By Gary Dickson
BROOKINGS, SD – A recent study conducted by a professor from South Dakota State University found that 74 percent of Sioux Falls adults were unaware that South Dakota encompassed anything beyond 25 miles from Sioux Falls’ borders.
And, as shocking as these results were, 46 percent of adults 24 and older thought they were a suburb of Minneapolis! The research was done by a researcher and his graduate students from the Sociology and Rural Studies Department at SDSU. It consisted of grad student assistants talking to people over four consecutive weekends in October and November of 2019 at the Empire Mall in Sioux Falls and during the entirety of the Sioux Falls Farm Show in January of this year. The researcher was Reed Endogamy, Ph.D. a professor at SDSU for 12 years and coordinator of SDSU’s Institute for the Study of Retreatism and Indentured Servitude in State and Local Governments.
“We initially surveyed 565 adults,” Endogamy said. “That’s a pretty fair sample, but we had to throw out some of the surveys because we couldn’t confirm the subjects were adults or citizens of Sioux Falls. Some were from Sioux City, Iowa. So, we had to use the Farm Show to collect another 100 or so.”
The researcher said he and his assistants ended up with 600 usable surveys. Professor Endogamy said the numbers being released today are fairly general.
“I haven’t had a chance to break it down in terms of occupation, neighborhood, education level, etc.,” he said. “But I should have a more complete and detailed picture by summer.”
Men and women, ages 18 to 80 were asked to name some of the major cities in the state, to estimate how many miles north/ south and east/west the state was, where the biggest city and state capitol were, what states bordered SD and how far away they were, their education level, their occupation, their residence, etc. Then, if necessary, they were shown an official 2020 State of South Dakota roadmap.
The sociology professor said he wasn’t that surprised with the results. He said he thought that self-centeredness in lack of other-awareness had been getting worse among those living in the state’s largest city over the last 30 years. He said he observed a particular rise in that behavior after the city was designated the Number One Place To Live In The USA by Money Magazine back in the early 1990s.
“Once that story broke,” Endogamy said with a sigh, “it was like the place became Boom City! Then all those people from L.A., Seattle, Spokane, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and elsewhere thought they had to move here because of the low cost of living and friendly folks. But once they got here, they didn’t give a hoot about the rest of the state beyond Hartford, or Canton, or Baltic. Of course, that sentiment already existed in a lot of Sioux Falls people’s perceptions, but the newbies only reinforced and added to it.”
Asked if he was surprised by the number of people who thought Sioux Falls was a suburb
of Minneapolis, Endogamy said that definitely, he was. The researcher explained he thought that perception had disappeared back in the 80s once Citibank had completed its move to town. “I guess what rocked me back on my heels a bit was the high percentage of people who still believe that! I mean, WTF? Haven’t they learned anything over the last 30 years?” the Brookings professor said while shaking his head and sighing.
Pondering and Wandering decided to do some of their own very limited research to see if we could reproduce any of the results that Endogamy and his graduate crew did. We went to the Empire Mall and selected a few people at random, screening for age and residence. We were surprised that our results, though very unscientific, seemed to match the SDSU study.
We talked to Cindy Naris, a 28-year-old second-year USD medical student who was a graduate of Sioux Falls Lincoln. She knew there was more to South Dakota than Sioux Falls, she said. But when asked to name some of the other cities in the state, she became bogged down after listing, Harrisburg, Tea, and Dell Rapids. When asked where Rapid City was, Naris replied, “Wyoming, I think.”
Jason Tremens works days as a customer service representative for financial services firm (he wouldn’t identify the company) and nights as a bartender at Friendly Franks Six Deuces Casino and Pawn. “Sure, I know there’s more to this state than Sioux Falls. Whadya think I am . . . an Iowan?” Tremens was laughing loudly at his joke and then started to cough. The hacking went on for about a minute. “Sorry ‘bout that,” he said. “Happens every time I get excited about something. Anyways, I know where Pierre is. I was there last week! I went up there with my state legislator, ol’ Merk What’s His Name.”
Asked if he could tell the reporter where Pierre was or the roads he took to get there and back, Tremens shook his head no. “Sorry, man, I can’t. We were at Scarlet’s and about 3 in the afternoon Merk said he needed to go up for some committee meeting. So, we stopped at that new big liquor store just over the hill there . . . and that’s the last thing I remember until we got to Pierre. The same thing happened coming back. I got nothin’! You don’t suppose I’m an alcoholic, do you?”
We assured Tremens that we didn’t know, but looked up a phone number of someplace that could, wrote it down and gave it to him.
The last person we talked to was a smallish man named Lloyd. He didn’t want us to use his last name, but he proudly gave his age as 70. Lloyd had been living in Sioux Falls his entire life and graduated from Sioux Falls Washington. He said he was a retired disc jockey and used car salesman. When asked if there was anything to South Dakota west of Hartford, north of Dell Rapids, or south of say, Canton, said there wasn’t. “I guess there’s Nebraska, Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming and what . . . Montana?” When told there was quite a bit more to South Dakota than Sioux Falls, Lloyd said, “Nah, there can’t be.” But when the reporter showed him a State of South Dakota Roadmap, his eyes got big and he exclaimed, “Get outta here!” while giving the reporter a hard push backward.
Then his voice got soft and he sort of hung his head. “All these years,” he said quietly. “All these years I have been neglecting all those people and all that land. How will I ever make it up to them?”