History of Minnesota
Before the Europeans came to the region, the territory of today’s Minnesota was inhabited by a number of Native American tribes, including the Dakota and Anishinaabe tribes. The first Europeans to settle in the region were fur traders who came from France in the 17th century. In the late 17th century, the region became less hospitable for the European settlers, as the Ojibwe’s westward migrations provoked the Sioux, and the tribes fought frequently. The region was mapped out by explorers such as Joseph Nicollet, Henry Schoolcraft, Jonathan Carver, FatherLouis Hennepin and Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut.
The signing of the Second Treaty of Paris after the American Revolutionary War was what made the parts of Minnesota located to the east of the Mississippi River a part of the Union. The regions to the west of the river were gained in the Louisiana Purchase, apart from some sections of the Red River Valley, that didn’t come under the US control until the Treaty of 1818. Fort Snelling was being built on the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers from 1819 to 1825. This fort was used as a base for further expansion, with soldiers stationed there building the first sawmill and grist mill at Saint Anthony Falls. The fort provided refuge for incoming settlers, and the population around it grew steadily. They were finally relocated from the area in 1839, and moved to the region that was to become the city of St. Paul. In 1849, Minnesota Territory was officially formed, and 9 years later, in 1858, Minnesota was accepted into the Union as the 32nd state.
New settlers were constantly forcing new treaties on the local Native American population, notably the Ojibwe and Dakota tribes. The goal of these treaties seemed to be confining the tribesmen to reservations and removing them from the land that the settlers wanted from themselves. The conditions of these treaties were increasingly less favorable for the local Native American population, until the Dakota tribe could take no more, and started the six weeks long Dakota War in 1862. The uprising was rapidly quenched, and it resulted in the largest mass execution in the history of the United States, where 38 members of the Dakota tribe were executed, while the remaining tribe members were exiled to the Crow Creek Reservation in Dakota Territory. It is estimated that somewhere around 800 settlers have lost their lives in the conflict.
At this point, the main industries in the state were farming and logging. Cities like Winona, Stillwater and Marine on St. Croix were major logging centers. While Saint Anthony Falls had a number of sawmills, and later, powered flour mills. At one point, the millers in Minneapolis introduced their special ‘patent’ flour that was valued higher than the regular flour, and much sought after. By the beginning of the 20th century, mills based in Minnesota, most notably the Washburn-Crosby Company, Northwestern and Pillsbury, were grinding some 14% of the nation’s grain.
Iron mining became a prominent industry in the state when iron ore deposits were discovered in the Mesabi Range and the Vermilion Range at the end of the 19th century and in the Cuyuna Range at the beginning of the 20th. The iron found in these mines would then be transported by railroad to Two Harbors and Duluth, from whence it would be shipped over the Great Lakes.
These and other industrial expansions have driven people to migrate from the rural areas into the more urban ones. However, farming was still as important for the state’s economy as ever. The Great Depression was as harrowing for Minnesota as it was for the other states, especially because it was combined with great droughts that struck the state in the first half of the 1930s. Native Americans that inhabited the reservations in the state were finally given some autonomy and government representation in 1934 with the Indian Reorganization Act.
The state’s economy didn’t fully recover from the great depression till after the WW II. Agriculture was once again thriving, thanks to the mechanization of the process. Combines and tractors became widely used, and farmers started growing hybrids of wheat and corn. Norman Borlaug, who was a professor at the Minnesota University, is one of the people responsible for many of the agricultural advances made in that period. Urbanization continued at an increased pace.
Minnesota’s economy is today primarily focused on manufacturing and services. There are a number of well developed industries in the state. The state’s GDP (gross domestic product) in 2008 amounted to $262 billion. In the same year, 33 out of 1,000 top publically traded companies had their headquarters in this state. This includes Valspar, Best Buy, SuperValu, Land O' Lakes, Hormel, Ameriprise, U.S. Bancorp, General Mills, Medtronic, 3M, UnitedHealth Group and Target.
In 2008 per capita income in the state was $42,772, which was the 10th highest per capita income in the United States in that year, while the state’s median income between the years 2002 and 2004 amounted to $55,914 and was the 5th highest in the nation. The unemployment rate of Minnesota in 2011 was 6.7%.
