Background of the Statehood IssueBefore starting off, I would like to note that 1) I stopped making significant updates to this page over a year ago (as of late 2005), 2) I no longer realistically believe that the U.P. will ever gain independence, and 3) I believe that Jennifer Granholm, the current governor of Michigan, has done much to alleviate the problems the Upper Peninsula faces. I am mostly leaving the page up because it is an interesting historic relic and has developed a cult following over the years. Please read the whole page, as it shows how my views on the issue have evolved over the years. Also, although much of the information on this page is opinion, most of the factual, non-general knowledge information on the U.P. issue comes from James L. Carter's book mentioned at the bottom of the page.
Many residents of Michigan's Upper Peninsula have been for well over a century, and some still are, in favor of making the Upper Peninsula into the 51st state of our country. For much of the 1800s and 1900s, various legislators and concerned citizens worked on various bills, proposals, and organizations to promote the statehood cause. But it wasn't until the 1970s, when an influential state legislator became interested in the statehood issue, that the issue came to the contemporary forefront.
In 1975 a proposal was put on the general election ballot in the cities of Marquette and Iron Mountain to enable residents to vote on whether they were in favor of statehood. The referendum was defeated in both cities. In 1978, the late Dominic Jacobetti (D)-Negaunee, who later became Michigan's longest-serving state legislator, introduced a bill which would have worked toward creating the 51st state. The 51st state would have encompassed all of the U.P., as well as some islands that are currently part of the L.P., and would have been called Superior. Unfortunately, the bill never made it to a vote. But the dream still exists, and people like me continue to subtly advocate the creation of Superior.
I originally wrote the following persuasive essay--the paper that began my mission--for my ninth grade high school English class. I realize that parts of the essay are quite irrational and unsupported by evidence, but I am going to leave it posted here nevertheless, as the following rebuttals directly depend on its existence. As imperfect as this essay is, it does a good job of conveying my strong feelings about the subject.
I slightly modified this essay to correct major grammatical errors on 2/12/2004. The basic structure and content remain the same.
Michigan's U.P. as an Independent State
By Jerry Wuorenmaa
Michigan is the only state in the United States that is comprised of two bodies of land. They are referred to as the "Upper Peninsula" (U.P.) and the "Lower Peninsula" (L.P.). The L.P. is larger and was inhabited first, and when acquired, the U.P. was a vast wilderness for the most part. Michigan's Capitol is based far into the L.P., and obviously, because of the Lower Peninsula's larger population, its problems are often a greater concern than those of the U.P. Throughout the past, inhabitants of each peninsula have had starkly different viewpoints and problems of concern. Because of the different backgrounds and issues of each peninsula, I believe that the U.P. of Michigan should become an independent state.
Problems between Michigan's two peninsulas started when Michigan was first admitted to the union. There was a dispute between Ohio and Michigan over whose state would contain the city of Toledo. Congress settled the disagreement by handing the Upper Peninsula to Michigan, and giving Toledo to Ohio. At the time, Michiganians thought the U.P. to be worthless. Although it was later considered to be a good bargain, the U.P. wasn't what the Lower Peninsula wanted in the first place. Therefore, the Lower Peninsula holds the U.P. at a lower value. To put it bluntly, the L.P. has always considered itself to be the only "real Michigan." As far as the L.P. is concerned, the U.P. was only an inferior add-on.
As I have said, the U.P. does have a small population. Some people would consider its people to be low-income, low-class hunters, lumbermen, and miners. Although many of the U.P.'s residents are not wealthy, the peninsula's unique, self-sustaining culture has provided its people with a strong feeling of pride. If the U.P. became an independent state, its residents' strong wills and determination could help it pull through difficult beginnings and gain experience. An independent statehood would cause the U.P. to become further-developed and more inhabited. In time, this would help its people pay the taxes and gain the drive necessary for what is now Upper Michigan to support itself and become a great state.
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The difference in geographical condition and culture in the two peninsulas also causes many problems. Since the U.P. is isolated from the Capitol's location, the U.P.'s problems are also thought by the state government to be isolated. The Upper Peninsula's wilderness areas and underdevelopment have led L.P. representatives and leaders to think the U.P.'s physical condition and residents are inferior to theirs. The state government may actually believe that U.P. district representatives are inferior to those supporting the L.P. districts. Therefore, the opinions of U.P. representatives may be held at lower face value by the legislature. Finally, the U.P.'s culture, terrain, and industry are different than those of the L.P. Therefore, it is difficult for legislators at the Capitol to understand the U.P.'s problems. That is why the state government doesn't grant the U.P. enough money for aid in many situations.
