Long before Oklahoma became a state, it was a land of cultural diversity, but the cultures represented were few. Much has changed over the past five or so centuries. Now, Oklahoma is home to nearly 4 million people who claim hundreds of cultures, latest available U.S. Census figures show. The largest culture representations in Oklahoma include: white, American Indian, black, Hispanic, English, Irish, German, Italian, Asian Indian, Vietnamese, Scottish, French, Dutch and Middle Eastern. There are many more that have some representation within the state. The largest population gains in Oklahoma are in the Hispanic population, which increased nearly 70 percent from 2000 to 2009, census officials said. This population has surpassed the growth of non-Hispanic populations in nearly every county and overall statewide, according to new census estimates. In Oklahoma County, the Hispanic population increased 67 percent. For many counties in Oklahoma, the overall population has decreased, while the Hispanic population has increased. “Oklahoma is a good place to live and raise a family” said David Castillo, executive director for the Greater Oklahoma City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “The Latino community in central Oklahoma is thriving,” Castillo said. The number of Hispanic Youths in Oklahoma has increased by more than 32 percent since 2000, while the numbers of non-Hispanic youth has decreased by 2.6 percent. By 2020, it is estimated, at least a quarter of Oklahoma’s children will be Hispanic. “When I was growing up in grade school there was only a handful of Hispanic,” said Castillo “You had to speak English back then.” The land now called Oklahoma was sparsely populated during the 1500s to 1700s. There were American Indian tribes who roamed the Prairie, European explorers looking for undiscovered riches, traders and trappers, and those who simply chose to live in the wild. The Indian population grew when tribes were forced into the area by white settlers. Many people settled in Oklahoma illegally after it was designated “Indian Territory” for the relocated tribes. The government opened up the western parts of the territory by holding six land runs between 1889 and 1895. People known as “Boomers” wanted the rich lands to be opened up for settlement by non-Indians. As a result, this attracted settlers from throughout the nation and from other countries like Poland, Germany and Ireland. During and after the Civil War, there were more blacks making their way to the frontier. By statehood on Nov. 16, 1907, blacks outnumbered the Indians, as well as first- and second-generation Europeans. There were 27 all-black towns, the most in the nation for any one state. Through the years, there have been many new arrivals, representing hundreds of cultures from around the world. Today, the influx of diverse populations continues. In the Tulsa Public School District, free Spanish language classes are offered for teachers to handle the needs of the increasing Hispanic population.. Oklahoma has the fourth largest Indian population in the nation behind South Dakota, New Mexico and Alaska, according to the census bureau. Census counters in Oklahoma reported more tribal participation among the state’s 37 federally recognized tribes for the 2010 Census. In 2000, only two tribes participated in the census. It has often difficult to get an exact number of the Indian population in Oklahoma because most members live outside an official reservation area. According to 2009 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Oklahoma’s population is comprised of 78.1 percent white, 8 percent black, 8 percent American Indian, 1.7 percent Asian, 0.1 percent Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander, 7.6 percent Hispanic and 3.8 percent of people from foreign countries. But there is more to these people than numbers. Each group has a culture of its own, with often colorful and proud festivities to recognize them, such as the festivals that showcase Oklahoma’s rich heritage. These include such events as the Okmulgee Invitational Rodeo & Festival, Aug. 13-14, which is the nation’s oldest African-American rodeo. Red Earth Native American Cultural Festival, a powwow and arts festival, takes place each year in downtown Oklahoma City. There also is the Italian Festival, May 21-22 in McAlester; the Oklahoma Scottish Festival, Oct. 2 in Tulsa; the Oklahoma Czech Festival, Sept. 17-19 in Yukon; Oktoberfest, Oct. 1 in Enid; and Dia De Los Muertos Arts Festival, Nov. 1, to name a few. Oklahoma’s population has changed dramatically since its pre-settlement days, and as the state continues to grow, so does its diversity in people and cultures.
Oklahoma's Largest CulturesAmerican Indian
- Muscogee (Creek)
Arab, Middle Eastern and North African
- Asian Indian
Hispanic and Latino