Michigan entered the Union as the twenty-sixth state on January 26, 1837. More than two hundred years earlier, when French explorer Étienne Brulé visited the region in 1622, some twelve to fifteen thousand Native Americans lived there. Sault Sainte Marie, the state's oldest town, was founded in 1668 at a site where French missionaries had held services for two thousand Ojibwa in 1641. The Ojibwa, along with the Ottawa, helped the French establish a thriving fur trade in the Great Lakes region.
Great Britain acquired control of present-day Michigan in 1763 and administered it as a part of Canada until 1783, when it was ceded to the United States under the provisions of the Treaty of Paris. Organized as part of the Northwest Territory in 1787, Michigan became a separate territory in 1805.
Michigan was home to various Native Americans centuries before colonization by Europeans. When the first European explorers arrived, the most populous and influential tribes were Algonquian peoples—specifically, the Ottawa, the Anishnabe (called "Chippewa" in French, after their language, "Ojibwe"), and the Potawatomi. The Anishnabe, whose numbers are estimated to have been between 25,000 and 35,000, were the most populous.
Although the Anishnabe were well-established in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, they also inhabited northern Ontario, northern Wisconsin, southern Manitoba, and northern and north-central Minnesota. The Ottawa lived primarily south of the Straits of Mackinac in northern and western Michigan, while the Potawatomi were primarily in the southwest. The three nations co-existed peacefully as part of a loose confederation called the Council of Three Fires. Other First Nations people in Michigan, in the south and east, were the Mascouten, the Menominee, the Miami, and the Wyandot, who are better known by their French name, "Huron".