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Origins of Minnesota


Capitol of Minnesota
Capitol of Minnesota

Minnesota’s earliest inhabitants lived about 6000 bc. By about 500 bc these native peoples had evolved into the Mound Builders. The modern Dakota peoples, commonly called Sioux by whites, were an outgrowth of the Mound Builder or Woodland culture. Those Dakota who remained in Minnesota during white settlement were the Mdewakanton, Wahpekute, Sisseton, and Wahpeton. In the late 17th and early 18th centuries the Ojibwa peoples, whom whites called the Chippewa, moved west into Minnesota in the face of increasing pressure from white settlers to the east; decades of warfare with the Dakota followed.

French explorers


French explorers first claimed Minnesota when they were extending their fur trade west through the Great Lakes region, seeking an all-water route to the Pacific Ocean. Pierre Esprit Radisson and his brother-in-law Médard Chouart, sieur des Groseilliers, briefly visited northeastern Minnesota in the spring of 1660. Daniel Greysolon, sieur Du Luth (Duluth), who entered Minnesota in 1679 and 1680 by way of Lake Superior and the St. Louis River, claimed much of the area for France. The Minnesota area was publicized extensively by the writings of Father Louis Hennepin, a priest who was sent from the Illinois country to explore the upper Mississippi River by René-Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle. In 1680 Hennepin discovered and named the Falls of Saint Anthony, which later became the site of the Twin Cities of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Soon after the explorations of Duluth and Hennepin, the French began trading furs on the Mississippi and its principal tributary, the Minnesota River. In the 18th century French Canadian Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye, explored the present border between Minnesota and Canada looking for a supposed water route to the Pacific Ocean, called the Northwest Passage.

In 1732 La Vérendrye built Fort Saint Charles on the Minnesota side of Northwest Angle Inlet in Lake of the Woods. Although he failed to find the mythical waterway, La Vérendrye and his sons explored much of the northern Great Plains region in Canada and the United States, claiming a large part of it for France. Due to weakening French military and diplomatic power, La Vérendrye was the last of the major French explorers.

La Vérendrye’s activity aroused the suspicions of the Dakota, who in 1736 went to war against both the French and the Ojibwa, who traded with both the French and the Dakota. However, the Ojibwa, with superior numbers, more firearms, and French military advice, achieved a series of military victories over the next 40 years, forcing the Dakota west of the Mississippi River.

France’s rivalry with Great Britain for control of North America culminated in the battles for the domination of North America, called the French and Indian War (1754-1763), which became the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) in Europe. After significant military losses in 1759 and 1760 France realized it might have to surrender its territory in North America to the British. To prevent the loss of its land claims west of the Mississippi (called Louisiana), France transferred that vast region, including the area of present-day Minnesota west of the Mississippi River, to its ally Spain in 1762. The next year France surrendered its remaining North American land, including Minnesota east of the Mississippi River, to Great Britain under the Treaty of Paris. "Minnesota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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