Geography and Landforms:

Nebraska is bordered by South Dakota on the north and by Colorado and Kansas on the south. On the east, Nebraska is bordered by Iowa and Missouri, and on the west, by Colorado and Wyoming.

Major Nebraska rivers include the Missouri, the Niobrara, and the Platte.

Nebraska is located in the center of the continental United States, and is a land of plains, including the Dissected Till Plains, which cover the eastern fifth of the state, and the Great Plains which lie to the west of the state. The Dissected Till Plains consist of rolling hills and streams and rivers. This area is predominantly farm country. The Great Plains can be rough and hilly, but the southeastern section which includes lakes and wetlands, is also farm land. North of the Platte River in central Nebraska lies the largest area of sand dunes in North America, and is referred to as the Sand Hills. Finally, the northwestern portion of the state includes the High Plains, which rises to over a mile above sea level near the Wyoming border.

The far northwestern corner of Nebraska includes a small area of Badlands where wind and water have shaped the sandstone and clay into strange natural formations. Toadstool Park, part of the Ogallala National Grasslands, is part of this area.


In 1541, Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led an expedition across the US Southwest and claimed the entire territory for Spain, although no Spanish settlements were ever established in Nebraska. In 1682, French explorer Rene Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle traveled the Mississippi River, and claimed all the land drained by the Mississippi and its tributaries for France. This area, which he named "Louisiana" in honor of King Louis XIV, included what is now Nebraska. In 1714, French explorer Etienne Veniard de Bourgmont traveled the Mississippi River and explored the mouth of the Platte River in Nebraska. At this point, both Spain and France had "claimed" the region of Nebraska, and in 1720, a group of 45 Spanish soldiers, led by Pedro de Villasur, marched into Nebraska hoping to drive out the French. However, the Pawnee Indians attacked and killed most of the expedition in a battle near the Platte River. In 1739, two more French explorers, Pierre and Paul Mallet, traveled from Illinois to Santa Fe, New Mexico, named the Platte River and explored nearly the entire length of what is now Nebraska, solidifying the French claim to the area.

The end of the Seven Years' War in Europe and in the American colonies meant that France had to give up its claims to land east of the Mississippi River to England, and its claims to lands west of the Mississippi to Spain, but French fur traders continued to live and trade in Nebraska. By 1800, French ruler Napoleon Bonaparte forced Spain to return the entire area of the Louisiana Territory to France, but then sold the area to the United States in 1803. Western Nebraska was acquired by treaty following the Mexican War in 1848.

Lewis and Clark explored eastern Nebraska in the years between 1804 and 1806 as part of their travels throughout the entire Louisiana Purchase. In 1812 and 1813, Robert Stuart established the Oregon Trail, including the portion across Nebraska. In 1823, a fur trader named Manuel Lisa began the first permanent white settlement at Bellevue for use as a trading post.

The Platte Valley served as a natural highway for pioneers moving west along the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, and the Mormon Trail. Nebraska settlers made money supplying the wagon trains that passed through the area. Steam boat traffic along the Missouri River brought business up into the area, particularly to river ports like Omaha and Brownville.

Nebraska became a US territory after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. At that time, the territory extended from latitude 40'''?N to the Canadian border, but was reduced to its present-day size by the creation of the territories of Dakota and Colorado. Congress passed legislation allowing statehood for Nebraska in 1864, but because the original state constitution did not permit blacks to vote, statehood was not conferred until 1867.

The Union Pacific began its transcontinental railroad at Omaha in 1865, and in the next few years, the land boom in Nebraska became a rush. The Homestead Act of 1862 gave settlers free land in exchange for the promise to live and develop the land, and eastern Nebraska's population went from 29,000 to 123,000 in ten years. In 1859, the Pawnee Indians had been defeated, and in 1880, war with the Sioux ended most Native American resistance to settlement. With the railroads, "cow towns" such as Ogallala and Schuyler became shipping points on overland cattle trails. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows began in Nebraska in 1882.

In 1937, Nebraska became the only state in the Union to have a unicameral (one-house) legislature. Members are elected to it without party designation.


