Geography and Landforms:

Due to its central location, Indiana has been called the "Crossroads of America." The state is comprised of three main geographic regions. The Great Lakes Plains are located to the North. This area is marked by fertile lowlands, small lakes, moraines (low hills of rock and earth left by glaciers), and large sand dunes along the Lake Michigan shore line.

The central portion of the state consists of the Till Plains, part of the Midwestern Corn Belt. It is a region of fertile farmlands intercepted by rolling hills and shallow valleys. Indiana's highest point - 1,257 feet above sea level - is located here and so is its capital and largest city - Indianapolis.

The Southern Hills and Lowlands are found to the south. This is the only part of Indiana that ancient glaciers did not touch. It is the hilliest region in the state. Underground streams have cut through deposits of limestone far below the surface of the earth, forming many caverns. Mineral springs are also found here. The Ohio River borders the southern edge of this region.


The first European explorer to come to Indiana was Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle. He entered the region in 1679 from the Canadian French colonies, seeking a water route to the Pacific Ocean.

In the years after La Salle's exploration, French fur traders came inland from the Great Lakes to trade with Native Americans and built posts near present day Fort Wayne and Lafayette. In 1731 they established the first permanent settlement in Indiana - Vincennes.

The British were also interested in the fur trade and were in competition with the French. The French were well accepted by the Indians because they treated them as equals. However, the British began offering higher prices for furs and soon won over the Native Americans. This competition was largely responsible for a series of wars between the French and British in North America. In 1763, the Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian Wars and Indiana fell under control of the British.

During the Revolutionary War (1774-1783) British troops occupied the Indiana region and took control of Vincennes. The city was eventually reclaimed by Virginia troops in 1778. With this victory, America gained control of the Northwest. In 1787 Indiana became part of the Northwest Territory.

Early settlers in Indiana were plagued by frequent Indian attacks. Native Americans resented the presence of the settlements. The Miami tribe, led by Chief Little Turtle, was responsible for burning homes and killing many settlers. In 1794, the Miami and other tribes were defeated in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, near present day Toledo.

Congress officially created Indiana Territory in 1800. This area included the states of Indiana, Illinois, and parts of Michigan and Minnesota. The capital of Indiana was established at Vincennes and William Henry Harrison became governor of the territory.

Harrison purchased 2.9 million acres of Indian lands for the federal government in 1809. This angered the Shawnee chief Tecumseh who soon obtained ammunition from the British and prepared for war. Tecumseh was defeated by Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe, near present day Lafayette, in 1811.

During the War of 1812 (1812-1815), the British and the Indians combined forces against the Americans but they were defeated by Harrison at the Battle of the Thames, at Moraviantown, Ontario. Chief Tecumseh was killed in this battle. Soon Indian attacks stopped and British influence in the territory came to an end. Corydon became the new capital of Indiana Territory in 1813.

In 1816, Indiana entered the Union as the 19th state. It soon became the site for several experimental communities. In 1825, Scottish social reformer Robert Owen founded New Harmony (in the lower Wabash River Valley). He hoped to create a new social system and plan for community living. The community included many scholars, teachers, and scientists. Ultimately, the project failed because of lack of cooperation among its participants, but many progressive ideas, especially in education, were developed there.

Indiana's transportation system grew and prospered during the mid-19th century. The Wabash and Erie Canal, connecting Indiana with Lake Erie, opened in the 1840s. The canal gave the state access to trade with the East. That same year, the state's first railroad line, connecting Indianapolis with Madison, was completed. Soon Indiana's cities began to experience tremendous growth. Improved transportation also enabled the state's farmers to find new markets for their crops.

Indiana supported Abraham Lincoln in the election of 1860 and, despite some proslavery sentiment, remained committed to the Union cause. Indiana saw little military action during the Civil War. The only known conflict on Indiana soil occurred in 1863 when Confederate General John Hunt Morgan led a raid at Corydon.

Industry, which had grown rapidly as a result of the needs of the Civil War, continued to prosper as new factories sprang up in the later half of the 19th century.


Manufacturing is an important part of Indiana's economy. Iron, steel, electrical and transportation equipment, chemicals, and food items are produced in industrial cities throughout the state. These include Evansville, Fort Wayne, Gary, Kokomo, South Bend, and Terre Haute. Indiana also has large deposits of coal and limestone, valuable resources used in industry and construction.

A long growing season and high annual rainfall amounts contribute to rich yields from farms throughout the state. Seventy-five percent of Indiana's land is used for agriculture. Principal crops include corn, wheat, soybeans, hay, popcorn, and various types of fruits and vegetables. Many farms also produce hogs, cattle, eggs, and dairy products. The meatpacking industry is one of Indiana's largest agriculture-related businesses.

Due to its central location, Indiana is an important hub of transportation. The northwest corner of the state is one of the most heavily traveled areas in the world in terms of air, train, road, and waterborne traffic.

First Inhabitants:

Indiana's earliest inhabitants were groups of Native Americans known as Mound Builders. Some of these prehistoric people were hunter-gatherers. Others were sedentary farmers. The mounds they left behind were constructed as burial sites, temples, platforms for religious structures, and earthen forts.

When European explorers entered the region in 1679, only a few hundred Native Americans remained. Most belonged to the Miami tribe. During the 1700's and 1800's many other tribes came to Indiana from the East, after losing their lands to white settlers. These included the Delaware, Mohican, Munsee, and Shawnee. Others, the Huron, Kickapoo, Piankashaw and Potawatomi, came to the region from the Great Lakes area to the north.

