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Michigan became the 26th state of the Union on January 26, 1837, after a two-year struggle over a piece of land known as the Toledo Strip.

Stevens T. Mason, the territorial governor of Michigan, held that the southern border of Michigan extended from the southern tip of Lake Michigan across to the city of Toledo. This resulted in a confrontation known as the Toledo War. Upon its settlement, Michigan received the Upper Peninsula as a consolation prize.

Bordering on four of the five Great Lakes, Michigan consists of two peninsulas, separated by the Straits of Mackinac, linking Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. Michigan's peninsulas are connected by the Mackinac Bridge. Completed in 1957, the five-mile-long Mackinac Bridge was then the longest suspension bridge in the world. As a six-year-old, I walked across that bridge with my family the day before it opened to automobile traffic. In all honesty, my father may have carried me part of the way.

North of the bridge, the Sault Ste. Marie Canals connect Lake Superior and Lake Huron for ship traffic.

I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The UP is the most northern of the state's two peninsulas. It is bordered primarily by Lake Superior to the north, separated from Ontario at the east end by the Saint Marys River, and bordered by Lake Huron and Lake Michigan along most of its southern border. A small portion of the peninsula extends into Wisconsin, as the state line follows the Montreal River, the Menominee River, and a line connecting them.

The Upper Peninsula makes up nearly thirty percent of the land area of the state, but just three percent of its population. Residents of the UP are known as Yoopers and have a strong regional identity. Every couple of decades, proposals are made to secede from Michigan and become a separate state, usually identified as Superior. Residents from the southern half of the UP feel that they have more in common with Wisconsin than with the Lower Peninsula, and it is common among Yoopers to refer to residents of the Lower Peninsula as Trolls because they live beneath the bridge.

While it is common for histories to begin with the first arrival of Europeans, this is because they have traditionally been the ones to write the histories. When Europeans first arrived on the North American continent, approximately 100,000 people were living in the Great Lakes region. The most influential of the tribes that lived in what is now Michigan was the Ottawa, Chippewa (Ojibwe), and Potawatomi. Originally united, they split into three tribes sometime prior to the 16th century, with the Ottawa remaining near Mackinac and in the Lower Peninsula, the Chippewa to the west and north into Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula, and the Potawatomi moving along the eastern shores of Lake Michigan.

Michigan got its name from the Ojibwe word mishigamaa, which translates into "large water" or "large lake."

Although there are stories of Scandinavians, under Leif Ericson, having explored the area prior to the voyages of Amerigo Vespucci and Christopher Columbus in the late 15th century, the first Europeans to do more than explore the area was probably the French, who crossed the Saint Marys River around 1620, laying claim to the land, establishing fur trading posts and missions. The French and Indian War ceded the territory to Great Britain.

Sault Ste. Marie is the oldest European settlement in Michigan, although it had been settled by Native Americans more than 12,000 years ago. In the late 17th century, Father Jacques Marquette, a French Jesuit, founded a Catholic mission there. French colonists established a trading post nearby, and a fur-trading settlement quickly grew along the banks of the river.

American Indian tribes were unhappy with the British occupation because, while the French created alliances, the British treated the tribes as conquered people. In 1763, the tribes attempted to drive the British from the area in Pontiac's Rebellion, capturing Fort Michillimackinac and other smaller forts, killing hundreds of British. Although the Upper Peninsula was ceded to the new US government in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, the British did not give up control of the area until 1797.

When the Michigan Territory was established in 1805, it included only the Lower Peninsula. In 1819, the territory was expanded to include the Upper Peninsula, all of which later became Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota. However, when Michigan applied for statehood in the 1830s, the proposal included only the original boundaries.

However, Michigan became involved in an armed border dispute with Ohio. Michigan approved a constitution in 1835 and, although the territorial government ceased to exist, the state government was not yet recognized. President Andrew Jackson offered a compromise. In return for ceding the Toledo Strip to Ohio, Michigan would get the Upper Peninsula.


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