aviation, energy, transportation equipment, food processing, electronics, and telecommunications, Oklahoma is an important producer of natural gas, aircraft, and food.
The state ranks second in the nation for production of natural gas, and is the 27th-most agriculturally productive state, ranking 5th in production of wheat.
Six Fortune 500 companies and one additional Fortune 1000 company are headquartered in Oklahoma, and it has been rated one of the most business-friendly states in the nation, with the 7th-lowest tax burden in 2007.
From 2000 to 2006, Oklahoma’s gross domestic product grew 50 percent, the fifth-highest rate in the nation.
It had the fastest-growing GDP between 2005 and 2006, increasing from $122.5 to $134.6 billion, a jump of 10.8 percent, and its gross domestic product per capita grew 9.7 percent from $34,305 in 2005 to $37,620 in 2006, the second-highest rate in the nation.
Though oil has historically dominated the state’s economy, a collapse in the energy industry during the 1980s led to the loss of nearly 90,000 energy-related jobs between 1980 and 2000, severely damaging the local economy.
Oil accounted for 17 percent of Oklahoma’s economic impact in 2005, and employment in the state’s oil industry was outpaced by five other industries in 2007.
In early 2007, Oklahoma had a civilian labor force of 1.7 million and total non-farm employment fluctuated around 1.6 million.
The government sector provides the most jobs, with 326,000 in 2007, followed by the transportation and utilities sector, providing 285,000 jobs, and the sectors of education, business, and manufacturing, providing 191,000, 178,000, and 151,000 jobs, respectively.
Among the state’s largest industries, the aerospace sector generates $11 billion annually.
Tulsa is home to the largest airline maintenance base in the world, which serves as the global maintenance and engineering headquarters for American Airlines.
In total, aerospace accounts for more than 10 percent of Oklahoma’s industrial output, and it is one of the top 10 states in aerospace engine manufacturing.
Due to its position in the center of the United States, Oklahoma is also among the top states for logistic centers, and a major contributor to weather-related research.
The state is the top manufacturer of tires in North America and contains one of the fastest-growing biotechnology industries in the nation.
In 2005, international exports from Oklahoma’s manufacturing industry totaled $4.3 billion, accounting for 3.6 percent of its economic impact.
Tire manufacturing, meat processing, oil and gas equipment manufacturing, and air conditioner manufacturing are the state’s largest manufacturing industries.
A major oil producing state, Oklahoma is the fifth-largest producer of crude oil in the nation.
A major oil producing state, Oklahoma is the fifth-largest producer of crude oil in the nation.
Oklahoma is the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas, fifth-largest producer of crude oil, has the second-greatest number of active drilling rigs, and ranks fifth in crude oil reserves.
While the state ranked fifth for installed wind energy capacity in 2005, it is at the bottom of states in usage of renewable energy, with 96 percent of its electricity being generated by non-renewable sources in 2002, including 64 percent from coal and 32 percent from natural gas.
However, since 1993, with the Oklahoma Legislature’s creation of the Oklahoma Energy Resources Board, more than $38 million has been spent on restoring more than 7,800 orphaned and abandoned oil well sites across the state. Ranking 11th for total energy consumption per capita in 2006, the state’s energy costs were 10th lowest in the nation.
As a whole, the oil energy industry contributes $23 billion to Oklahoma’s gross domestic product, and employees of Oklahoma oil-related companies earn an average of twice the state’s typical yearly income.
In 2004, the state had 83,750 commercial oil wells and as many as 750,000 total wells, churning 178 thousand barrels of crude oil a day.
Ten percent of the nation’s natural gas supply is held in Oklahoma, with 1.662 trillion cubic feet.
Three of the largest private oil companies in the nation are located in the state, and all six of Oklahoma’s Fortune 500 companies are oil-related.
In 2006, Tulsa-based Semgroup ranked 5th on Fortune Magazine’s list of largest private companies, Tulsa-based QuikTrip ranked 46th, and Oklahoma City-based Love’s Travel Shops ranked 132nd.
Tulsa’s ONEOK and Williams Companies are the state’s largest and second largest companies respectively, also ranking as the nation’s second and third-largest companies in the field of energy.
Oklahoma City’s Devon Energy is the second-largest crude oil company in the nation, while Kerr-McGee and Chesapeake Energy rank sixth and seventh respectively in that sector, and Oklahoma Gas & Electric ranks as the 25th-largest gas and electric utility company.
The 27th-most agriculturally productive state, Oklahoma is fifth in cattle production and fifth in production of wheat.
Approximately 5.5 percent of American beef comes from Oklahoma, while the state produces 6.1 percent of American wheat, 4.2 percent of American pig products, and 2.2 percent of dairy products.
The state had 83,500 farms in 2005, collectively producing $4.3 billion in animal products and under one billion dollars in crop output with more than $6.1 billion added to the state’s gross domestic product.
Poultry and swine are its second and third-largest agricultural industries.