American Original: A Life of Will Rogers

By Ray Robinson | Go to book overview

1

The Indian "Problem"

n 1926, during one of the many overseas jaunts that Will undertook as a roving reporter for the Saturday Evening Post, he got into a minor brouhaha with customs authorities because he had no birth certificate to show them. The explanation for such a bureaucratic failure was simple, according to Will: "In those days of the Indian Territory, there wasn't any such thing as a birth certificate. You being there was certificate enough—we generally took it for granted that if you were there, you must have been born at some time or other; ... having a certificate of being born was like wearing a raincoat in the water over a bathing suit."

William Penn Adair Rogers was born on November 4, 1879, in a house located four miles northeast of Oologah, in the Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory—in an area that later became part of the state of Oklahoma.

Oologah, the name of a not particularly well known Cherokee chief, was in the midst of cattle country, twenty-three miles northeast of what today is Tulsa. The area was a collection of small houses, made mostly of sod and logs. In later years, Will boasted to his Broadway audiences that his Cherokee

-7-

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