Minnesota is the 32nd state of the United States, having joined the Union on May 11, 1858. Its name is from the Dakota people's name for the Minnesota River, mini sota, variously translated "smoky-white water" or "sky-tinted water". The state's name is abbreviated MN or Minn.
Minnesota is the largest state by area in the Midwestern United States and is in the subregion known as the Upper Midwest. The most significant metropolitan area is known as the Twin Cities, combining the state's most populous cities, Minneapolis and the capital of Saint Paul, along with multiple "rings" of suburbs. More than half of the state's residents live there.
The state is a major food producer for the country, and has a number of natural resources that have been greatly exploited in the last two centuries.
The USS Minnesota was named in honor of this state, as was the SS Gopher State. Other nicknames for the state include Land of 10,000 Lakes and the North Star State.
Main article: History of Minnesota
History prior to joining the United States
The area now known as Minnesota was originally inhabited by Native Americans, in particular the Ojibwe (Chippewa, Anishinaabe) and Dakota, although the Winnebago also had a presence in the southeastern part of the state. In this time, the economy originally consisted of hunter-gatherer activities, which changed over time as Europeans settled in the area and further exploited the state's natural resources.
According to local tradition, the first European visitors were Swedish and Norwegian Vikings in the 14th century. The evidence for this is largely based on the controversial Kensington Runestone, which most historians consider to be an elaborate hoax. Some say that the earliest European settlement was in the area of the current city of Stillwater, on the St. Croix River, though many histories focus on the military settlement that took place farther west. Fort Snelling, located at the confluence of the Minnesota River and the Mississippi River, was one of the earliest U.S. military presences in the state. It is now a historic site.
Joining the United States
Much of the state was purchased from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase, although the exact definition of that land was not assessed for many years afterward. Parts were also considered to be in the Northwest Territory.
Minnesota Territory was carved out of Iowa Territory on March 3, 1849, but it was not coextensive with the present state, since the area included what later became the territory of Dakota (which later still became the states of North Dakota and South Dakota). The eastern half of the territory of Minnesota became the country's 32nd state—after California—on May 11, 1858.
Stereotypical Minnesotans are known for various attributes, including Lutheranism, "Minnesota nice", "hot dish", and sing-songy Scandinavian accents. However, many cultures are slowly mixing together in the state today. Native Americans have a moderate presence in Minnesota, and some tribes operate casinos which have been said to be among the most profitable in the country. The earliest European exploration and settlement was by the French, and settlement from Scandinavian countries along with Germany followed. The Métis people, a mixed French and Native American culture, were a presence in the early state and territorial days, but largely moved north into Canada.
Modern immigrants have come from all over the world in recent decades, with Hmong, Somali, Vietnamese, Indians, Middle Easterners, and the former Soviet bloc all being well-represented. Some Chinese and Japanese have had long presences in the state as well. Mexicans are a growing force, as they are across the U.S. Many modern immigrants are attracted by the state's historically strong commitments toward education and social services.
Outdoor activities are major parts of the lives of many Minnesotans, including hunting and fishing. Unique activities include ice fishing, which was popular with the early Scandinavian immigrants. Families frequently own or share cabins on central and northern tracts of land in forests and adjoining lakes, and weekend trips out to these properties are common. Environmentalism is shared by most state residents in one form or another, vegans and hunters alike.
Minnesota is known for active yet quirky politics, with populism being a long-standing force among all of the political parties that call the state home. Minnesota politics include such oddities as Professional wrestler turned Governors and protestors turned crowd-surfing mayors. 77.3% of Minnesotans voted in the 2004 U.S. presidential election, the highest of any U.S. state. Political conservatism is less strongly linked to church attendance in Minnesota than in other parts of the country, perhaps a reflection of the strong mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic following.
Law and government
Like the national government of the United States, power is divided into three main branches: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial.
The executive branch is headed by the Governor of Minnesota, currently Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, who started his term on January 6, 2003. The governor and lieutenant governor each have four-year terms. He has a cabinet consisting of the leaders of various government agencies in the state. The full list of governors, and the dates they took office, is available at List of Governors of Minnesota.
