History of Nebraska
The region of today’s Nebraska has been inhabited by various tribes for thousands of years before the Europeans came to the area. Some of the tribes that are believed to have been living in the region are Lakota, Otoe, Pawnee, Ponca, Missouria and Omaha tribes. The first Europeans that came to the region were French explorers in the early 18th century, mostly while trying to reach Santa Fe, which was a burgeoning trade center.
Fort Atkinson, the first US military post to the west of the Missouri River was established in 1819, slightly to the east of the today’s Fort Calhoun. The fort was abandoned some 8 years later, when the army pushed further on to the west. It wasn’t until the Gold Rush in 1848 that the region of today’s Nebraska started attracting settlers in larger numbers. Nebraska and Kansas territories were organized in 1854. The newly formed Nebraska Territory included parts of today’s Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota and Colorado.
Most of the Native American tribes have left their land, or have been driven off of it by 1860, when the US government started encouraging agricultural development of the region. The Homestead Act has provided new settlers with their own piece of land for farming and cattle rearing. Because of the fact that most of the state is covered in prairie with very few trees, most of the first settlers used sod to build their houses, just like the Native American tribes have used to do. Soon enough, the region contained enough people for the territory to apply for statehood.
It has been accepted into the US in 1867, when the state’s capital has been moved from Omaha to Lancaster, which was later renamed into Lincoln. The period between 1870 and 1880 has been marked by a significant population increase, which was a product of a number of different factors. Probably the most important of these were the agricultural potential that the region had, thanks to the ample grazing lands, and the advancements in the agricultural technology, including the steel plows, wind mills and barbed wire, all of which helped the people harness the enormous agricultural potential that the state had to offer. The state could boast a population of 450,000 people by 1880.
The end of the 19th century was marked by the Great Migration. African Americans were terribly mistreated in the southern regions of the US, even thought the slavery was officially illegal, the prejudices were not exactly a thing of the past, and harsh living conditions have forced large numbers of African Americans to try and find better life in the northern, industrial cities. The city with the most appeal for this demographic in Nebraska was Omaha with a lot of job openings in railroad and meatpacking industries. However, Omaha wasn’t really prejudice-free either, and a lot of these new settlers were met with resistance from the European immigrants. A branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was formed in Omaha in 1912, and the city has since been one of the places in which the civil rights activism has prospered.
Economy of Nebraska
In 2010 the state’s GSP was $89.9 billion. In 2004 per capita income in the state amounted to $31,339, which was the 25th highest per capita personal income in the nation in that year. Agriculture is still one of Nebraska’s main industries, with high state output of sorghum, soybeans, corn, pork and beef. Other major industries of the state are insurance, information technology, telecommunications, manufacturing and freight transport. The unemployment rate in the state in 2010 amounted to 4.6%. Some of major Nebraska companies and products include the Kool-Aid, that was created in Hastings by Edward Perkins in 1927 and CliffNotes that were created in Rising City by Clifton Hillegass.
Omaha has a number of large companies, including the Union Pacific Railroad, Kiewit Corporation, Woodmen of the World, Valmont Industries, West Corporation, TD Ameritrade, InfoUSA, Mutual of Omaha, ConAgra and Berkshire Hathaway. The state’s capital, Lincoln, is the base of operations for Duncan Aviation, Sandhills Publishing Company and Unifi Companies. The city of Kearney can boast The Buckle, while Cabela’s is located in Sidney. Nebraska’s city of North Platte is the home to Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard, the largest train yard in the world.
Income tax in the state is progressive. A tax of 6.84% is levied on the income higher than $27,000, 5.12% on income between $17,500 and $27,000, 3.57% on income between $2,400 and $17,500 and 2.56% on income between $0 and $2,400. The sales tax in the state amounts to 5.5%, although individual counties have the right to modify their sales tax up to the amount of 1.5%.
Nebraska Geography and Climate
Nebraska is located in the Midwestern part of the US and it borders Wyoming on the west, Colorado on the Southwest, Kansas on the south, Missouri on the southeast, Iowa on the east and South Dakota on the north. It is located in the center of the Frontier Strip and it consists of 93 counties. The western half of Nebraska is located in the Mountain Time zone, while its eastern half is in the Central time zone. Nebraska is cut in half by the Platte River, which is formed by South Platte and North Platte rivers. Other major rivers in the state include the Republican River in the southern section of the state and the Niobrara River in the northern.