The first industries in Minnesota were agriculture and fur trading. Later, flour mills and sawmills rose in prominence, especially in the area of today’s Minneapolis. Agriculture has remained an important industrial sector. Minnesota is the 6th state in the nation when it comes to the value of the sold agricultural produce, even though less than a percent of the state’s residents are employed in this sector. Minnesota is the nation’s largest producer of farm-raised turkeys, green peas, sweet corn and sugar beets. It is also the state with the highest number of food cooperatives per inhabitant. Forests are economically important resource, with industries such as forest products manufacturing, paper production, pulpwood processing and logging. For a long, Minnesota was one of the world’s largest sources of iron, and is still mining taconite. This state was where three quarters of the iron used in 2004 in the US came from. The Duluth port, which was created for the transportation of the ore during the mining boom in the state, is still quite active and ships large quantities of agricultural products, coal and ore. Apart from still dealing with the heavy industry and food processing, the manufacturing sector is also focusing on biomedical manufacturing and technology.
Personal income in Minnesota comes in one of three brackets, 7.85%, 7.05% and 5.35%. In 2008 the tax burden of the residents of Minnesota amounted to 10% of their income, while the national average at the time was 9.7%. Sales tax in the state is fixed at 6.875%, with some services or items such as food for home consumption, prescription drugs and clothing, being exempt from the sales tax. As is the case in most of the US states, local governments have the authority to impose additional taxes on the residents.
Geography and Climate of Minnesota
Minnesota is the northernmost contiguous US state. It is located in the Great Lakes region in the Upper Midwest. Minnesota has Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario on the north, South Dakota and North Dakota on the west, Iowa on the south and Wisconsin and Michigan on the east. Minnesota is the 12th largest state in the nation with its 86,943 square miles.
The highest point in the state is the Eagle Mountain which stands at 2,301 feet above the sea level, while the lowest point is a part of the shore of Lake Superior at 601 feet. Minnesota is also known as ‘The Land of 10,000 Lakes’ and it has really earned that nickname. There are 11,842 lakes in the state, each of them over 10 acres large. The part of the Lake Superior that belongs to Minnesota is both the state’s deepest body of water, with depth at some points reaching 1,290 feet, as well as the largest, covering the surface of 962,700 acres. The state’s waterways stretch over 69,000 miles and consist of 6,564 natural streams and rivers.
The state is divided into four ecological regions. The Laurentian Mixed Forest of the north, mostly consisting of poplar, birch, spruce trees and pine, Tallgrass Aspen Parkland in the northwestern part of Minnesota, Eastern Broadleaf Forest in the southeastern part of the state and Prairie Parkland in the west and southwest. The forests in the northern parts of the state have been reduced to their current state by heavy logging in the past, but there are still some larger forests in this area, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness that covers some 400,000 acres in the Superior National Forest as well as the Chippewa National Forest. Somewhere around a third of Minnesota is still forested, despite the continued logging. Agriculture and urbanization destroyed most of the state’s oak savannas and prairies.
Some animals have taken a hard blow because of the changes in their habitat. This is most noticeable with the bison, woodland caribou, elk and pine marten. Others, however, are thriving in the present conditions, namely bobcats, whitetail deer, moose and black bears. Minnesota has the largest timber wolves population in the contagious United States. Because of the fact that it is located on the Mississippi Flyway, Minnesota is often a host to migratory birds, such as ducks and geese. The state can also boast healthy populations of predatory and game birds, such as snowy owl, red-tailed hawk, bald eagle, turkeys, pheasants and grouse. The state’s lakes are an important tourist attraction, not only because of their beautiful beaches, but also because of the abundance of sport fish including northern pike, muskellunge, bass and walleye, while streams in the state are quite rich in rainbow, brown, and brook trout.
The source of the Mississippi River is located in Minnesota in the Itasca State Park, which is the first state park in Minnesota, established in 1891. Today, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is responsible for managing 58 state forests that are spreading over almost 4 million acres, as well as 72 state parks and recreation areas. Superior and Chippewa National Forests are covering additional 5.5 million acres. The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness located in the Superior National Forest alone has some 1,000 lakes. Lastly, it is important to mention the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area which follows the Mississippi River over a course of 72 miles and connects a number of historically, geologically and culturally significant sites.
Minnesota has continental climate, with hot summers and cold winters. The mean temperatures in the state range from 37 °F to 49 °F, depending on the region. Likewise, the growing season in the southeastern parts of the state, in the vicinity of the Mississippi river, usually lasts for 160 days, while in the Iron Range, the growing season usually ends after just 90 days. The average dew points in the summer go from 48 °F in the northern parts of the state to 58 °F in the southern. Some regions are averaging 19 inches of annual rainfall, while other get as much as 35 inches. Minnesota experiences a number of meteorological events, including high-velocity straight-line winds, tornadoes, derechos, hail, thunderstorms, blizzards, snow and rain. The state’s highest temperature of 114 °F was recorded in 1936 at Moorhead, while the lowest temperature of −60 °F was recorded in 1996 at Tower.
