A major producer of natural gas, oil and food, Oklahoma relies on an economic base of aviation, energy, telecommunications, and biotechnology. It has one of the fastest growing economies in the nation, ranking among the top states in per capita income growth and gross domestic product growth. Oklahoma City and Tulsa serve as Oklahoma's primary economic anchors, with nearly 60 percent of Oklahomans living in their metropolitan statistical areas. The state holds a mixed record in education and healthcare, and its largest universities participate in the NCAA and NAIA athletic associations, with two collegiate athletic departments rated among the most successful in American history.
With small mountain ranges, prairie, and eastern forests, most of Oklahoma lies in the Great Plains and the U.S. Interior Highlands—a region especially prone to severe weather. With a prevalence of German, Irish, English and Native American ancestry, more than 25 Native American languages are spoken in Oklahoma, the most of any state. It is located on a confluence of three major American cultural regions and historically served as a route for cattle drives, a destination for southern settlers, and a government-sanctioned territory for Native Americans. Part of the Bible Belt, widespread belief in evangelical Christianity makes it one of the most politically conservative states, though voter registration is largest in the Democratic Party.
Oklahoma is the 20th-largest state in the United States, covering an area of 69,898 square miles (181,035 km²), with 68,667 square miles (177847 km²) of land and 1,231 square miles (3,188 km²) of water. It is one of six states on the Frontier Strip, and lies partly in the Great Plains near the geographical center of the 48 contiguous states. It is bounded on the east by Arkansas and Missouri, on the north by Kansas, on the northwest by Colorado, on the far west by New Mexico, and on the south and near-west by Texas.
Oklahoma is situated between the Great Plains and the Ozark Plateau in the Gulf of Mexico watershed, generally sloping from the high plains of its western boundary to the low wetlands of its southeastern boundary. Its highest and lowest points follow this trend, with its highest peak, Black Mesa, at 4,973 feet (1,516 m) above sea level, situated near its far northwest corner in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The state's lowest point is on the Little River near its far southeastern boundary, which dips to 289 feet (88 m) above sea level.
Among the most geographically diverse states, Oklahoma is one of four to harbor more than 10 distinct ecological regions, with 11 in its borders — more per square mile than in any other state. Its western and eastern halves, however, are marked by extreme differences in geographical diversity: Eastern Oklahoma touches eight ecological regions and its western half contains three.
Oklahoma has four primary mountain ranges: the Ouachita Mountains, the Arbuckle Mountains, the Wichita Mountains, and the Ozark Mountains. Contained within the U.S. Interior Highlands region, the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains mark the only major mountainous region between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians. A portion of the Flint Hills stretches into north-central Oklahoma, and in the state's southeastern corner, Cavanal Hill is officially regarded as the world's tallest hill; at 1,999 feet (609 m), it fails the definition of a mountain by one foot.
In the state’s northwestern corner, semi-arid high plains harbor few natural forests and rolling to flat landscape with intermittent canyons and mesa ranges like the Glass Mountains. Partial plains interrupted by small mountain ranges like the Antelope Hills and the Wichita Mountains dot southwestern Oklahoma, and transitional prairie and woodlands cover the central portion of the state. The Ozark and Ouachita Mountains rise from west to east over the state's eastern third, gradually increasing in elevation in an eastward direction. More than 500 named creeks and rivers make up Oklahoma's waterways, and with 200 lakes created by dams, it holds the highest number of artificial reservoirs in the nation. Most of the state lies in two primary drainage basins belonging to the Red and Arkansas rivers, though the Lee and Little rivers also contain significant drainage basins.
Forests cover 24 percent of Oklahoma and prairie grasslands composed of shortgrass, mixed-grass, and tallgrass prairie, harbor expansive ecosystems in the state's central and western portions, although cropland has largely replaced native grasses. Where rainfall is sparse in the western regions of the state, shortgrass prairie and shrublands are the most prominent ecosystems, though pinyon pines, junipers, and ponderosa pines grow near rivers and creek beds in the far western reaches of the panhandle. Marshlands, cypress forests and mixtures of shortleaf pine, loblolly pine and deciduous forests dominate the state's southeastern quarter, while mixtures of largely post oak, elm, cedar and pine forests cover northeastern Oklahoma.
