The state of Wisconsin is situated in the north central area of America, nestled between the Great Lakes and the Midwest. The capital is called Madison. Its biggest city is Milwaukee. It is the 23rd largest state in America, but it comes 20th for population size. The state is split into a total of 72 separate counties or districts.
To the South, you’ll find Illinois. On the West side, sits Minnesota. Lake Superior is to the North and Lake Michigan in the East. Finally, Iowa sites on the Southwest side of Wisconsin. So, this is a place that is surrounded by remarkable landscapes and diverse communities.
The state has long been known as the ‘dairy kingdom’ of the US, as it continues to be a national leader in dairy products and production. It is well known for its cheese. However, over the decades, the development of IT manufacturing has started to play a greater part in the economy. Tourism is another big asset, with thousands of sightseers arriving every year.
As for its own landscape, well, Wisconsin is a rich and varied place. The western portion is home to the Northern Highland, Western Upland, and some of the Central Plain. There are also vast lowlands occupying an area that spread outwards, towards Lake Michigan.
Over the last 12,000 years, many cultures and civilizations have called Wisconsin home. It is believed that the first settlers – the Paleo-Indians – came to the state in 10,000 BCE. They were skilled hunters and could take down huge beasts, like the ice age mastodon, with spears and other homemade tools.
After the end of the ice age, in 8,000 BCE, communities continued to survive by hunting, but they also had to adapt their habits and start fishing and foraging for more of their food. This is when the first agricultural communities began to develop.
Towards the end of 1,000 CE, Wisconsin was covered in curious animal-shaped mounds, which could be found right across the state. Later, anthropologists would refer to it as the hub of ‘effigy mound’ culture.
Later still, between 1,000 and 1,500 CE, the Oneota and Mississippian communities constructed large towns and villages in the southeast of the state. Evidence of these settlements still remains in many places.
Many experts believe that the Oneota are the ancestors of the Ho-Chunk and Ioway communities which exist today. These two tribes were living in the Wisconsin territories, alongside the Menominee, when the first Europeans arrived. The Sauk, Kickapoo, Pottawatomie, and Ojibwa tribes were all living in the state as well.
In 1783, Wisconsin was conquered by the US, as a result of the American Revolutionary War. However, it remained in British hands until 1812, when the Americans finally began to move in and assert their authority. Once they had, they moved the economy of Wisconsin away from fur trading and towards the mining of lead.
The new industry opened up many jobs and the state was soon attracting migrants from all over America and even Europe. Many flocked to the lead hub of Mineral Point, in Dodgeville. It was common for poor miners to set up camp in the holes that they had created and this is where the nickname ‘Badger State’ comes from.
In 1827 and 1832, there were intense and bloody clashes between the white miners and the native communities. These conflicts led to the violent displacement of Native Americans right the way across Wisconsin.