Visitors to the State of Michigan are soon made aware that the area north of the Straits of Mackinac, officially called the Upper Peninsula, is in reality an altogether different world from that to its south. The residents of the area proudly call themselves “Yoopers”, look with disdain at those who visit them only during the warmer months of the year (including those from lower Michigan), and remain independent in thought and attitude.
At one time, the Upper Peninsula was considered as a state separate from Michigan known as Superior. This proposal has never completely died out and, from time to time, gains popularity as a response to the vagaries of the national political climate.
Originally settled by French fur trappers, the Upper Peninsula (UP) was awarded to the United States as part of the Treaty of Paris in 1783, but the British retained their fur posts there and the young United States could do little about it for many years. The Michigan Territory was established by the US Government in 1805 and did not include the UP other than parts of its most eastern region.
In 1819, as it became more and more apparent that the region contained huge reserves of copper and iron, Michigan’s borders were expanded to include the entire UP. Meanwhile, lower Michigan – attempting to achieve statehood – was engaged in an ongoing dispute with Ohio over the lands near present day Toledo. The compromise which resolved the dispute included giving Michigan the entire UP in return for Ohio receiving the so-called Toledo strip. The Michigan Territory also included what is now Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota.
Beginning in 1858, local leaders have several times attempted to secede from Lower Michigan and establish the UP as the State of Superior. Other names have been proposed in conjunction with other attempts, including Octonagon and North Michigan. In 1962 an effort to secede came within 36,000 votes of success. Most of the attempts to secede – some of which have included several counties in bordering Wisconsin – have been based on resistance to taxes deemed to be proportionally unfair to the independent minded Yoopers.