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History >> US Geography >> US State History

Michigan

State History

The land that is today the state of Michigan has been inhabited by people for thousands of years. Ancient cultures such as the Hopewell peoples built large mounds that were likely the burial sites of their leaders. Eventually these cultures gave way to various Native American tribes.


Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island by Notorious4life

Native Americans

When the Europeans arrived there were three main tribes that lived in Michigan: the Ojibwe, the Ottawa, and the Potawatomi. These three tribes formed a group called the Council of the Three Fires. The Ojibwe were the largest of the three tribes and lived mostly in the Upper Peninsula. The Ottawa lived in the west and the Potawatomi in the southwest. Smaller tribes included the Miami and the Huron.

Europeans Arrive

The first Europeans to arrive in Michigan were the French. Explorer Etienne Brule traveled through Michigan in 1618 searching for a route to China. Soon the French laid claim to the land and began to trade with the local natives for furs. Men called "voyageurs" would travel the rivers by canoe trading various goods for furs that would bring a high price back in Europe.

Early Settlers

The first permanent European settlement in Michigan was Sault Ste. Marie which was established in 1668 by Father Jacques Marquette. In 1701, Frenchman Antoine de La Mothe Cadillac founded a trading post at Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit. It would later become the city of Detroit. After the French and Indian War in 1763, the British gained control of Michigan and more Europeans people began to settle the region.

Pontiac's Rebellion

In 1763, the Native American tribes were unhappy with the Europeans taking over their lands. A group of tribes united under the leadership of Ottawa Chief Pontiac. They fought back against the British and attacked a number of British forts and settlements. Eventually, British soldiers were sent in to put down the rebellion and Pontiac was defeated.


General Motors Headquarters in Downtown Detroit
General Motors Headquarters by Ritcheypro

Michigan Territory

After the Revolutionary War, the United States declared that Michigan was a part of the Northwest Territory of the United States in 1787. The British didn't leave right away, however, and it wasn't until 1796 that the British finally left Detroit. The U.S. did not fully gain control of all of the Upper Peninsula until 1818. Michigan became its own territory in 1805.

War of 1812

Michigan once again was taken over by the British at the start of the War of 1812. The Americans tried to take back Detroit at the Battle of Frenchtown in January of 1813, but were soundly defeated. However, later that year the Americans defeated the British at the Battle of Lake Erie and took back Detroit.

Becoming a State

With the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, more settlers began to move to Michigan and the population grew. Michigan applied for statehood and, on January 26, 1837, Michigan was admitted to the Union as the 26th state. Detroit was the first capital, but it was later moved to Lansing in 1847.

Automobile Industry

The economy in Michigan was changed dramatically at the start of the 20th century with the invention of the automobile. Henry Ford of Detroit developed the assembly line and the affordable Model T Ford car. For much of the 1900s, Detroit was the world leader in automobile manufacturing with major car makers like Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler.


Portrait of Henry Ford
Henry Ford Stamp by USPS

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Works Cited

History >> US Geography >> US State History





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