Nebraska's economy is dominated by agriculture. The chief farm products are cattle, corn, hogs, soybeans, and wheat. Nebraska is second in the US in its cattle production. The largest industry in the state, food processing, is also related to its agricultural roots. More varieties of grass grow in Nebraska than in any other state, and this resource is valuable for livestock forage. The cities of Dakota City and Lexington are among the largest meat-packing centers in the U.S.

However, since World War II, manufacturing has increased in the state, and electrical machinery, metals, and transportation equipment are important industries. Oil was discovered in Cheyenne in 1949, and this also contributes to the state's economy.

First Inhabitants:

The earliest inhabitants of the land we now call Nebraska were nomadic hunters who lived on the land between 10,000 and 25,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found stone tools and weapons that these people used. Throughout history, the climate in Nebraska varied between long periods of drought and times of plentiful moisture. We know that at one time, the area was covered by an inland sea and had a tropical climate. Later, glaciers covered the land. This constant change meant that people came and went from the area. This created a diverse mixture of Indian languages and cultures.

The Pawnee and their northern neighbors, the Arikaras lived in the area the longest. These people migrated northward about 500 years ago and established villages along the rivers in Nebraska. The Pawnees hunted buffalo and grew beans, corn and squash. By the eighteenth century, other tribal groups, including the Omaha, Ponca and Oto people, migrated to the area and set up villages in the eastern part of the state along the Missouri River. Other groups, including the Lakota (Sioux), Arapaho and Cheyenne, came from forested areas north and east of the Missouri River. By 1800, there may have been 40,000 native people living in Nebraska.

Spanish explorers brought horses to the Plains, and horses changed Native American culture forever. The Pawnees and Omahas began to use horses on their bison hunts and nomadic cultures like the Lakota began to center around horses and became completely dependent on bison for food, clothing, tools and other items.

A second influence that changed Indian culture was the beginning of the fur trade in the eighteenth century. The Indians traded extensively with Europeans and began to use European guns, drink alcohol, and wear European clothing. Along with these trade items, the Europeans also brought diseases like measles and smallpox, and epidemics devastated the Indian population.

Despite these changes, traditional Indian culture continued in Nebraska until the 1830s. As white settlers moved into the area at that time, the US government began to negotiate with tribes for land grants. In the 1850s, Nebraska became a territory and the land was made available to settlers for ownership, despite the fact that the land had not actually been legally acquired from the Indians.

Books Related To Nebraska

Anna's Blizzard - Alison Hart
(978-1561453498) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-5, Lexile: 570, ESL level: 3
Anna's common sense proves to be an asset when she helps her classmates survive the real blizzard of 1888.

C is for Cornhusker: A Nebraska Alphabet - Rajean Luebs Shepherd
(978-1585361472) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of Nebraska.

Dandelions - Eve Bunting
(978-0152024079) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 580, ESL level: 2
After Zoe and her family move to Nebraska, they find satisfaction in creating a new home in the uncharted territory.

Elsie's Bird - Jane Yolan
(978-0399252921) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 890, ESL level: 3 - 4
Elsie finds the birds and other wonders in the Nebraska prairie where she moves after leaving Boston.

Holding up the Earth - Dianne Gray
(978-0618007035) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 880, ESL level: 3
After Hope comes to Nebraska with a new foster mother, she is able to recreate the past on the farm through letters she reads by four girls writing between 1869 and 1960.

The Huckabuck Family and How They Raised Popcorn in Nebraska and Quit and Came Back - Carl Sandburg
(374-335117) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 850, ESL level: 3
The Huckabucks lose all their popcorn in a fiery and corn-popping explosion in this picture book version of a classic Carl Sandburg story.

Room One: A Mystery or Two - Andrew Clements
(978-0689866876) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-6, Lexile: 840, ESL level: 3 - 4
Ted is puzzled by the disappearance of a homeless family in his small Nebraska town where he is the only 6th grader.

Worth - A. LaFaye
(978-0439913423) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-8, Lexile: 830, ESL level: 3 - 4
Nate's father has to hire an orphan boy to help him on the farm after Nate breaks his leg and is unable to work with his family.

Famous Citizens:

Fred Astaire
Born Frederick Austerlitz in Omaha, Nebraska, he and his older sister Adele showed the ability to dance at a very early age. In 1904, Fred's mother moved both children to New York City where they enrolled in a school for the performing arts and became involved in the vaudeville circuit. Because of World War I, they changed their Austrian name to "Astaire." Adele retired from the stage in 1932 following her marriage, but Fred continued, and is most well known for his work with Ginger Rogers. He appeared in countless movies and continued working on the stage and on television until he was well over 70 years of age.

