Friday, December 11, 2009

Where the Hoosiers Are

Magnet # 114: Map of Indiana

Material: Acrylic

Purchased By: Dad

Indiana celebrates its day of statehood today. Back in 1816, President James Madison approved the state's admission into the Union, ending its days as a territory. The first Europeans to the area were the French, who established several trading posts. But the British were hot on their heels, and tried to take control of their fur trade. This resulted in the French and Indian War. The Indians sided with the French because they were better to them than the British, but they lost nonetheless. But the Indians continued to rebel against Britain, even burning down a couple of their forts in the area. Indiana saw a little bit of action during the Revolutionary War when two battles were fought against the British there. Once the war was over, America gained control of the area and turned it into the Northwest Territory, and later the Indiana Territory, which was governed by William Henry Harrison. During this time, it became the site of building tensions between the settlers and the Shawnee Indians who were led by Tecumseh that ended in the famous Battle of Tippecanoe and later the lesser known Battle of the Thames. Both resulted in Indian losses, and the Indians mostly left the area. Several years later, Indiana became the 19th state. Nowadays, the state is a place of both agriculture and industry. It boasts the nation's largest steel production, and also manufactures a number of other products, including automobiles and pharmaceuticals. A great deal of produce is also grown there, including corn and soybeans. Indiana really is an example of a state that has embraced modern industry while keeping ties with its agricultural roots, and it has helped to keep its economy strong.

While I've traveled through Indiana, I've never really spent much time there. I do remember passing through the state years ago. My Dad was behind the wheel and we were headed to Michigan. It was one of the first times I was following our progress on a map, and I kept checking to see how close we were to Fort Wayne. I'm not sure, maybe we spent the night there. Yeah, I know, it's not much. But I've already mentioned my desire to travel in the state on this blog, specifically to visit West Lafayette and tour the Clay Critters factory, where some of the best magnets ever are made. And I'm sure I can find some other interesting places to check out in the state.

So just what is up with the name Hoosier, anyway? People who live in Indiana aren't even referred to as Indianans or Indianites, they're just Hoosiers. It's also the only state I can think of that the residents share their name with a mascot - pretty much everyone there has to cheer for Indiana University by default. Well, no one is totally clear on how the name surfaced, but the debate has gone on for well over a century and there are a few theories and various books have been written on the subject. The most common is that "hoo" is derived from the Saxon word for a hill or cliff, and that "sier" may come from shire. The combination of the two would result in a term for "Hill Country" and perhaps extend to those living there. Although Indiana is not a particularly hilly area, descendants from the nearby Cumberland Mountains may have imported the name as they settled into the area. Some claim it began as a slurring of the phrase "who's there," which was yelled out when visitors came to wary settler's cabins and the inhabitants wanted to know their identity before they began shooting. And there's also a story that tells about Samuel Hoosier, a builder who preferred to hire workers from Indiana when he built the Louisville and Portland Canal. Over time, his men came to be known as Hoosiers. Whatever the origin, it's almost certain that it began as a derogatory term. The term most likely originated in the South to describe coarse, and vulgar, often those who live in rural areas. It was similar to calling someone a hillbilly. In Missouri, they still refer to low-class, lazy individuals as Hoosiers - in fact, it's one of the ugliest terms they can use to slander an individual. It can be applied regardless of race and age. And somehow this ugly term spread to Indiana, where it was used to refer to their residents, Regardless, earlier residents decided to be proud of their status as Hoosiers, rather than be offended by the term. It's a credit to their good natures that they were able to do so. Now, oddly enough, what could have been a source of irritation and the Hoosiers are as proud of their name as they are of their state. I guess it's a lesson we can all benefit from.

2 comments:

  1. D'oh! Late reading your blog again. Wish I'd known you'd just posted about Indiana or I would have shown you my pictures from there from last week.

    While passing through we drove past a number of wind farms. Large fields for crops, so the space wasn't wasted, dotted every 1000 feet or so with massive three bladed windmills silently spinning through the fog. Very pretty sight.

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  2. Sounds very cool. It was fun hanging out this weekend! I had a bit of fog heading back to Savannah.

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