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Minnesota Territory

Minnesota State


Armed Forces

Minnesota Indian Communities

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In the late 1650s, Pierre Esprit Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers were likely the first Europeans to meet Dakota people while following the southern shore of Lake Superior (which would become northern Wisconsin). The north shore was explored in the 1660s. Among the first to do this was Claude Allouez, a missionary on Madeline Island

Around this time, the Ojibwa reached Minnesota as part of a westward migration. Having come from a region around Maine, they were experienced at dealing with European traders. They dealt in furs and had fire-arms. Tensions rose between the Ojibwa and Dakota in the ensuing years.

In 1671, France signed a treaty with a number of tribes to allow trade. Shortly thereafter, Daniel Greysolon, Sieur du Lhut arrived in the area and began trading with the local tribes. Du Lhut explored the western area of Lake Superior, near his namesake, the city of Duluth, and areas south of there. He helped to arrange a peace agreement between the Dakota and Ojibwa in 1679.

Explorers searching for the fabled Northwest Passage and large inland seas in North America continued to pass through the area. In 1721, the French built Fort Beauharnois on Lake Pepin. In 1731, the Grand Portage trail was first traversed by a European, Pierre La Vérendrye. He used a map written down on a piece of birch bark by Ochagach, an Assiniboine guide. The North West Company, which traded in fur and competed with the Hudson's Bay Company, was established along the Grand Portage in 1783–1784.

Until 1818 the Red River Valley was considered British and was subject to several colonization schemes, such as the Red River Colony. The boundary where the Red River crossed the 49th parallel was not marked until 1823, when Stephen H. Long conducted a survey expedition. When several hundred settlers abandoned the Red River Colony in the 1820s, they entered the United States by way of the Red River Valley, instead of moving to eastern Canada or returning to Europe. The region had been occupied by Métis people, the children of voyageurs and Native Americans, since the middle 17th century.

The history of the U.S. state of Minnesota is shaped by its original Sioux and Ojibwa (Chippewa) residents. It received its name from the dakota name of the river Mnisota meaning river (mni) of heavenly colour (sota). European exploration and settlement, and the emergence of industries was made possible by the area's natural resources. Minnesota achieved prominence through fur trading, logging, and farming, and later through railroads, and iron mining. While those industries remain important, the state's economy is now driven by banking, computers, and health care.

Minnesota gained legal existence within the United States as the Minnesota Territory in 1849, and became the 32nd U.S. state on May 11, 1858. After the upheaval of the American Civil War and the Dakota War of 1862, the state's economy started to develop when natural resources were tapped for logging and farming. Railroads attracted immigrants, established the farm economy, and brought goods to market. The power provided by St. Anthony Falls spurred the growth of Minneapolis, and the innovative milling methods gave it the title of the "milling capital of the world".

Fort Snelling est la plus ancienne fortification militaire créée par les Américains, située au confluent du Minnesota et du Mississippi. Elle fut construite entre 1819 et 1825

Au terme de plusieurs traités, les Sioux (1851) puis les Chippewas (1854-1855) cédèrent plus de 11 millions d’hectares de territoire. Dès lors, le flot des colons s’amplifia. La population passa de 5 354 habitants en 1850 à plus de 172 000 en 1860.




Territory of Minnesota



The Territory of Minnesota, an organized incorporated territory of the United States, existed from 3 March 1849, until 11 May 1858, when the eastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the State of Minnesota.


The Seal


“The first official record of a State seal is in the message of Governor Ramsey to the first Territorial Legislature, September 9, 1849, in which he says, ´A temporary great seal of the territory of Minnesota has been adopted, an impression of which will be submitted. I preferred consulting the legislative assembly upon the adoption of a permanent great seal, and I herewith lay before you the design of one, to which I ask your attention, and if you approve it, or suggests its modification, it will be placed in the hands of an artist and engraved, and thenceforward supersede the seal now in use.´ On October 31, Mr. James Boal, from the committee appointed to draft a device for the Territorial seal, reported having adopted for ´a device, an every-day scene, consisting of an Indian family with their lodge, canoe, etc., and a single white man visiting them, with no other protection than the feeling of hospitality and friendship existing between the two people. The white man is receiving from the Indian the pipe of peace,’ etc. This report was adopted, and an Act providing for the use of the seal was duly passed and became a law. But, for some reason, the seal so authorized was never used.

