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Great Lakes State
Michigan is a state in the United States. The name is derived from Lake Michigan, which in turn is believed to come from the Chippewa Indian word meicigama, meaning "great water." Bounded by four of the Great Lakes, Michigan has the longest freshwater shoreline in the continental United States, the longest total shoreline after Alaska (including island shorelines ), and more recreational boats than any other state in the union.
Michigan was home to various Native American tribes for centuries before the arrival of Europeans. When the first European explorers arrived, the most populous and influential tribes were the linguistically and ethnically related Ottawa, Chippewa, and Potawatomi. Within Michigan, the Chippewa were the most populous, estimated at between 25,000 and 35,000, and were predominant in the western Upper Peninsula and northern Wisconsin, though they were also present in other areas of the Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan. The Ottawa primarily inhabited the area around the Straits of Mackinac and areas of Northern Michigan, while the Potawatomi resided primarily in southwest Michigan. The three tribes co-existed peacefully and formed a loose confederation known as the Council of Three Fires. Other tribes with a presence in Michigan were the Mascouten, Miami, and Wyandot (or Huron).
Michigan was explored and settled by French voyageurs in the 17th century. The first Europeans to reach what later became Michigan were Étienne Brûlé's group in 1622. The first European settlement was made in 1668 by Father Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit missionary who established a mission at Sault Ste. Marie. In 1679, Robert Cavelier Sieur de la Salle directed the construction of the Griffin--the first European sailing vessel on the upper Great Lakes. That same year, La Salle built Fort Miami at present-day St. Joseph.
In 1701, French explorer and army officer Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded Detroit on the straits between Lakes St. Clair and Erie. Cadillac had convinced King Louis XIV's chief minister, Louis Phélypeaux, comte de Pontchartrain, that a permanent community at present-day Detroit would strengthen French control over the upper Great Lakes and repel British advances. The one hundred soldiers and workers that accompanied Cadillac built a 200-square-foot palisade and named it Fort Pontchartrain. Cadillac's wife, Marie Thérèse, soon moved to Detroit, becoming one of the first white women to settle in the Michigan wilderness. The town quickly became a major fur-trading and shipping post. At the same time, the French strengthened Fort Michilimackinac at the Straits of Mackinac in order to better control their lucrative fur-trading empire. By the mid-eighteenth century, the French had also occupied forts at present-day Niles and Sault Ste. Marie. Most of the rest of the region remained unsettled by whites, however.
By 1760, the French would lose their North American empire with their defeat by the British in the French and Indian War (1754–1763). Michigan passed to Great Britain in 1763 and then to the new United States two decades later. The population grew slowly until the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, which brought large numbers of settlers.
By the 1830s, Michigan had some 80,000 residents, more than enough to apply for statehood. A state government was formed in 1835, although Congressional recognition of the state languished due to a boundary dispute with Ohio, with both sides claiming a 468 square mile (1,210 km²) strip of land that included the important port city of Toledo on Lake Erie and an area to the west then known as the "Great Black Swamp." The dispute eventually culminated into what would be known as the Toledo War when Michigan and Ohio militia maneuvered in the area. Ultimately, Congress awarded the "Toledo Strip" to Ohio, and Michigan, having received the western part of the Upper Peninsula as a concession, formally entered the Union on January 26, 1837.
Thought to be useless at the time of its addition to Michigan, it was soon discovered that the Upper Peninsula was a rich and important source of lumber, iron, and copper, which would become the state's most sought-after natural resources.
Michigan's economy underwent a massive shift at the turn of the 20th century. The birth of the automotive industry, with Henry Ford's first plant in the Highland Park suburb of Detroit, marked the beginning of a new era in personal transportation. It was a development that not only transformed Detroit and Michigan, but permanently altered the socio-economic climate of the United States and much of the world, for that matter.
Grand Rapids, the second-largest city in Michigan, is also a center of automotive manufacturing. Since 1838, the city has also been noted for its thriving furniture industry.
Since World War II, Detroit's industrial base has eroded as auto companies abandoned some of the area's industrial parks in favor of less expensive labor found overseas and in southern U.S. states. Still, with 10 million residents, Michigan remains a large and influential state and ranks 8th in population among the 50 states.