Geography and Landforms:

Minnesota is bordered by Canada on the north and by Iowa on the south. On the east, Minnesota is bordered by Lake Superior and by Wisconsin. On the west are North and South Dakota.

Most of Minnesota is made of rolling plains that were created by retreating glaciers. These areas are covered by fertile topsoil. Though some sections are sandy and stony, this area has some of the richest farmland in the United States. The northern part of Minnesota is the most rugged. The northeast section of the state has many rocky ridges and deep lakes, with the areas north of Lake Superior the roughest, including Eagle Mountain, the highest point in Minnesota. Along the Mississippi River, in the southeastern section of the state, the land is fairly flat, but cut by deep valleys created by fast flowing rivers and streams.


The first Europeans to explore Minnesota were probably French fur traders. The French were interested in trade with native people. In 1654, Pierre Radisson and Pierre Charles Le Sueur reached Wisconsin, and probably Minnesota, in their travels. In 1679, Daniel Greysolon Duluth held a council with the Dakota Sioux near Mille Lacs Lake in Minnesota, and in 1680, Father Louis Hennepin was the first European to see the Falls of St. Anthony. By 1689, Nicholoas Perrot had laid claim for France to an area near Lake Pepin, and between then and the 1730s, several more forts were built in Minnesota.

The end of the Seven Years War (the French and Indian War) and the Treaty of Paris in 1763 meant that all French territory east of the Mississippi River was ceded (given) to England. The British continued the lucrative fur trade, and in 1784 the North West Company was established to further trade. In 1797, David Thompson, a trader with the North West Company, finished mapping the territory we now call Minnesota.

Following the American Revolution, the areas formerly under British rule became under the authority of the United States, and in 1803, the US acquired the portions of Minnesota south and west of the Mississippi River as part of the Louisiana Purchase. However, hostilities among native tribes and settlers looking for more land led the Ojibwa and Winnebago tribes to join with the British in the War of 1812. The successful conclusion of the War by the United States meant that all of Minnesota was now under the American flag.

However, it was not until 1836 that the land that would become Minnesota became an official territory of the United States, as part of the territory of Wisconsin. Treaties between the US and the Ojibwa and Dakota tribes paved the way for further white settlement in Minnesota and by 1838 the first permanent white settlements were created by Franklin Steele near present-day Minneapolis and by Pierre Parrant near present-day St. Paul. In 1849, Minnesota was organized as a territory of its own, and in 1858, Minnesota became the 32nd state in the United States.

Although Minnesota was now a state, hostilities with the Indians continued, and were not completely resolved until after the Civil War. It was not until the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that the tide of immigration into the state significantly increased the population, particularly with large numbers of German, Swedish and Norwegian immigrants.


Minnesota is rich in natural resources. A few square miles of land in the northern part of the state produce more than 75% of the nation's iron ore. The state's farms rank high in yields of corn, wheat, rye, alfalfa, and sugar beets. Other leading farm products include butter, eggs, milk, potatoes, green peas, barley, soybeans, oats, and livestock.

Minnesota factories produce machinery, fabricated metals, flour-mill products, plastics, computers, scientific instruments, and processed foods. The state is also a leader in the printing and paper-products industries.

Minneapolis is the trade center of the Midwest, and the headquarters of the world's largest super-computer and grain distributor. St. Paul is the nation's biggest publisher of calendars and law books. These "twin cities" are the nation's third-largest trucking center. Duluth has the nation's largest inland harbor. Rochester is home to the Mayo Clinic, a world-famous medical center. Tourism is a major revenue producer in Minnesota, with arts, fishing, hunting, water sports, and winter sports bringing in millions of visitors each year.

First Inhabitants:

Archaeologists tell us that four separate cultures lived in the general area that would one day become Minnesota. The Big Game or Paleo-Indian culture inhabited the area before 5,000 BC, and were part of a larger group that existed throughout North America. The people were nomadic, living in small groups of extended families. They made tools by chipping rocks into spears and knives, wore clothes made of animal skills, lived in temporary shelters, and used fire for heat and cooking.