While in 1850 the state had only 6,100 inhabitants, by 1900 this number has increased to 1.7 million. Population has been increasing by 15% in each of the following 6 decades. The rates of population increase have slowed down at one point, until in the year 2000, Minnesota reached 4.9 million residents. It is estimated that in 2011 the state had 5,344,861 inhabitants, which was a 0.77% increase when compared to the previous year. This increase is rather similar to the national average increase for that year. The state’s center of population is located in the city of Rogers in Hennepin County.
When it comes to ancestry, surveys have determined that the people of German ancestry make up 37.9% of the state’s population, those of Scandinavian 32.1%, Irish 11.7%, English 6.3%, Polish 5.1%, French 4.2% and Czech 3.7%. Groups with less than 3% and more than 2% consist of people of Dutch, Italian or American descent, between 1 and 1.9% claim that their ancestors were Mexican, Scotch-Irish, French Canadian, Scottish, East African or Sub-Saharan African, and the groups that each have less than a percent are West Indian, Portuguese, Lithuanian, Slovak, Greek, Ukrainian, Hungarian, Arab, Swiss, Bosnian, Welsh and Russian. When ethnicity is concerned, in 2010, 83.1% of the population was composed of non-Hispanic white people, 4.2% of Hispanic white, 5.2% of African Americans, 1.1% of American Indians and Alaskan Natives, 4% of Asian people, 2.4% of people of other races and 1.8% of multiethnic people.
According to their religious beliefs, 32% of the state’s inhabitants are members of a Mainline Protestant denomination, while Evangelical Protestants amount to 21% of the population, Roman Catholics to 28%, lack Protestants, Buddhists, Muslims and Jewish people each make up 1% of the population, while 13% of the surveyed people have declared themselves as non-religious.
Minnesota Government and Legislation
The workload and responsibilities of Minnesota’s government are divided amongst three branches, executive, legislative and judicial.
The executive branch is responsible for the execution of the laws that were created by the state’s legislative branch. The executive branch has the state Governor at its head. The Governor is elected into four year terms, and in Minnesota, there is no limit to the number of terms that one person can act as a Governor for. State Governor has a number of duties and powers, including granting pardons to convicted criminals, vetoing or signing the bills passed by the houses of legislation and acting as a commander in chief of Minnesota’s National Guard. In Minnesota, the Governor is elected by popular vote. The Governor is helped in the performing of his or her duties by the heads of different departments, including Department of Health, Office of Enterprise Technology, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Department of Education, Department of Corrections, Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, Department of Administration, Department of Human Services, Department of Natural Resources and other. The executive branch also relies on a number of other elected officials, including the State Auditor, Attorney General and the Secretary of the State.
The Legislature of Minnesota functions through the Minnesota General Assembly, which is a bicameral body, consisting of a lower legislative house, Minnesota House of Representatives and the upper house, Minnesota Senate. All of the other states in the nation have a similarly structured legislative branch, except for Nebraska that just has one house in their legislative branch. The number of members of Senate and the House of Representatives is determined by the number of the districts in the state that need representation. In Minnesota’s case there are 67 districts, with each of them having one representative in the Senate and two in the House of Representatives. Members of the House of Representatives serve two year terms, while Senators serve for four years. The main duty of the legislative branch is introducing new state laws. Once a new bill is proposed it needs to get the majority of votes in both houses of the legislative branch. If it does, it then needs to be signed by the state Governor, who might decide not to sign it, but instead veto it. The Governor’s veto can, however, be overturned by a two thirds majority vote in the houses of the legislature.
Minnesota’s judiciary branch is acting through a structured court system. The lowest level in the hierarchy is composed of district courts. There are 10 judicial districts in Minnesota, and 272 courts divided amongst them. District courts have general jurisdiction, and the higher state courts usually deal with the cases that have at one point been addressed in a district court, but couldn’t be successfully and fully resolved. If a decision made by the district court is unsatisfactory for an interested party, and if there are grounds for an appeal, the case is being relegated to Minnesota Court of Appeals. This court is usually presided by panels consisting of three judges, while there are 19 judges of the Minnesota Court of Appeals in total. The highest court in the state is Minnesota Supreme Court, which has original jurisdiction when it comes to the election irregularities or disputes, and it is in charge of hearing appeals from the Court of Appeals, people convicted of first degree murder, Worker’s Compensation Court of Appeals and the state Tax Court.