The Minnesota State Legislature is a bicameral body consisting of the Senate and House of Representatives. The state has 67 districts, each covering about 60,000 people. Each district has one senator and two representatives (each district being divided into A and B subsections). Senators serve for four years, and representatives serve for two years. In the November 2004 election, the Republican Party retained control of the Minnesota House of Representatives by a single seat, having lost a total of 13 seats. The Minnesota Senate is controlled by the DFL by five seats and there is one Independence Party state senator, former Republican Sheila Kiscaden (IP-Rochester) who seats with the DFL.
Minnesota's court system has three levels:
- Trial courts. The state is split into 10 judicial districts, with 257 judges. Most state cases start in the trial courts.
- Minnesota Court of Appeals. This body hears appeals on cases tried in the trial courts. There are 16 judges, who divide into three-judge panels to hear appeals in courts across the state.
Minnesota Supreme Court. The seven justices on the Supreme Court hear appeals from the Court of Appeals, the Tax Court, and the Worker's Compensation Court. The court automatically reviews first-degree murder convictions, and settles disputes over legislative elections.
The state has two special courts created by state law as executive-branch agencies:
- The Tax Court deals with non-criminal tax cases across the state. It has three judges appointed by the governor to six-year terms, following approval from the state Senate
- The Workers' Compensation Court of Appeals deals with cases involving worker injuries referred to it on appeal, or transferred from district court. It has five judges appointed by the governor to six-year terms, following approval from the state Senate
Federal cases are heard in the federal district courts in Minneapolis, St. Paul, or Duluth. Minnesota is part of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is located in St. Louis, MO. Appeals beyond this level go to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C..
In addition to the standard city and county levels of government found in the United States, Minnesota also has other entities that provide governmental oversight and planning. Some actions in the Twin Cities metropolitan area are coordinated by the Metropolitan Council, and many lakes and rivers are overseen by watershed districts and soil and water conservation districts.
See also: List of political parties in Minnesota
External links: Hyperlinked state constitution, full text of state constitution
See: List of Minnesota counties
Minnesota covers 79,610 square miles (2.25% of the United States). It is famous for its lakes, having in excess of 15,000, depending on the source of the count. Much of the state is flat, having been eroded during repeated glacial periods (most recently the Wisconsin Glacier). However, the extreme southeastern portion of the state is part of the Driftless Area, which was not glaciated, and it is here that Lake Pepin and the rugged high bluffs of the Mississippi River are found. In addition, the Iron Range and other low mountains are found in the northeastern part of the state. The Minnesota portion of Lake Superior is the largest body of water in the state.
Minnesota is home many areas of park land, to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCA), as well as a number of state and county parks, most notably Itasca State Park, the official source of the Mississippi River.
After its rivers and lakes, Minnesota's most prominent physical feature is the Iron Range. This is a range of low mountains that run across the northern part of the state. It is called the Iron Range because when discovered, it had some of the largest deposits of iron ore in the country. Although the high-grade iron ore was mostly mined out during World War II, taconite is still mined across the Iron Range.
The state is bordered on the north by Canada (Manitoba and Ontario), on the east by Wisconsin and Lake Superior, on the south by Iowa, and on the west by North Dakota and South Dakota. In addition, Minnesota shares a water boundary with Michigan. Minnesota is the northernmost of the 48 contiguous states (Alaska reaches significantly farther north), reaching to 49° 23' 04" north latitude, due to a small piece of the state known as the Northwest Angle.
The capital is St. Paul, which sits on the Mississippi River next to Minnesota's largest city, Minneapolis. Together (and with surrounding suburbs), they are known as the Twin Cities. Other prominent cities include Duluth, St. Cloud, Mankato, Rochester (home of the world-famous Mayo Clinic), and Bloomington (home to the Mall of America).
The state's average elevation is 1,200 feet (366 m), with a high point at Eagle Mountain (2,301 ft or 701 m) and a low at the surface of Lake Superior (602 ft or 183 m).
Temperatures can reach extremes in Minnesota. The state is famously cold in the winters, with a record low of −60 °F (−51 °C) measured at Tower, MN on February 2, 1996. Surprisingly, due to the flows of the jet stream, parts of Alaska often see relatively warm temperatures when Minnesota is experiencing extreme cold. Additionally, as part of the Great Plains region, the state also experiences warm summers. A record high of 114 °F (45.5 °C) was reached in both 1917 and 1936. The average temperature in January (the coldest month) is 11.2 °F (−11.5 °C), and the average in the warmest month of July is 73.1 °F (22.8 °C); averages are cooler in the north and warmer in the south. The average annual precipitation is 28.32 inches (719 mm), with a snowfall figure of 49.6 inches (126 cm).
