IPH Interviews

The Indian and Pioneer Interviews of Oklahoma was a project of the Works Progress Administration, which was active during the depression era. While these interviews were made during the 1930's, these older people were talking about their early life in Indian and Oklahoma Territories, their families and neighbors. These are some of the most valuable resources for the true history of Oklahoma.

There are 110 volumes, containing 500+ pages per volume in the collection. They are contained on 49 rolls of microfilm (two rolls are indexes), available from the Oklahoma Historical Society.  They are also available on fisch.

by Grant Foreman

As Oklahoma is a young state, much of her pioneer life is not far in the past and many of the people who lived through those days are still alive. Opportunity existed to secure their recollections for preservation as an incomparable source of Oklahoma history and plans were made to profit by the situation.

The papers in these volumes represent the fruition of these efforts, achieved through the labors of Works Progress Administration- Project S-149, sponsored jointly by the University of Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Historical Society, with headquarters at Muskogee. It was conceived and carried on primarily with the view to collect from living witnesses vital facts and impressions of pioneer life in Oklahoma. To this end a force of field workers numbering from eighty to one hundred was maintained throughout the state. This force was made up of persons located in various counties whose duty it was to interview people having knowledge of pioneer life and experiences worth recording and preserving.

In the early part of the work, over a period of several months, 25,000 questionnaires were sent out over the state that resulted in the collection of many interesting papers from persons who cheerfully recorded their impressions of early Oklahoma life. When the questionnaires and papers prepared by the field workers were turned into the office they went through the hands of editors; when put in proper form they were typed in duplicate, one copy for the University and one for the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The reader will find a great diversity in the quality and character of the papers for this material was not obtained and compiled by experts. The project was set up for the purpose of giving employment to persons on relief and all the employees in the field were taken from relief rolls; efforts were made to secure workers who had an intelligent conception of the work and a sense of historical values; who were qualified to interview subjects and record the results of the interviews. A gratifying number of such were found but some who were necessarily included on the rolls possessed but meager qualifications. The field workers were directed to record the interviews obtained by them as nearly as possible in the language of the person interviewed in order to preserve the atmosphere and verities of the subject.

There may be occasional mistakes of historical fact in these papers. The stories are intended to preserve simply the recollections of old-timers and such accounts are necessarily subject to the vagaries and limitations of the average human mind. But the great preponderance of the stories contained in these volumes are historically correct. In the aggregate they present an accurate cross section of early Oklahoma life, absolutely authentic in its broad historical application. The pictures of pioneer living presented here may be relied upon.

For the student who wishes to acquaint himself with pioneer life, there is no other source in existence comparable to this in Oklahoma or in any other state. It is thus unique because in no other state is the pioneer so near to us, the effort was not made in time and it is not now possible to capture the annals of the pioneers to the extent we have done.

It is hoped and believed that the material in these volumes will prove a valuable and lasting contribution to the history of Oklahoma and will enrich the field for historical writing.

Use of these volumes will be greatly facilitated with the completion of the index now under way. As the work nears the end it appears that it will extend to about 110 volumes of not less than 500 pages each, and average of about 100 stories or interviews to each volume; a total of more than 55,000 pages and 11,000 manuscripts.

Grant Foreman



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