Ancient Inhabitants and European Exploration

Archaeological evidence indicates that Minnesota was inhabited long before the time of the Mound Builders. A skeleton (“Minnesota Man”), found in 1931 near Pelican Falls, is believed to date from the late Pleistocene epoch, c.20,000 years ago. Many important archaeological finds relating to the early inhabitants of North America have been made in Minnesota.

There are some experts who argue on the basis of the Kensington Rune Stone and other evidence that the first Europeans to reach Minnesota were the Vikings, but French fur traders came in the mid-17th cent. is undeniably so. Other traders, explorers, and missionaries of New France also penetrated the country. Among these were Radisson and Groseilliers, Verendrye, the sieur Duluth, and Father Hennepin and Michel Aco, who discovered the Falls of St. Anthony (the site of Minneapolis).

At the time the French arrived, the dominant groups of Native Americans were the Ojibwa in the east and the Sioux in the west. Both were friendly to the French and contributed to the fur-trading empire of New France. Minnesota remained excellent country for fur trade throughout the British regime that followed the French and Indian Wars and continued so after the War of 1812, when the American Fur Company became dominant and the company’s men helped to develop the area.

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