State in north-central USA, situated in the Great Lakes region and bordered to the east by Wisconsin and Lake Superior, to the south by Iowa, to the west by North Dakota and South Dakota, and to the north by the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba; area 206,189 sq km/79,610 sq mi; population (2010) 5,303,925; capital St Paul. Its nickname the North Star State derives from the French state motto L'Etoile du Nord (‘star of the north’); the alternative nickname refers to the gophers inhabiting the prairies. Minnesota has more than 15,000 lakes created by receding glaciers following the last ice age. Three major US rivers, the Mississippi, the Red River of the North, and the St Lawrence, have their sources in the state. Minnesota's economy has historically been dominated by its timber, mining, and agricultural resources; farming is the most important economic activity, followed by food processing. Other major industries include health care, technology, and tourism. Minneapolis is the largest city and with St Paul makes up the ‘Twin Cities’ area, the commercial and cultural centre of the state. Other important cities are Duluth, Rochester, and Bloomington. Originally home to the Dakota Sioux and Chippewa American Indians, the Chippewa had become dominant by 1862 and remain on seven reservations; the Dakota Sioux retain four communities. Minnesota was made a territory in 1849, and became a major flour-milling centre after the coming of the railway in 1867. Minnesota was admitted to the Union on 11 May 1858 as the 32nd US state.
Physical Minnesota is the twelfth-largest state in the USA. Its boundaries form a rough rectangle, about 640 km/400 mi long and 400 km/250 mi wide. To the northeast, Lake Superior stretches for about 290 km/180 mi, where the state's lowest point lies at 183 m/602 ft above sea level. The highest point in Minnesota is Eagle Mountain at 700 m/2,300 ft. There are two natural land regions: the Central Lowlands and the Superior Uplands.
The Superior Uplands in the northeast are an extension of the Canadian Shield. The lakes, streams, marshes, and ridges of the region provide the headwaters of three of North America's great rivers: the Mississippi, which stems from Lake Itasca; the Red River of the North; and the St Lawrence. The Mesabi Range is a major source of iron ore. Between the Mesabi Range and Lake Superior lies the Arrowhead Region, an area shaped like the tip of an arrow, where the highest and lowest points in Minnesota are found. Near the shore of Lake Superior are the Sawtooth Mountains.
The northernmost point of the coterminous USA (that is, excluding Alaska and Hawaii) is Minnesota's Northwest Angle, a peninsula in the Lake of the Woods that can only be reached by going through Canada. It was acquired from Britain through the Treaty of Paris (1783), before the area had been properly surveyed.
The Central Lowlands occupy most of the state. In the northwest, the fertile black soils of the Red River valley, once the floor of Lake Agazziz, give way to rolling hills, valleys, and thousands of lakes stretching eastward. Wisconsin's Driftless Area extends into the southeast section of the state, along the Mississippi River. The Coteau des Prairies (Prairie Hills) rise in the southwest. The largest part of the Central Lowlands is the Western Lake section, marked by till (sediment) plain, moraines, and peat bogs left behind by retreating glaciers.
Most of central Minnesota is drained by the Mississippi River; the Minnesota, a tributary of the Mississippi, drains the southern part. The St Croix River forms the east central border. The Red River of the North drains the northwest section, while the north central area drains into the Rainy River. The most important lakes are Red Lake, Mille Lacs Lake, Vermilion Lake, Rainy Lake, Lake of the Woods, Leech Lake, Winnibigoshish Lake, and Lake Pepin. Notable waterfalls include the Falls of St Anthony on the Mississippi River, and the Minnehaha Falls, mentioned by Longfellow in The Song of Hiawatha.
Minnesota generally has a humid continental climate, although the length of the state produces temperatures of varying extremes from north to south. Western Minnesota has been known to have severe droughts. In winter, snow covers large parts of the state for long periods.
The walleye, northern pike, muskellunge (muskie), trout, bass, and sunfish are fish species common to Minnesota. The bald eagle, the USA's endangered national bird, can be found in the state, along with timberwolves, moose, black bear, and white-tailed deer.
Features As early as AD 900 American Indian peoples from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mountains quarried the clay stone near Pipestone National Monument for carving sacred peace pipes. Today the carvings are appreciated as much for their art as they are for their ceremonial significance. The Grand Mound on the Rainy River near International Falls is the largest remaining prehistoric American Indian burial mound in the upper Mississippi region. It is more than 30 m/100 ft in diameter and over 9 m/25 ft high. The Jeffers Petroglyphs comprise over 2,000 images of humans, animals, and tools, carved by prehistoric Americans Indians onto a 762 m/2,500 ft sloping bedrock outcrop of Sioux quartzite in southwestern Minnesota.
