Minnesota names reveal connections to past, struggles for inclusion
March 24, 2022
MINNEAPOLIS -- The first people to call this land home often named their surroundings by using descriptions of what those natural resources looked like. Names we use today for Minnesota waters and lands come from Ojibwe and Dakota people. Cultural observers say how we treat names reflect the barriers Indigenous communities — and Minnesotans of color generally — encounter to be fully seen in society.
“Our language is very visual. It’s descriptive,” said Kate Beane, who is Dakota and holds a doctoral degree in American Studies. “It is something that you can close your eyes and really sort of see through the eyes of those who came before us.”
Beane is a descendant of people who were removed from Minnesota by U.S. soldiers to the Flandreau Santee reservation in South Dakota in the 1860s. A public historian as well as the executive director of the Minnesota Museum of American Art, Beane thinks deeply about what place names contain.