Minnesota -- Land of Sky Blue Waters

Minnesota state bird: common loon. Listen!

 

Facts and Information about Minnesota

12,292 lakes (plus or minus).  93,000 miles of rivers and streams. The largest freshwater lake in the world. 6 percent of the state is covered with water, more than any other state. Minnesota has more coast line than Hawaii, California and Florida combined.

Water leaves Minnesota in three directions: north into Canada, east into Lake Superior and south down the Mississippi River.

In the language of the indigenous Dakotas, minne  means water.  Minnesota means water which reflects the sky.  If you remember those great old  Hamm's Beer commercials, when they sang  from the land of sky-blue waters,  they were singing about Minnesota.

         From the land of sky blue waters (waters),

         From the land of pines, lofty balsams,

         Comes the beer refreshing,

         Hamm's, the beer refreshing.

Swimming, fishing, waterskiing, week-ends at the lake cabin, walking around the beautifully maintained Twin Cities lakes, thinking poetic thoughts while viewing awesome Lake Superior, canoeing rivers and streams. These are a few of the favorite things of both Minnesotans and visitors.

There are nearly 1,000 lakes in the Twin Cities metropolitan area alone. Minneapolis, which means City of Lakes, contains a dozen impeccably manicured lakes surrounded by walking and bicycling paths, forests, and magnificent neighborhoods, which make one wonder if heaven's neighborhoods could possibly be any more beautiful.

The majority of Minnesota lakes are in the top half of the state, but there are many scattered about the rest of the state as well.  Trout and pike thrive in the colder, cleaner northern lakes and streams; while largemouth bass, pan fish, and catfish live in the warmer waters in the south. The walleye pike is the favorite eating fish and is served in most Minnesota restaurants. Wild rice is another favorite local food.

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Minnesota's Three distinct geological zones

Geologically, there are three Minnesotas:  The pine forests to the north and northeast; the hardwood forests along the Mississippi River valley to the southeast;  and the great grasslands, now prairies and farms, covering most of the western and southern portions of the state.

The varied geology was created by glacial activity which designed our landscape over many eons. The last glacier melted away some 10,000 years ago. The staggering enormity of the Minnesota and Mississippi River valleys, referred to by geologists as the Glacial River Warren, offer evidence of the huge melting phenomenon as the last glacier disappeared. In those times, the northern two-thirds of Minnesota were covered by either ice or Glacial Lake Agassiz.  Then and now, lots and lots of "minne".

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A Brief Minnesota History

Homo sapiens have been around here quite a while. Two ancient skeletons, believed by some to be the oldest found in North America, dating back some 10,000 years, were found here. Dubbed The Minnesota Man and the Browns Valley Man, they were both found in Western Minnesota, near what would have been the southern end of Lake Agassiz.

Another ancient culture dates back to around 800 BC. They are referred to as the Mound Builders or Hopewells. Little is known about them, other than they buried their dead in earthen mounds. Thousands of such mounds have been found in this state and others. The largest, near International Falls, is 45 feet high, 98 feet wide, and 136 feet long. For Twin Cities visitors, a cluster of mounds is preserved in Mounds Park in Saint Paul.  Excavations of mounds have revealed tools of bone and copper.

At some undetermined time, the Dakota  (erroneously called the Sioux) became the dominant culture throughout area. In the 1700's, the encroaching white population from the East, forced another indigenous group, the Ojibwe, into Minnesota territory. Years of bitter fighting between the two tribes followed.  The Ojibwe had obtained guns from the Whites, giving them an advantage. Today, the Dakota and the Ojibwe remain the two main indigenous groups in the state.

Europeans first arrived in the late 1600s. They explored the area and created trading relationships with the Indians. Fur trading was the most important early trade.

In the early 1800s, treaties were established with Native tribes which obtained vast tracks of valuable land for White development.  A critical study of history reveals that these treaties were not fair.  The Indians were offered a pittance of the value of the land, and even that was never fully paid.

Beginning in the early 1800s, Minnesota's vast forests and grasslands were exploited for lumbering and grain milling interests. Mills were established in many places, most notably lumbering mills in Stillwater and the St. Croix River, and at St. Anthony Falls on the Mississippi River where downtown Minneapolis now is.

In 1862, tensions between the Dakota and Whites over broken promises and relentless White pressure on Indian lands, exploded into The Dakota War of 1862 (also known as the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, among other names).  It began on August 17 along the Minnesota River in southwest Minnesota.  The numbers of casualties on either side vary.  It is estimated that up to 800 Whites were killed.  Perhaps at least as many Dakota.

This tragic chapter of the saga ended with a mass execution of 38 Dakota men on December 26, 1862, on a mass gallows in Mankato, Minnesota.  It was the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

At the same time, over 1,000 Dakota were rounded up and placed in a concentration camp on Pike Island at Fort Snelling.  About one-third died or starved to death during the frigid Minnesota winter.  In the spring, survivors were crammed upon boats and sent to South Dakota and Nebraska.  Many more died in transit.  Their state reservations were closed and they were expelled from their native land.

For the Dakota, this marked a tragic end of the life to which they were accustomed living for thousands of years.  It is a dark period in the history of Minnesota.

In the early 1900s some of the world's richest iron ore deposits were discovered in the Northeast. These were the most important early economic forces which eventually led to growing immigrant populations and large cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth.

