Probably the most populous tribe on the entire continent in the nineteenth century, the talented and powerful Choctaws excelled as farmers, hunters, and diplomats alike. Like some other southeastern tribes such as the Cherokees, the Choctaws increasingly adapted the practices and institutions of Western Christendom, partly to forestall their removal from their ancestral homelands. Around twenty-two thousand Choctaws spread from the middle of the Mississippi River Valley southward to the Gulf of Mexico at the beginning of the 1800s. They traded and conversed effectively with the European powers who frequented the Gulf ports of the area.
The Choctaws organized their country into three regions, each governed by a principal chief, similar to a nation’s president. One chief, Pushmataha, gained renown as a statesman, commercial visionary, and warrior. As shrewd and eloquent as he was rugged and brave, he proved to be the match of American leaders such as James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and John Calhoun, as well as other tribal leaders such as the Shawnee Tecumseh. He sparred with all of them over matters of supreme importance to both the Choctaws and the United States. A national Choctaw council composed of other leaders from throughout the tribe, similar to a Congress, also carried authority.
The Choctaws-notably Pushmataha-demonstrated their hunting prowess and physical vigor with journeys as far west as present-day Oklahoma, hundreds of miles from their Mississippi homeland. Two developments winnowed out the game population of the Gulf States and forced these long and dangerous treks. One was the multiplying American population in the South, the other the burgeoning fur trade with Europe. In present-day Oklahoma, the Choctaw hunters not only slew great hauls of game, they clashed with Osages, Caddos, and other tribes residing in the area, as well as American merchants who traded with them.
Like the other southeastern “civilized” tribes, the Choctaw advances in Western culture failed to prevent growing pressure from the American people and their government for the tribe’s removal to the west. To the Natives’ surprise, they would face new chapters of oppression even after they made those treks.
Read the entire Oklahoma story in John J. Dwyer's Media
The Oklahomans: The Story of Oklahoma and Its People
volume 1 of a 2-part series on the 46th state and the people who make this state very special.
John Dwyer's Oklahoma History
Author John Dwyer takes us on a voyage through time, to discover Oklahoma is ways we've never fully understood.
The hardbound pictorial of volume 1 is available for a limited time at up to 40% off, using this link.
Novelist and Oklahoma native Ralph Ellison said, "You have to leave home to find home", an apt description of the journey of John Dwyer, author and general editor of The Oklahomans. The Dwyer family roots were firmly transplanted from Ireland to Oklahoma by John's great-grandfather and grandfather, the latter who settled in Oklahoma City in 1909, just two years after Oklahoma achieved statehood. Although born in Dallas, TX, John was relocated to Oklahoma when his widowed mother returned to her home when he was two years old.
It would be on Oklahoma soil that his mother instilled in him his love for history, and coupled with his unusually creative imagination, it soon became apparent that John not only liked to hear great stories of legend and history, but to make up his own as well. It would be out of a sense of divine purpose that he would use that creativity in response to a higher calling in the years to come.
John began a career in journalism during his high school days when he served in a variety of roles, including news and sports reporter, for the Duncan Banner, a daily newspaper in his small Oklahoma hometown. He was the youngest sports editor in the newspaper's history by the time he attended the University of Oklahoma on a journalism scholarship. He graduated in 1978 with a bachelor of arts and sciences degree in journalism.
Dwyer further developed his journalistic skills in radio as a play‐by‐play football and basketball announcer for several radio stations. He won the coveted position of sports director for the University of Oklahoma's 100,000 watt KGOU‐FM radio station. For seven years, he provided live, on‐air reports to America's largest radio networks of University of Oklahoma college football games.
Except for a year in England during 6th grade, John lived in the Sooner State for 28 years before returning to Dallas in 1986 to attend Dallas Theological Seminary where he earned his Master of Biblical Studies. While there, Dwyer worked part time on the sports staff of The Dallas Times Herald, which at the time owned one of the five largest circulations of any daily newspaper in Texas. It was in Texas that he also met and married his wife Grace in 1988 and settled down to start his family.
In the spring of 1992, Dwyer and his wife founded the Dallas‐Fort Worth Heritage newspaper, which would grow to a circulation of 50,000 per month at the time of its sale, after nearly a decade, to new owners. The Heritage pioneered innovative features such as full color photography and graphics, an expansive web site, a cluster of informative daily radio programs, and an aggressive, uncompromising brand of investigative news reporting unprecedented for contemporary news publications holding an
orthodox Christian worldview.
In 2006, at the urging of his family and the Oklahoma Historical Society, John returned to Oklahoma to tackle the colossal task of writing "The Oklahomans," which was endorsed as an official project of the Oklahoma Centennial Commission. He has completed volume 1 (Ancient‐Statehood) and a portion of volume 2 (Statehood‐Present), which releases in November 2018.
He is now an Adjunct Professor of History and Ethics at Southern Nazarene University. He is former history chair at Coram Deo Academy, near Dallas, Texas. His books include the non‐fiction historical narrative "The War Between the States: America's Uncivil War" (Western Conservatory), the novel "When the Bluebonnets Come" (Bluebonnet Press), the historical novels "Stonewall" and "Robert E. Lee" (Broadman & Holman Publishers), and the upcoming historical novels "Shortgrass" and "Mustang" (Oghma Creative Media).
John and Grace have one daughter and one grandson and live in Norman, Oklahoma. They are members of the First Baptist Church of Norman, where they serve in a variety of teaching, mission, and other ministry roles.