Resisting Oklahoma's Reign of Terror


Resisting Oklahoma's Reign of Terror

The Society of Oklahoma Indians and the Fight for Native Rights, 1923–1928

Joshua Clough

New Visions in Native American and Indigenous Studies Series

354 pages
7 photographs, 10 illustrations, index


May 2024


$65.00 Pre-order

About the Book

The oil and natural gas boom in pre–World War I Oklahoma brought unbelievable wealth to thousands of tribal citizens in the state on whose lands these minerals were discovered. However, as Angie Debo recognizes in her seminal study of the period, And Still the Waters Run, and, more recently, as David Grann does in Killers of the Flower Moon, this affluence placed Natives in the crosshairs of unscrupulous individuals. As a result, this era was also marked by two of the most heinous episodes of racial violence in the state’s history:  the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 and the Osage Murders between 1921 and 1925. 

In Resisting Oklahoma’s Reign of Terror Joshua Clough details the responses of one largely forgotten Native organization—the Society of Oklahoma Indians (SOI)—to the violence and pillaging of tribal resources during the 1920s. Clough provides historical understanding of its formation and its shared values of intertribal unity, Native suffrage, and protection of Native property. He also reveals why reform efforts were nearly impossible in 1920s Oklahoma and how this historical perspective informs today’s conflicts between the state and its Indigenous inhabitants.

Through this examination of the SOI, Clough fills the historiographic gap regarding formal Native resistance between the dissolution of the national Society of American Indians in 1923 and the formation of the National Congress of American Indians in 1944. Dismissed or overlooked for a century as an inconsequential Native activist organization, the history of the SOI, when examined carefully, reveals the sophistication and determination of tribal members in their struggle to prevent depredations on their persons and property.

Author Bio

Joshua Clough is a lecturer in Native American studies at the University of Oklahoma.


“Intelligent, readable, and infused with wry wit, Joshua Clough’s close study of the rise and fall of the Society of Oklahoma Indians gives readers a glimpse of the beating heart of Native Oklahoma in the mid-1920s. The third leg of a triple alliance forged to reform exploitative economic practices draining Indian estates, the SOI was short-lived and inchoate as a political organization. Yet Clough’s case study of the SOI, detailing the emergent collective voice of Indian protest, is compelling because of the powerful forces dividing and suppressing Oklahoma Indians during a very fractious era.”—Tanis C. Thorne, author of The World’s Richest Indian: The Scandal over Jackson Barnett’s Oil Fortune

“A prodigious amount of research yields a compelling account of the Society of Oklahoma Indians that focuses attention on the Indian Bureau, state-Indian conflicts, [and] demands for the federal government to ‘fix’ problems of guardianships, probate, and corruption. . . . Certain Indian cries in the 1920s about ‘chaos’ in the state resonate today.”—Blue Clark, author of Indian Tribes of Oklahoma: A Guide

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
  1. Caught Between the Great Confusion and the Great Frenzy:  The Genesis of an Intolerable Situation
  2. Getting Down to Business:  The Origin Story of the Society of Oklahoma Indians
  3. Playing Politics with Indian Lives:  Oklahoma’s Congressional Delegation and the Fight to Maintain the Status Quo
  4. “Real Indians” Wanted:  Organizing the Inaugural 1924 SOI Convention
  5. Life in a Suburban Indian Camp:  The SOI Indian Village in Sand Springs Park
  6. Indian Intellectuals in the Magic City:  The Business Side of the 1924 Convention
  7. Charles Burke’s Worst Nightmare:  O.K. Chandler and the Politicization of the SOI
  8. 1925:  The Year Indian Country Revolved around O.K. Chandler
  9. The SOI Pushes Back:  Protecting the Indians of Oklahoma
  10. Historic Preservation Meets Cultural Tourism:  The SOI’s Okmulgee Playground
  11. Getting Political (And Physical) in Muskogee:  The 1926 SOI Midwinter Meeting
  12. The Strangest of Bedfellows:  The SOI and the Extreme Makeover of Pawhuska

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