Indiana Bicentennial: Outsiders

Tour curated by: Melanie Hankins, Kristin Lee, Andy Townsend

History books are full of stories of the wealthy, the powerful, and the influential—the insiders. History has also taught us influence easily captured can be easily lost. Insiders can become outsiders and outsiders can be absorbed into the ranks of the insiders. Indiana’s insiders are often referred to as Hoosiers and were typically White Protestants at the beginning of statehood. History, and this tour, illustrate the shifts in this conception over time. Throughout history, various groups of outsiders have settled in Indiana. These groups of outsiders were often those who held little power or influence in society, were subject to discriminatory practices and disparate conditions, or represented a small percentage of the state’s constituency.

This tour of Indiana’s outsiders begins in the early 1800s and continues into the 1940s. Throughout these years, you will see spaces built or touched by the diverse ethnic groups that have called Indiana home. The stops on this tour include a state park that was once the site of a great Pan-Indian confederacy, a canal built by hardworking Irish immigrants, a school for immigrant children, and a Mexican community centered around the steel industry in Northwest Indiana. Against the backdrop of community building, the stops also share stories of persecution, including an African American race riot and the discrimination faced by Jewish and German immigrants at home and abroad.

Outsider communities in Indiana shared kinship and support, often against a backdrop of prejudice, inequity, and alienation. Indiana has been home to varied groups of people— including Native Americans, Germans, Irish, African Americans, Jews, and Mexicans. These communities were full of diversity in language, customs, and culture with complex histories of immigration, migration, and ethnicity. Indiana's bicentennial gives us the opportunity to look at Indiana history as a story of insiders and outsiders. Who are the insiders and outsiders in Indiana today?

Locations for Tour

Following the failed revolutions of 1848, many Germans emigrated to the United States to escape turmoil. They incorporated aspects of German culture into their lives in the United States. By 1860, 20% of Indianapolis residents came from a…

At the site of today's Prophetstown State Park, the great Shawnee warrior Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa (the Prophet) established Prophetstown as a gathering place for like-minded Native peoples seeking to resist the impact of Europeans…

You now stand on White River Trail at the southern point of the canal. In 1836 the canal was meant to be a pathway that would feed goods into and out of Indianapolis, much like today’s major railroads or interstates. Today the canal is a popular…

You're standing in front of Etz Chaim Sephardic Congregation's current synagogue. The members of this congregation have fostered and maintained Sephardic laws, customs, and traditions in Indianapolis for over a century. Sephardic Jews are…

The Oscar C. McCulloch School No. 5 was once located at the intersection of Washington and Blackford Streets on what is now the grounds of the White River State Park. Named for the Christian social activist, Oscar Carlton McCulloch, the school was…

The Mexican Experience in Gary Thousands of Mexican immigrants first migrated to Indiana to work as strikebreakers for United States Steel during the Great Steel Strike of 1919. In the following decades, the Mexican population survived institutional…