“In place of it one was adopted, just how or by whom there is no record now, and which was used  as ‘the great seal of Minnesota’ until 1858. It bears the date  at the bottom ‘1849.’  The device is much as the present state seal. A farmer is ploughinging the foreground, but facing to the west. His rifle, powder-horn, etc., are leaning on a stump near him, in the distance, to the left, is the Falls of St. Amthony, and an Indian on horseback riding rapidly eastward towards what appears to be a rising sun. Over the device is the motto, ‘Quo sursum belo videre,’ the third word a misprint for volo, the whole meaning, ‘I wish to see what lies neyond.’ This motto was selected by Hon. H.H. Sibley, while delegate in Congress.

The seal was cut in the end after a watercolour of Seat Eastman, an army captain stationed in Fort Snelling (the oldest American Fort on the Territory).

“This seal was ridiculed more or less by journalists, who said it represented ‘a man plowing on way and looking another,’ or ‘an astonished Indian and a scared white man,’ etc. But it was used until 1858. [1]


Design of the seal of Minnesota Territory

Watercolour by Seth Eastman 1849 (16.51´ 8.89cm)

Minnesota Historical Society Nr. AV1984.331.1 Negative nr:  49986


Seal of Minnesota Territory, 1849


State of Minnesota



Minnesota was admitted as the 32nd U.S. state on 11 May 1858, created from the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory (the westrna par becoming Dakota Territory in 1861). The state has a large number of lakes, and is known by the slogan "Land of 10,000 Lakes". Its official motto is L'Étoile du Nord (Star of the North).


The Arms


In 1876 the device on the seal was made into a coat of arms, the Indian and the farmer as a charge on the shield and the motto on a ribbon underneath. [2]


Æ See illustration in the head of this article 


At the same time the device on the seal was depicted in colour on a disc:


Minnesota arms on a disc [3]


Both attempts to introduce a coat of arms of Minnesota however failed, as they never came to be officially adopted.


The Seal


“At the first session of the State Legislature the subject of a State seal wasa taken up. Hon. Charles F Dowe, a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1857, had drafted (by Mr Buechner, an artist of St Paul) a design for a Stare seal  which he had hopes that the first State Legislature would adopt. It was generally considered very suitable. Article fifteen of the State Constitution adopted on October 13, 1857, provided that ‘The legislature shall provide for an appropriate device and motto for said seal.’ The first legislative session (which assembled December 2, 1837) however, does not seem to hav done so, and when the State government came into operation in May, 1858, there was still no ‘State seal’ for use on documents. Governor Sibley authorized the Secretary of State to continue the use of the old Territorial seal  for the present. At the adjourned session of the Legislature , in June, Governor Sibley referred to the subject, and a special committee was appointed to report the design for a seal, of which W. H. C. Folsom was chairman. This was done on June 30. Mr. Folsom had secured an elaborate design from an artist of St. Paul, Dr. R. R. Sweemy, fully described in his report. A joint resolution adopting the design was passed and duly signed on July 16.

The Folsom/ Sweemy/ Buechner design of the Great Seal of Minnesota [4]

Adopted 16 July 1858


“Several months appear to have elabsed before the new seal was engraved and put into use, and when it was, it was found that the eleborate design proposed in Mr. Folsom’s report had not been adopted, but that the device of the Territorial seal had been used, with a little change. The equestrian Indian was represented as riding westward, and the farmer ploughing eastward. No other change was made, except the use of the word ‘State’ instead of ‘Territory’ and adding the date of its admission ‘1858.’ The motto was ‘L’Etoile du Nord’ (the North Star). The ‘Minnesotian’ newspaper ridiculed  this latter in a series of vituperate articles, declaring that Governor Sibley had used a French motto simply because he spoke that tongue. But the seal soon came into general use, and has been the only one used officially for twenty years. Mr. Folsom in his book says, ‘There seems to be no evidence that it was ever legally adopted, and the question may well be raised as to its validity.’ [5]


The non-official seal of 1858


In the 1960-ties the representations on the seal became a matter of debate. This resulted in a new design in 1971 in which the indian was removed altogether and replaced by a white settler riding westwards.

The Seal of 1971-1983


This seal was never officially adopted  and by the way was not fairer to the Indians than the old seal. For that reason a new description and design of the seal was adopted in 1983. [6]


Great seal of Minnesota, 1983


The description  reads as follows:


2011 Minnesota Statutes




Subdivision 1. Purpose.

 This section prescribes the design and states the historical symbolism of the Great Seal of the State of Minnesota.


Subd. 2. Official seal.

 The seal described in subdivision 3 is the "Great Seal of the State of Minnesota." When the seal, the impression of the seal, the scene within the seal, or its likeness is reproduced at state expense, it must conform to subdivision 3 and section 4.04. A seal, impression, scene, or likeness which does not conform to these provisions is not official.


Subd. 3. Design.

 The design of the seal is as described in this subdivision.

