A professor makes a find that should do wonders for our self-esteem:
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- What was the original meaning of the word "Hoosier"? In this month's issue of the Indiana Magazine of History, Jonathan Clark Smith of Hanover College unearths the earliest known references to the term. He concludes that far from being a derisive epithet (as some historians have maintained), Hoosier status was a point of pride from the start.
In the article, "Not Southern Scorn but Local Pride: The Origin of the Word Hoosier and Indiana's River Culture," Smith reports his discovery of two previously unnoticed references to the term in the newspapers of 1831. Both relate the word specifically to the then-hot political issue of river transportation and canal building. Reviewing other sources -- including the first-known use of the term in a February 1831 letter -- Smith concludes that Indiana's nickname originated not as a derisive term for the state's southern migrants but as an indication of local pride in those who sought to improve the state's economy. Hoosiers were boatmen who made a living on Indiana's canals and rivers and who, therefore, supported government-sponsored development of water transportation.
I dunno. Among the Appalachian-Americans I grew up with, "hillbilly" was often used with a sense of pride. That does not mean that others do not employ it as a pejorative.