Richard Rodgers wrote the lyrics for the Broadway musical “Oklahoma” and introduced a little known area to the world although his created visions bore little resemblance to the second home of most Native Americans. During the nineteenth century, almost fifty Native American nations were forcibly removed from their homelands from Florida to Michigan and across the Midwest and resettled in what is now the state of Oklahoma. In the 1890’s, this same land was reopened to land speculators, ranchers, and would-be farmers and the Native American lands were further constricted. Individuals who breached the starting line for land claims became known as “Sooners” and that name became synonymous for Oklahomans. Today, Native American nations number about forty in scattered reservations across the state.
The state wildflower is fittingly the Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella) which is native to the south-central US and northern Mexico. The flower is an annual although there are perennial varieties and it has been introduced worldwide and in some areas is considered invasive. The colorful petals are bright orange, red, and yellow with a deep reddish-brown center and the leaves and stem are hairy and the lower stem becomes woody late in the season. The honey bee is a principal pollinator and honey produced from the Indian Blanket, or Firewheel, is said to have a sweet, buttery taste.