If the Upper Peninsula was an independent state, it would be able to handle its own issues. Its Capitol and legislature would be based in the area where they need to function, and her legislature would be made up of people who understand what needs to be done. No longer, for example, would the U.P.'s people have to drive on icy roads and risk their lives during a grueling winter because the Lansing legislature wouldn't fund needed salt and sand for road repairs, etc. The L.P.'s population is larger than that of the U.P., so the L.P. has more district representatives and senators. But especially during the winter, the U.P. needs a lot of financial support. The U.P.'s relatively few representatives and senators have a difficult time convincing legislature to grant necessary aid. Furthermore, since Michigan's Capitol is in Lansing, the Governor and the legislature are focused on areas nearby and their own problems. Amassed in their own area's issues, L.P. lawmakers can easily forget about the Upper Peninsula. The governor is closely knit to her fellow L.P. residents and, through her treatment and decisions, seems to favor them. The U.P. needs a collection of its own representatives from around the whole peninsula, with none from another body of land, so they can concentrate on the area's own needs that its people are surrounded in.
There is much controversy surrounding the laws made almost entirely by the legislators in the Lower Peninsula. Michigan is the only state made up of two separate parts, which are very different from each other. This setup is not working effectively. Decisions being made in Lansing are not made in the best interest of both peninsulas. No more does the Upper Peninsula need to be controlled as if pulled around on a rope by lawmakers from down below. Powerful lawmakers in Lansing have no business pretending to try to solve the U.P.'s affairs. The Upper Peninsula can thrive if given a chance to control itself the way it should be done. I encourage the Upper Peninsula's people to demand another vote to make the U.P. independent, and to pridefully vote a positive "yes."
What follows is a rebuttal to the previous essay, written to me via e-mail by a Michigan Tech student. It brought some new ideas to my attention, and its posting here is meant to provide a more balanced view of both sides of the U.P. Independence argument. I was given permission by the author to post this rebuttal.
A friend and I came across your essay today concerning the creation of a new state that would consist of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I found your opinions to be very intriguing.
I am a student at Michigan Tech University in Houghton and I have been so for three years now. Like many of the students attending this university, I am from the Lower Peninsula and have come to the U.P. to receive my education. Myself, as well as my peers, soundly defeat your biases towards people from the Lower Peninsula. We in fact do not view the U.P. as an "inferior add-on" and actually have enjoyed our time here. While we will leave the U.P. after graduation to find work elsewhere, we will have fond memories of the area.
Basically, the idea that the Upper Peninsula would or could ever become its own state is just preposterous. The U.P. is simply a part of the State of Michigan, just as northern lower Michigan (Traverse City, my hometown), southeastern Michigan (Detroit), central Michigan (Lansing), and western Michigan (Grand Rapids) are. As such, it is only natural that residents in the Upper Peninsula have different viewpoints and issues of importance than other areas of the state. However, to suggest that all downstaters are the same, and that we are all conspiring against the U.P. to shut out various opinions, is ridiculous. If you believe that people in Grand Rapids believe the same things and care about the same issues as people in Detroit, than you are ignorant. On the other hand, if you agree that there could indeed be cultural and social differences between different areas like Grand Rapids and Detroit, then why not section off the western part of lower Michigan and make it a new state? If we were to give every geographic and social demographic it's own autonomy you couldn't possibly stop after splitting up the two peninsulas. What you would have in the end is about eight different states, all with their own set of beliefs and way of life.
I am also wondering if it ever occurred to you the peril the U.P. would be in economically if it were to secede. Since the collapse of large scale mining in the region, communities have been struggling to find their economic identity. If you look at the most successful cities in the Upper Peninsula, you will notice that their social and economic identity hinges on one major constant: a college or university. Houghton/Hancock, Marquette, Sault Ste. Marie, and to a lesser extent Ironwood, Escanaba, and even Brimley depend heavily on students as a source of income and have been able to build a semi-stable economy based around their respective institutes for higher learning. All of these schools, save Finlandia University in Hancock, are public schools and as such are funded by the State of Michigan, and to a large measure, the 8-million-plus Lower Peninsula taxpayers. Consider the effects of the U.P. becoming its own state. Suddenly, the stream of money from Lansing has dried up, and you have now forced the one million or less Upper Peninsula residents to cough up nearly ten times the tax dollars they spend now as Michiganians to fund these universities. Not to mention the thousands of L.P. students who go to school in the U.P. and pump millions of dollars into the economies are now paying out-of-state tuition. Do you think you'll see enrollment increase when that happens? I don't.
