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Indiana (IN) Fast Facts
Location and Geography: Indiana is located in the Midwestern part of the United States, in an area known as the Rust Belt (due to the local emphasis on manufacturing and automotive technology). Much of Indiana is flat and fertile, although some sections are hilly and rocky.
Counties and Regions: Indiana has 92 counties split over two time zones, most of which observe Eastern Time but a few of which observe Central Time. These are the more general regions of Indiana:
- Chicago Metropolitan Area (Northwest Indiana)
- East Central Indiana
- Indianapolis Metropolitan Area
- Michiana (near Michigan)
- Northern Indiana
- Southern Indiana
- Southwestern Indiana
- Wabash Valley
Population: Indiana, with almost 6.5 million people, has a great many citizens for its size. This ranks it in 15th place for population density in the country.
Major Cities: Indiana’s capital, Indianapolis, is also its largest city with close to 830,000 people (and more than a million in its metropolitan area). Other large cities include Fort Wayne and Evansville, although some cities, like Gary, have been losing population in the current recession. A significant chunk of Chicago’s suburbs also expand into Indiana.
Story Behind the Name: Indiana literally means “land of the Indians,” as it was once promised to be reserved for Native American use. This was not to be, however, and the area was eventually appropriated by other groups.
History and Colonization: Humans have populated what is now Indiana as far back as the last Ice Age. Civilizations of Native Americans sprung up, thrived, and disappeared in the area over the course of several millennia. First contact with Europeans occurred during the late seventeenth century, as French explorers and traders made inroads through the fur and pelt industry. France and Great Britain fought over ownership in the eighteenth century, but the area was still mostly populated with Native Americans by the time Britain ceded it to the United States at the end of the American Civil War.
Originally, Indiana was part of a huge piece of land called the Northwest Territory. It was originally agreed that many of these western lands would remain under Native American control, but immigrants from the East Coast and the American South slowly began to settle the region anyway. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the U.S. government engaged in military campaigns in Indiana in an attempt to drive out the natives. Several battles were fought in the state, but the natives were not to prevail. Most modern-day residents of Indiana are descended from the many European immigrants that settled there.
Indiana mobilized for the American Civil War, providing a large number of troops and supplies to the Union side of the battle. This was in many ways the beginning of Indiana’s industrial culture, which only grew in the twentieth century as the World Wars demanded tanks, planes, guns, and missiles. The auto industry also gained a firm foothold in Indiana as the century wore on. The blue-collar jobs market and a focus on manufacturing made Indiana one of the centers of the Labor Movement in the United States, and some of the most powerful unions and labor organizations are still to be found there.
Because of its industrial economy, Indiana has been quite vulnerable to economic depressions, including the current one. Despite this problem, the state continues to distinguish itself in the fields of education and athletics, with many of the nation’s finest colleges and most well-known sporting events being located there. As a part of the blue-collar Midwestern Rust Belt, and with great ethnic and cultural diversity from its history of immigration, Indiana is generally considered to be one of the states that forms the “Heartland of America.”