Ramsey, Alexander (1815–1903)

Alexander Ramsey was Minnesota’s first territorial governor (1849–1853), second state governor (1860–1863), and a US senator (1864–1875). Deeply respected for many years as a founder of the state, he has become controversial for his role in removing the area's Indigenous residents from their homelands.

Ozaawindib (late 1700s‒?)

Ozaawindib was a prominent figure among the Cass Lake Ojibwe in the early 1800s. As an agokwa (a person deemed male at birth who took on women’s roles), she interacted with several early white American explorers and traders in Minnesota and was active in wars with the Dakota. In 1832, she led Henry Rowe Schoolcraft and his expedition to the headwaters of the Mississippi. As a result, Schoolcraft gifted her a medal to designate her chief of the local Ojibwe.

Tripp, Alice Raatama (1918‒2014)

A self-proclaimed “jumper-inner,” Alice Tripp made her mark as a grassroots activist and self-taught farmer. She was a key leader of a movement opposing the CU Powerline, which began construction on western Minnesota farmland in the early 1970s. Tripp went on to steer a surprisingly successful gubernatorial campaign, and even briefly tried her luck in the 1980 presidential election.

Knutson, Coya (1912‒1996)

Coya Knutson, a Norwegian American farmer from North Dakota, became Minnesota’s first congresswoman when she was elected in 1954. Though her political career was groundbreaking and packed with important legislation, it was cut short by her husband and political rivals.

Lyght, John (1927–2010)

John Lyght, Minnesota’s first African American sheriff, faced different challenges than his constituents as one of the only African Americans in Cook County. A reputation for fairness, however, won him multiple re-elections with wide support between 1972 and 1994.

Gausta, Herbjorn (1854–1924)

Herbjorn Nilsen Gausta, one of the first Norwegian American professional artists, gained critical acclaim during the late nineteenth century for creating images of landscapes, people, and daily Norwegian American life. He may be best known, however, for his religious work, which comprises over 400 rural church altar paintings.

Ueland, Clara (1860–1927)

Clara Ueland was a lifelong women’s rights activist and prominent Minnesotan suffragist. She was president of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association when the nineteenth amendment was passed in 1919. That same year, she also became the first president of the Minnesota League of Women’s Voters.

Best, Dr. Cora Johnstone (1884–1930)

Minneapolis-born Cora Johnstone Best achieved international success as a mountaineer during the 1920s. She was a pioneer in the sport, becoming a licensed guide at a time when women were rarely given the opportunity to be lead climbers.

Wabasha, Ernest Reginald (1929–2013)

Ernest Reginald Wabasha, also known as Caŋku waste waŋ ohna ya (He Travels a Good Road), was a sixth-generation hereditary chief in a long-established Dakota chieftainship. Through repatriation efforts and tribal leadership initiatives, he worked to re-frame histories of the Dakota people and expand narratives of their experiences.

Grignon, Antoine (1829–1913)

Antoine Grignon was a French Indigenous interpreter and fur trader who lived and worked along the Mississippi River between Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, and St. Paul, Minnesota. With Ho-Chunk (Winnebago), Dakota, and French roots and a bilingual education, Antoine, like many mixed-race people, was frequently called upon to interpret or negotiate for the US government.

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