In the early 1940s, famed Broadway composers Rodgers and Hammerstein didn't just give Oklahoma its state song from their Pulitzer Prize-winning eponymous musical, they also gave them back a bit of pride after surviving the painful Dust Bowl days during the Great Depression, when extreme summer temperatures and a rash of hot, dry dust storms turned the central prairie states into barren wasteland. But before and after those tough days of hunger and toil, the state remained the beating heartland of America, where the buffalo really did roam (in fact, it's the state animal) and some of the most famous icons of the American West -- the Apache warrior Geronimo, beloved cowboy Will Rogers, and folk-singer and musician Woody Guthrie -- were born and raised. Its American Indian heritage may well be one of Oklahoma's most celebratory distinctions today. The infamous Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of American Indians to the state during the 1830s, has given Oklahoma the second-largest American Indian population in the nation. The state's name, in fact, comes from the Choktaw words okla (people) and humma (red). Today, 39 tribes and nations are headquartered in Oklahoma and 67 tribes live here. Once a year, the largest American Indian event in the country, the Red Earth Festival in Oklahoma City (the only capital with an oil well beneath it!), honors Native American culture and the struggle to keep it alive.
But speaking of earth, the 46th state in the Union does indeed have much beauty to behold, with 200 man-made lakes, four stunning mountain ranges (Ouachitas, Arbuckles, Wichitas, and Ozarks), nearly a quarter of the state covered in forest, and an average temperature of 60°F. However, if pop culture is more your exploratory style than nature hikes, there are also more diner-laden drivable miles of Route 66 here than any other state (over 320 of 'em). Like Rodgers and Hammerstein's love song to the state says, Oklahoma's definitely OK.
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