The state holds populations of white-tailed deer, coyotes, bobcats, elk, and birds such as quail, doves, cardinals, bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and pheasants. In prairie ecosystems, american bison, greater prairie-chickens, badgers, and armadillo are common, and some of the nation's largest prairie dog towns inhabit shortgrass prairie in the state's panhandle. The Cross Timbers, a region transitioning from prairie to woodlands in Central Oklahoma, harbors 351 vertebrate species. The Ouachita Mountains are home to black bear, red fox, grey fox, and river otter populations, which coexist with a total of 328 vertebrate species in southeastern Oklahoma.
Oklahoma has 50 state parks, six national parks or protected regions, two national protected forests or grasslands, and a network of wildlife preserves and conservation areas. Six percent of the state's 10 million acres (40,000 km²) of forest is public land, including the western portions of the Ouachita National Forest, the largest and oldest national forest in the southern United States. With 39,000 acres (158 km²), the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in north-central Oklahoma is the largest protected area of tallgrass prairie in the world and is part of an ecosystem that encompasses only 10 percent of its former land area, once covering 14 states. In addition, the Black Kettle National Grassland covers 31,300 acres (127 km²) of prairie in southwestern Oklahoma. The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge is the oldest and largest of nine national wildlife refuges in the state and was founded in 1901, encompassing 59,020 acres (238.8 km²). Of Oklahoma's federally protected park or recreational sites, the Chickasaw National Recreation Area is the largest, with 4,500 acres (18 km²). Other federal protected sites include the Santa Fe and Trail of Tears national historic trails, the Fort Smith and Washita Battlefield national historic sites, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
Oklahoma is located in a temperate region and experiences occasional extremes of temperature and precipitation typical in a continental climate. Most of the state lies in an area known as Tornado Alley characterized by frequent interaction between cold and warm air masses producing severe weather. An average 54 tornadoes strike the state per year—one of the highest rates in the world. Because of its position between zones of differing prevailing temperature and winds, weather patterns within the state can vary widely between relatively short distances.
The humid subtropical climate (Koppen Cfa) of the eastern part of Oklahoma influenced heavily by southerly winds bringing moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, but transitions progressively to a semi-arid zone (Koppen BSk) in the high plains of the Panhandle and other western areas from about Lawton westward less frequently touched by southern moisture. Precipitation and temperatures fall from east to west accordingly, with areas in the southeast averaging an annual temperature of 62 °F (17 °C) and an annual rainfall of , while areas of the panhandle average 58 °F (14 °C), with an annual rainfall under . All of the state frequently experiences temperatures above 100 °F (38 °C) or below 0 °F (−18 °C), and snowfall ranges from an average of less than in the south to just over on the border of Colorado in the panhandle. The state is home to the National Storm Prediction Center of the National Weather Service located at Norman.
|Monthly temperatures for Oklahoma's largest cities|
|Average high/low temperatures in °F|
Evidence exists that native peoples traveled through Oklahoma as early as the last ice age, but the state's first permanent inhabitants settled in communities accentuated with mound-like structures near the Arkansas border between 850 and 1450 AD. Spaniard Francisco Vásquez de Coronado traveled through the state in 1541, but French explorers claimed the area in the 1700s and it remained under French rule until 1803, when all the French territory west of the Mississippi River was purchased by the United States in the Louisiana Purchase.
Thousands of Native Americans, including those making up the "Five Civilized Tribes", were removed from their lands in Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee and transported to Oklahoma in the 1830s on the Trail of Tears. The area, already occupied by Osage and Quapaw tribes, was designated Indian Territory by the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the Indian Intercourse Act of 1834. Fifteen tribes were given land within the territory in 1830, but by 1890, more than 30 tribes had been allocated federal land.
