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What is Siouxland?

By Brandon 'Bujio' Roberts
Updated May 17, 2024
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Siouxland is an alternative geographic locale that encompasses the entire Big Sioux River drainage basin and includes parts of southeast South Dakota, northwest Iowa, southwest Minnesota and northeast Nebraska. The term "Siouxland" was created by the late author Frederick Manfred in his 1947 book, This Is the Year. As a vernacular region, Siouxland has no official borders, and it can be difficult to define exactly where it is. In some parts of Siouxland, residents are more likely to refer to the same area as the Sioux Empire.

The term "Siouxland" was first applied outside Manfred's works in 1948 by Sioux City Journal sports editor Alex Stoddard. From there, the usage spread until the real-world Siouxlanders were united under the vernacular in a way that brought Manfred's fictional world to life. Like most local traditions, it developed its own momentum and evolved in ways that Manfred never predicted, though there was strife between Siouxlanders about which places should be included in the term and why.

The controversy started when media sources began to use the term to refer primarily to the area in and immediately around Sioux City, Iowa. This left other Siouxland communities feeling alienated, and the region became polarized between people in Sioux City, the unofficial capital of Siouxland, and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, whose residents felt that they had just as much right to use the vernacular. The resulting conflict caused a major schism within Siouxland, with many people retaining use of "Siouxland" in their vernacular and others using "Sioux Empire," which had Sioux Falls as its primary center. Despite the division, most Siouxlanders recognize both terms to have the same meaning, and the use of both terms can be found in many parts of the region. The term "Siouxland" remains little known or understood outside the region, though visitors to the area will soon become acquainted with the term as they encounter businesses, libraries, newspaper headlines, billboards and community centers that make use of the term.

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