The average state income in Minnesota in 1999 was $30,742 (according to the State Demographic Center—the Northeast Midwest Institute gives the figure as $30,793). This compares to a national average of $28,546. The average household income in 1999 was approximately $48,000, ranking eighth in the nation (U.S. Census Bureau). The county averages range from $17,369 (Todd County) to $42,313 (Hennepin County, a portion of the Metro area). In general, salaries are lowest in more rural areas, particularly in the northwest portion of the state.
The Twin Cities are home to a diverse range of major businesses, including 3M Co. (formerly Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Co.), Northwest Airlines, Target Corporation, U.S. Bancorp, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans (formerly Lutheran Brotherhood), Medtronic, Cray Computers, Imation, and a regional headquarters of Wells Fargo & Co. and Honeywell. The city of Rochester is the headquarters of the Mayo Clinic, and has a significant manufacturing presence in International Business Machines. The largest shopping mall in the United States, the Mall of America, is located in Bloomington.
A large proportion of the state's economy is still agricultural, even though only a small percentage of the population (around 2%) consider themselves to be farmers. Additionally, northern Minnesota is a source for iron ore and wood products, though these are both declining industries. A fair amount of ethanol alcohol fuel is produced in the state, and a 10% mix of ethanol into consumer gasoline has been mandated since 1997 (as of 2004, Minnesota is the only U.S. state with such a mandate). If production capacity meets the need, 2% biodiesel will be required in diesel fuel in 2005. Many farmers also now operate wind turbines to produce electricity, particularly in the windy southwest region.
The state has been a major influence in the area of transportation, moving products along the Mississippi River, in and out of the inland seaport of Duluth, along railroads that criss-cross the state, via highways with trucking and busing companies, and through the air with a major airline hub. However, water- and rail-borne traffic has been declining steadily over the years.
Minnesota is regarded as a high-tax state by some. It has an income and sales tax, as well as levying taxes on a common range of goods such as tobacco, gasoline, and alcohol. The state does not charge sales tax on clothing, services (massages, haircuts, auto work, etc), or non-prepared food items.
Minnesota businesses and individuals paid an average of 11.8% of their income in state and local taxes in 1998, down from 12.7% in 1996 (Minnesota Department of Revenue). The Gross State Product was just under $173 billion in 1999 (Northeast Midwest Institute), with approximately $17.5 billion in exports in 2000
Retail sales per capita were $10,260 in 1997, higher than the U.S. average of $9,190 (U.S. Census Bureau). The "retail capital" of the state is probably the Twin Cities suburb of Roseville, which recorded $14,870 per capita (though it is easily outstripped in total revenue by Minneapolis, St. Paul, Bloomington, and Edina).
The state population, as of 2003, was 5,059,375 (1.75% of the total national population), with a growth rate of 12.4% in the last 10 years (compared to 13.1% for the nation). 5.3% of the people who live in Minnesota are foreign-born (compared to 11.1% for the nation)
Most of the state's population is centered in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.
The racial makeup of the state is:
Minnesotans traditionally count themselves as of Nordic descent (approximately 1.5 million people, 30% of the population, claim Danish, Finnish, Norwegian or Swedish ancestry), though more families originated in Germany (approximately 2 million people, 40% of the population). More than 8 out of 10 whites in Minnesota are of German or Scandinavian descent.
More recent immigrant communities include the third-largest Hmong population in the United States (from the Laos/Cambodia/Vietnam region) and the largest urban center of Hmong population in the world, and a large presence of people from Somalia.
The population distribution by age is (Northeast Midwest Institute):
- 0-18 - 1,361,616 (27.7%)
- 19-34 - 1,068,850 (21.7%)
- 35-64 - 1,894,747 (38.6%)
- 65+ - 594,266 (12.1%)
64% of Minnesotans are Protestant (mostly mainline Protestant), although there are also a large number of Roman Catholics (about 25% of the population).
The largest Protestant denomination in the state is Lutheranism and the largest religious body in the state is the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Nearly 35% of Minnesotans idenitfy themselves as Lutherans.
In recent years, new immigrants have added new religions to Minnesota, and there are now Islamic mosques, Buddhist temples, and Hindu mandirs in the state (many in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area).
Colleges and universities
Professional sports teams
Symbols and emblems
Famous people from Minnesota