In the period between 1866 and 1899, cattle ranches in Texas strived to meet the demands for food in eastern cities, and railroads in Kansas promised to deliver in a timely manner. Cattle trails and cattle ranches developed as cowboys either drove their product north or settled illegally in Indian Territory. In 1881, four of five major cattle trails on the western frontier traveled through Indian Territory. Increased presence of white settlers in Indian Territory prompted the United States Government to establish the Dawes Act in 1887, which divided the lands of individual tribes into allotments for individual families, encouraging farming and private land ownership among native Americans, but giving excess land to the federal government. In the process, nearly half of Indian-held land within the territory was made open to outside settlers and for purchase by railroad companies.
Major land runs, including the Land Run of 1889, were held for settlers on the hour that certain territories were opened to settlement. Usually, land was allocated to settlers on a first come, first served basis. Those who broke the rules by crossing the border into the territory before it was allowed were said to have been crossing the border sooner, leading to the term sooners, which eventually became the state's official nickname.
Delegations to make the territory into a state began near the turn of the 20th century, when the Curius Act abolished all tribal jurisdiction in Indian Territory. Attempts to create an all-Indian state named Oklahoma, and a later attempt to create an all-Indian state named Sequoyah failed, but the Sequoyah Statehood Convention of 1905 eventually laid the groundwork for the Oklahoma Statehood Convention, which took place two years later. On November 16, 1907, Oklahoma was established as the 46th state in the Union.
The new state became a focal point for the emerging oil industry, as discoveries of oil pools prompted towns to grow rapidly in population and wealth. Tulsa eventually became known as the "Oil Capital of the World" for most of the 20th century, and oil investments fueled much of the state's early economy. In 1927, Oklahoma businessman Cyrus Avery, known as the "Father of Route 66", began a campaign to create U.S. Route 66. Using an existing stretch of highway from Amarillo, Texas to Tulsa, Oklahoma to form the original portion of Highway 66, Avery spearheaded the creation of the U.S. Highway 66 Association to oversee the planning of Route 66, based in his hometown of Tulsa.
In the early 20th century, despite Jim Crow Laws and a statewide presence of the Ku Klux Clan, Tulsa was home to one of the most prosperous African American communities in the United States, but was the site of the Tulsa Race Riot in 1921. One of the costliest acts of racial violence in American history, sixteen hours of rioting resulted in 35 city blocks destroyed, $1.8 million in property damage, and a death toll estimated to be as high as 300 people. By the late 1920s, the Ku Klux Clan was reduced to negligible influence within the state.
During the 1930s, parts of the state began feeling the consequences of poor farming practices, drought, and high winds. Known as the Dust Bowl, areas of Kansas, Texas, New Mexico, and northwestern Oklahoma were hampered by long periods of little rainfall and abnormally high temperatures, sending thousands of farmers into poverty and forcing them to relocate to more fertile areas of the western United States. Over a twenty-year period ending in 1950, the state saw its only historical decline in population, dropping 6.9 percent. In response, dramatic efforts in soil and water conservation led to massive flood control systems and dams, creating hundreds of reservoirs and man-made lakes. By the 1960s, more than 200 man-made lakes had been created, the most in the nation.
