By Judy Wade
Every Oklahoman knows the lyrics: “Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plains” as they come from the state song, a song that was made famous worldwide by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Broadway musical “Oklahoma.”
Originally Indian Territory, Oklahoma joined the Union Nov. 16, 1904 as the 46th state. With 69,903 square miles, ranking it 20th in size, it has a population of 3,850,568, the 28th largest in the nation.
Its name came from the Choctaw “okla,” meaning people, and “humma,” meaning red—thus Oklahoma.
With a rich history, the state has adopted many official symbols, some of which are well known, while some are unique.
“Sooners” is a nickname known to almost everyone, but how it came about is interesting. In 1889 the government opened unassigned land in Indian Territory to settlement.
A Land Rush was held, with everyone supposedly starting at one time to assure equal opportunity to claim land. However, many people left “sooner” than they were supposed to—thus the nickname.
Oklahoma’s flag is one of the more elaborate ones in the nation. Adopted in 1925, it honors Native Americans and their ancestors. The sky blue background is the color of the flag Choctaw soldiers carried in the Civil War. In the center is an Osage battle shield made of buffalo skin and adorned with eagle feathers and white crosses representing the stars in the sky and higher purposes in Native American culture. A gray ceremonial pipe and olive branches symbolize peace. Beneath the shield is “OKLAHOMA” in white.
No less ornate is the Great Seal of the State. A large five-point star is at the center surrounded by olive branches. Within stands Columbia, symbol of justice and statehood.
On either side of her are a pioneer farmer and a Native American clasping hands under the scales of justice. Above their heads is the state motto, and the bottom reads 1907.
In the uppermost point of the star is the seal of the Chickasaw Nation followed from left to right in the other points by the seals of the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole and Choctaw Nations, the Five Civilized Tribes that inhabited the state.
In the spaces between the points are 45 stars representing the other states of the Union, with the large center star representing Oklahoma’s entry into the Union in 1907 as the 46th state.
The state has adopted more than 40 official state symbols—everything from animals to monuments.
Some of these include the official state animal, the bison; game animal, white-tailed deer; game bird, wild turkey; furbearing animal, raccoon; amphibian, the bullfrog; bird, scissor-tailed flycatcher; butterfly, black swallowtail; bass, white or sand bass; insect, honeybee; and reptile, collared lizard.
Oklahoma even has an official dinosaur, the acrocanthosaurus atokensis, and an official fossil, the saurophaganax maximus.
Oklahoma has been the birthplace of many famous musicians and has numerous official state musical symbols aside from “Oklahoma” being the official state song. Others include children’s song, “Oklahoma, My Native Land;” country and western song, “Faded Love;” rock song, “Do You Realize?;” gospel song, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot;” waltz, “Oklahoma Wind;” and folk song, “Oklahoma Hills” by Woody Guthrie.
The fiddle is the official state musical instrument, and the drum serves as the official percussion instrument. Lynn Riggs Players represent the state theater. The square danced is the state dance, and the state poem is “Howdy Folks.”
Hourglass selenite is the official state crystal, and the rose rock is the state rock. Others include floral emblem, mistletoe; flower, Oklahoma rose; wildflower, Indian blanket; tree, redbud; and grass, Indian grass. The official state soil is port silt loam.
Theresa Farrington is the state’s caricature artist, and we even have an official cartoon character, Gusty, created in 1954 by Don Woods as a way to illustrate his weather forecasts.
Tulsa proclaims itself as the Oil Capital of the World and is home to the state’s official monument, the 76-feet-tall Golden Driller.
Official foods were not forgotten: vegetable, watermelon; fruit, strawberry; beverage, milk.
We even have an official state meal consisting of “an extensive menu reflecting the state’s historical and present-day agriculture and the cultural backgrounds of Oklahoma residents,” according to statesymbolsusa.org.
The menu includes fried okra, cornbread, barbecued pork, squash, biscuits, sausage and gravy, grits, corn, strawberries, chicken fried steak and black-eyed peas.
The state motto, Labor Omni Vincit, means “Work Conquers All.” After that official state meal, who can work?