December 28, 2010

They're Always Changing the Map!” Day

Geography is the study of the earth's features, including land and oceans and human-created features.

The earth is always changing. Over the course of the billions of years of its existence, the continents and oceans have changed positions and shapes as tectonic plates slowly moved around, pulled apart, and slammed into each other. Mountains have been pushed up and worn down, islands have risen and sunk, land bridges have connected and later disappeared—earth's an active world, and things are always changing.

But by and large, these natural features change reeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaalllllllllllllly slowly.

Human features such as roads, cities, and nations are much quicker to change. In historical times (mere thousands of years), people have migrated from one area to another, settled cities and abandoned others, sworn allegiance to a particular ruler or rebelled against another, declared independence, taken over neighboring countries, or united to make a larger, stronger nation.

Today is the anniversary of two events that required changes in maps:

On this day in 1836, the city of Adelaide was founded in South Australia.

And on this day ten years later, in 1846, the state of Iowa joined the United States of America, becoming its 29th state.

More on changing maps...
this modern map of AfricaWhat countries have stayed about the same size and name? What changes have there been? 

Here is another comparison: this map of Central America is from the early 1900s, and this one is modern. What has changed?

More on Adelaide...
South Australia was settled as a new British province with the founding of Adelaide. The Surveyor-General of the new province, Colonel William Light, planned the site and basic layout of the city, with wide streets oriented in north-south or east-west directions and park lands surrounding the city center like a green belt. Because of his plan, the city did not have to undergo modification as it grew and as technology advanced, as most old cities do.

More on Iowa...

This state got its name for one of the many groups of Native Americans that lived there, the Ioway, a name that was also given to one of the rivers that flows through that area.

Actually, the tribal name was “Ayuxwa,” which means “one who puts to sleep.” The French spelled the name “Ayoua,” and the English spelled it “Ioway.”

The state's nickname is the Hawkeye State. Apparently this is to honor the memory of Black Hawk, a leader of the Sauk Indians. It is very interesting to me that Black Hawk has the stature of a hero, with statues of him on display, roads and schools and other features named after him, and a biography that became a best-seller in his own time—although he could have been seen as an enemy of the state. Black Hawk led Sauk warriors against the United States, alongside the British and many other groups of Native Americans, during the War of 1812, and he fought against the U.S. again in the Black Hawk War of 1832. After Black Hawk and his warriors were defeated, he was taken into custody and sent around the U.S. with other Indian leaders. Although they were prisoners, these leaders were met with huge crowds of mostly positive onlookers. They were painted by portrait artists and interviewed for biographies. Near the locations where he had actually fought, Black Hawk's reception was less positive—crowds there were more likely to jeer and burn or hang effigies than to cheer.

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