In 1995, Oklahoma City became the scene of one of the worst acts of terrorism ever committed in American history. The Oklahoma City bombing of April 19, 1995, in which Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols detonated an explosive outside of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killed 168 people, including 19 children. Timothy McVeigh was later sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection, while his partner, Terry Nichols, was convicted of 161 counts of first degree murder and received life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Based in the sectors of aviation, energy, transportation equipment, food processing, electronics, and telecommunications, Oklahoma is an important producer of natural gas, aircraft, and food. The state ranks second in the nation for production of natural gas, and is the 27th-most agriculturally productive state, ranking 5th in production of wheat. Six Fortune 500 companies and one additional Fortune 1000 company are headquartered in Oklahoma, and it has been rated one of the most business-friendly states in the nation, with the 7th-lowest tax burden in 2007. From 2000 to 2006, Oklahoma's gross domestic product grew 50 percent, the fifth-highest rate in the nation. It had the fastest-growing GDP between 2005 and 2006, increasing from $122.5 to $134.6 billion, a jump of 10.8 percent, and its gross domestic product per capita grew 5.9 percent from $36,364 in 2006 to $38,516 in 2007, the third-fastest rate in the nation. Its 2007 per capita GDP ranked 41st among the states. Though oil has historically dominated the state's economy, a collapse in the energy industry during the 1980s led to the loss of nearly 90,000 energy-related jobs between 1980 and 2000, severely damaging the local economy. Oil accounted for 17 percent of Oklahoma's economic impact in 2005, and employment in the state's oil industry was outpaced by five other industries in 2007.
Oklahoma is the nation's second-largest producer of natural gas, fifth-largest producer of crude oil, has the second-greatest number of active drilling rigs, and ranks fifth in crude oil reserves. While the state ranked fifth for installed wind energy capacity in 2005, it is at the bottom of states in usage of renewable energy, with 96 percent of its electricity being generated by non-renewable sources in 2002, including 64 percent from coal and 32 percent from natural gas. Ranking 11th for total energy consumption per capita in 2006, Oklahoma's energy costs were 10th lowest in the nation. As a whole, the oil energy industry contributes $23 billion to Oklahoma's gross domestic product, and employees of Oklahoma oil-related companies earn an average of twice the state's typical yearly income. In 2004, the state had 83,750 commercial oil wells and as many as 750,000 total wells, churning 178 thousand barrels of crude oil a day. Ten percent of the nation's natural gas supply is held in Oklahoma, with .
According to Forbes Magazine, three of the largest private oil-related companies in the nation are located in the state, and all five of Oklahoma's Fortune 500 companies are oil-related. In 2006, Tulsa-based Semgroup ranked 5th on the Forbe's list of largest private companies, Tulsa-based QuikTrip ranked 46th, and Oklahoma City-based Love's Travel Shops ranked 132nd. Tulsa's ONEOK and Williams Companies are the state's largest and second-largest companies respectively, also ranking as the nation's second and third-largest companies in the field of energy, according to Fortune Magazine. The magazine also places Oklahoma City's Devon Energy as the second-largest company in the mining and crude oil-producing industry in the nation, while Chesapeake Energy ranks seventh respectively in that sector and Oklahoma Gas & Electric ranks as the 25th-largest gas and electric utility company.
Oklahoma is placed in the South by the United States Census Bureau, but lies fully or partially in the Midwest, Southwest, and southern cultural regions by varying definitions, and partially in the Upland South and Great Plains by definitions of abstract geographical-cultural regions. Oklahomans have a high rate of German, Scotch-Irish, and Native American ancestry, with 25 different native languages spoken, more than in any other state. Six governments have claimed the area at different times, and 67 native American tribes are represented in Oklahoma, including 39 tribal headquarters, the most in the nation. Western ranchers, native American tribes, southern settlers, and eastern oil barons have shaped the state's cultural predisposition, and its largest cities have been named among the most underrated cultural destinations in the United States. While residents of Oklahoma are associated with stereotypical traits of friendliness and generosity — the Catalogue for Philanthropy ranks Oklahomans 4th in the nation for overall generosity — the state has also been associated with a negative cultural stereotype first popularized by John Steinbeck's novel Grapes of Wrath, which described the plight of uneducated, poverty-stricken Dust Bowl-era farmers from midwestern states deemed "Okies". However, the term is used in a positive manner by Oklahomans.
