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Territorial Era


The term intruder applied to unlawful settlers on the lands of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole in Indian Territory, present eastern Oklahoma. Encroachment of whites onto Indian lands occurred continuously across the United States during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The concept of intrusion first appeared in the 1785 treaty with Cherokees in South Carolina. Federal documents stipulated that unwanted settlers on Cherokee lands would forfeit government protection. The term intruder also appeared as early as 1804 under a treaty with the Sac and Fox tribes that gave the U.S. government responsibility for removing intruders.

Subsequent treaties, acts of Congress, and presidential proclamations, both before and after removal of the Southeastern tribes to land west of the Mississippi River, addressed the intruder problem. Tribes attempted to deal with intrusion by passing laws of their own, negotiating with U.S. officials, and working with one another. The tribes' earlier desire for whites to settle on Indian lands encouraged white-Indian intermarriage and complicated the United States' response and the Indians' predicament. Non-Indians overflowed Indian Territory, despite sporadic attempts by the government to protect Indians from white influence, especially drunkenness. Settlers, dissatisfied with tribal administration, clamored for a territorial or state government. White agitation led to allotment of communal tribal lands and eventually to statehood.

The exact number of early intruders in Indian Territory is unknown. However, available statistics show an explosion in the intruder population between the last decade of the nineteenth century and statehood. In 1890 approximately 70 percent of the population were intruders; by 1907 intruders numbered 90 percent.

Richard Mize



Sharon Standifer Ashton, Indians and Intruders (Norman, Okla.: Ashton Publishing, 1996).

Loren N. Brown, "The Dawes Commission," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 9 (March 1931).

Angie Debo, And Still the Waters Run: The Betrayal of the Five Civilized Tribes (1940; reprint, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991).

Charles J. Kappler, comp. and ed., Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties, 7 vols. (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1904–1979).

Amos D. Maxwell, "The Sequoyah Convention," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 28 (Summer 1950).

Nancy Hope Sober, The Intruders: The Illegal Residents of the Cherokee Nation, 1866–1907 (Ponca City, Okla.: Cherokee Books, 1991).

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