At least 10,000 years ago, people lived in the area now called Indiana. About 2,000 years ago a mysterious culture now called Hopewell Tradition filled earthen mounds with tens of thousands of artifacts, giving Indiana one of the most important archaeological sites in the United States. Native American tribes, including the Illini, Miami, and Shawnee, lived on the land thousands of years later. (And the Miami, Shawnee, and Potawatomi tribes still live here today.)
Around 1614 French explorer Samuel de Chaplain visited the area, one of the first Europeans to see the land. By the late 1600s the land was controlled by the French. Between 1754 and 1763, the French and English fought for control of the region in the French and Indian War. The English were victorious and won the land. Later these lands would become known as the Indiana Territory.
At the end of the American Revolution, in 1783, Britain ceded Indiana to the United States, and in 1816 Indiana became the 19th state. During the Civil War (1861-1865) the state fought in favor of the Union.
WHY’S IT CALLED THAT?
Indiana was named after the American Indian tribes who lived there when Europeans arrived.
The nickname Hoosier was first used to describe a person during the 1820s, but experts don’t agree on its meaning. The word might come from an old English term for “hill” that was used as slang for people who lived in Indiana’s hill territory.
GEOGRAPHY AND LANDFORMS
This midwestern state is bordered by Michigan and Lake Michigan in the north, Ohio and Kentucky in the east, Kentucky in the south, and Illinois in the west. The state can be divided into three main regions.
The Great Lakes Plains region covers the northern part of the state. Here the sand dunes of Indiana Dunes State Park rise along Lake Michigan. Farther south, the land becomes dark and fertile with small lakes and low hills.
The center of the state is covered by the Till Plains, which has low hills and valleys. The area is part of the midwestern “Corn Belt,” so named because that’s one of the top crops in this region. The state’s highest point, Hoosier Hill, is here. It rises 1,257 feet in the air.
The Southern Plains and Lowlands region covers southern Indiana. Here, steep hills called knobs stand out on lowlands. There are also limestone caverns and caves. The Ohio River creates the state’s southern border.
Allegheny woodrats, bobcats, muskrats, and meadow jumping mice are among Indiana’s most common mammals. Bald eagles, hairy woodpeckers, and eastern bluebirds can be spotted flying overhead. Ornate box turtles, colorful ringneck snakes, and little brown skinks are a few of Indiana’s reptiles. The state’s amphibians include cave salamanders, American bullfrogs, and plains leopard frogs.
Sycamore, eastern red cedar, white oak, and tulip poplar (the state tree) are a few of Indiana’s most widespread trees. And wildflowers that grow here include the violet-colored tall bellflower, purple-flowering raspberry, bright scarlet royal catchfly, and blue mistflower.
Gas, oil, and coal are some of the state’s most valuable natural resources. Indiana also mines sand, gravel, and limestone.
—Popcorn salesman Orville Redenbacher, actor James Dean, and songwriter Cole Porter were all born in Indiana.
—The Indianapolis 500 car race, often called the Indy 500, has been held at a racetrack in the state capital nearly every year since 1911.
—Angel Mounds is an archaeological site where people lived between the years 1000 and 1450. It’s named for its 11 big earthen mounds, which ancient peoples used for burial and ceremonial purposes. Experts have found artifacts such as pots here.