Oklahoma is a state located in the South Central region of the United States of America. With 3,579,212 residents in 2006, it is the 28th most populous and 20th-largest state by land area. Its name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people," and is known informally by its nickname, The Sooner State. Formed from the Oklahoma and Indian Territories on November 16, 1907, it was the 46th state to enter the union. Its people are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.

A major producer of oil and food, Oklahoma is an important manufacturer of aircraft parts and a leader in biotechnology. It has one of the fastest growing economies in the nation, leading in gross domestic product growth and ranking third among states in per capita income growth. Nearly 65 percent of Oklahomans live in the metropolitan areas of Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and the cities serve as primary economic centers of the state. Six universities ranked high for academic achievement are located in the state, and two rate among the best college sports programs in American history.

Made up of small mountain ranges, prairie, and eastern forests, Oklahoma lies in the Great Plains and Ozark Highlands in a region prone to severe weather. With a prevalence of German, Irish, and Native American ancestry, more than 25 native languages are spoken in the state, the most in the nation. It is located at a confluence of three major cultural regions, historically serving as a route for cattle drives, a destination for southern settlers, and a government-sanctioned territory for Native Americans. Part of a strip of conservative political views and widespread beliefs in Christianity known as the Bible Belt, the state has a nearly even voter demographic, with slightly more registered voters in the Democratic Party.

Evidence exists that native peoples traveled through Oklahoma as early as the last ice age, but the state's first permanent inhabitants settled in 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 nation's territory between Louisiana and Minnesota was purchased by the United States.

Thousands of Native Americans, including those making up the Five Civilized Tribes, were removed from their lands in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee and transported to Oklahoma in the 1830s. 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, 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 newly opened 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 19th century, when the Curius Act abolished all tribal jurisdiction in Indian Territory. Failed 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 the "Father of Route 66," began a campaign to create 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.

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 Oklahoma were hampered by long periods of little rainfall and abnormally high temperatures, sending thousands of farmers into poverty. Over a twenty-year period ending in 1950, the state saw its only 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.