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Indigenous people have lived in what is now Minnesota for thousands of years. At the time when Europeans arrived to the “New World,” the predominant American Indian tribe was the Dakota. As explorers and settlers moved west, the Ojibwe, who lived in the central Great Lakes region, were forced into Dakota territory. The resulting migration and conflict ultimately resulted in the Dakota residing primarily in the prairies of the Minnesota River Valley and points south and west, while the Ojibwe inhabited the lakes and forests of north and central Minnesota.

The U.S. acquired eastern Minnesota from Great Britain after the Revolutionary War and 20 years later bought the western part from France in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Much of the region was explored by U.S. Army lieutenant Zebulon M. Pike before the northern strip of Minnesota bordering Canada was ceded by Britain in 1818.

The state is rich in natural resources. A few square miles of land in the north in the Mesabi, Cuyuna, and Vermilion ranges 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’s factories produce nonelectrical machinery, fabricated metals, flour-mill products, plastics, electronic 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 and now handles a significant amount of foreign trade. 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.

Among the most popular attractions are the St. Paul Winter Carnival; the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre, the Institute of Arts, Walker Art Center, and Minnehaha Park, in Minneapolis; Boundary Waters Canoe Area; Voyageurs National Park; North Shore Drive; the Minnesota Zoological Gardens; and the state’s more than 10,000 lakes.

Minnesota’s official flag was adopted in 1893. The flag has a blue background. The central seal pictures a farmer plowing a field and an Indian riding a horse toward the sun. The scene is surrounded by ladyslippers, Minnesota’s state flower. A red banner with yellow letters has the state motto, “L’ETOILE DU NORD,” meaning “the star of the north” in French. Three dates are on the flag: 1858, the year Minnesota became a state; 1819, the year Fort Snelling was established; and 1893, the year this flag was adopted. Nineteen yellow stars surround the seal on a white band; these stars symbolize that fact Minnesota was the 19th state to enter the union after the first 13. “MINNESOTA” is written in red on the white band.


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