A few years ago I asked a favor of my friend Bill, a native Oklahoman who loves this state and its history, particularly people and places forgotten in the passing of years.
“Show me the history you know and let me see it through your eyes,” I told him.
I call our excursions “adventures” and we’ve explored every corner of Oklahoma except the Panhandle.
It’s truly been a journey of discovery and one would think we’re both well-versed in Oklahoma facts by now.
So I think it surprised us both a little on Friday when I asked if he knew the meaning of an obvious Native American name of the small burg we were driving through.
He didn’t and I wondered aloud how many places in Oklahoma have Native American names and what those names mean.
“Look it up,” he said, “and write about it.”
So I did and I am. Here’s what I found:
Agawam is named for a tribe in Massachusetts. Atoka is the Choctaw word for chief.
Bigheart was an Osage chief and Bluejacket is named for the Rev. Charles Bluejacket, a Shawnee.
Bokchito is Choctaw for big creek and Bokoshe translates as little creek. Bokhoma is Choctaw for red river.
The town of Bowlegs is named for Billy Bowlegs, a Seminole leader in Florida.
Bushyhead honors Dennis Bushyhead, a principal chief of the Cherokees.
Catoosa is Cherokee for between two hills. Checotah is named for Samuel Checote, the first Creek chief after the Civil War.
Chilocco is Creek for big deer.
Gotebo is named for a Kiowa chief and Konawa is Seminole for string of beads. Lenapah is the name of a Delaware tribe.
Nashoba is Choctaw for wolf and Ochelata was the Cherokee name of principal chief Charles Thompson.
Olustee is a Seminole word meaning pond while Okmulgee is Creek for boiling waters.
Okemah is named for a Kickapoo chief and Okfuskee is a Muscogee tribe in Alabama.
Named for a Cherokee chief, Oolagah means dark cloud. Owasso is Osage for end of the trail.
Pontotoc was an historic Chickasaw tribal area in Mississippi and Quapaw is named for the Quapaw chief of that name.
Sapulpa was a fullblood Creek and the first permanent resident in that area.
Sasakwa is Seminole for wild goose. Talala means red-headed woodpecker in Cherokee.
Talihina is iron road in Choctaw and Tushka is Choctaw for warrior.
Wakita was a Cherokee chief and Wapanucka is Delaware for eastern land people. Wetumka is Muscogee Creek for tumbling water.
The town of Wewoka was named by a black Seminole for Wewokea, Chief Osceola’s second wife, who was half Seminole and half black.
I’m sure there are more out there that I missed with this list. I look forward to discovering them on future adventures with Bill.