Indiana's first inhabitants were prehistoric Indians who came to the region from the west after the last glacial period. They were roving hunters. About 4000 B.C., other nomads, called the Archaic people by archeologists, migrated from the south. Sometime after 800 B.C. , the Mound Builders arrived, probably also from the south. They lived a more sedentary life than their predecessors, having some knowledge of agriculture. When white explorers appeared in the 17th century A.D., there was only a small Indian population. The major tribe was the Miami. The Delaware, Shawnee, Kickapoo, and Potawatomi arrived later, during the period of exploration.

The first Europeans to come to Indiana were the French. Sieur de La Salle journeyed across it by way of the St. Joseph and Kankakee rivers in 1679-80. In 1681 he held a council at the site of South Bend with Indians of the Miami confederacy to organize resistance against the Iroquois. A French trading post was established at the site of Fort Wayne about 1700, and a fort was built 20 years later near the present Lafayette. The first permanent settlement grew up at Fort Vincennes, founded about 1732.

By the treaty of 1763 ending the French and Indian War the territory passed to Britain. During the Revolutionary War Vincennes was captured for Virginia by George Rogers Clark (1779). After the war, claims to western lands were surrendered by eastern states, and the area became part of the Northwest Territory under the Ordinance of 1787. Indian disturbances were put down by General Anthony Wayne in 1794, when he defeated Little Turtle at Fallen Timbers. By the Treaty of Greenville (1795) a great tract of Indian land in Ohio and Indiana was ceded to the United States.

Indiana Territory was organized in 1800, with Vincennes as the capital. It then included Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and part of Minnesota. The first territorial governor, William Henry Harrison, negotiated treaties with the Indians under which, by 1809, they had ceded most of their remaining lands. The cessions were opposed by the Shawnee chief Tecumseh, who organized the tribes to resist white encroachment. Harrison defeated the Indian confederacy at the Battle of Tippecanoe, near Lafayette, in 1811. Indian resistance continued, however, until the death of Tecumseh during the War of 1812.

Indiana began filling rapidly with settlers. Corydon became the capital in 1813. In 1816 Indiana became the 19th state of the Union, with its present boundaries. (Michigan had been separated in 1805. The area west of the Wabash River had been formed into the Illinois Territory in 1809.) The Indiana capital was moved in 1825 from Corydon to Indianapolis. An improvement program brought new roads and an extensive canal system, later supplanted by railways.

In the Civil War, Indiana supported the Union cause, although Confederate sentiment was strong in some areas. A Confederate raid through southern counties was led by General John Hunt Morgan. After the war the Greenback party, favoring paper money for greater farmer prosperity, was popular in Indiana, as was the Grange, an organization working for legislation favorable to farmers.

Industrial growth in Indiana was slow until the discovery of natural gas in 1886. Many industries were then established in the state. Beginning in the 1890's, much of the early development of the automobile took place in Indiana. The Calumet district in the northwest became an important center of steel production. By the mid-20th century Indiana was predominantly a manufacturing state. Industrial expansion was further promoted by the opening of the state's first public port on Lake Michigan near Portage in 1970, permitting worldwide commerce by way of the St. Lawrence Seaway, and by the opening of a port facility at Evansville on the Ohio River in 1975, providing the state with year-round shipping capabilities.

U.S. Steelworks in Gary.U.S. Steelworks in Gary. One of the nation's largest steelworks was built by the United States Steel Corporation in 1906. The same year, the company built the city of Gary near the site.

During the recession of the early 1980's, Indiana was one of the states hardest hit economically. However, it was only moderately affected by the nationwide recession of the early 1990's and by the mid-1990's was enjoying significant economic growth.

The agricultural and manufacturing sectors of the economy had recovered, and technology and service industries expanded. Higher income and sales taxes increased tax revenues, and this was used to attract more businesses to the state, begin redevelopment projects, and finance education.