History of Washington
The material evidence suggests that humans were present in the Washington area in 9.000 BC. Kennewick Man, one of the oldest complete human skeletons in North America, is believed to be between 5650 and 9510 years old.
Before the arrival of the Europeans, Washington was populated by Native American tribes. Chinook, Lummi, Quinault, Makah and Snohomish lived in the coastal region and the Plateau region was inhabited by Cayuse, Okanogan, Spokane, Yakima and Nez Perce. The tribes depended on salmon wishing, whale hunting, hunting and food gathering and they left behind their distinctive totems, canoes and masks. A large portion of Native Americans in the area was killed by the smallpox epidemic during the 1770s.
The first European to land on the shore of Washington and claimed the coastal land was the Spanish captain of Santiago, a ship that traveled with Sonora, in 1775. James Cook saw the Cape Flattery in 1778 but it wasn’t until 1787 that the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which lies just behind the cape, was discovered. The straits and the coast were later explored in detail by Spanish and British explorers.
The coast was opened for exploration in 1790, attracting explorers and potential settlers from Russia, Great Britain and United States. The Lewis and Clark expedition arrived in Washington in 1805. In 1811, David Thompson claimed the land for Great Britain and announced that the North West Company would be founding a trading post on the Columbia River, near the Snake River junction. In 1818, the Anglo-American Convention established the international border at the 49th Parallel and determined that the lands between the Pacific Ocean and the Continental Divide. However, the joint occupancy of the land did not go smooth and disputes about boundaries lasted for several decades. Finally, with the Oregon Treaty of 1846, the British ceded all claims south of the 49th Parallel.
In 1838, a missionary called Marcus Whitman founded a settlement in southeastern part of the state, in the Cayuse and Nez Perce land. His settlement was vital for the emigrants who traveled west along the Oregon Trail. The Natives started becoming ill with diseases they had no immunity to and blamed Whitman for that, eventually murdering him and several other settlers, which sparked the Cayuse War between the tribes and the settlers. During the migration, several Black pioneers led their families (along with white families) to Washington instead of Oregon, because Washington did not have discriminatory rules for settlers.
An important moment in the history of Washington was in 1852 when people came to Monticello from all over the Washington territory to participate in the drafting of a memorandum for the Congress. The Monticello Convention proposed the future state be called Columbia, after the river, which was rejected by the Congress out of fear that the state would be confused with the District of Columbia. The state was named after the first president of the United States, George Washington. In 1889, Washington became the 42nd state in the Union.
In the early days of the state, the main industries included agriculture, especially apple orchards, and lumber manufacturing and shipping. Later, with the industrialization, new sectors were introduced. Tacoma was famous for its gold, silver and iron smelters. The Columbia River was always very important for the state economy, from the earliest times of fishing and hunting along the river shores, to the modern times and the advent of electricity, with the construction of large hydroelectric dams.
Seattle was a trade and shipbuilding center. Heavy industry grew fast during the two world wars, with large new companies that dominated the area, such as Boeing. During World War II, Washington became one of the centers of military industry, especially thanks to Boeing who constructed heavy bombers. In the east of the state, the Hanford Works atomic plant was vital for the US nuclear program.
Washington is located in the region called the Pacific Northwest. The region always includes Washington and Oregon and sometimes (depending on the classification) it also includes Idaho, northern California, western Montana, British Columbia, Yukon and Alaska.
The great Cascade Range practically divides the state in two sections. The parts of the state west of the Cascade Range, called Western Washington, features large and dense coniferous forests and temperate rain forests. The climate in this area is classified as “marine west coast climate”, with mild and wet winters, summers and autumns and mostly dry summers. Major mountains in this part of the state include Blue Mountains, Kettle River Range and the Olympic Mountains.
Eastern Washington is generally dry, with steppe and deserts in the rainshadow of the Cascade Range. Further east, the terrain becomes less arid and there is more rainfall. In the southeast, the region features generally fertile grasslands, sometimes converted into farms.
The Cascade Range is famous for its several volcanoes. The largest and the highest of them is the Mount Rainier, which is also the highest point in the state. This stratovolcano is one of the sixteen Decade Volcanoes – large and very destructive volcanoes that pose a particular threat because of their proximity to populated areas, in this case Seattle. The other Cascadian volcanoes include Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, Glacier Peak and Mount Baker.
Washington has a good geographic position for maritime trade, especially with Canada, Alaska and Pacific Rim. Puget Sound has several large harbors and its many islands are covered by the largest fleet of ferries in the United States. The name “Puget Sound” refers not only to the specific body of water, but also to the entire area surrounding it. Some of the largest and the most important cities in Washington are located in the Puget Sound – Olympia, Seattle, Everett, Bremerton.
Washington is a land of beautiful and contrasted nature and rich wildlife. It has three national parks (Mount Rainier National Park, North Cascades National Park and the Olympic National Park, which is a designated UNESCO world heritage site and an International Biosphere Reserve) and two national monuments (Hanford Reach National Monument and Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument). It also has nine national forests and 31 federally protected wildernesses.
Population of Washington
According to the 2011 estimate of the United States Census Bureau, the population of Washington is 6,830,038. The population had increased by 14,1% between 2000 and 2010, due to a natural population increase and a stronger migration flow. Washington is the most populous state (and region) in the Pacific Northwest and the 13th most populous US state. The largest metropolitan area in Washington is the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Metropolitan Area with 3,439,809 inhabitants, which is approximately one half of the entire state’s population.
