Magazine article The New American

More Than OK on Oklahoma: This History Text about the People and Events of Oklahoma's Past Is a Lively, Politically Incorrect and Accurate Telling-Covering Killing, Corruption, and "Causes"

Magazine article The New American

More Than OK on Oklahoma: This History Text about the People and Events of Oklahoma's Past Is a Lively, Politically Incorrect and Accurate Telling-Covering Killing, Corruption, and "Causes"

Article excerpt

The Oklahomans: The Story of Oklahoma and Its People, Volume I: Ancient-Statehood', by John J. Dwyer, Norman, Oklahoma: Red River, 2016, 324 pages, hardcover.


Perhaps no state has a more interesting and diverse history than does Oklahoma, and John Dwyer has expertly conveyed this fact in the first volume of an envisioned two-volume work on the "Sooner State." To be blunt, in the past many authors of survey histories of the state have produced books on Oklahoma history that are about as dry as the dust from the multiple cattle drives that crossed the state in the last part of the 19th century. These writers have at times appeared almost disinterested in their subject, and have presented the material in an almost condescending, even apologetic manner.

You don't get that from Dwyer. Instead, one can quickly discern that he is devoted to his home state. At the same time, the book does not avoid those parts of Oklahoma's checkered history that are a vivid testimony to the flawed nature of human beings. Instead, he tackles such topics in a way that provides the perspective that is usually missing from other treatments of difficult topics, such as segregation, the Indian removals, corruption in government, and private-sector injustices.

The book is clearly written from a Judeo-Christian worldview, but not so much so that other perspectives are ignored or disrespected. And the book likewise is kind to the concepts of limited government, free enterprise, and respect for private property.

In that regard, Dwyer takes the time to explain the Indian system of land ownership because that subject has been misrepresented by other "historians." Often when one reads of how the Native Americans viewed land ownership, a reader could believe that the indigenous peoples of North America were to the political left of Karl Marx.

Drawing upon the depiction of the Indian concept of private property by Clara Nash and Erma Taylor in their history of Bryan County, Dwyer's book demonstrates this was not accurate. "The Choctaw [Indian] domain was held in common. Any citizen of the nation had the right to make his home anywhere in the country. He could fence the surrounding land for fields and pastures," as long as the fence was no further away "than 'a hog-call' (about 1/4 mile)."

But as Nash and Taylor further explain, "They could not trespass on the already-fenced lands of another Choctaw. Any citizen could sell his improvements such as houses, barns, and fences, but could not sell the land. If he abandoned the farm for a period fixed by law, usually three years, it reverted to the public domain."

And considering that modern Ameri cans are said to "own" their land, but they must continue to pay the property taxes in order to continue to "own" it, Nash and Taylor's conclusion is instructive: "They paid no land taxes since they didn't own the land."

Hardly an example of "communism," as the Indians' system is so often falsely portrayed.

In The Oklahomans, the reader will be treated to the exciting story of the beginnings of the Oklahoma oil industry, which is presented as something positive, not as some sort of negative, as far too many writers picture the oil business today.

While one is reading Dwyer's work, the reader may forget that he is reading a "history book," because it is written with the powerful words of an accomplished novelist. (Dwyer has also written fiction.) Unlike some writers, however, he does not believe in taking "artistic license" with the facts in order to create a more engaging story. For example, in his account of the great Comanche chief Quanah Parker, this historical character emerges as a real, three-dimensional human being, rather than an actor in a morality play, as is so often done for modern readers.

"Quanah well illustrates the vast transformation from old Oklahoma to new, even as both he and the state retained so much of their essential strength and so many of their distinctives," Dwyer wrote. …

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