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.
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.
The Treaty of Washington (1855) is a milestone in the history of Ojibwe people in Minnesota. The agreement ceded a large portion of Ojibwe land to the U.S. government and created the Leech Lake and Mille Lacs reservations.
Dakota Indians at Williamson home (Pajutazee Mission) near Yellow Medicine, 1862. Jane Williamson is the third from the right in this photograph taken on Sunday, August 17, 1862, the day before the U.S. Dakota War broke out across the Minnesota prairies. The photo was taken by visiting photographer Adrian Ebell in front of the Williamson house at the Pajutazee mission. Others identified include, left to right: Margaret Poage Williamson, unknown child, Sarah Hopkins (Wanyahiyawin), Thomas Smith Williamson, unknown woman with child, Robert Hopkins (Caskedan), Jane Williamson, Samuel Hopkins, unknown woman.