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Dear Travelers to Minnesota: Please Don't Come Here Until You Understand These 8 Things

by Alethea Alden Jun 29, 2016

1. You without a doubt need a car.

There are two Light Rail train lines now running in Minneapolis and St. Paul that have improved public transportation in the Twin Cities, but it’s still limited at best and doesn’t run late at night (neither do buses). Public transit is non-existent in other parts of the Cities, and through much of the rest of the state. And in the winter, when it’s -30F with a -20F wind chill, it’s downright dangerous to try to get around without a car.

2. The license plates say Minnesota is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes”, but that’s a lie.

We actually have 11,842 lakes according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Check one, or a couple hundred, out. Go to Lake Superior (the largest freshwater lake in the world, which holds 10% of the freshwater on earth). See the Mississippi River Valley and check out the headwaters at Lake Itasca. Go have an adventure canoeing and camping through the lakes in the Boundary Waters.

3. The biggest mass execution in US history happened in Minnesota.

Minnesota may be known as the land of Scandinavian settlers, but before that is was the land of the Dakota (or Sioux), and the Anishinaabe tribe, the Ojibwe (or Chippewa).

White settlers came, and in 1862 the government decided they wanted the indigenous peoples’ land; they had to leave or would be killed. Promises about treaties were broken and the US-Dakota War followed. There was a relocation of the native people from their homeland, a horrific genocide in the “Minnesota Trail of Tears”, and the hanging of 38 Dakota men in Mankato, Minnesota, the largest mass execution in the history of the US.

While the Dakota and Ojibwe influence is still remembered in the names Minnesota, Minnehaha and Mississippi, most schools don’t teach this history of the native people’s relocation, genocide and execution. And many people don’t even know what happened. It’s far from healed, forgiven or forgotten by the ancestors of the people who were killed. This shameful past is something that Minnesota has struggled to fully acknowledge and accept. Part of the way to start healing is to talk about what happened. So please ask people here about it.

4. We’ve got huge populations from five continents.

Despite our own shameful history with war and genocide, today Minnesota has become a home for people fleeing war torn and economically deprived areas around the world. There are over 32,000 Somalian immigrants in Minnesota, the largest settlement in the US. Currently, Minnesota has close to 80,000 Hmong refugees living in the state, making it one of the largest populations of Hmong in the US, and the largest population in an urban area anywhere in the world. There is also a huge number of Latino and Mexican immigrants in Minnesota, somewhere in the hundreds of thousands. All of these cultures help make Minneapolis and St. Paul the diverse and welcoming places they are today.

5. We’re Midwesterners, not hicks.

We’re not located on one of the coasts and are better for it. We’re not worried about being cool. As a result, we’re a pretty progressive, educated and cultured bunch. Politically, Minnesota is a little pocket of blue amongst many red Midwestern states. There’s more than 70 colleges and universities throughout the state. Among many other cultural venues, Minnesota hosts the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, the Walker Art Centre (one of five most-visited modern and contemporary art museums in the US), the Minnesota Orchestra, and the world class Gutherie Theater. In fact, Minneapolis has one of the highest theater seats per capita after New York City.

6. There’s no place like home.

A lot of people grow up in Minnesota and never move anywhere else. Don’t judge them. We like it here. A couple years ago NerdWallet ranked Minneapolis and St. Paul as the third and fourth cities (out of 100) for best qualities of life, so why leave?

7. We don’t all talk like they do in the movie ‘Fargo.

In fact, most people don’t. If you go visit your great Aunt Mildred in Northern Minnesota you may hear something similar, but don’t go around asking people to talk in a Fargo accent. It gets a little offensive.

8. You need to shop for a hardcore winter coat.

Winter here is absurdly cold. If you think you own a winter coat, think again. One for a Minnesota winter needs to be lined with down, have a hood, and be long enough to cover your butt. And you’re still going to be freezing your ass off.

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