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Welcome to Michigan!

State Flag of Michigan

Michigan is made up of two peninsulas of land separated by the Straits of Mackinac. It is bordered on the south at 42� north latitude by the states of Ohio and Indiana. Its northernmost border, at 48� north latitude, lies in Lake Superior north of the shore of Isle Royale. Michigan lies between 82�30' to about 90�30' west longitude. It is bordered on the west by Lake Michigan and Wisconsin, and on the east by Ontario, Canada; Lake Huron and Lake Erie; and Detroit River and St. Clair River. Michigan covers 58,110 square miles of land, 38,575 square miles of Great Lakes waters and 1,305 square miles of inland waters.

"Michigan" comes from the Indian word "Michigama" meaning great or big lake. The French first used the word for the Great Lake that Native Americans called the "Lake of the Illinois"--now Lake Michigan. It was first used officially to refer to this land area when Congress created the Territory of Michigan in 1805.

Native Americans have lived in the area called Michigan since the last ice age glacier retreated about 10,000 years ago. Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit priest, established the first permanent French settlement at Sault Ste. Marie in 1668. Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac led the French to Detroit in 1701. The British gained possession of this region in 1760 after the French and Indian War. After the American Revolutionary War it became part of the United States under the Treaty of Paris of 1783. However, the British did not turn this area over to the Americans until 1796. Maps show it as part of Northwest Territory in 1787 and part of Michigan Territory in 1805. Michigan was admitted to the Union as the 26th state on January 26, 1837.

The original territorial capitol in Detroit served as the first state capitol. In 1847 the capital city was moved to Lansing. A white frame building served as the first capitol in Lansing. Today's capitol at the intersection of Michigan and Capitol avenues in Lansing, designed by Elijah E. Myers, was dedicated on January 1, 1879.

Stevens T. Mason served as the first governor of the state of Michigan from 1835 to 1839. (Michigan held its first state election over a year before it was admitted to the Union.) See the names and terms of Michigan's governors.

Michigan has long had an unofficial nickname: "The Wolverine State." However, evidence seems to show that if wolverines ever lived in Michigan, they would have been very rare. We don't know exactly how the state got the nickname, but two stories attempt to explain it. Some people believe that Ohioans gave Michigan the nickname around 1835 during a dispute over the Toledo strip, a piece of land along the border between Ohio and Michigan. Rumors in Ohio at the time described Michiganians as being as vicious and bloodthirsty as wolverines. This dispute became known as the Toledo War. Another reason given for the nickname is a story that has Native Americans, during the 1830s, comparing Michigan settlers to wolverines. Some native people, according to this story, disliked the way settlers were taking the land because it made them think of how the gluttonous wolverine went after its food. Another nickname for Michigan is the "Great Lake State." Michigan's shores touch four of the five Great Lakes, and Michigan has more than 11,000 inland lakes. In Michigan, you are never more than 6 miles from an inland lake or more than 85 miles from a Great Lake. From 1969 to 1975 and from 1977 to 1983 Michigan's automobile license plates featured the legend, GREAT LAKE STATE. Some references to Michigan during the early twentieth century also called the state "The Peninsula State."

Michigan has an official pledge of allegiance to its state flag. Written by Harold G. Coburn, it was adopted as Public Act 165 of 1972. (See Act 165 of 1972 on the Michigan Legislature's Michigan Compiled Laws Web site.) This is the pledge:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of Michigan, and to the state for which it stands, 2 beautiful peninsulas united by a bridge of steel, where equal opportunity and justice to all is our ideal."

The Web site of the Michigan Historical Center uses Michiganian. Michiganian has a long history. It is the term used for the state's citizens in The Collections of the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society since the 1870s and in Michigan History magazine since just after the turn of the 20th century. But people who call Michigan their home use the word they like best, and there is no "official" term.

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