The Eastern Archaic people lived in the area between 5,000 and 1,500 BC. They expanded their use of natural resources and used copper, granite and basalt to make more sophisticated tools. They were still semi-nomadic, which means they moved from place to place according to the season. They began to harvest wild vegetables like acorns to supplement their diet.

The Woodland people were prominent between 1,000 BC and 1,700 AD. They developed the ability to harvest wild rice, and their population grew significantly. This led to the establishment of permanent villages. The people hunted bison, deer, moose, raccoon, rabbit, muskrat and beaver for their meat and their fur and skins. Although they used copper for tools, the supply of copper became scarce in later years, and they began to carve tools out of bone and antlers. They also used shells and bone to make ornaments. The pottery they used leads archaeologists to believe these people may have been related to people who lived earlier in the Ohio Valley, and who had migrated west along the Mississippi River. The Woodland people are also known for building elaborate burial mounds in which to bury their dead.

The Mississippian culture (1,000 AD--1,700 AD) existed at the same time as the Woodland culture, but seems to have been rooted in the southern part of the continent, and it had strong Mexican influences. These people probably migrated north along the Mississippi River. They built fairly large villages of 600--800 people, sometimes surrounded by a protective wall. They used bone tools as well as tools made from stone. Jewelry and pottery found in their villages indicate that they traded with people from other parts of North America.

By the late eighteenth century, two main tribes were living in the area we now call Minnesota: the Dakota Sioux and the Ojibwa. In 1745, the Ojibwa won a decisive battle against the Dakota Sioux and began to drive them west and south.

Books Related To Minnesota

Alida's Song - Gary Paulsen
(978-0440414742) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 1460, ESL level: 4 - 5
Simply written but high in appeal, this book describes one lost boy's summer working on his grandmother's farm in Minnesota.

Betsy-Tacy - Maud Hart Lovelace
(978-0064400961) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-5, Lexile: 650, ESL level: 2 - 3
Betsy and Tacy become best of friends after Tacy moves to Betsy's small-town Minnesota neighborhood.

A Bride for Anna's Papa - Isabel Marvin
(978-1571316509) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-7, Lexile: 720, ESL level: 3
Anna's father works in iron mines in Northern Minnesota, and Anna would like to find him a wife.

Dear Papa - Anne Yivisaker
(978-0763634025) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-12, Lexile: 700, ESL level: 3
A young daughter tries to keep her father's memory alive as she continues to write letters to him about their life in Minnesota, all the while also writing to other living family members.

The Journal of Otto Peltonen: A Finnish Immigrant - William Durbin
(978-0439555005) , Fiction
Interest level: 3-12, Lexile: 1010, ESL level: 3 - 4
Otto finds life colorless after he arrives in Minnesota from Finland while helping his father work in an iron mine.

The Quilt - Gary Paulsen
(978-0440229360) , Fiction
Interest level: 2-12, Lexile: 1160, ESL level: 3
A small boy must go live with his Norwegian grandmother during WW II because his mother is working and his father is away fighting.

The Shrouding Woman - Loretta Ellsworth
(978-0805081855) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-8, Lexile: 780, ESL level: 3
Evie and her sister are uncomfortable with their aunt's job of preparing dead bodies; they must live with her since their mother has died.

Song of Sampo Lake - William Durbin
(978-0816675692) , Fiction
Interest level: 4-12, Lexile: 900, ESL level: 3 - 4
The son of Finnish immigrants, Matti finds himself in many roles; he works as an English teacher, a clerk, and with his family on their claim.

V is for Viking: A Minnesota Alphabet - Kathy-jo Wargin
(978-1585361250) , Non-fiction
Interest level: 0-2, ESL level: 1 - 2
This book features all the things that are special about Minnesota.

Famous Citizens:

Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan was born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, the grandson of Jewish-Russian immigrants. He grew up in Hibbing, Minnesota, and became fascinated with the early rock and roll and folk music scene. His high school yearbook shows his goal in life was "to join Little Richard." He moved to New York's Greenwich Village and began performing and composing music, and is generally recognized as one of the founders of rock and roll. His son, Jakob, is now a popular musician.

