The 1830 Treaty of Prairie du Chien set aside 320,000 acres of potentially valuable land west of Lake Pepin for "half-breed" members of the Dakota nation. The move set off a series of events that would enrich a number of early Minnesotans, none of Indian heritage.
American Indian boarding schools, which operated in Minnesota and across the United States beginning in the late nineteenth century, represent a dark chapter in U.S. history. Also called industrial schools, these institutions prepared boys for manual labor and farming and girls for domestic work. The boarding school, whether on or off a reservation, carried out the government's mission to restructure Indians' minds and personalities by severing children’s physical, cultural, and spiritual connections to their tribes.
Elizabeth Taylor Ayer's life spanned nearly the entire nineteenth century. In an era when women rarely had professional careers, her work as a teaching missionary gave her more status and independence than most women enjoyed.
Bagone-giizhig, known in English as Hole-in-the-Day the Younger, was a charismatic and influential leader who played a key role in relations between the Ojibwe and the U.S. government in Minnesota. Yet he won as many enemies as friends due to his actions during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 and his claim to be the leader of all Ojibwe. In 1868, Bagone-giizhig was assassinated by a group of other Ojibwe from Leech Lake. For many years the real reason for this killing remained a mystery.
The Battle of Birch Coulee, fought between September 2 and 3, 1862, was the worst defeat the United States suffered and the Dakotas' most successful engagement during the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Over thirty hours, approximately two hundred Dakota soldiers pinned down a Union force of 150 newly recruited U.S. volunteers, militia, and civilians from the area, holding them until Henry Sibley's main army arrived.
The last in a long series of violent conflicts between Dakota and Ojibwe people took place on the banks of the Minnesota River north of the village of the Dakota leader Shakpedan (Little Six) on May 27, 1858. Dozens of Ojibwe and Dakota warriors engaged in fighting that claimed lives on both sides but produced no clear victor.
The US Congress ordered the beginning of mail service from Superior to Grand Portage, Minnesota, in 1855, but service was spotty. John Beargrease and his brothers came to the rescue. They began covering a regular mail route between Two Harbors and Grand Marais in 1879.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame credits Charles Albert Bender with inventing the slider, a curveball with extra speed. Like his patented pitch, Bender's life course was a circuitous one, beginning on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota.
Fur trader and translator George Bonga was one of the first black men born in what later became Minnesota. His mother was Ojibwe, as were both of his wives. Through these relationships, Bonga was part of the mixed racial and cultural groups that connected trading companies and American Indians. He frequently guided white immigrants and traders through the region. Comfortable in many worlds, Bonga often worked as an advocate for the Ojibwe in their dealings with trading companies and the government.
The U.S. Congress paved the way for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) when it passed the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) Act in March 1933, at the height of the Great Depression. This New Deal program offered meaningful work to young men with few employment prospects. It resulted in a lasting legacy of forestry, soil, and water conservation, as well as enhancements to Minnesota's state and national parks.
Famed author and lecturer Charles Eastman was raised in a traditional Dakota manner until age fifteen, when he entered Euro-American culture at his father's request. He spent the rest of his life moving between American Indian and white American worlds, achieving renown but never financial security.
Dakota people in what is now Minnesota began using glass beads to decorate clothing, bags, and household items in the mid-nineteenth century. The practice both reinforced and transformed Dakota art, allowing Native artists to preserve a creative tradition that continues in the twenty-first century.
The U.S. Army built Fort Snelling between 1820 and 1825 to protect American interests in the fur trade. It tasked the fort’s troops with deterring advances by the British in Canada, enforcing boundaries between the region’s American Indian nations, and preventing Euro-American immigrants from intruding on American Indian land. In these early years and until its temporary closure in 1858, Fort Snelling was a place where diverse people interacted and shaped the future state of Minnesota.
The U.S.–Dakota War of 1862 was a turning point in Minnesota history. Joseph Godfrey, an enslaved man , joined the Dakota in their fight against white settlers that summer and fall. He was one of only two African Americans to do so.
Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut, was born in Lyons, France around 1639. Greysolon was a nobleman, and quickly rose to prominence in the French royal court. He traveled to New France (Quebec, Canada) in 1674 at the age of thirty-eight to command the French marines in Montreal.
Father Louis Hennepin, a Recollect friar, is best known as an early explorer of Minnesota. He gained fame in the seventeenth century with the publication of his dramatic stories of the exploration of the Mississippi River. Father Hennepin spent only a few months in Minnesota, but his influence is undeniable. While his widely read travel accounts were more fiction than fact, they allowed Hennepin to leave a lasting mark on the state.
Jacob Fjelde's sculpture Hiawatha and Minnehaha has stood in Minnehaha Park in Minneapolis since the early twentieth century. A popular fixture of the park in the twenty-first century, its placement there was originally controversial.
In 1855, a federal treaty moved the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) people from their reservation near Long Prairie to a site along the Blue Earth River. The Ho-Chunk farmed the area's rich soil with some success, but drew the hostility of white neighbors who wanted the land for themselves. Though they did not participate in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862, they were exiled from Minnesota during the conflict's aftermath.
In 1848 the U.S. government removed the Ho-Chunk (Winnebago) from their reservation in the northeastern part of Iowa to Long Prairie in Minnesota Territory. The Ho-Chunk found the land at Long Prairie a poor choice to meet their needs as farmers. In 1855 they were moved again, this time to a reservation in southern Minnesota.
Inyan Ceyaka Otunwe (“Village at the Barrier of Stone”), also called Little Rapids or simply Inyan Ceyaka, was a summer planting village of the Wahpeton Dakota. Located near present-day Jordan on the Minnesota River, the village was occupied by the Wahpeton during the early 1800s, and likely before. Burial mounds indicate that Paleo-Americans—possible ancestors of the Dakota—lived at the site as early as 100 CE.
Winnibigoshish, Leech Lake, and Pokegama Falls Dams were built in the Mississippi Headwaters during the late 19th century. These structures preceded the construction of the Headwaters reservoir system and played key roles in flood prevention and river control during the 20th century.
The Lower Sioux Agency, or Redwood Agency, was built by the federal government in 1853 near the Redwood River in south-central Minnesota Territory. The Agency served as an administrative center for the Lower Sioux Reservation of Santee Dakota. It was also the site of key events related to the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.
State militia soldiers fought many wars against Britain, Mexico, and American Indian nations to take land for the United States. The federal government rewarded them with military land warrants—certificates that could be redeemed for up to 160 acres of U.S. public land. The warrants were quickly sold and then traded on Wall Street to land agents in the country’s western territories. The agents made huge profits from selling and loaning them to struggling farmers. In Minnesota, German immigrants used land warrants to buy Dakota land, start farms, and found the town of New Ulm.