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The word Minnesota was the Dakota name for that considerable tributary of the Mississippi which, issuing from Big Stone Lake, flows southeastward to Mankato, turns there at a right angle, and runs on to Fort Snelling, where it empties into the great river. It is a compound of “mini,” water, and “sota,” gray-blue or sky-colored. The name was given to the territory as established by act of Congress of March 3, 1849, and was retained by the state with her diminished area. If one should travel in the extension of the jog in the north boundary, west of the Lake of the Woods, due south, he could hardly miss Lake Itasca. If then he should embark and follow the great river to the Iowa line, his course would have divided the state into two portions, not very unequal in extent. The political history of the two parts is sufficiently diverse to warrant a distinction between Minnesota East and Minnesota West. England never owned west of the river, Spain gained no foothold east of it. France, owning on both sides, yielded Minnesota East to England in 1763, and sold Minnesota West to the United States in 1803. Up to the former date, the whole area was part of New France and had no separate history. Although the French dominion existed for more than two hundred years, it is not important for the present compendious work that an elaborate account be made of their explorations and commerce. They made no permanent settlement on Minnesota soil. No institution, nor monument, nor tradition, even, has survived to determine or affect the life of the commonwealth. It will be sufficient to summarize from an abounding literature the successive stages of the French advance from the Atlantic to the Mississippi, their late and brief efforts to establish trade and missions in the upper valley, and the circumstances which led to their expulsion from the American continent.

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