Among the many things Minnesota is known for is its 10,000+ lakes, one for nearly every occasion. There’s Rainy Lake if you like fishing. Bde Maka Ska Lake features some of the best beaches in Minnesota to soak up the sun. Want to go sailing? Try Lake Harriet.
The state is located in the north-central part of this country and is part of the Great Lakes region. It shares an international border with a country called Canada and borders two Canadian provinces (Manitoba and Ontario). Its other borders are Lake Superior (one of the five Great Lakes) and Wisconsin to the east, Iowa to the south, and North Dakota and South Dakota to the west.
Many archeologists (scientists who study human history based on old objects they used called artifacts) believe that the first humans entered this state between 9,000 and 12,000 years ago.
Minnesota has strong Native American roots. Before the late 1600s, the two main groups living here were the Dakota or Sioux, and the Anishinaabe peoples. The latter were also known as the Ojibwe, Chippewa, Ojibway, or Ojibwa. The name Minnesota means “cloudy water” or “sky-tinted water.” It comes from the Sioux words “minni” (which means water) and “sotah” (which means sky-tinted or cloudy). The name was first given to the Minnesota River.
Eleven different Native American nations live here, including the: Upper Sioux, Leech Lake and Prairie Island. They make up roughly one percent of the state’s population.
What really happened
- Most of the state’s land was shaped thousands of years ago by glaciers, which are slow-moving masses of ice. The ice carved out the state’s plains and low hills, and also created its many lakes.
- Europeans first arrived here in the 1600s. These early explorers mapped out the coast of Lake Superior and claimed the land for France, but Native Americans were already living throughout the region. The largest tribe in the area was the Dakota Sioux.
- Minnesota changed hands two more times. When the French and Indian War between the British and French ended in 1763, the British took over the eastern portion of Minnesota for about twenty years. After the Revolutionary War between the British and the US, it became a territory of the United States.
- In 1803, the United States purchased the rest of the land from France, which is known as the Louisiana Purchase. This deal involved land from what now represents 15 US states, including Minnesota.
- The first major U.S. outpost in Minnesota was Fort Snelling, which was completed in 1825. It was built at the point where the Minnesota and the Mississippi Rivers come together. Two major cities eventually were built up on each side of the Mississippi River. The city on the west side was called Minneapolis and the city on the east side St. Paul. Today these two cities are often referred to as the Twin Cities and are the two largest cities in the state.
- In 1857, Dred Scott was a slave living in Fort Snelling. He believed he should be a free man because at that time, Minnesota was a free state. But the Supreme Court didn’t agree. This famous decision was later considered the worst one made by the Supreme Court.
- It became the country’s 32nd state in 1858.
- In November 1905, nearly 30 ships were wrecked in Lake Superior due to stormy weather. The Split Rock Lighthouse was completed in 1910 by the U.S. Lighthouse Service to guide the freighters in Lake Superior.
Stuff you should know
- Minnesota’s Mall of America is the largest mall in this country. Besides its 500+ stores, the Bloomington Mall features: a seven-acre amusement park called the Nickelodeon Universe, a full-size roller coaster, and the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, all inside the mall! It is the size of 78 football fields.
- Although the state is known for its Germanic and Scandinavian heritage, Minnesota has the largest Somali population outside of Africa and one of the largest Hmongin the country. (Hmong people come from Laos, Vietnam and China.) Can you find any of these countries on a world map?
- Many things were invented in this state that you may use: scotch tape, toasters, water skis, and grocery bags with handles.
- There are 69,200 miles of rivers and streams in Minnesota. That’s enough to circle the equator 2 ¾ times!
- The state has more coastline than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined.
- Minnesota is the most northerly of all the states, except for Alaska. The state’s motto is French and is ”L’Etoile du Nord”, which translates to “Star of the North.”
Crazy, funny, or just plain weird
- In June 2022, nearly 4,000 customers in the Prior Lake area lost power for a time due to a squirrel that wandered into a substation and played with, or maybe even nibbled on, the equipment.
- On July 4th, 1859, what should have been an otherwise warm, sunny day, the temperature dropped below freezing. So instead of participating in a big community celebration, families probably stayed home, huddling around the fireplace. BRRR!
- In 2015, then three-year-old James Tufts became the youngest mayor of Dorset, an unincorporated community in Henrietta Township. The tot’s name was drawn from a hat at the annual Taste of Dorset food festival to serve as a ceremonial head of the tiny northern Minnesota town of 22 people.
Tell me more
- The Los Angeles Lakers basketball team is called the “Lakers” because they were originally from Minnesota – the land of lakes!
- Minnesota produces more turkeys each year than there are people in California.
- Water Skiing was invented in Lake City in the summer of 1922. Ralph Samuelson used a pair of boards as skis and a clothesline as a tow rope on Lake Pepin.
- Minnesota is the only state in the country that is the source of three major rivers: the Mississippi, Red River of the North, and the St. Louis River. Likewise, it’s the only state where water doesn’t flow into the state but out of the state to the Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and Arctic Ocean. Some call it the “center of the water universe of North America”.
- Minnesota has some of the oldest rocks on Earth. Some are 3.6 billion years old. What do you think the Earth looked like way back then?
- The Labrador Retriever is the state’s official dog. Can you guess why? Other than being friendly, they love water!
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