The original people of Minnesota were the Native American Indians, the two largest tribes being the Ojibwe and Dakota. The Native Americans make up a large portion of the population still having about 11 reservations throughout the state and their influence on Minnesota culture is seen everywhere from names of places to foods we eat. Some of the often seen words/names in our state would be Minnehaha, Wayzata, Mille Lacs, Chippewa or our state’s name itself, Minnesota.
In the mid 1800’s the European immigrants started making their way west. Because of the climate and landscape many of the people from Norway, Sweden and Germany decided to settle in Minnesota as land was plentiful and inexpensive and it reminded them of their homelands. Well over half of Minnesota’s original immigrants came from these three countries. Scandia was the first town to be settled by the Swedish people back in 1850, the Norwegians settled in Norwegian Ridge in 1952 which is now called Spring Grove, and in 1954 the Germans settled in New Ulm. Minnesota still prides itself on it’s European heritage with the Swedish Institute, the Sons of Norway and the Germanic American Institute. All these “clubs” are open to the public and feature activities from the native cultures. Some of our Minnesota English comes from the Scandinavians and their take on English words and much of our food and beverages come from these groups. Where else in America can you find fresh homemade Lefse, Lutefisk, Torskeklubben or Oktoberfest??? Open up a phone book and you will still find unlimited pages of Jensen, Swanson, Berger, Bjorn, Carlsen, Lund, Foerster, Jung and more.
In the 1970’s and 80’s Minnesota started receiving a large population of refugees. Most of these refugee groups were church sponsored and came from Southeast Asia. Minnesota is now actually home to the largest Somali population in the United States and the largest Hmong community outside Asia! We no longer have many new immigrants but still receive many refugees.
Slowly the population of Minnesota is becoming more diverse, however, only about 6% of the population is foreign born which is less than half of the national average. All the diverse new cultures have added to the community in new business opportunities and jobs as well as the revitalization of many areas of the Twin Cities.
As always, everyone is scared to come to Minnesota but once they are here, they are here to stay!