The largest ancestry groups in Washington are German, Irish and English (although the English ancestry is de facto the largest, as most of the residents with English ancestry have been describing themselves as American since 2010), followed by Mexican, Norwegian, French, American, Swedish, Italian, Scottish, Scotch Irish, Dutch and Polish.
As for the race and ethnicity, 77.3% of the population in Washington is White, 11.2$ is Hispanic or Latino, 3.6% is African American or Black, 1.5% is Native American, 7.2% is Asian, 0.6% is Pacific Islander and 4.7% is of mixed races.
The African American community is concentrated mainly in Seattle and inner Tacoma. The black community in Seattle experienced a significant boom during the World War II when thousands of African Americans from the southern states were recruited by the Army and the wartime industry in the area.
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are mostly concentrated in Seattle and inner Tacoma. Hispanics and Latinos are also concentrated in the same area, with the addition of Mexican Americans who have built large communities in Chehalis Valley and Eastern Washington.
Native American communities were in past located mainly along the Pacific Coast but today there are urban Indian communities in Seattle was well. Before moving to urban areas, Native Americans used to live in reservations such as Colville Indian Reservation, Yakima Indian Reservation, Spokane Indian Reservation and several more.
As for the religious affiliations, the largest group are Protestants (Evangelical and Mainline), followed by Catholics, Mormons, Jewish and Muslims.
Washington has the second-highest percentage of non-religious residents, right after Colorado.
The largest city in Washington is Seattle, followed by Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver (not to be confused with the city in Canada), Bellevue, Kent, Everett and Renton.
Washington has the 14th highest gross state product in the USA, while the per capita personal income is the 10th highest. In May 2012, the unemployment rate in Washington was 8.3%.
Washington is one of the few states in America that does not levy the personal income tax. It does not levy a franchise tax or corporate income tax either.
Many large national and international corporations are based in Washington, most notably Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, Bungie, Valve Corporation, Arena Net, T-Mobile USA, Costco, Eddie Bauer, Starbucks, John L. Scott, Nordstrom and Jones Soda.
One of the leading industries in Washington is agriculture. The state is the largest US producer of raspberries, peppermint oil, spearmint oil, sweet cherries, pears, Concordia grapes and Niagara grapes. Other important agricultural products include lentils, asparagus, barley, trout, prunes and plums, sweet corn, apricots and dry peas.
However, the single most important product of Washington are apples. Cold winters and dry and warm summers, especially in the central region of the state, are very favorable for the cultivation of this fruit. Washington has been the largest producer of apples in the USA since the 1920s.
Washington is the second-largest producer of wine, after California. It has 600 wineries and exports wine to more than 40 countries worldwide.
Tourism is another significant economy sector in Washington, especially the mountain recreation tourism. With almost 25 peaks, three national parks, nine national forests, 23 national wildlife refuges and 31 federally protected wildernesses, the state has a lot to offer in terms of hiking, cycling, hunting, fishing, skiing and other activities.
Washington Government and Legislation
The Washington State Legislature is the bicameral legislative branch in the state. It is composed of the House of Representatives (98 Representatives from 49 districts, two-year terms) and the State Senate (49 Senators, one for each district, four-year terms). Both the Senate and the House of Representatives meet at the legislative building in the state capital, Olympia.
The Governor of Washington represents the state’s executive branch. As of 2012, the Governor was Christine Gregoire, serving her second term in office.
The highest body of the judicial branch in Washington is the Washington Supreme Court, with nine justices.
Washington has two senators in the United States Senate and ten representatives in the United States House of Representatives.
Politically, the state is divided by the Cascade Mountains. Western Washington, west of the range, is traditionally more liberal, while Eastern Washington is generally conservative. Democrats are generally strong in the state as a whole, since the population of Western Washington is larger than that in the eastern portion of the state. Washington has voted Democrat in every presidential election since 1988.
Education in Washington
There are 295 school districts in Washington, operated by nine Educational Service Districts. Elementary and secondary schools belong in the jurisdiction of the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.
There are also several public high schools focused on arts, such as the Center School and Tacoma School of the Arts.
Washington has more than 40 public and private institutions of higher education. Some of the top universities and colleges in the state are Washington State University, University of Washington in Seattle, Whitman College, Whitworth University, Seattle University, Gonzaga University, Evergreen State College and University of Puget Sound.
Washington Transportation System
Because of its unique geography, transportation in Washington faces many challenges. However, the state had come up with some very good solutions, such as the famous ferry system, the largest in the USA and the third largest in the world. This system services the Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands, with 28 ferries and 20 ports of call. The presence of large and numerous bodies of water also required the construction of an impressive network of bridges. Four of the five largest floating bridges in the world are located in Washington: Hood Canal Bridge (connecting Olympic and Kitsap peninsulas), Evergreen Point Floating Bridge, Lacey V. Murrow Memorial Bridge and Homer M. Hadley Memorial Bridge over Lake Washington near Seattle.
Cascade Mountains are also challenging when it comes to transportation. There are state roads over 15 major and minor mountain passes, however, some of them, for example State Route 20, have to close during the winter.
As for the railroads, Washington is serviced by the Amtrak’s Cascade Route between Eugene in Oregon and Vancouver in British Columbia.
Sound Transit operates commuter rail, light rail and express bus service in the Puget Sound Region of the state.
The busiest airport in Washington is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), followed by Spokane International Airport (GEG), King County International Airport, also known as Boeing Field (BFI), Bellingham International Airport (BLI) and Tri-Cities Airport (PSC).