George Beadle
Born in Wahoo, Nebraska, Beadle was a pioneer in genetic research on the fruit fly at the California Institute of Technology. He later shared the 1958 Nobel Prize in Physiology for his work on bread molds and the influence of genes on the cell's production of enzymes.

Marlon Brando
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Marlon Brando moved to New York to study acting after he was expelled from military school. He is best known for one of his earliest roles as Stanley Kowalski in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, although younger fans may best remember his portrayal as Mafia chief Don Corleone in The Godfather, a role for which he received the Academy Award.

Richard B. Cheney
Born in Lincoln, Nebraska, Cheney studied at the University of Wyoming, but left graduate school before earning the PhD in order to work in the Nixon White House. When President Nixon, resigned, Cheney worked with the transition team and became White House chief of staff under Gerald Ford. After the Ford Presidency, he returned to Wyoming and served in Congress until he became secretary of defense under George Bush in 1989. In 2000, he was asked by George W. Bush to serve as Vice-Presidential nominee, and was elected to that position.

Gerald R. Ford
Born in Omaha, Nebraska, Ford went on to star on the University of Michigan football team, and then earned his law degree at Yale. He served in the Navy in World War II, and when he returned, he entered Republican politics. He was elected to Congress from the state of Michigan in 1948. When he took the oath of office to the Presidency in 1974, his rise to the position was unprecedented in two ways. First, he succeeded the first US president to resign the office (Richard Nixon), and he was the first Vice-President to be selected under the terms of the 25th Amendment, having taking that position after the resignation of Nixon's first Vice-President, Spiro Agnew.

Malcolm X
Born Malcolm Little in Omaha, Nebraska, he saw his childhood home in Lansing, Michigan burned by the Ku Klux Klan. Shortly afterwards, his father was murdered and his mother was placed in a mental institution. He spent much of his childhood in juvenile detention homes. In 1946, while serving time in prison for burglary, he converted to the Black Muslim faith, and when he was released, went to work with the leader of the Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad. At that time, he changed his name to Malcolm X using the "X" to signify his belief that his last name had been chosen for him by white slaveholders. Malcolm X quickly became a leader in the radical black power movement, calling for black separatism, and supporting the use of violence when necessary to accomplish the movement's goals. However, after a trip to Mecca in 1964, Malcolm X began to moderate his views, and eventually left the Nation of Islam and converted to orthodox Islam. He was murdered by a group of Black Muslims in 1965.

Capital: Lincoln
Entered Union: March 1, 1867
Population: 1,881,503
Area 77,354
Bird Western Meadowlark
Flower Goldenrod
Nickname: Cornhusker State
Governor Pete Ricketts

Places to Visit in Nebraska: (Click the links to learn more.)

Carhenge - Alliance
In 1987, artist Jim Reinders completed a full-scale replica of the English monument Stonehenge using thirty-eight automobiles, all spray painted gray. The replica, a monument to the artist's father, attracts tourists from all over the world.

Museum of the Fur Trade - Chadron
The museum is dedicated to preserving the rich history of the North American fur trade, and includes artifacts and galleries that trace the everyday lives of British, French, and Spanish fur traders, voyageurs, mountain men, buffalo hunters, and Plains and Woodland Indians. The trading post is a reconstruction built on the original foundation of a post operated between 1837 and 1876 by the American Fur Company.

Great Platte River Road Archway Monument - Kearney
The Archway Monument stretches across Interstate 80 and serves as a memorial to the Great Platte River Road and its significance to the development of the American West. A series of full size dioramas and multi-media presentations trace the history of the area from the Plains Indians to the present.

Toadstool Park - Crawford
Toadstool Park is noted for its unusual geologic formations and for fossil deposits. A one-mile trail highlights many examples of eroded clay and sandstone formations, and a reconstructed sod house shows how homesteaders survived on the prairies despite the limited natural resources.

Strategic Air and Space Museum - Ashland
The Strategic Air and Space Museum exists to preserve aircraft and missiles for future generations and includes two aircraft display hangars, an aircraft restoration gallery and a 200-seat theater.