Today, Minnesota continues to have a thriving, though more diverse, economy. Near the top of that list is tourism. Although the Mall of America has taken over the number one spot of Minnesota attractions, many thousands continue visit Minnesota's lakes and forest areas for invigorating outdoor recreation like fishing, hunting, skiing, hiking, camping or sightseeing. Other areas are of interest as well, like the ancient Pipestone Quarries in Southwestern Minnesota, and spectacular Mississippi River Valley and Bluffs area in the Southeast.

The University of Minnesota is also an economic center. With over 50,000 students, it is one of the largest universities in the world. The University has five campuses throughout the state, the largest being in Minneapolis.

Today, descendents of the Dakota and the Ojibwe, have returned to Minnesota.  There are several reservations around the state.  You will also find Native peoples living off the reservations throughout the state.  They are still a population in crises.  Sacred ceremonies and traditions are steadily re-emerging.  Language schools are teaching young members the traditional ways. 

In Minneapolis, along E. Franklin Avenue, you will find the cultural center of both Native Nations in the Twin Cities.  At the American Indian Center, one can purchase an Indian Taco on which the base is yummy fry bread.  There are gift shops, bakeries and restaurants along Franklin, as well as the Pow Wow Ground coffee shop, and  All My Relations Art Gallery, which features Native art.

There remains vast room for needed healing and reconciliation between the cultures, but there are increasing signs that it is beginning to happen, especially among the younger generation.

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Minnesota facts

  • Became the 32ndstate May 11, 1858
  • State Capital:  Saint Paul
  • Population: 5.3 million (66%, or 3.5 million live in the Twin Cities Metro
  • Largest city:  Minneapolis (382,618. However, the Twin Cities metro area is around 3.5 million.)
  • Area: 86,943 square miles (12 largest state)
  • Major industries: farming (corn, soybeans, sugar beets, wheat, dairy products), paper pulp, mining, food products, tourism
  • Major rivers: Mississippi, Minnesota, Rainy River, Red River of the North, St. Croix River.
  • Major lakes: Lake Superior, Upper and Lower Red Lakes, Mille Lacs, Vermillion, Rainy, Lake of the Woods, Leech, Winnibigoshish, Pepin, Minnetonka
  • Lakes with most common names: Mud Lake (201), Long Lake (154), Rice Lake (123)
  • Lake with funniest name:  Diddle de Woddle
  • Borders: Iowa to the south; North and South Dakota to the West, Manitoba and Ontario, Canada to the North;  Wisconsin to the east.  Minnesota also shares a border with Michigan, but it is less known and noticeable.   There are “dotted” lines through Lake Superior, with Michigan, Wisconsin, Canada, and Minnesota, each having portions.
  • Highest point:  Eagle Mountain - 2,310 feet (701 m) above sea level.
  • State nickname: North Star State and Gopher State
  • State MottoL'Etoile du Nord; French  for The Star of the North
  • State Song: Hail Minnesota
  • State Bird:  common loon
  • State Insect: Monarch butterfly  -- though some may argue, the mosquito.
  • State Fish: walleye
  • State Flower: pink and white lady's slipper
  • State Tree:  Norway pine
  • State mushroom: morel
  • State grain: wild rice
  • State gemstone:  Lake Superior agate
  • State beverage: milk
  • State muffin: blueberry
  • State enemy: Green Bay Packer fans   

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Famous Minnesotans

  • The Andrews Singers:  LaVerne, Maxene, and Patti;  Minneapolis
  • Warren Burger, chief supreme court justice, St. Paul
  • William Demarest, actor, Saint Paul
  • William Orville Douglas, jurist, Maine Township
  • Bob Dylan, singer, composer, Duluth
  • Louise Erdrich, writer, Little Falls
  • Francis Scott Fitzgerald, author, Saint Paul
  • Judy Garland, singer, actress, Grand Rapids
  • Jean Paul Getty, oil executive, Minneapolis
  • Hubert H. Humphrey, vice president, Wallace, SD (Moved to Minnesota as a young man)
  • Garrison Keillor, humorist, Anoka (aka, Lake Wobegon)
  • Jessica Lange, actress, Cloquet
  • Sinclair Lewis, author, Sauk Center (Which became “Gopher Prairie” in his novel Mainstreet)
  • Charles Lindbergh, aviator, b. Detroit, MI, but spent youth in Little Falls
  • John Madden, sportscaster, Austin
  • Roger Maris, baseball player, Hibbing
  • E. G. Marshall, actor, Owatonna
  • Charles Horace Mayo, surgeon, Rochester
  • William J. Mayo, surgeon, Le Sueur
  • Eugene J. McCarthy, senator, Watkins
  • Walter F. Mondale, vice president, Celyon
  • Prince Rogers Nelson (Prince), singer, Minneapolis
  • Douglas A. Rosenquist, tour guide, Bloomington
  • Jane Russell, actress, Bemidji
  • Winona Ryder, actress, Winona
  • John Sanford, novelist, Saint Paul
  • Charles Monroe Schulz, cartoonist, b. Minneapolis; youth in St. Paul
  • Kevin Sorbo, actor, Mound
  • Maurice H. Stans, secretary of commerce, Shakopee
  • Michael Todd, producer, Minneapolis
  • Jesse “The Body” Ventura; wrestler, politician, entertainer, Minneapolis

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You are a great ambassador for the twin cities! Thank you so very much for your time, talent and knowledge. I am sure our paths will cross again.

Tom F., Highland IL
 
 
 
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