There are seven Chippewa reservations: Grand Portage, located in the northeast corner of Minnesota; Bois Forte and Red Lake in the extreme north; White Earth in the northwest; Leech Lake in north-central Minnesota; Fond du Lac in the northeast, west of Duluth; and Mille Lacs in the central part of the state, south and east of Brainerd. All seven reservations were established by treaty and are considered separate and distinct nations by the US government. The four Dakota Sioux communities are Shakopee Mdewakanton, located south of the Twin Cities near Prior Lake; Prairie Island near Red Wing; Lower Sioux, near Redwood Falls; and Upper Sioux, near the city of Granite Falls.
Fort Snelling State Park, sited around the fort built at the junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, features costumed guides who recreate the history of military, civilian, and American Indian life in the region. Minnesota's mining history can be relived at Soudan Underground Mine State Park, with tours of Soudan Mine, the state's oldest iron mine (working until 1962); Hull-Rust Mahoning iron mine, once the world's largest open-pit iron ore mine, at Hibbing; and Ironworld Discovery Center in Chisholm. The Greyhound Bus Origin Museum in Hibbing describes the history of the transport company.
Superior National Forest, one of the largest in the USA, is located in Arrowhead Country north of Lake Superior. Through Arrowhead run two wilderness drives, Gunflint Trail and Echo Trail. The Roadless Area, adjoining Canada's Quetico Provincial Park, has canoe and foot trails. Voyageurs National Park, near the Canadian border, contains 30 major lakes.
Minneapolis is home to the American Swedish Institute and the Walker Art Centre, featuring the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. Points of interest in St Paul include Summit Avenue, the longest stretch of residential Victorian architecture in the USA; the James J Hill House, a Romanesque mansion; the Cathedral of St Paul; the art deco state capitol, with a dome 68 m/223 ft high, the world's largest unsupported marble dome; the Alexander Ramsey House (1872); the Landmark Centre (Romanesque Revival Old Federal Courts Buildings, 1902); and the 11 m-/36 ft-high onyx Indian God of Peace statue by the Swedish sculptor Carl Milles.
Eveleth is home to the US Hockey Hall of Fame. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester is one of the USA's premier medical and research centres and includes Maywood, the former home of Dr Charles H Mayo.
Culture Minnesota has a diverse cultural heritage, from its rich American Indian history to the influx of European immigrants in the early 19th century and African-Americans in the post-Civil War period. The 1920s saw many migrant farm workers of Mexican descent relocate to the state, and in the 1980s Minnesota became home to many of the Southeast Asian refugees who left Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos because of the Vietnam War and its aftermath.
Popular physical activities in Minnesota include swimming, boating, canoeing, fishing, camping, and hunting in the warmer months, and skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, and ice hockey during the winter. Minnesota has a number of winter and summer festivals including Duluth's Winter Sports Festival, St Paul's Winter Carnival, and Minneapolis' summer Aquatennial, a ten-day water sports show.
Moondance Jam, held annually at Moondance Ranch in Walker, is a four-day pop and rock music festival. Detroit Lakes hosts a country music festival each summer, while Duluth hosts the Bayfront Blues Festival. The Minnesota State Fair takes place in August in St Paul and the Minnesota Renaissance Festival at Shakopee runs from August through to September. The Dakota Sioux hold a public powwow at Mankato in September each year.
Minnesota has a strong literary tradition, and F Scott Fitzgerald was born in St Paul. Sinclair Lewis'sMain Street was set in his birthplace, Sauk Center. The legendary Paul Bunyan stories were set in Minnesota, while Minnesota's pioneer days are recalled in the books of Laura Ingalls Wilder and O E Rölvaag. Minnesota is also home to some of the USA's award-winning literary presses, such as the New Rivers Press and Milkweed Press.
The Twin Cities serve as the state's arts and cultural centre. The Minnesota Orchestra (1903) and the St Paul Chamber Orchestra, considered the USA's premier chamber orchestra, enjoy international renown. Local orchestras, colleges, and university groups contribute significantly to the state's musical diversity. Minnesota has nearly 400 professional and community theatres, chief of which are the Tyrone Guthrie Theater Company, founded in 1963, the Children's Theater Company, and the Minnesota Dance Theatre.