Oklahoma is in the nation's middle percentile in per capita spending on the arts, ranking 17th, and contains more than 300 museums. The Philbrook Museum of Tulsa is considered one of the top 50 fine art museums in the United States, and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History in Norman, one of the largest university-based art and history museums in the country, documents the natural history of the region. The collections of Thomas Gilcrease are housed in the Gilcrease Museum of Tulsa, which also holds the world's largest, most comprehensive collection of art and artifacts of the American West. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art contains the most comprehensive collection of glass sculptures by artist Dale Chihuly in the world, and Oklahoma City's National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum documents the heritage of the American Western frontier. With remnants of the Holocaust and artifacts relevant to Judaism, the Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art of Tulsa preserves the largest collection of Jewish art in the Southwest United States.
With an educational system made up of public school districts and independent private institutions, Oklahoma had 631,337 students enrolled in 1,849 public primary, secondary, and vocational schools in 540 school districts as of 2006. Ranked near the bottom of states in expenditures per student, Oklahoma spent $6,614 for each student in 2005, 47th in the nation, though its growth of total education expenditures between 1992 and 2002 ranked 22nd. The state is among the best in pre-kindergarten education, and the National Institute for Early Education Research rated it first in the United States with regard to standards, quality, and access to pre-kindergarten education in 2004, calling it a model for early childhood schooling. While high school dropout rates decreased 29 percent between 2005 and 2006, Oklahoma ranked in the bottom three states in the nation for retaining high school seniors, with a 3.2 percent dropout rate. In 2004, the state ranked 36th in the nation for the relative number of adults with high school diplomas, though at 85.2 percent, it had the highest rate among southern states.
The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University are the largest public institutions of higher education in Oklahoma, both operating through one primary campus and satellite campuses throughout the state. The two colleges, along with the University of Tulsa, rank among the country's best in undergraduate business programs, and the University of Oklahoma and University of Tulsa are in the top percentage of universities nationally for academic ratings. Oklahoma holds eleven public regional universities, including Northeastern State University, the second-oldest institution of higher education west of the Mississippi River, also containing the only College of Optometry in Oklahoma and the largest enrollment of Native American students in the nation by percentage and amount. Six of the state's universities were placed in the Princeton Review's list of best 122 regional colleges in 2007, and three made the list of top colleges for best value. The state has 54 post-secondary technical institutions operated by Oklahoma's CareerTech program for training in specific fields of industry or trade.
Oklahoma has professional sports teams in basketball, football, arena football, baseball, soccer, and hockey, located in Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Enid, and Lawton. The Oklahoma City Thunder of the National Basketball Association is the state's only major league sports franchise, but minor league sports, including minor league baseball at the AAA and AA levels, hockey in the Central Hockey League, and arena football in the af2 league are hosted by Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Oklahoma City also hosts the Oklahoma City Lightning playing in the National Women's Football Association, and Tulsa is the base for the Tulsa 66ers of the NBA Development League and the Tulsa Revolution, which plays in the American Indoor Soccer League. Enid and Lawton host professional basketball teams in the USBL and the CBA.
The NBA's New Orleans Hornets became the first major league sports franchise based in Oklahoma when the team was forced to relocate to Oklahoma City's Ford Center for two seasons following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. In July 2008, the Seattle SuperSonics, owned by a group of Oklahoma City businessmen led by Clayton Bennett, relocated to Oklahoma City and announced that play would begin at Ford Center as the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2008, becoming the state's first permanent major league franchise.
Collegiate athletics are a popular draw in the state. The University of Oklahoma Sooners and the Oklahoma State University Cowboys average well over 60,000 fans attending their football games, and the University of Oklahoma's American football program ranked 13th in attendance among American colleges in 2006, with an average of 84,561 people attending its home games. The two universities meet several times each year in rivalry matches known as the Bedlam Series, which are some of the greatest sporting draws to the state. Sports programs from 11 Oklahoma colleges and universities compete within the NCAA, with four participating at the association’s highest level, Division I: University of Oklahoma, Oklahoma State University, University of Tulsa, and Oral Roberts University. Sports Illustrated magazine rates the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University among the top colleges for athletics in the nation. In addition, 12 of the state's smaller colleges or universities participate in the NAIA, mostly within the Sooner Athletic Conference.
