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Defining the region

December 22, 2013

When I moved to Nebraska from Illinois, the place felt different to me. Different from Illinois. Different from further-west Iowa where I’d lived for seven years. As I’ve learned, western Nebraska itself is different from the rest of the state.

I’m a bit of a geography nerd, so I had delved into the phone book to take a peek into how the region’s identity shows up in business names.

I’ve been geeking out lately about the flurry of maps popping up online that show different ways of dividing up the country by population, politics, culture, sheer imagination, etc. (One such map, which was recycled from a 2009 Kansas State project, defines the connectedness of various regions of the country to the seven deadly sins, based on demographic data.)

I always look to see how western Nebraska fares.

In this map from Tufts Magazine, we’re in the “Far West Nation.”

US nations

If the country were divided up into states of equal population, Neil Freeman would put us into the state of Ogallala.

new states

If geographer C. Etzel Pearcy had his way, we’d be in the state of San Luis.

38states

I also found interesting this 1940 map of Rural Cultural Regions I found on the Oklahoma State University site. We’re in the “Southern Homestead” region.

Rural Cultural Regions

Some folks at MIT looked at how connectedness of cell phone calls can define regions of the country. Note to our state leaders: western Nebraska is more closely tied to Denver than to Lincoln.

regions_by_call

I think a lot of the disgruntlement western Nebraskans have with our government in Lincoln, “back east,” is linked to the cultural differences between the regions.

A December 2013 article and photo essay from the New York Times, “Life Along the 100th Meridian,” which has been shared by just about every one of my local Facebook friends, captures well a portion of what makes this region different from the rest of Nebraska.

If you’ve run into other identity / imaginary maps like the ones I’ve posted, please share in the comments.

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

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