Humans first came to Minnesota during the last ice age, following herds of large game as glaciers melted. Long before the first Europeans arrived, Indians from as far away as 1,000 miles came to make ceremonial pipes from soft read pipestone carved from sacred quarries. The Pipestone National Monument in southwest Minnesota illustrates how these quarries were and still are used.
Five thousand years ago, humans made rock carvings of people, animals, and weapons that can be seen today at Jeffers Petroglyphs in southwest Minnesota. These people also brought to Minnesota the idea of building earth mounds for graves and sacred ceremonies. At one time, there were more than 10,000 of these mounds in Minnesota.
When the first French fur traders, or voyageurs, arrived in the late 1600s, the Dakota (or Sioux) people had lived in Minnesota for many years. They hunted buffalo, fished, planted corn, beans, and squash, and harvested northern beds of wild rice. They lived in warm skin tipis in the winter and had airy bark houses, or wigwams, for the summer. The Anishinabe (or Ojibwe, also Chippewa) people moved into Minnesota from the east. They lived much like the Dakota, but from the French fur traders they obtained metal tools and weapons, cloth, blankets, and ornaments. By 1800, the Anishinabe had taken over the lakes and woods of the north.
In the early 1800s, the U.S. government said it needed more land in this area. The Dakota signed a treaty with the U.S. government for the land where the Minnesota River joins the Mississippi, and, in the 1820s, Fort Snelling was built there.
During the years that followed, the Dakota and Anishinabe tribes were forced to sign treaties to relinquish most of Minnesota to the U.S. government. Thousands of new people poured into the region to build farms and cut timber. In 1858, Minnesota became the 32nd state.
THE DAKOTA CONFLICT By 1862, the Dakota were crowded into a small reservation along the Minnesota River. Times were had and Indian families hungry. When the U.S. government broke its promises, some of the Dakota went to war against the white farmers and towns. Many Dakota did not join in, but the fighting lasted six weeks and many people on both sides were killed or fled Minnesota. Afterwards the government forced most of the remaining Dakota to leave Minnesota. The Anishinabe stayed in northern Minnesota, and were not involved in the war.
The Dakota who stayed and those who eventually returned have formed four communities in southern Minnesota. There are seven Anishinabe Indian reservations in northern Minnesota. Many of the Indian people and their families who moved to the cities after World War II have continued to live there. Wherever they live, Minnesota's Indians are maintaining their cultural identities.
Large number of immigrants came to Minnesota beginning in the 1830s to work in lumbering and farming. They were mainly from the eastern United States, Canada, and northern Europe. By 1900, the combined total of Scandinavians from Norway, Sweden, and Denmark outnumbered those from any single county. Later, as cities and new industries grew, people came also from eastern and southern Europe. Finland, Yugoslavia, and Italy sent many workers to Minnesota mines and factories. In 1900, nearly half of all Minnesotans were of German ancestry.
A few people of African descent had come with the early fur traders and soldiers. More moved to Minnesota after the Civil War, living and working mainly in the cities.
By the 1920s, many migrant farm workers of Mexican descent had come to the state. In the 1990 census, 53,884 Minnesotans were of Spanish-speaking ancestry, an increase of nearly 70%. They include people from Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
In the 1980s, Minnesota became home to many Southeast Asian refugees who left Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos because of the Vietnam War and its aftermath.
[Return to top]