Regular LPGA tournaments are held at Cedar Ridge Country Club in Tulsa, and major championships for the PGA or LPGA have been played at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oak Tree Country Club in Oklahoma City, and Cedar Ridge Country Club in Tulsa. Rated one of the top golf courses in the nation, Southern Hills has hosted four PGA Championships, including one in 2007, and three U.S. Opens, the most recent in 2001. Rodeos are popular throughout the state, and Guymon, in the state's panhandle, hosts one of the largest in the nation.
The state was the 21st-largest recipient of medical funding from the federal government in 2005, with health-related federal expenditures in the state totaling $75,801,364; immunizations, bioterrorism preparedness, and health education were the top three most funded medical items. Instances of major diseases are near the national average in Oklahoma, and the state ranks at or slightly above the rest of the country in percentage of people with asthma, diabetes, cancer, and hypertension.
In 2000, Oklahoma ranked 45th in physicians per capita and slightly below the national average in nurses per capita, but was slightly over the national average in hospital beds per 100,000 people and above the national average in net growth of health services over a 12-year period. One of the worst states for percentage of insured people, nearly 25 percent of Oklahomans between the age of 18 and 64 did not have health insurance in 2005, the fifth-highest rate in the nation. Oklahomans are in the upper half of Americans in terms of obesity prevalence, and the state is the 14th most obese in the nation, with 24 percent of its adults at or near obesity. It ranks 16th in terms of teenage obesity, with 11.1 percent of high school students at or near obesity, and is one of two states that do not have requirements for physical education in public schools.
The OU Medical Center, Oklahoma's largest hospital, is the only hospital in the state designated a Level I trauma center by the American College of Surgeons, and is located on the grounds of the Oklahoma Health Center, the state's largest concentration of medical research facilities. The Regional Medical Center of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa is one of four such regional facilities nationwide, offering cancer treatment to the entire southwestern United States, and is one of the largest cancer treatment hospitals in the country. The largest osteopathic teaching facility in the nation, Oklahoma State University Medical Center at Tulsa, also rates as one of the largest facilities in the field of neuroscience.
Oklahoma City and Tulsa are the 45th and 61st-largest media markets in the United States as ranked by Nielsen Media Research. The state's third-largest media market, Lawton-Wichita Falls, Texas, is ranked 144th nationally by the agency. Broadcast television in Oklahoma began in 1949 when KFOR-TV (then WKY-TV) in Oklahoma City and KOTV-TV in Tulsa began broadcasting a few months apart. Currently, all major American broadcast networks have affiliated television stations in the state.
The state has two primary newspapers. The Oklahoman, based in Oklahoma City, is the largest newspaper in the state and 48th-largest in the nation by circulation, with a weekday readership of 215,102 and a Sunday readership of 287,505. The Tulsa World, the second most widely circulated newspaper in Oklahoma and 77th in the nation, holds a Sunday circulation of 189,789 and a weekday readership of 138,262. Oklahoma's first newspaper was established in 1844, called the Cherokee Advocate, and was written in both Cherokee and English. In 2006, there were more than 220 newspapers located in the state, including 177 with weekly publications and 48 with daily publications.
Two large public radio networks are broadcast in Oklahoma: Oklahoma Public Radio and Public Radio International. First launched in 1955, Oklahoma Public Radio was the first public radio network in Oklahoma, and has won 271 awards for outstanding programming. Public Radio International broadcasts on 10 stations throughout the state, and provides more than 400 hours of programming. The state's first radio station, KRFU in Bristow, moved to Tulsa and became KVOO in 1927. In 2006, there were more than 500 radio stations in Oklahoma broadcasting with various local or nationally owned networks.