The state consists of two major regions, the Great Plains and the Dissected Till Plains. Large glaciers used to cover the eastern parts of the state, and the Dissected Till Plains were created by the retreating glaciers. It is a region full of gentle rolling hills, and it is in this region that the state’s two most important cities, Lincoln and Omaha are located.
Western Nebraska belongs to the Great Plains region, and this area can be further subdivided into the Wildcat Hills, the High Plains, the Rainwater Basin, the Pine Ridge and the Sandhills. The point with the highest elevation in the state is the Panorama Point which stands at 5,424 feet above the sea level. One of the slogans that used to describe the state to tourists was ‘Where the West Begins’, with a number of specific locations in Nebraska being marked as the point from which the West starts, including the Missouri river and the red brick star at the intersection of the O and 13th streets in the city of Lincoln. Nebraska is also known as the triply landlocked state, meaning that not only does the state itself lack contact with an ocean, but so do the states that it borders, and the states that they border.
There are a number of areas in Nebraska that are under the protection of the National Park Service, including Scotts Bluff National Monument near Gering, Pony Express National Historic Trail, Oregon National Historic Trail, Mormon Pioneer National Historic Trail, Missouri National Recreational River in the vicinity of Ponca, Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, Homestead National Monument of America, Chimney Rock National Historic Site in the vicinity of Bayard, Niobrara National Scenic River in the vicinity of Valentine, California National Historic Trail and the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in the vicinity of Harrison.
The climate in the eastern and western halves of the state is quite different; while the western half has a semi arid climate, the climate in the eastern section is described as humid continental. Changes of seasons bring about quite drastic changes in both the precipitation and temperature. While most of the parts of the state have quite similar average temperatures, the precipitation increases from the west to the east from some 14 inches of annual precipitation in the Panhandle region to 31.5 inches in the southeastern parts of the state. Humidity also increases from the west to the east. When it comes to snowfall, most of the state is usually having similar average of about 30 inches of annual snowfall. The highest temperature in the state was recorded in 1936 at Minden, and it was 118 °F, while the lowest temperature of −47 °F was recorded in 1899 at Camp Clarke. Tornadoes and thunderstorms are quite frequent in Nebraska, mostly during the summer and spring months, but they are not exactly a rarity in autumn months as well.
Population of Nebraska
In 2011 the population of Nebraska was estimated at 1,842,641 people, which presented an increase of 0.89% since the previous year. The state’s center of population is located in the city of Shelby in the Polk County. It is estimated that 4.8% of the state’s population, or 84,000 people are foreign born.
When it comes to the ethnicity of the state’s inhabitants, non Hispanic white people account for 82.1% of the state’s population, Hispanic white for 4%, African American for 4.5%, American Indians and Alaskan Natives for 1%, Asian for 1.8%, Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islanders for 0.1%, while multiethnic people make up 2.2% of the state’s total population. When the ancestry of the state’s residents is concerned, 38.6% of the population is of German ancestry, 12.4% of Irish, 9.6% of English, 8.7% of Mexican and 5.5% of Czech. Nebraska is the US state with the highest percentage of Czech American people.
Nebraska is quite similar to other Midwestern states such as Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Kansas in that that it has a large number of small cities. It is estimated that some 89% of the cities in the state have a population that don’t exceed 3000 people, while there are hundreds of towns in the state the population of which doesn’t exceed 1000. This often causes the consolidation of schools in rural areas. Out of 93 counties that the state has, 53 have experienced a decrease in population in the last decade of the 20th century, with the decrease ranging from a 17.04% decrease in Hitchcock County to 0.06% in Frontier County. Urbanized areas, however, have been experiencing significant population increases. Lincoln’s population has increased by 14.5% between the years 2000 and 2010, going from 225,581 people to 258,379, while the population of Omaha has increased by 6.3% between the years 2000 and 2005, going from 390,007 to 414,521 residents.
According to their religious beliefs 90% of the state’s inhabitants belong to one of the Christian denominations, 28% of them are Catholic, 16% Lutheran, 11% Methodist, 9% Baptist, 4% Presbyterian, 21% belong to some of the other Protestant denominations and 1% to some of the other Christian belief systems. There are 9% of non religious people in the state and 1% of the state’s residents belong to some of the other religions.