(a) The seal is composed of two concentric borders. The outside forms the border of the seal and the inside forms the border for the illustrations within the seal. The area between the two borders contains lettering.

(b) The seal is two inches in diameter. The outside border has a radius of one inch and resembles the serrated edge of a coin. The width of the border is 1/16 of an inch.

(c) The inside border has a radius of three-fourths of an inch and is composed of a series of closely spaced dots measuring 1/32 of an inch in diameter.

(d) Within the area between the borders "The Great Seal of the State of Minnesota" is printed in capital letters. Under that is the date "1858" with two dagger symbols separating the date and the letters. The lettering is 14-point century bold.

(e) In the area within the inside border is the portrayal of an 1858 Minnesota scene made up of various illustrations that serve to depict a settler plowing the ground near the Falls of St. Anthony while he watches an Indian on horseback riding in the distance.

(f) For the purposes of description, when the area within the inside border is divided into quadrants, the following illustrations should be clearly visible in the area described.

(1) In the upper parts of quadrants one and two, the inscription "L'Etoile du Nord" is found on the likeness of a scroll whose length is equal to twice the length of the inscription, but whose ends are twice folded underneath and serve to enhance the inscription. The lettering is 7-point century bold.

(2) In quadrant two is found a likeness of a sun whose ambient rays form a background for a male Indian in loincloth and plume riding on horseback at a gallop. The Indian is sitting erect and is holding a spear in his left hand at an upward 60-degree angle to himself and is looking toward the settler in quadrant four.

(3) In quadrant one, three pine trees form a background for a picturesque resemblance of St. Anthony Falls in 1858.

(4) In quadrants three and four, cultivated ground is found across the lower half of the seal, which provides a background for the scenes in quadrants three and four.

(5) In quadrant three, a tree stump is found with an ax embedded in the stump and a period muzzleloader resting on it. A powder flask is hanging towards the end of the barrel.

(6) In quadrant four, a white barefoot male pioneer wearing clothing and a hat of that period is plowing the earth, using an animal-drawn implement from that period. The animal is not visible. The torso of the man continues into quadrant two, and he has his legs spread apart to simulate movement. He is looking at the Indian.


Subd. 4. Additional effects; size.

 Every effort shall be made to reproduce the seal with justification to the 12 o'clock position and with attention to the authenticity of the illustrations used to create the scene within the seal. The description of the scene in this section does not preclude the graphic inclusion of the effects of movement, sunlight, or falling water when the seal is reproduced. Nor does this section prohibit the enlargement, proportioned reduction, or embossment of the seal for its use in unofficial acts.


Subd. 5. Historical symbolism of seal.

 The sun, visible on the western horizon, signifies summer in the northern hemisphere. The horizon's visibility signifies the flat plains covering much of Minnesota. The Indian on horseback is riding due south and represents the great Indian heritage of Minnesota. The Indian's horse and spear and the Pioneer's ax, rifle, and plow represent tools that were used for hunting and labor. The stump symbolizes the importance of the lumber industry in Minnesota's history. The Mississippi River and St. Anthony Falls are depicted to note the importance of these resources in transportation and industry. The cultivated ground and the plow symbolize the importance of agriculture in Minnesota. Beyond the falls three pine trees represent the state tree and the three great pine regions of Minnesota; the St. Croix, Mississippi, and Lake Superior.


Subd. 6. State's duties.

State agencies and departments using the seal, its impression, the scene within the seal or its likeness shall make every effort to bring any seal, impression, scene, or likeness currently fixed to a permanent object into accordance with this section and section 4.04. Expendable material to which the seal or any impression, scene, or likeness is currently affixed may be used until the supply is exhausted. All unused dies and engravings of the Great Seal shall be given to the Minnesota Historical Society, along with all historical information available about the seal, to be retained in the society's permanent collection.


The Flag


During the Civil War the 1858 representation on seal of the State of Minnesota was placed in colour in the middle of a blue cloth, together with the names of the regimements levied by the Minnesota Government.


Flag of 5th Regiment Minnesota Volunteers


1893 Mrs. Edward H. Center, flag


In 1893 an International Fair was organized in Chicago. For the occasion a flag was created of a white cloth decorated with the picture of the seal in full colour, surrounded by a blue border decorated with moccasin flowers, a red ribbon and by five groups of golden stars 3, 4, 4, 4 and 4 arranged in a five-pointed star. These 19 stars symbolize Minnesota being the 19th state admitted to the Union.