Transportation in Oklahoma is generated by an anchor system of interstate highways, commuter rail lines, airports, seaports, and mass transit networks. Situated along an integral point in the United States Interstate network, Oklahoma contains three interstate highways and four auxiliary interstate highways. In Oklahoma City, Interstate 35 intersects with Interstate 44 and Interstate 40, forming one of the most important intersections along the United States highway system. More than 12,000 miles (19,000 km) of roads make up the state's major highway skeleton, including state-operated highways, ten turnpikes or major toll roads, and the longest drivable stretch of Route 66 in the nation. In 2005, Interstate 44 in Oklahoma City was Oklahoma's busiest highway, with a daily traffic volume of 131,800 cars. In 2007, the state had the nation's highest number of bridges classified as structurally deficient, with nearly 6,300 bridges in disrepair, including 127 along its primary highway system.
Oklahoma's largest commercial airport is Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, averaging a yearly passenger count of more than 3.5 million in 2005. Tulsa International Airport, the state's second largest commercial airport, serves more than three million travelers annually. Between the two, thirteen major airlines operate in Oklahoma. In terms of traffic, Riverside-Jones airport in Tulsa is the state's busiest airport, with 235,039 takeoffs and landings in 2006. In total, Oklahoma has over 150 public-use airports.
Oklahoma is connected to the nation's rail network via Amtrak's Heartland Flyer, its only regional passenger rail line. It currently stretches from Oklahoma City to Fort Worth, Texas, though lawmakers began seeking funding in early 2007 to connect the Heartland Flyer to Tulsa. Two seaports on rivers serve Oklahoma: the Port of Muskogee and the Tulsa Port of Catoosa. The only port handling international cargo in the state, the Tulsa Port of Catoosa is the most inland ocean-going port in the nation and ships over two million tons of cargo each year. Both ports are located on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, which connects barge traffic from Tulsa and Muskogee to the Mississippi River via the Verdigris and Arkansas rivers, contributing to one of the busiest waterways in the world.
The government of Oklahoma is a liberal democracy modeled after the Federal Government of the United States, with executive, legislative, and judicial branches. The state has 77 counties with jurisdiction over most local government functions within each respective domain, five congressional districts, and a voting base with a majority in the Democratic Party. State officials are elected by plurality voting.
The Legislature of Oklahoma consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. As the lawmaking branch of the state government, it is responsible for raising and distributing the money necessary to run the government. The Senate has 48 members serving four-year terms, while the House has 101 members with two year terms. The state has a term limit for its legislature that restricts any one person to a total of twelve cumulative years service between both legislative branches.
Oklahoma's judicial branch consists of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, and 77 District Courts that each serves one county. The Oklahoma judiciary also contains two independent courts: a Court of Impeachment and the Oklahoma Court on the Judiciary. Oklahoma has two courts of last resort: the state Supreme Court hears civil cases, and the state Court of Criminal Appeals hears criminal cases. Judges of those two courts, as well as the Court of Civil Appeals are appointed by the Governor upon the recommendation of the state Judicial Nominating Commission, and are subject to a non-partisan retention vote on a six-year rotating schedule.
The executive branch consists of the Governor, his staff, and other elected officials. The principle head of government, the Governor is the chief executive of the Oklahoma executive branch, serving as the ex officio Commander-in-Chief of the Oklahoma National Guard when not called into Federal use and reserving the power to veto bills passed through the Legislature. The responsibilities of the Executive branch include submitting the budget, ensuring that state laws are enforced, and ensuring peace within the state is preserved.
Thirty-nine Native American tribal governments are based in Oklahoma, each holding limited powers within designated areas. While Indian reservations typical in most of the United States are not present in Oklahoma, tribal governments hold land granted during the Indian Territory era, but with limited jurisdiction and no control over state governing bodies such as municipalities and counties. Tribal governments are recognized by the United States as quasi-sovereign entities with executive, judicial, and legislative powers over tribal members and functions, but are subject to the authority of the United States Congress to revoke or withhold certain powers. The tribal governments are required to submit a constitution and any subsequent amendments to the United States Congress for approval.
Oklahoma has a voter demographic weighted towards the Democratic Party as of 2007. Though there are 11.6 percent more registered Democrats in Oklahoma than registered Republicans, the state has voted for a Republican in every presidential election from 1968 forward, and in 2004, George W. Bush carried every county in the state and 65.6 percent of the statewide vote. Three third parties have substantial influence in state politics: Oklahoma Libertarian Party, Green Party of Oklahoma, Oklahoma Constitution Party.
