About Minnesota

A Bit of Minnesota History

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Learning some Minnesota history will add to the enjoyment of your Minnesota vacation. Plan to visit some of our Minnesota history museums and areas that figure prominently in our state history.

Most family vacation destinations in Minnesota include beautiful family vacation resorts, cabins, and dozens of state parks and many other top family vacations spots.

Minnesota History

Experience the history of Minnesota's indigenous people and our early immigrants. Find out why some in our state believe America was discovered by the Norwegians!

Our family roots are firmly planted in the history of Minnesota. My German maternal grandparents farmed in northern Minnesota, my Irish paternal grandfather was a Minneapolis cop, and I lived for many years on, or near, several Native American reservations.

Exploring Minnesota's past can be an exciting way to spend a Minnesota vacation.

Visit the Minnesota Historical Society at 345 W Kellogg Blvd in St Paul. You can see hundreds of amazing exhibits as well as research your family history. If you are unable visit, you can do your research at mnhs.org/library

Saint Paul Minnesota vacations could immerse you in the history of Minnesota if you choose to do so. The city is a great starting point for an overview of the history that created Minnesota. While in St. Paul you can visit the State Capitol, the Minnesota History Center, the Governor's Mansion and some of the mansions on Summit Avenue built by some of the state's founders.

Minnesota History

Most towns of any size in Minnesota have a museum that highlights the history of Minnesota in their area. We love to stop and explore the surprises each offers...there is something new to learn about our state in each one.

Moorhead has a wonderful museum with a replica Viking Ship.

One the most intriguing of these local museums is the Runestone Museum in Alexandria, MN that displays The Kensington Runestone. Locals assert that the runestone proves that Scandinavian explorers reached the middle of North America in the 14th century. Plan an Alexandria, Minnesota vacation and make a stop in at the Runestone Museum to see if you can be convinced.

The history of Hinckley includes one of the most tragic events in Minnesota, the great Hinckley fire. 

Minnesota state parks are wonderful places to learn about the history of an area. Talk to the on-site staff and read the historical plaques you will find in the parks.

Be sure to visit the Minnesota History Museums you will find in every part of the state. Some are located in our major cities and others can be found along the back roads and in the tiny towns you may miss if you don't seek them out.

Minnesota's First Inhabitants

Minnesota History

Minnesota's earliest people contributed to Minnesota history by carving pictures of humans, animals and weapons into rocks. Many of the state's rock art sites are located on the prairies of southwestern Minnesota.

Some of these ancient carvings, called "petroglyphs," may be 5,000 years old – and many are still visible today in one of the state's greatest historic sites, Jeffer's Petroglyphs near Comfrey and Windom, MN. Ancient burial mounds and unearthed objects like spear points are evidence that people lived here ages ago.

Grand Portage National Monument is an excellent place to learn more about the history of the Ojibwe in Minnesota.

Pipestone National Monument will amaze you as you watch demonstrations of quarrying and pipe creation by Lakota Native Americans.

Minnesota's Indigenous People

Minnesota History

The Dakota and Ojibwe (also called Chippewa or Anishinabe) Indians lived in Minnesota when the first Europeans arrived. Many Dakota, Ojibwe tribes and other American Indians still live in Minnesota today.

The Dakota Nation includes the native peoples who once lived in the northern forests and along the upper Mississippi River in northern Minnesota. In time, the Dakota Nation divided into three groups (Dakota, Nakota, and Lakota), each moving in different directions, but still maintaining close ties to one another. 

The Ojibwe were not agricultural, their country being too cold for profitable farming by traditional Indian methods. They depended for subsistence upon fishing, hunting, and the gathering of wild rice. Their territory abounded in lakes and clear streams well stocked with fish, with vast fields of wild rice in the quieter waters. They also gathered cranberries and manufactured maple sugar and discovered ways of making maple syrup.

North West Company Fur Post: Located just west of Pine City, and near Hinckley,this little known attraction is worth a stop on your trip up Highway 35E. You will experience one of Minnesota's best living history re-enactments and learn about the Ojibwe tribe's connection to the fur trade. The Grand Celebration Powwow is celebrated in June. There is also a very nice Native American gift shop on the grounds.  

European Settlers

In the late 1600s, French explorers led an expedition into Minnesota, and were soon followed by fur traders for French, and then British companies, who come for beaver pelts to make hats in Europe.

Fort Snelling State Park is on the site where, for almost 30 years, members of the Dakota and Ojibwe tribes gathered to trade, debate government policy and perform their dances and sports. Traders stopped at the fort while their goods were inspected. The American and Columbia fur companies built headquarters nearby and employees' families settled at nearby Mendota.

Travel to north central Minnesota to visit the Mississippi River source. Early explorers contributed much to our present knowledge of our Minnesota heritage. Henry Rowe Schoolcraft discoverd the headwaters of the Mississippi at Lake Itasca in 1832. He and his Ojibwe guide, Ozawindib, documented what is now known about the beginnings of the mighty river. Our first state park, Itasca State Park is a great place to visit and to explore some history of Minnesota.

Minnesota history has always fascinated me. In elementary school I read Giants in the Earth by Ole Rolvaag which describes the experiences of Norwegian immigrants in the midwest.

After I was married we lived for many years in the Detroit Lakes area. During those years we purchased a rare, hard-bound copy of A Pioneer History of Becker County by Alvin H. Wilcox. At that time my husband worked as a manager at the Wilcox Lumber Company which was the family business owned by the descendants of the book's author.

I recently discovered that the text of this wonderful, historical book has been posted online and can be read without charge. If you would like some detailed insight into Minnesota life in the "olden days," you will find much to enjoy by reading A Pioneer History of Becker County.

When we moved into our home in St. Paul almost 30 years ago, the former owners had left a shelf full of old books. Among the volumes is a complete set of Minnesota and Its People edited by Joseph A. A. Burnquist and published in 1924.

Many places of importance to our history are also some of our favorite tourist attractions. Other spots require a bit more effort to discover. We'll start you off with a page of a few of these little known Minnesota attractions.

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Minnesota State Parks: From Afton to Zippel Bay