To the U. S. Census Bureau, South Dakota is in the West North Central Midwest. According to the World Book Encyclopedia, “The western North Central States include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and South Dakota.”
In the eyes of the American Society of Travel Writers, the state is in their Central Region and their West Region ends with Wyoming. Ditto for “Sunset Magazine.” What could possibly be more western than Deadwood, S.D.?
Defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAH), South Dakota is in the Great Plains. This area reaches from Canada to Texas between the Rocky Mountains and the 100th meridian. If you tell someone you are from the Midwest, frequently that is interpreted as anyplace between Iowa and Ohio. Then, there is the Heartland, which seems to be a romantic designation, more than a geographical one. Once in a while South Dakota is named part of the North Central Plains. Alex Johnson for whom the wonderful old hotel in Rapid City is named, called the area, “Out where the West begins.”
Had our forefathers left things alone the state would have been left as part of Nebraska and Wyoming.
At the least the states of North and South Dakota should have been divided as East and West Dakota. That division makes much more sense considering the topography, the population, and the ideologies of the residents. That might have also kept some folks from confusing us with North and South Carolina ... and some really do. Of course, if the general public was to be consulted Mt. Rushmore seems to move back and forth between South Dakota and North Dakota. Rand-McNally Atlas completely omitted South Dakota in one of their editions in 1989. An AAA Travel group ran an ad blitz last summer on the East Coast regaling Mt. Rushmore in North Dakota.
National weather forecasts frequently group the combined states of over 147,800 square miles as “The Dakotas.” Perhaps when fair weather is current in all parts of both states, that is acceptable. However, when a blizzard engulfs a small section of one state, a pronouncement that, “The Dakotas” are having such a storm is misleading and causes unnecessary concern by those who have a Dakota connection, but live away.
“Fly-over country” has been a moniker used by some. When Payne Stewart’s ill-fated jet headed toward us on October 25, 1999, we were told that the officials were relieved his plane was not going to hit a city. After all, South Dakota was hardly inhabited as there were only 733,000 residents at that time. We have blossomed since then and now boast some 796,00 residents ... in the whole state.
There are times that I am glad we don’t live in the “West,” such as when celebrities and their ilk buy land, inflate prices, and move in. Selfish though it may be, we like a sparse population.
Peggy writes from her quiet ranch in southwest South Dakota. Her internet latchstring is out at Peggy@PeggySanders.com. ❖