Following the 2000 census, the Oklahoma delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives was reduced from six to five representatives, each serving one congressional district. For the 110th Congress (2007–2009), there are no changes in party strength, and the delegation has four Republicans and one Democrat. Oklahoma's U.S. senators are Republicans Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, and its U.S. Representatives are John Sullivan (R-OK-1), Dan Boren (D-OK-2), Frank D. Lucas (R-OK-3), Tom Cole (R-OK-4), and Mary Fallin (R-OK-5).
Oklahoma had 549 incorporated places in 2006, including three cities over 100,000 in population and 40 over 10,000. Two of the fifty largest cities in the United States are located in Oklahoma, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and 58 percent of Oklahomans live within their metropolitan areas, or spheres of economic and social influence defined by the United States Census Bureau as a metropolitan statistical area. Oklahoma City, the state's capital and largest city, had the largest metropolitan area in the state in 2007, with 1,269,907 people, and the metropolitan area of Tulsa had 905,755 residents. Between 2005 and 2006, the Tulsa suburbs of Jenks, Bixby, and Owasso led the state in population growth, showing percentage growths of 47.9, 44.56, and 34.31, respectively.
In descending order of population, Oklahoma's largest cities in 2007 were: Oklahoma City (547,274), Tulsa (384,037), Norman (106,707), Lawton (91,568), Broken Arrow (90,714), Edmond (78,226), Midwest City (55,935), Moore (51,106), Enid (47,008), and Stillwater (46,976). Of the state's ten largest cities, three are outside the metropolitan areas of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and only Lawton has a metropolitan statistical area of its own as designated by the United States Census Bureau, though the metropolitan statistical area of Fort Smith, Arkansas extends into the state.
Under Oklahoma law, municipalities are divided into two categories: cities, defined as having more than 1,000 residents, and towns, with under 1,000 residents. Both have legislative, judicial, and public power within their boundaries, but cities can choose between a mayor-council, council-manager, or strong mayor form of government, while towns operate through an elected officer system.
As of 2007, Oklahoma had a population of 3,617,316 with an estimated 2005 ancestral makeup of 14.5% German, 13.1% American, 11.8% Irish, 9.6% English, 8.1% African American, and 11.4% Native American, including 7.9% Cherokee, though the percentage of people claiming American Indian as their only race was 8.1%. The state had the second highest number of Native Americans in 2002, estimated at 395,219, as well as the second highest percentage among all states. As of 2006, 4.7% of Oklahoma's residents were foreign born, compared to 12.4% for the nation. The center of population of Oklahoma is located in Lincoln County near the town of Sparks.
The state's 2006 per capita personal income ranked 37th at $32,210, though it has the third-fastest growing per capita income in the nation and ranks consistently among the lowest states in cost of living index. The Oklahoma City suburb Nichols Hills is first on Oklahoma locations by per capita income at $73,661, though Tulsa County holds the highest average. In 2006, 6.8% of Oklahomans were under the age of 5, 25.9% under 18, and 13.2% were 65 or older. Females made up 50.9% of the population.
Adherents participate in 73 major affiliations spread between 5,854 congregations, ranging from the Southern Baptist Convention, with 1578 churches and 967,223 members, to the Holy Orthodox Church in North America, with 1 church and 6 members. The state's largest church memberships are in the Southern Baptist Convention, the United Methodist Church, with 322,794 members, the Roman Catholic Church, with 168,625, the Assemblies of God, with 88,301, and Churches of Christ, with 83,047. In 2000, there were about 5,000 Jews and 6,000 Muslims, with 10 congregations to each group.
Oklahoma religious makeup:
Oklahoma's state emblems and honorary positions are codified by state law; the Oklahoma Senate or House of Representatives may adopt resolutions designating others for special events and to benefit organizations.
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