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AlumNews: Talon Articles

Oklahoma celebrates centennial year

Friday, October 26, 2007  
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By Kimberly Sikes

On Nov. 16, 1907, Oklahoma became the 46th state in the nation and since Nov. 2006, Oklahoma has been celebrating its 100th year as a state.

Oklahoma Christian University is taking part in the Centennial Celebrations, along with the rest of the state, by incorporating statehood into the year’s homecoming theme, “OklaHomecoming.”

“We chose the theme OklaHomecoming to tie in to the Centennial Celebration, and this year homecoming falls on the week before Oklahoma’s 100th birthday,” Director of Alumni Relations Michael Mitchell said.

Oklahoma Christian’s homecoming celebration is just one of many activities across the state that has been planned to focus on Oklahoma’s history and heritage during its centennial year. All of the activities in direct relation to the Oklahoma Centennial Commemoration are being planned and executed by the state agency, Oklahoma Capitol Complex and Centennial Commemoration Commission.

According to the Oklahoma Centennial web site, a 42-member board made up of citizens, legislators, state agency directors and mayors guides the Centennial Commission.

Plans for Centennial Projects stretch across the 77 Oklahoma Counties. These Centennial Projects are intended to commemorate and honor Oklahoma’s statehood as well as to entertain.

One of these projects is the building of Lawson’s Commons on Oklahoma Christian’s campus.

Though the clock tower was already scheduled to be built, designating it as a Centennial Project was “our way of participating in Oklahoma’s Centennial Celebrations,” Mitchell said.

Since Oklahoma was added to the Union so late in the United State’s history, there is a rich historical background in Oklahoma’s journey to statehood. This journey is what makes Oklahoma’s centennial so interesting and relevant to so many people.

The land that is now Oklahoma was purchased by the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. The territory was reorganized into smaller districts and by 1819, all but the panhandle of Oklahoma was part of Arkansas Territory.

In the early 1800s, the United States Government removed Native Americans from around the United States to Oklahoma Territory and in 1828, required settlers to move from the area.

Between 1830 and 1842, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole Tribes were forced to follow the “Trail of Tears” and move from their homelands to be relocated in Oklahoma Territory.

By 1889, the territory was split and the western half was opened to settlers. On March 2, 1890, this land was designated as Oklahoma Territory with Guthrie as the capitol.

The Five Civilized Tribes drew up a constitution to make Indian Territory, the eastern half of Oklahoma, a separate state called Sequoyah.

However, Congress did not accept the Indian Territory as a separate state and representatives from both territories met in 1906 to create a new constitution that combined them both as the 46th state in the union.

The state capitol moved to Oklahoma City in 1910, just three years after Oklahoma became a state.

As the state’s first capital, Guthrie is hosting historical reenactments of the presidential proclamation of statehood, the inauguration of the first governor and an inaugural parade on Statehood Day, Nov. 16, 2007.  Public schools across the state will be closed on Statehood Day.

Oklahoma’s distinct Native American heritage is not being forgotten and the Centennial Celebrations work to showcase the state’s distinct background.

Many tribes are holding special celebrations in addition to their yearly cultural gatherings and there will be a showcase of Oklahoma writers at bookstores along with a National Conference of Tribal Libraries.

The big challenge for the homecoming committee with making the theme “OklaHomecoming” a part of the centennial celebration, was making sure it would be different from last year’s theme, Western Homecoming on the Range.

“We decided to make it a big birthday celebration,” Mitchell said. “On Friday, the banquet is like a big birthday party for Oklahoma and in the evening we have ‘Rock the Lawn.’ It will be held on the University House lawn and is a big centennial fireworks show.”

Student Alumni Council President Amber Grubb has planned several of the activities for this year’s Homecoming, including Red Dirt Day and the Battle of the Bands concert.

Red Dirt Day will be held on the Tuesday of Homecoming week. The student body is encouraged to wear red and there will be a barbecue lunch and birthday cake in the cafeteria.

“It’s been fun to try and think of activities that involve the students, faculty and alumni that all take place in a week,” Grubb said.

Even apart from the challenge of making this year’s and last year’s homecoming themes different, Grubb has had some problems to solve.

“The biggest challenge has been working out a way to afford the concert on Friday night,” Grubb said. “I wanted to do a huge event, not a bunch of little ones. It has required cooperation from everyone to make it happen.”

The band that wins the Battle of the Bands competition will be opening for Ingram Hill during the concert on Friday night.

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