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MCGOWAN: Upper Peninsula should separate from mainland Michigan

Column: Rent Free

Michigan's Upper Peninsula is removed both physically and culturally from mainland Michigan and deserves autonomy.  – Photo by

The Upper Peninsula (UP) of Michigan gets more than 200 inches of snow a year. That is a lot of snow. Much like its northern neighbor Canada, it is rich in minerals.

“One area, the western (UP), has igneous and metamorphic rocks that host well-known, abundant and varied metallic mineral resources, including copper, iron, nickel, platinum group minerals, manganese and cobalt,” according to Western Michigan University.

But let me backtrack for a moment. Michigan, if you are not familiar with it, is a state in the United States of America. As our nation’s namesake suggests, Michigan is indeed united with the rest of the states — but the state itself is not fully uniform.

Google “Michigan” for me. You will notice the main portion, called the Lower Peninsula, of the state extends northward from Indiana and Ohio. This is where Detroit is.

North of the Lower Peninsula are the Great Lakes, and north of that is this weird pancreas looking thing that is also considered part of Michigan (yet it is isolated from the rest of the state). It extends eastward from Wisconsin and straight into the middle of Lake Superior and Lake Michigan. 

That is the UP.

Barely anyone lives there. The population is, as of the 2010 census, around 300,000 people. That might sound like a lot of people, but trust me — it is not. For comparison, little old New Jersey’s population is approximately 9 million.

The climate is rough, as established. There is no reason anybody with a functioning brainstem or cerebral cortex would want to live there. Your closest neighbor is likely miles away, and the wildlife poses the potential for untold danger and human suffering incredible by modern standards. I mean, have you ever seen a moose? They are car-sized freaks of nature and should be systematically exterminated.

Also, the people who live up there are referred to as “Yoopers.” I am unsure whether that is an insult. 

Despite these fun and not-so-fun facts, the UP must be made its own state, separate from the rest of Michigan. In fact, I am utterly shocked and revolted to find nobody else advocating for it.

From its very inception, the UP has been treated as a huge honeypot of valuable minerals and untamed wealth, as alluded to in the opening paragraph of this very declaration. All the way back to the pre-Civil War era of this storied nation of ours, the UP was being pillaged.

“In the mid-1840s copper was discovered on the Keweenaw Peninsula and iron ore in the central (UP) inland west of Marquette. This began ‘copper fever’ which attracted thousands of American and immigrants to the economic opportunities of this mining frontier,” according to a report from Northern Michigan University.

The UP is so coveted that Wisconsin, its friendly cheese-eating and coronavirus disease (COVID-19)-embracing neighbor, disputed where the boundary that separates them laid. They did so for almost a century in the hopes to annex a hair more of the UP into its state.

But the Yoopers rightfully got fed up. Their resources were stolen, monetized, profited off of — and they still got no respect. In fact, many Yoopers felt (and feel) that their tax dollars are all funneled into the pretentious Lower Peninsula and its cities like Detroit.

Back in the 1970s, some legislators began discussing the prospect of the UP seceding from the rest of the state.

“Talk (has occurred) with regard to breaking off part of Michigan and Wisconsin to form (the) state of Superior. (The state legislature) formed (a) committee to study (the) idea … People in (UP) feel too much of (their) taxes goes to Detroit,” according to NBC news on Aug. 8, 1975, from the Vanderbilt News Archive.

Foremost among those legislators was Dominic J. Jacobetti, a true hero and advocate for the Yoopers.

“Jacobetti involved himself in state-wide as well as local issues … Issues considered to be State level that pertained more specifically to the (UP) include … the effort to make the (UP) into the fifty-first state, Superior,” according to the Northern Michigan University archives.

Unfortunately, the honorable Jacobetti, the hero of this article, died in 1994 after years in public service, and 27 years later, our dear Yoopers still do not have their own state. 

This is a travesty, and no red-blooded American can stand for this. Detroit and the rest of the aristocrats in the Lower Peninsula are losing jobs faster than the COVID-19-era national rate, yet they expect the UP to support them? They expect to reap the benefits of the UP’s resources when they cannot provide a functioning economy themselves?

I say no. And while this may seem strange for a New Jerseyan to concern himself with, I think we must all fight for what is right in our nation.

Right now, the Yoopers face injustice. One of the first five things I think of every day is the fact that Superior is not yet a state — and how I must make it so that one day it is. I beg you all to join me on this sacred mission.

Jake McGowan is a School of Arts and Sciences, School of Management and Employment Relations and Rutgers Business School junior majoring in journalism and media studies, labor studies and employment relations and finance. His column, “Rent Free,” runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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