Do you know where the center of the universe is? Some believe it’s in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The exact spot is a brick circle in Downtown Tulsa that’s about eight feet in diameter. It sits in the middle of a larger circle made up of thirteen bricks. While no one can explain why, here’s what happens:
If you stand in the middle of the smaller circle and make a noise, the sound is echoed back several times louder than it was made. But no one standing outside the circle can hear it… strange, isn’t it?
Before you learn more, you first need to know where Oklahoma is located. It’s in the south-central area of the country. It’s bordered by Colorado and Kansas to the north, Missouri and Arkansas to the east, Texas to the south, and New Mexico to the west. Of the 39 Tribal Nations that call the state home, the five major tribes are: Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek and Seminole nations. In fact, the state gets its name from Native American Choctaw words. “Okla” and “Humma” translate to “red people.”
What really happened
- There is evidence of humans living in present-day Oklahoma since the last Ice Age. Archaeologists call them Paleo Indians.
- Hundreds, maybe thousands of years later, other Native American tribes lived on the land. These tribes included: the Plains Apache, Caddo, Comanche, Wichita, Kiowa and Osage.
- In 1541, the first Europeans arrived. This included Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado. Like many other explorers, he was searching for gold but did not find any here.
- In the 17th century, French explorer Robert de La Salle arrived and claimed the land for the French. The country created fur trading posts along the rivers in the region.
- In 1803, the United States bought a large region of land from the French for $15 million. It was the greatest land bargain in US history. The deal was called the Louisiana Purchase, which involved land in Oklahoma and 14 other states.
- In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act. It required Indian tribes in the southeastern US to surrender their land to the US government and move west. Oklahoma was now Indian Territory. However, the tribes were forced to march to this new territory under harsh conditions. By 1838, approximately 4,000 people died along the way. This march is called the Trail of Tears.
- Despite making promises to the Indian tribes that this land was theirs, the US government set aside two million acres of land that white settlers could homestead or claim as their own. More than 50,000 people arrived. They were allowed to enter the area when a pistol was fired at noon, but some snuck in earlier. These people were nicknamed “Sooners”, which became the nickname for the entire state.
- In 1866, slavery was abolished in the territory.
- In 1890, the state was split into the Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory. Indian leaders wanted to create their own state called Sequoyah. They applied for statehood in 1905. Congress rejected it and combined the territories into the single state that we know today.
- Oklahoma became the 46th state in 1907.
- During the 1930s, the state experienced severe high winds, dust storms and choking dust. The state was nicknamed the Dust Bowl. People and animals were killed. Even crops failed to grow. The “Dirty Thirties” lasted for about a decade.
Stuff you should know
- Members of over 30 tribes still live in Oklahoma. More than 25 Native American languages are spoken here.
- Oil discoveries in this state made people very rich. The first oil was discovered in 1850. The first oil well in this country was drilled in 1859. Throughout the 20th century, many more oil fields were discovered.
- When the US government allowed settlers to claim land in Oklahoma as their own, people came from around the world: Japan, China, England, Mexico, Canada, and France. To this day, the state still has a diverse population.
- The Red River serves as the Oklahoma-Texas boundary. The river’s color comes from clay and minerals in its water.
- During the 1930s, when severe droughts and high winds plagued the state, more than a million residents moved to California. Many were searching for work. They were called “Okies”.
- Since explorers first visited Oklahoma, 14 flags, including four from different countries, have flown over it.
- Oklahoma sits in a region of the country called Tornado Alley. Since 1950, the state has experienced 4,595 tornadoes.
Crazy, funny or just plain weird
- The Oklahoma State Capitol is the only US capitol building that has an oil well directly underneath it.
- The world’s largest sculpture of a pop or soda bottle is in the city of Arcadia. Neon lights light up the 66-foot-tall sculpture at night.
- In 2007, the longest lightning flash happened in the state. It spanned 199.5 miles!
- Bison was named the state mammal of Oklahoma. Did you know that a bison can jump six feet vertically and run up to 35 miles per hour?
- Lottie Williams, a resident from Tulsa, Oklahoma, is perhaps the only person to get hit with space junk. In 1997, a six-inch long piece of a rocket hit her shoulder. She was not injured. The odds of actually getting hit by space trash are roughly one in a trillion.
Tell me more
- Oklahoma is the only state that produces iodine, an important mineral your body needs but doesn’t make on its own.It performs several functions, including producing certain hormones and helping to regulate your metabolism.
- Shopping carts were first invented and used here.
- Cimarron County is the only county in the US that borders counties in five different states: Kansas, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. It’s also the only county that borders four states: Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico and Texas.
- The first tornado warning in the US was issued in Oklahoma on March 25, 1948.
- Kaw Lake, located in the northern part of the state, is home to one of the state’s largest populations of bald eagles. However, the largest eagle’s nest was found near St. Petersburg, Florida. It measured nine feet, six inches wide by twenty feet deep.
- Oklahoma has the largest number of lakes created by dams of any state in the US. It has more than 200 lakes, all man-made.
Ever visit Oklahoma? Maybe you live there. Either way, please share what you know or like about the state. Email it along with your first name, age and state where you live and we’ll consider posting it on Mo’s social media pages!