It's obvious to me that if the Upper Peninsula became it's own state the effects on the local economies would be disastrous. Many of the U.P. counties are already some of the poorest in the state, and you simply compound the problem by cutting off downstate funding to universities and other community-enhancing programs. You say that the U.P.'s "residents' strong wills and determination could help her pull through difficult beginnings and gain experience," but it seems to me that if the U.P. becomes more impoverished, there are a lot of people who will leave for better opportunities elsewhere. I can buy the "strong wills" argument, but surely you can't tell me that an economic downturn would lead to this area becoming "further-developed and more inhabited."
And even if the residents of the U.P. could champion this cause to fruition, what on earth makes you think that independence would ever be granted? Not only would that motion need to pass through both houses of the state legislature, but it would also have to pass through both houses of Congress. It would never, I repeat, NEVER happen. Even your state representatives (who I might add, have the same voting power in Lansing as any downstate rep) and Bart Stupak (you know who he is, don't you?) understand the importance of the Lower Peninsula to the economy and way of life for Upper Peninsula residents.
Basically, your views on U.P. independence are radical, uninformed, and out of touch with reality. Nowhere in your essay do you state any real facts that lead me to believe that the U.P. is being ignored or abused by it's southern neighbour. You only state things you "believe" might be true, with nothing to back up your claims with. The fact of the matter is, the people of the U.P. have a lot to be grateful for, and I know that most of them are indeed happy to be a part of Michigan. You are, just as every other resident of Michigan, represented in our state and federal governments equally and fairly. If you want to do something to improve your life and the lives of those around you, work within the system and make a difference, like Chase Osborn did, one of the greatest governors the state ever had, and one who happened to be from the Upper Peninsula. Spreading misleading and misinformed propaghanda in the hopes of riling up locals does nothing to help.
I'm sorry this got so long, but I felt compelled to rebutt your opinions not because the were so much pro-Upper Peninsula, but because they were so obviously anti-Lower Peninsula. Good luck championing your cause when in Lansing with your "anti-Troll" biases.Cheers and Good Luck,
What now follows is my response to the preceeding rebuttal. This letter serves not only as a response to the rebuttal, but also as an update and an addition to my original persuasive essay. I have learned more over the past couple of years, and this letter shows that I have become more realistic and informed since the writing of the original essay.
In January 2003, I received an e-mail from a former Michigan resident requesting that I use the term "Michiganders" rather than "Michiganians" when referring to residents of Michigan. I must admit that the term "Michiganders" does sound better to me personally, but I'm not quite sure which one is politically correct. In any case, I'd rather not change the original documents on this site. So I guess the visitors to this site should just be aware that there are alternative terms to describe residents of Michigan.
In October 2002, I added this information:
This may or may not be considered relevant by various readers, but I think it has some value in the Upper Peninsula Independence argument. Much of the following information was obtained from http://www.gov.nu.ca.
Canada's northern regions are comprised of three territories: Yukon Territory, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut Territory. The last one mentioned, Nunavut, was created in 1999 as a result of over 30 years of negotiations with the Canadian Government, the Northwest Territories (of which it used to be a part), and the Inuit of the Eastern and Central Arctic. Nunavut Territory has roughly 26,000 to 28,000 residents spread over 26 communities. The territory has a land area many, many times greater than the Upper Peninsula of Michigan--and a population only slightly greater than the City of Marquette.
The success of the people of Nunavut in achieving a more autonomous status than they had before their territory's creation bears testament to the ability of a relatively small group of culturally-different people to get things done through the political process. Granted, Nunavut is a territory, not a U.S. state; Nunavut is struggling with problems in infrastructure and a less than perfect economy; and it is likely that Nunavut receives large amounts of monetary support from the Government of Canada (but I haven't checked this fact out, so let me know if I'm wrong but please don't be offended). Even so, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has many times the number of people that live in Nunavut, and the people of the U.P. live on a much smaller land area. The people of what is now Nunavut, before it was created, were culturally different from the rest of the people in the larger political region of the Northwest Territories. Their past situation is similar to the current situation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
I won't deny that the Upper Peninsula can't be too closely compared to Nunavut Territory. After all, the cultural differences between the people of Nunavut and the people in the Northwest Territories were probably much greater than the cultural differences between Michigan's U.P. and L.P. But the loose similarities are something to think about, and the comparison shows that it is possible for a new political region to be created due to cultural differences. The creation of Nunavut gives the pro-U.P. Independence argument some strength and credibility.
If you would like more information on the Upper Peninsula Independence/Statehood issue's history, I would encourage you to go to a university or other large library and take a look at James L. Carter's book, "Superior: A State for the North Country." This book goes into some depth on the issue, with its story beginning before Michigan became a state. The book was published in 1980, however, so you won't get the most current information (if there is any). I highly recommend this book, as it is the only one I have found that gives a detailed history of the issue.
Please E-Mail me with your comments at email@example.com.