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What Is an Oklahoma Sooner Anyway?

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Ronald Martinez, Getty Images

This weekend, the No. 6-ranked Oklahoma Sooners face off against the No. 15 Kansas State Wildcats, and it got us wondering: What exactly is a Sooner anyway? So we looked it up …

During the 19th century, Native American tribes inhabited Oklahoma after they were chased away from the eastern U.S. At one point, as much as 8 percent of the state’s population was Native American.

So how’d it become the Sooner State? As new settlers hoped to push out the Native Americans and claim their land, they led government-sponsored “land rushes” toward the end of the 19th century. Settlers made claims on plots of land, but some did so too soon—before the official start of the rush—and they would come to be known as “Sooners.”

The most famous land rush took place on April 22, 1889, when people from around the world came to Oklahoma. According to legend, the event began when a military officer fired his pistol. Wagons full of people then surged forward looking for a new life. Even with college athletics still far away, the competitive environment had already reached Oklahoma.

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