Nebraska Government and Legislation
Nebraska Constitution, which was adopted in 1875, provides for three government branches, executive, legislative and judicial. The executive branch is responsible for handling the state’s budgeting and executing the laws and regulations set forth by the state’s legislative and judicial branches. The head of the executive branch is Nebraska’s Governor. The state’s Governor is elected by the people, and he or she must have been a resident of the state for at least five years before the election. State’s Governor must be at least 30 years old to qualify for the post. Some of Governor’s duties and powers are granting pardons to convicted criminals, commanding the Nebraska National Guard and signing or vetoing bills proposed by the state legislation. Prior to 1966, state Governors could only serve two year terms, but the period was increased to four year terms, with the limitation of one person only being allowed to act as the state’s Governor for two consecutive terms. However, the total number of terms that they can serve is not limited. Same limitations apply to the Lieutenant Governor, who is elected on the same ticket as the Governor. One of the Lieutenant Governor’s duties is stepping in and acting as the Governor if the Governor is somehow prevented from performing his or her duties. If Lieutenant Governor is also, for some reason, unable to temporarily fill that position, the Speaker of the Nebraska Legislature is the next in line of succession. Other officials of the Nebraska executive branch are the State Auditor, State Treasurer, Secretary of the State and the Attorney General.
Nebraska’s legislature is quite unique in the United States, as unlike the legislative branches of other states or the federal government, it is not bicameral (composed of two separate bodies), but instead it is unicameral. Other states have the House of Representatives and the Senate, while Nebraska’s body of legislative branch is either known as the ‘Unicameral’ or the ‘Legislature’. Its members, however, are known as senators. Another thing that sets Nebraska’s legislature from that of the other states and the federal government is that the party of the senators is irrelevant and their affiliations are not mentioned on the ballots. However, the differences don’t stop there, while most of the other states require two thirds of votes from the members of the legislature to overturn the Governor’s veto of a bill, in Nebraska, a three fifths majority is required. The Unicameral meets in the Nebraska State Capitol building in Lincoln. The current Nebraska State Capitol building is the third active building, the construction of which was completed in 1932.
Prior to 1934 Nebraska also had a bicameral legislature, but that system was replaced with the current one with a vote. The current Nebraska Legislature has 49 members who serve four year terms. The elections for senators are held every two years, when half of the members of legislature are replaced. State Senators are limited to two terms. Lieutenant Governor of the state serves as the presiding officer of the state’s Legislature, while the highest ranking member of the hous is the Speaker of the Nebraska legislature, who takes over for the Lieutenant Governor when he or she is not available.
The highest court in the state, Nebraska Supreme Court has the authority over other, lesser, state courts. The Supreme Court is presided over by six associate justices and a chief justice. The judges in all of the state courts are selected in accordance with the Missouri Plan. This means that the candidates for the position of a judge in a court are reviewed by a non-partisan commission. The commission is responsible for assembling a list of candidates that they deem suitable. The list is then sent to the state Governor, who is supposed to select a single candidate within sixty days. If the Governor, for some reason, fails to do it in sixty days, the commission also makes the final selection. When a justice has served for more than three years, he or she has to run in a retention election in order to remain an acting judge. The judge needs to gain the support of more than half of the voters in order to remain in the office. In order for one to become a justice in the Supreme Court, he or she has to be at least 30 years old, a citizen of US and must have practiced law in the state for at least 5 years.
County courts are the lowest courts in the hierarchy, with each county having one. They mostly deal with smaller, local felonies. Next in line are the District courts. There are 12 of them, and they have a somewhat broader jurisdiction. If the decision of one of these courts, or worker’s compensation or juvenile courts needs to be disputed, and there are grounds for disputing it, the case is relegated to Nebraska Court of Appeals. It stands to reason then, that the Court of Appeals never has original jurisdiction, cases never originate in it, they are only relegated there. If the decision of the Appellate Court still needs to be disputed, the case might get transferred to the Supreme Court, if all of the conditions are met. Unlike the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court can have original jurisdiction, but such cases are quite rare, and usually pertaining the discipline procedure concerning a judge, or the interpretation of the constitution.
Nebraska still has capital punishment, but the law has rarely been enacted. For a while electrocution was the only accepted method of execution, when it was deemed unconstitutional by the Nebraska Supreme Court in 2008. Because of this, the state, even though technically having an active capital penalty law, had no way of acting upon it. This changed in 2009, when lethal injection was introduced by the legislature.