Welcome to the Immigration Experience

For centuries, the land that is now the Upper Peninsula was inhabited strictly by various groups of indigenous peoples. There were the early Neolithic groups, followed by the Woodland tribes who lived in relative harmony with the natural world. The latest group to call this place home were the Anishinaabeg, or better known by their tribal names, the Ojibwe, Odawa and Pottawatomi.

In the mid-17th century, this all began to change. First, traders from France came to exchange goods for furs. Along with the traders were the missionaries who came to teach the indigenous tribes the Christian faith. For two centuries, the impact of these new arrivals (eventually joined by English and Scottish peoples) made a slow but significant stamp on the physical world and social order on the Upper Peninsula.

By the mid-19th century, change came at a greater pace as mining and logging operations demanded more and more workers. These workers came from all parts of Europe and help define the very culture that we now know of as the “Yooper way-of-life.”

But immigration of people did not end with the mining and logging booms in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Slowly over the past 100 years, groups of people have come to the U.P. to seek new lives from all of the continents of the world. They come for opportunity, to escape oppression, for safety and all of the same reasons that all immigrants have come to this land.

This exhibition is about all of these people; what brought them here, what they did, how they lived and what they contributed to this place we call, the U.P.

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This project is funded in part by Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.