The Dakota Plains are a large expanse of distant city states and nomadic tribes that extends from Texas to far in the Canadian north. The dividing line between Atlantic and Pacific America, the Dakotas have remained unconquered since the Before Time.
The states and provinces of the Before Time lost their cities, same as the rest of the world, but with a lower population density and large tracts of land, the regrowth afterwards was slower.
The lack of this growth has kept the Dakota Plains population at surprisingly smaller numbers. For example, the Denver area, which had a population of more than 4 million, now sits at less than 500,000.
Despite the growth of nations along the Mississippi River and the Pacific Coast, the Dakota plains remain largely untouched by the re-growth of civilizations. Some speculate that it is the large distances between city-states, and the difficulty of supply military forces over such a long distance. Particularly against the numbers of experienced riders that they would be facing again.
The plains are dotted with city states, the descendants of the inhabitants that refused to leave their homes. As the lack of food and supplies forced more and more to leave for the wilderness, those who stayed fortified their cities, scavenging for any resource they could find.
When the population equalized, the city-states became centers for trade. Their growth was limited by what expanses of farmland a state could protect, usually within a few miles of the city, or what they could reliably trade for. Geography helped, but so did a promising relationship with the local tribes that began to roam the plains during the 23rd century. A city-state that didn’t welcome the tribes was a city-state under siege. More than one city-state was sacked during its existence, though rarely did that destroy a city completely.
Dakota city-states are not the most stable of governments; coups and uprisings are common. Be it an elected leader or a dictator, a government falls every year on the plains.
Some city-states are better than others. Winnipeg has formed a triumvirate between the three ruling families that has kept relative peace for a hundred years, and Denver’s ruling family has remained in power for almost two centuries.
City-states become homes for those seeking safety. Fallen nobles, wanted criminals, escaped criminals, all can come to the city-states and find a new start.
The Wilds are the area of the plains not under the control of a city-state. From the mountains of the wester to the open tracts of the east, most of the Dakota Plains is unorganized and uncontrolled.
Small communities and plantations can be found, along rivers, at old mines and factories, or next to cities that haven’t been rebuilt. Rarely more than a few hundred people, the communities survive year to year, sometimes relocating, sometimes disappearing completely.
There are also scores of semi-nomadic tribes, mobile communities that travel across the plains. Descended from bands that formed during the Dark Time, their philosophy is to keep nomadic, to stay away from the technology and civilized lifestyle that lead to the fall of the Before Time.
The bands travel their routes, some staying to a single region, some migrating with the weather. They differ in their organization, their relationships with communities and city-states. Some are violent, other peaceful. All are willing to fight each other, if necessary.
Raiding, the sending of small bands to gather supplies, is a common occurrence throughout the plains, particularly against the nations of Atlantic America.
The Dakota Language
A mixture of English, Spanish and Native languages, the Dakota language is an extensive and varied tongue. The development over the centuries is one reason why Atlantic America, which retains English as its primary language, has made little headway into the plains.
Though the language had common elements, each city-state, region and nomadic tribe has their own dialect. Communication between them is possible, but nuances can be problematic. Some dialects have several words for degrees of conflict between two groups, while others have numerous words to help with trade. This problem in communication may be one reason why English continues to be learned as a second language in most Dakota groups.
Perception in Atlantic America
The plains are generally viewed in one of two ways.
Those disdainful of the plains see it as a place of chaos. They relate stories of raiders and bandits, of massacres and bloodshed. The plains are a region that needs to be purged and conquered, to reestablish order and civilization.
Others see it as a place of freedom, where travelling from one city to another means a fresh start, with no king or law to keep one from being free. Men and women live by their wits and skills, at no man’s leave.
The truth is somewhere in between.