Sinclair Lewis
Born in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, Sinclair Lewis was the first American to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. Lewis wrote novels that satirized middle class life in the 1920s, including Main Street and Babbitt. He also satirized the medical profession in his novel Arrowsmith, and religious revivals in Elmer Gantry.

Walter Mondale
Walter Mondale was born in Ceylon (now called Sri Lanka), and became the 42nd Vice President of the United States. He began his career by practicing law in Minneapolis, and became active in Democratic politics. He was appointed state attorney general in 1960. He was appointed to a seat in the US Senate in 1964 when Hubert Humphrey was elected Vice President. Jimmy Carter chose Mondale as his running mate in the Presidential campaign of 1976. In 1984, he ran unsuccessfully for President himself.

Charles Schulz
Charles Schultz was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After seeing a "Do You Like to Draw?" advertisement, he decided to take a correspondence course in art. After serving in World War II, he began drawing a church cartoon. In 1950, he began drawing his comic strip, "Peanuts," which would become the most popular comic strip in history. His characters, including Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Lucy, were world famous, and inspired such well known phrases as, "Good Grief," "Security Blanket," and "Happiness is a Warm Puppy." His television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, has aired every year since 1965.

Jesse Ventura
Jesse Ventura was born John Janos in 1941 in South Minneapolis, Minnesota. After high school, he joined the Navy and became a SEAL and served in Vietnam. After leaving the military, he began a successful pro wrestling career using the nick name Jesse "The Body" Ventura, and then starred in films. In 1998, he shocked the political establishment by defeating Hubert H. Humphrey III in the race for Minnesota governor, and is the only Reform Party candidate to hold the position of governor.

Capital: Saint Paul
Entered Union: May 11, 1858
Population: 5,457,173
Area 86,939
Bird Common Loon
Flower Pink and white Lady's-slipper
Nickname: North Star State, Land of 10,000 Lakes
Governor Mark Dayton

Places to Visit in Minnesota: (Click the links to learn more.)

Hormel's Spam Museum - Austin
Visitors can participate in interactive games, see exhibits, and learn more about the famous luncheon meat known as "Spam." A brand new Spam Museum is expected to open Spring 2016.

Mall of America - Bloomington
One of the largest malls in the world, this attraction includes "Nickelodeon Universe" the largest indoor theme park in the US, Minnesota's largest aquarium, a four-story LEGO Imagination Center, an indoor stock car race track, 14 theatre screens, along with 520 retail stores, and 12,000 employees. The Mall hosts more visitors each year than Disney World, the Grand Canyon and Graceland combined.

Minnesota Children's Museum - Rochester and St. Paul
With two locations, the Minnesota Children's Museum looks for ways to spark learning through play. Designed for infants through age 10, permanent exhibits include Earth World, which focuses on Minnesota's natural habitats.

Mille Lacs Indian Museum - Onamia
Offers exhibits dedicated to telling the story of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Indians. Trace their journey to settle in Northern Minnesota, learn about their fate during a period of treaties made and broken, and follow their story up to the present. Videos, computer interactives, listening stations and objects reveal information about the Band's life today, from how dance traditions are carried on to members' interests in music to sovereignty issues.

Fort Ridgely - Fairfax
In 1851, the Eastern Dakota (Eastern Sioux) sold 35 million acres of their land across southern and western Minnesota, and moved onto a small reservation along the Minnesota River. In 1853, the U.S. military started construction on Fort Ridgely, near the southern border of the new reservation and northwest of the German settlement of New Ulm. The fort was designed as a police station to keep peace as settlers poured into the former Dakota lands. Nine years later, tensions between the Dakota and white settlers led to the U.S.-Dakota war. Dakota forces attacked the fort twice-on Aug. 20 and Aug. 22. The fort that had been a training base and staging ground for Civil War volunteers suddenly became one of the few military forts west of the Mississippi to withstand a direct assault. Fort Ridgely's 280 military and civilian defenders held out until Army reinforcements ended the siege.