The State Washington State

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The State of Washington is located in the far northwest corner of the United States. It has 66,582 square miles between the Pacific Ocean on the west and the Idaho boarder to the east. Washington borders Canada on the north and Oregon on the south along the Columbia River.

Washington is the 20th largest state and has very different western and eastern natural environments, which are divided by the Cascade Range. It is home to 6 million residents (2001 census estimate) who are employed in a diverse economy dominated by aviation; software and other technological enterprises; wheat, apples, beans, and other agriculture; forest products; and fishing. The state is a major exporter of manufactured goods, foodstuffs, raw materials, and hydroelectricity, and it is a popular tourist destination.

Today Washington is home to numerous Native American tribes and has been for at least 10,000 years. The first European explorers and traders visited in the late 1700s. Lewis and Clark followed the Snake River and Columbia River to arrive at the Pacific Ocean by what is known as Long Beach today, in November 1805. The Hudson’s Bay Company had major forts and trading stations in the early 1800s, along with American fur traders, settlers, and missionaries.

Great Britain and the United States together occupied the area between 1818 and 1846. Then Britain gave the Pacific Northwest below the 49th parallel to the U.S. Two years later, the U.S. created Oregon Territory, which included the future states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho and part of Montana. Washington Territory, which included Idaho and western Montana until 1863 was separated from Oregon on March 2,1853, and gained statehood on November 11, 1889.

Olympia has been the capital of Washington Territory and State since 1853. Seattle is the state’s most populous city with a population of 563,000 in 2000, followed in rank by Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver, Bellevue, and Everett.

Political History

The federal government created Oregon Territory on August 14, 1848. The area of the new jurisdiction included what we know as Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and western Montana today. Finding gold in California in 1848 started a large migration westward of people, and the settlement of Oregon Territory was promoted by the passage of the Donation Land Claims Act of 1850, which gave 160 acres to any U.S. citizen who agreed to stay on his or her land for five years.

On August 29, 1851, 27 male settlers met at Cowlitz Landing to ask Congress for a separate “Columbia Territory” that would cover the area between the Columbia River and 49th parallel.
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