Bicentennial projects offer gifts to future Hoosiers

Indiana has seen abundant change since Dec. 11, 1816, when it was admitted as the 19th state in the union.

Back then, mountain lions roamed our thick forests, and elk grazed our prairies. The majestic bison, so legendary among both Native Americans and European settlers, already was nearly gone, but a few still roamed Indiana’s western edge.

Indiana’s population in those days — about 65,000 — was roughly equal to that of modern Terre Haute. The capital was Corydon, having been moved from Vincennes in 1813.

Since becoming a state, Indiana has steadily advanced into the modern age, building legacies in health, medicine and technology; agriculture, business and industry; art, music and literature. Hoosiers have taken strides in civil rights and helped defend America’s liberties both at home and abroad.

As the bicentennial approaches, we celebrate all that history and more. We look forward with anticipation, purpose and collective determination at ways to leave a lasting legacy for our descendants. As co-chairs of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, we want all Hoosiers to be engaged and all communities celebrated.

Gov. Mike Pence and first lady Karen Pence will join us when the bicentennial year kicks off on Statehood Day — Dec. 11. Across the state, Hoosiers are creating unique ways to mark the occasion. The Bicentennial Commission has endorsed more than 500 projects fitting into one of four categories — historical celebration; youth and education; community involvement; and nature conservation.

While these Bicentennial Legacy Projects overwhelmingly celebrate local communities, others promote a statewide perspective.

As approved by the Indiana General Assembly, a new state archives facility will provide much-needed protection and security for Indiana’s historic documents and artifacts. Such cherished treasures as our original 1816 and 1851 state constitutions will be housed in accommodations built to modern standards and easily available to view.

Recognizing children are the future of Indiana and its communities, legislators also have approved the planned Statehouse Education and Welcome Center, to be housed in the Indiana State Library. The venue will provide the more than 40,000 students who visit each year with a place to learn about laws, government and the Statehouse.

Through the Bicentennial Nature Trust, we are conserving natural space across Indiana — with 83 land acquisition projects completed since the trust’s 2012 inception. These projects represent more than 7,800 acres of recreational trails, parks and quiet spaces set aside for future generations to use and enjoy.

These investments in our future have been a long time in the making. It’s fitting that we undertake them in conjunction with our bicentennial.

This fall, we will release a commemorative book, “Indiana at 200: A Celebration of the Hoosier State.” When we asked for photos depicting the essence of Indiana, Hoosiers submitted 6,300 in 30 days from every county in Indiana. That’s a lot of Hoosier pride!

Next year, the Bicentennial Torch Relay will travel through all 92 Indiana counties, starting at Corydon and traveling approximately 2,300 miles during a five-week period before finishing at a new Bicentennial Plaza on the Statehouse grounds.

Recently, Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann announced another exciting statewide initiative, a “visioning project” in which Hoosier experts will discuss change and set sights for Indiana over the next 50 years in such areas as agriculture, education, business, civic engagement, philanthropy, arts and health.

First lady Karen Pence, as our official ambassador, is traveling the state visiting Legacy Projects and helping get Hoosiers excited about contributing their own inventiveness and civic spirit to the celebration.

Wherever you live, getting involved is as easy as contacting a volunteer county coordinator. Our website,, has a complete listing by county. Or, you can call 317-234-8686 to get more information.

The Indiana Bicentennial Commission has shifted into high gear. We hope you will consider ways you and your community might celebrate the bicentennial and, in doing so, create an even better future for Hoosiers.