The Potawatomi were the last group of Native Americans to enter Indiana and the last to leave. They built villages in the northeastern part of the region in the late 1700's, but by 1838, few remained. Many sold their land to the government. Others were driven out by the military.

Books Related To Indiana

The Beef Princess of Practical County - Michelle Houts
(978-0440422709) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 810, ESL level: 3
Pre-teen Libby becomes too close to the calves she enters the annual steer competition at the county fair.

Buster on the Farm - Marc Brown
(978-0316001083) , Fiction
Interest level: 1-3, Lexile: 360, ESL level: 1 - 2
Buster loves to send postcards to his friends from Indiana where he is staying on a farm.

Cover Up: Mystery at the Super Bowl - John Feinstein
(978-0375842474) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 780, ESL level: 3 - 4
Two teen reporters uncover the meaning of mysterious activities at the Super Bowl.

A Good Night for Freedom - Barbara Olenyik Morrow
(978-0823417094) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 460, ESL level: 2 - 3
When Hallie finds two fugitive slaves hiding in the community, she is faced with a difficult decision, whether to help or turn to the authorities.

H is for Hoosier: An Indiana Alphabet - Bruce Langton
(978-1585360413) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about the state of Indiana.

Here Lies the Librarian - Richard Peck
(978-0142409084) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 780, ESL level: 3 - 4
Eleanor loves cars and doing what the boys do, but she is amazed to learn about the career of librarianship after some new librarians come to town.

Learning the Game - Kevin Waltman
(978-0439676113) , Fiction
Interest level: 8-12, Lexile: 1050, ESL level: 4
Nate is torn between his allegiances with his high school friends and the innocence of his older brother when he is tempted to admit he and his buddies stole items from a fraternity house.

My Brother Abe: Sally Lincoln's Story - Harry Mazer
(978-1416938941) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-7, Lexile: 700, ESL level: 3 - 4
Abe Lincoln's sister Sally narrates this book about their education and their move to Indiana.

Running out of Time - Margaret Haddix
(978-0689812361) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 730, ESL level: 3
What Jessie thought was her town in the midst of a diptheria epidemic in 1840 turns out to be a site of a different age (1996) being viewed by scientists.

The School at Crooked Creek - Laurie Lawlor
(978-0823418121) , Fiction
Interest level: 0-4, Lexile: 660, ESL level: 3
Beansie dreads his very first day to go to school, but he finds inner strength despite his lack of experience and his annoying older sister.

Teen Idol - Meg Cabot
(978-0060096182) , Fiction
Interest level: 6-12, Lexile: 860, ESL level: 4
Jenny pursues change in her high school after she meets a film star.

Throwing Stones - Kristi Collier
(978-0805076141) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-9, Lexile: 620, ESL level: 3
Andy's hopes to play basketball are dashed when he is injured, but he finds journalism to be just as rewarding.

Famous Citizens:

Cole Porter
Born in Peru, Indiana, Cole Porter was one of America's most prolific writers of Broadway musicals. Porter wrote both lyrics and melodies for shows like Anything Goes, Kiss Me Kate, and High Society. During the 1930s, his most productive decade, seven of his musicals were playing simultaneously on Broadway. Kiss Me Kate won the first Tony Award for Best Musical.

Ernest Taylor Pyle
Ernie Pyle, born in Dana, Indiana, was a journalist and war correspondent best known for his work during World War II. Pyle offered a foxhole view of the life of the average soldier through a column that reached millions of Americans in 400 daily and 300 weekly newspapers. Traveling with a group of infantrymen, the reporter was killed by a sniper's machine-gun bullet in le Shima, a small island west of Okinawa.

James Whitcomb Riley
One of the most beloved poets in American history, James Whitcomb Riley was born in Greenfield, Indiana. He achieved popularity as "The Hoosier Poet" through his use of Indiana dialect, humor, and realistic portrayal of Midwestern life. Some of his best-known poems include "Little Orphant Annie," "The Raggedy Man," and "When the Frost is on the Punkin."

Booth Tarkington
Author Booth Tarkington was born in Indianapolis, Indiana. He is best known for a series of realistic novels about life in the Midwest including The Gentleman from Indiana, and two Pulitzer Prize winners, The Magnificent Ambersons, and Alice Adams. He also wrote numerous plays, short stories, and essays.

Capital: Indianapolis
Entered Union: December 11, 1816
Population: 6,596,855
Area 36,418
Bird Cardinal
Flower Peony
Nickname: Hoosier State
Governor Mike Pence

Places to Visit in Indiana: (Click the links to learn more.)

The Children's Museum of Indianapolis - Indianapolis
This unique museum provides non-traditional, hands-on learning opportunities for children and their parents. It houses 10 major galleries encompassing science, history, the arts, and world cultures. Thousands of special programs and activities are offered each year.

The James Whitcomb Riley Museum Home - Indianapolis
This turn-of-the-century home showcases many of the poet's personal belongings and authentic Victorian furnishings. Visitors are provided with a glimpse of American life at the dawn of the twentieth century.

Connor Prairie - Fishers
Connor Prairie, an interactive history park, recreates 19th century life in Indiana. You can visit the 1823 William Connor House, on the National Register of Historic Places, spend time in Prairietown, which recreates life in 1836, or take a Civil War Journey and view reenactments of Morgan's Raid.

Marengo Cave - Marengo
Discovered in 1883, Marengo Cave is one of four caves in Indiana still open to the public. It was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1984. Two guided tours (one mile and one-third mile) are offered year round.