The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker Art Center, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art are the most important art museums in the state. Other notable museums are the Minnesota Science Museum, the Bell Museum of Natural History, the Minnesota Historical Society, the American Swedish Institute, and the Planetarium of the Minneapolis Public Library. The University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, is one of the largest university campuses in the USA.
GovernmentMinnesota's state constitution The state constitution was adopted in 1857 and was made fully effective when Minnesota was admitted to the Union the following year. It was revised in 1974, primarily to make it easier to understand, but the original is referred to as point of law when deciding constitutional matters.
Structure of state government Minnesota's legislative powers are vested in a bicameral (two chamber) body, consisting of a 134-member House of Representatives, elected from single-member districts for two years, and a 67-member state Senate, elected from single member districts for four-year terms. Minnesota sends eight representatives and two senators to the US Congress, and has ten electoral votes in presidential elections.
The state is headed by an executive branch that includes a governor, who is the chief executive officer, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, and attorney general (all elected to serve four-year terms through a statewide ballot), and an appointed commissioner of management and budget. Democratic Farm Labor member Mark Dayton took the governorship in January 2011.
Minnesota's court system is organized into three levels: the district court, the court of appeals, and the Minnesota Supreme Court. All state judges serve six-year terms. The seven Supreme Court justices are elected on a nonpartisan, statewide ballot.
At the local level, there are 87 counties, which are governed by individual boards of commissioners. A mayor-council form of municipal government manages most of the state's cities.
Economy About half the state's total land area is farmland. Minnesota's flour mills were the USA's top flour producers from the 1880s to the 1920s, and milling remains the state's main industry. Depletion of soil fertility forced farmers to diversify and Minnesota's crops now include sugar beets, potatoes, corn, soybeans, and vegetables, along with livestock. Food processing, the second most important industry, includes meat packing, cheese making, brewing, and canning; the state is sometimes referred to as the Bread and Butter State because of its flour mills and butter making industry. Meat-packing plants in South St Paul, Austin, Albert Lea, and Duluth process livestock. Important mineral resources include iron ore, sand and gravel, stone, and clay.
Since the late 19th century, Minnesota has served as a national health care centre. Both the Mayo Clinic in Rochester and the University of Minnesota Hospital in the Twin Cities area have been pioneers in health care and medical research. Minnesota has also become a leading technology, electronics, and financial centre. Other industries include tourism, printing and publishing, and the manufacture of fabricated metal, electronic equipment, measuring devices, medical supplies, and wood and paper goods.
HistoryIndigenous inhabitants Minnesota was first inhabited 12,000 years ago when the last glaciers retreated and hunters moved into the area from the south and the west. Archaeological remains include clovis points, prehistoric stone arrowheads used to hunt the woolly mammoth and other creatures.
Minnesota was home to several prehistoric Moundbuilder cultures, including the Mississippian. The Dakota Sioux are considered an outgrowth of these cultures. The Dakota Sioux peoples living in the region during white settlement included the Sisseton, Wahpeton, Mdewakanton, and Wahpekute. The Chippewa, pressed westward into Minnesota by white expansion, engaged in decades of intense warfare with the Dakota Sioux. Armed with guns through trade with the French, the Chippewa began to push the Dakota Sioux southwest toward the Great Plains.
Exploration and settlement French fur traders conducted the first European explorations in the 17th century, and Daniel Greysolon, Sieur Du Luth, claimed the region for France in 1679. In 1683, Father Louis Hennepin described the Minnesota area in his writings, having discovered and named the Falls of St Anthony. During the second half of the 18th century, France struggled with Britain for control of North America. The French and Indian War broke out in 1754 but was not officially declared until 1756, when it ran alongside the Seven Years' War (1756–63). In 1763, the Minnesota region east of the Mississippi River was ceded to Britain, and the area became part of the USA under the Treaty of Paris (1783), following independence. Despite the terms of the treaty, the British continued to exert control over the northeastern section of the state until finally ejected after the War of 1812. Boundary disputes kept British fur traders in Minnesota until 1818, however, when the state's boundary with Canada was fixed at the 49th parallel. The portion of Minnesota west of the Mississippi passed from French control to the USA under the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
The US government sent Zebulon Montgomery Pike to explore the Mississippi River in 1805 and purchase lands from the Dakota Sioux. The American Fur Company, owned by John Jacob Astor, followed a US army detachment into the region, and in 1820 the construction of Fort Snelling began. The fort became the central military and trading post until St Paul was established in 1838; the original settlement was called Pig's Eye, but was renamed in 1841.