This flag, designed by Mrs. Edward H. Center, was adopted on 4 April 1893


Over the years it was found that a flag with emblems spread across the field and with a distinctive reverse cost much more than most State flags. In order to make the State flag less expensive and therefore more available to citizens, a commission was created in 1955 by the legislature and given the responbibility of simplifying the design. Their recommendations were adopted on 19 March 1957. The front and back of the new flag are now the same, and the central emblem of the old flag is placed on a yelleow-bordered white circle in the center of a blue field. The flag is decorated with gold finge and its pole is surmounted by a spread eagle. The central emblem in both the old and new flags consists of the State seal surrounded by white moccasin flowers (Cypripedium reginae) on a blue border. The dates 1819, 1858, and 1893 refer respectively to the dates of the first settlement in Minnesota (foundation of Fort Snelling), its admission to the Union, and the adoption of the flag. [7]


1957 Minnesota flag


1971-1983 medallion on flag


In 1971 the medallion on the flag was adapted to the new seal.


1983 Minnesota National Fag


In 1983 the medallion was adapted again and at the same time the colour of the cloth was changed into celestial blue referring to the celestial blue river Mnisota. [8]








Minnesota State Area Command






That for regiments and separate battalions of the Minnesota Army National Guard:  From a wreath of colors, a sheaf of wheat Proper.



Wheat is a great element of wealth in the State.



The crest for color bearing organizations of the State of Minnesota was approved on 12 May 1924.


Distinctive Unit Insignia




A Gold color metal and enamel device 2.86 cm in height consisting of a shield blazoned:  Per fess wavy Azure and barry wavy of four Argent and of the first, in chief a mullet Or.



The shield is in two colors, blue and white, the colors of the Minnesota State flag.  The white appears in two wavy bars across the lower half of the shield, symbolizing water, as the name "Minnesota" is said to be derived from the Sioux Indian language as meaning "water tinted like the sky" or "sky-tinted water."  A gold star in the upper half of the shield symbolizes the North Star, as Minnesota is widely known as the North Star State.



The distinctive unit insignia was originally approved for State Staff and Detachment, Minnesota National Guard on 11 September 1933.  It was redesignated for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment and noncolor bearing units of the Minnesota Army National Guard on 24 February 1969.  The insignia was redesignated effective 24 February 1983, for Headquarters, State Area Command, Minnesota Army National Guard.


Shoulder Sleeve Insignia


Coat of arms



A blue shield edged with a  3.2mm white border 6.99 cm in height and 5.40 cm in width overall, charged at upper center with a white star emitting seven white rays chevronwise to base terminating above a white engrailed horizontal line.



The shield is in two colors, blue and white, the colors of the Minnesota State flag. The white appears as a border around a sky-blue shield and a star in the upper half of the shield, rays emanating from the star, with a wavy bar across the lower half of the shield. The star symbolizes the North Star, as Minnesota is widely known as the "North Star State," with the motto "L'Etoile du Nord" incorporated in the State flag and the State seal.  The white wavy bar across the lower half of the shield symbolizes water, as Minnesota is known as the "Land of 10,000 Lakes," and the name  Minnesota is said to be derived from the Sioux Indian language and to mean "water tinted like the sky," or "sky-tinted water."



The shoulder sleeve insignia was originally approved for Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Minnesota Army National Guard on 23 April 1970. It was redesignated with description amended on 30 December 1983, for Headquarters, State Area Command, Minnesota Army National Guard.  (TIOH Dwg. No. A-1-535) [9]


Minnesota Indian Communities


Lower Sioux Indian Community in the State of Minnesota



Minnesota Chippewa Tribe



Bois Forte Band (Nett Lake)



Grand Portage Band



Leech Lake Band



Mille Lacs Band



White Earth Band



Prairie Island Indian Community in the State of Minnesota



Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians, Minnesota



Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Minnesota



Upper Sioux Community, Minnesota



Ho-Chunk Nation  (also in Wisconsin)



Fond du Lac Band (also in Wisconsin)




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 © Hubert de Vries 2017-04-29




[1] Zieber, Eugene: Heraldry in America. Published by the Department of Heraldry of the Bailey, Banks and Biddle Company. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1895. P. 145

[2] Mitchell, Henry: The State Arms of the Union, Boston: 1876 L. Prang & Co.

[3] Connell, A.J. Arms of the States and Territories of the American Union. Washington D.C. 1876

[4] Engraving from Folsom, W.H.C.: History of the Northwest. p. 658.

[5] Zieber, Eugene: op.cit. P. 146

[6] https://web.archive.org/web/20050905003524/http://www.leg.state.mn.us/webcontent/leg/symbols/sealarticle.pdf

[7] Smith, Whitney: The Flag Book of the United States. 1976. P. 153

[8] vexil.prov.free.fr/minnesota/minnesota.html

[9] The Institute of Heraldry Office of the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army


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