Home |  PublicationsEncyclopedia |  Land Openings

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

El Reno land drawing, 1901
(15228, Muriel Wright Collection, OHS).

Three men from Georgia waiting for the Wichita-Caddo Opening, 1901
(19344.58.5, Virgil Robbins Collection, OHS).


The central and western parts of Oklahoma were opened to settlement by non-Indians around the turn of the twentieth century. After the general allotment of tribal lands to individuals of each Native nation, several methods were used to open and populate the remainder, which became part of the public domain and available under the Homestead Act. Land runs, in which individuals competed for land claims and had to register and improve them in order to become permanent owners of the property, opened the Unassigned Lands (1889), the Sac and Fox, Iowa, Shawnee, and Potawatomi lands (1891), the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation (1892), the Cherokee Outlet (1893), and the Kickapoo Reservation (1895). The method proved relatively inefficient, and other ways were developed. Subsequently, large expanses of land were opened by lottery or by sealed-bid auctions after the allotment of lands to the various tribes, including the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache Reservation (1901), the Wichita-Caddo Reservation (1901), and the Big Pasture (1906). According to the Oklahoma Organic Act of May 2, 1890, the U.S. Congress added the Oklahoma Panhandle, or No Man's Land, to the new territory; parts of the Panhandle were already settled. Old Greer County, long in ownership dispute between Texas and Oklahoma, was awarded to Oklahoma Territory and opened to homesteading by virtue of U.S. Supreme Court order in United States v. Texas in 1896.

Dianna Everett


Roy Gittinger, The Formation of the State of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1939).

Gordon Moore, "Registers, Receivers, and Entrymen: U.S. Land Office Administration in Oklahoma Territory, 1889–1907," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 67 (Spring 1989).

Browse By Topic

Settlement Patterns


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Dianna Everett, “Land Openings,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=LA016.

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.