What is a Sooner?
At the University of Oklahoma, we seek to learn lessons from history. These lessons help us to create a fairer society for the future.
While many people know the nickname Oklahoma Sooners is uniquely linked to the University of Oklahoma and has become synonymous with excellence, some aren't aware of the roots, which reach to our state's Indian Territory origins.
Originally the home of several tribal nations of the Southern Plains, Congress set aside Indian Territory in 1830 as part of its forcible relocation of numerous tribal nations from their ancestral homelands via the Trail of Tears. Following the U.S. Civil War, some tribal nations lost portions of their new land in Indian Territory due to renegotiated treaties, which became known as the Unassigned Lands.
Pioneers, known as Boomers, vigorously campaigned to settle the Unassigned Lands, which were later incorporated into Oklahoma Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory became known as the Twin Territories.
Famously, Oklahoma Territory was opened for settlement through land claims races, or Land Runs, and in 1889, thousands made their way to the Twin Territories to participate in the first of these dramatic events. Each race began with a pistol shot, and those who jumped the gun were called Sooners. Later, Indian Territory was opened for non-native settlement, and in 1907 the Twin Territories were merged into one state — Oklahoma — which is the joining of two Choctaw words, "okla" and "homma," meaning "red people" or American Indian. Due to the enthusiasm of many pioneers and their descendants, "Sooner" came to denote energetic, "can-do" individuals.
The university embraces the complexity of our heritage. OU athletics teams were called either Rough Riders or Boomers for 10 years before the current Oklahoma Sooner nickname emerged in 1908.
Taken together, Oklahoma Sooners reflects our state's American Indian and pioneer heritage and, today, symbolizes a special university spirit that values resilience and perseverance as well as the inclusivity that unites all who are a part of the University of Oklahoma family.