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View Poll Results: Do you think Minnesota is a Great Plains state or an Upper Midwest state?
Upper Midwest 73 92.41%
Great Plains 6 7.59%
Voters: 79. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-10-2010, 12:11 AM
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Originally Posted by flyingwriter View Post
What exactly makes Midwestern/central plains "Great Plains?" I can't seem to find a clear answer online. I've always thought it had to do with the interior prairie: that covers all of ND, SD, NE, IA, and KS, eastern CO, western MN, northern MO, northern and western OK, and northern TX.
I started to do a little reading into it, too, mostly on the Great Plains center site. I'll have to do more later (because it is pretty fascinating, and their website is full of interesting information and links), but it seems like this is one of the central questions, as there is no one central agreement; perhaps my conception is outdated because it's coming from my background as a historian (although not specializing in plains history) coupled with casual road trips through the region. It sounds like cultural historians, political historians, geographers, etc. etc. all have slightly different takes on it; obviously all of those different facets of life are all intertwined, but they can also differ slightly. Thinking about the historical identification of a place in particular, I think that the historical cultural identity or perceived affiliation is important, it's not the only factor when looking at regions today; if it was, people would still be considering Minnesota the "Northwest," and while some people probably do, that's no longer the norm. Maybe one of the additional questions should be not just what are the Great Plains, but how has that definition (whatever it is) evolved with time.
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Old 09-10-2010, 12:18 AM
Location: Minneapolis, MN
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I don't think the terms "Upper Midwest" and "Great Plains" are mutually exclusive by any means- I think Great Plains is more about topography whereas "Upper Midwest" pertains to geographic location. I think the terms "Great Plains" and "Great Lakes" are moreso exclusive, and MN gets categorized as a "Great Lakes" vs. a "Great Plains" state.

To my knowledge there is not any agreed-upon boundary of what classifies states as "upper Midwest"; however, I know growing up in South Dakota we always considered ourselves upper Midwesterners (and if we weren't Upper Midwesterners, what were we?- I've never heard a term like "Great Plain-er" and the Dakotas have far more in common with places like MN, IA, etc. than Oklahoma or Texas). In looking up some articles online you will sometimes see the definition of "upper midwest" as both including the Dakotas and not including them, but I think the definitions that don't include them can be chalked up to the fact that a lot of people seem to forget they exist (or have a centric view that they only exist to drive through on your way to seemingly more *important* places)- case in point, all the years I grew up in SD, you would never see political ads for presidential campaigns (I think Obama was the first to have an office and/or advertise in SD after a number of years)- it was just viewed as wholly unimiportant to national politics.

I do agree that there is a huge shift- culturally, politically, topographically, or whatever else- when you cross the Missouri River in SD. South Dakotans themselves classify themselves/eachother as "East River" and "West River"- East River is felt to have more in common culturally with MN, IA, etc. whereas West River is culturally more akin to Wyoming and Montana (or arguably has a culture, or several cultures, all its own). I once ordered a Miller Light at a bar in Wall, SD, and was immediately *called out* as being "East River" by the bar locals for having done so (and it was true).

Regarding whether the Great Plains extends into MN- if you've ever spent any time living in and/or driving around West Central MN, you'd have a hard time arguing that the vast expanses of prairie do not belong in a categorization of Great Plains (although even in West Central MN, things seem quite a bit "greener" than what you find in the Dakotas, and in my mind it's not until you get to the farthest west stretches of the state that you feel the topography to be more like Dakota country than MN...).

Last edited by Camden Northsider; 09-10-2010 at 12:40 AM..
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Old 09-10-2010, 10:44 AM
Location: Minneapolis, MN
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I've spent the majority of my life living in Minnesota and I've never heard Minnesota considered part of the "great plains." This topic is probably the first time I've seen the two ideas mentioned in the same sentence.
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Old 09-10-2010, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by flyingwriter View Post
I understand. I didn't mean "your" map in that sense, just the map you used. Here's some maps that include Minnesota:
Sure - it's a matter of debate. But if I had to choose a source, I'd go with a respected university's Center for the Great Plains or the USGS over... well, whatever sources are behind your maps (you don't say, but your second map looks to me like it's from a mountain range website with which I am familiar, the name of which eludes me at the moment). And I have no idea how your last two maps are supposed to have anything to do with the Great Plains since neither depicts an area labeled as such.

Judgment call. And I'd say the poll reflects the common sentiment.
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Old 03-16-2013, 12:03 AM
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Midwest for sure!
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Old 03-16-2013, 01:58 PM
Location: M I N N E S O T A
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Old 03-16-2013, 04:11 PM
Location: Minnesota
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I guess if a state has to be dominantly plains, then MN is not Great Plains. The National Weather Service names our Weather map as "Upper Mississippi". The rivers (Mississippi, St Croix, Minnesota, and Red) really define the state.
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Old 03-16-2013, 06:37 PM
Location: Floyd County, IN
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It is Upper Midwest for sure. The western several tiers of counties in Minnesota have more of a Great Plains flavor, but east of that area it is mostly the Corn and Soybean belt.
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Old 03-17-2013, 01:14 AM
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Great Plains is more of a topographic term, and yes, the southwestern part of the state, pretty much SW of Mankato, is definitely part of the Great Plains.

Upper Midwest is more of a geographic term, describing a vague area of the north central United States. I've always sort of struggled with the definition of the term "Midwest" simply because we're basically in the central part of the US and the North American continent.

We're also technically a Great Lakes state, since we have a large portion of shoreline on Lake Superior, and part of the Lake is technically within the boundaries of Minnesota, and we have the farthest inland ocean port in the US (and I think the world) in Duluth, but Minnesota isn't usually considered a Great Lakes state like Michigan or Ohio.

The really odd definition would be the Northwest, which isn't used much anymore (especially since NWA merged with Delta). That would date back to the founding of the US, when the part of MN that was part of the original United States was the Northwest Territory.
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Old 03-17-2013, 01:28 AM
Location: Jefferson City 4 days a week, St. Louis 3 days a week
2,709 posts, read 4,839,335 times
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Upper Midwest without a doubt. Great Plains is a very vague region...if you want to go by that definition you have to consider the Dakotas all the way down to Texas the plains states. But Nebraska and the Dakotas are clearly Upper Midwest, Kansas is the Lower Midwest, and Oklahoma and Texas are the South. If Minnesota's two Midwestern neighbors directly to the South (Missouri and Iowa) can't be considered Great Plains, then why on earth would Minnesota be?
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