The admittance of neighbouring Wisconsin as a state to the Union in 1848 left settlers living between the Mississippi and St Croix rivers without government. Subsequently, fur traders, lumberjacks, and merchants in the area convened the Stillwater Convention and appointed the American Fur Company's regional director, Henry H Sibley, as the Minnesota region's representative to Congress. Sibley was allowed to introduce legislation calling for Minnesota to be made a territory, which was passed in 1849.
Under pressure from white settlement, the Dakota Sioux signed treaties ceding land to the USA in exchange for medicine, trust funds, and money. The treaties set off a rush of white settlers who came to farm the fertile soils. By 1862, having lost most of their lands through treaties with the USA and the Chippewa, the Dakota Sioux were confined to a small reservation along the Minnesota River. They had grown to resent the treaties, believing that they had been tricked and cheated. In August 1862 the Dakota Sioux rose in a bloody rebellion, but were driven west into Dakota Territory and Canada by a large force of Minnesota volunteers.
Political and economic development The population of the state tripled between 1853 and 1857. The increase led to a move for statehood and, in 1857, a state constitutional convention was held. The issue of slavery split the state in half, however, and it was not until the end of the year that voters approved a state constitution in support of emancipation. After strenuous opposition from the slave states, Minnesota was finally admitted to the Union in 1858.
Having survived three major crises in its first few years as a state – an economic depression, the American Civil War, and war with the Dakota Sioux – Minnesota recovered. Minneapolis had become the USA's major flour-milling centre by 1867. Iron ore was discovered in the Mesabi, Cuyuna, and Vermilion ranges in the 1880s, and Duluth became an important Great Lakes port. Modernization of the flour-milling industry in the 1870s created a growth spurt in related industries, such as the production of breakfast cereals and pastas, and opened up opportunities for banking, manufacturing, and transport. By 1890, St Paul and Minneapolis had evolved into a major metropolitan area.
20th-century history and contemporary Minnesota The early 20th century was a period of political turmoil for Minnesota. Clashes between farmers and businesses precipitated the formation of the Farm-Labour Party, which challenged the dominant Republican Party in the mid 1920s. The 1929 stock market crash and resulting Great Depression brought the Republican Party into disrepute and led to the rise of the Democratic Party in the state.
In 1944 the Democratic Party merged with the Farmer–Labor Party, which had called for protection for farmers, to form the Democratic–Farmer Labor Party (DFL). This subsequently became the most successful party in the state. Two of its members, Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale, were US vice-presidents and contested, unsuccessfully, for the US presidency as nominees of the national Democratic Party in 1968 and 1984. A great supporter of the civil rights movement, in 1945 Humphrey, as mayor of Minneapolis, made racial discrimination by employers subject to a fine, and in 1964, as a US senator, helped secure passage of the Civil Rights Act.
Political debates in Minnesota in the early 21st century surround issues of taxation (the state has one of the highest tax rates in the USA), business practices and incentives, welfare programmes, crime, and education.
Famous peoplethe arts James Earle Fraser (1876–1953), sculptor; Sinclair Lewis (1885–1951), novelist; DeWitt Wallace (1889–1981), publisher; F Scott Fitzgerald (1896–1940), novelist; Mike Todd (1900–1958), producer; Jane Russell (1921–2011), actor; Judy Garland (1922–1969), singer and actor; Charles Monroe Schulz (1922–2000), cartoonist; Bob Dylan (1941– ), singer and songwriter; Garrison Keillor (1942– ), humorist; Jessica Lange (1949– ), actor; Prince (1958– ), pop musician; Winona Ryder (1971– ), actor
science William James Mayo (1861–1939), physician; Charles Horace Mayo (1865–1939), physician; Melvin Calvin (1911–1997), Nobel Prize-winning chemist
society and education Kate Millett (1934– ), feminist writer
economics J Paul Getty (1892–1976), oil billionaire; Herbert Simon (1916–2001), Nobel Prize-winning economist
politics and law William Orville Douglas (1898–1980), jurist; Warren Earl Burger (1907–1995), jurist; Harold Stassen (1907–2001), politician; Hubert Humphrey (1911–1978), US vice-president; Walter F Mondale (1928– ), US vice-president.
Minnesota – flag
Related Credo Articles
A state situated in the north-central United States, with Saint Paul its capital city and Canada on its northern border. French explorers, fur...
See also Cities ( Duluth ); Heroes (F. Scott Fitzgerald). What a glorious new Scandinavia might not Minnesota become! None of [the...
State in N central USA, on the Canadian border; the capital is St Paul . Other major cities include Minneapolis and Duluth. French fur...