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They preceded the Anishinaabe, the Dakota, and other Native American inhabitants.Fur traders from France arrived during the 17th century.The body of an early resident known as "Minnesota Woman" was discovered in 1931 in Otter Tail County.Radiocarbon dating places the age of the bones approximately 8,000 years ago, approximately 7890 ±70 BP Several hundred years later, the climate of Minnesota warmed significantly.

(Other sources suggest the Ojibwe reached Minnesota by 1620 or earlier.) There were also the Chiwere Ioway in the southwest, and possibly the Menominee in some parts of the southeast as well as other tribes which could have been either Algonquian or Chiwere to the northeast, alongside Lake Superior (possibilities include the Fauk, Sauk, and Missouria).

The economy of these tribes was chiefly based on hunter-gatherer activities.

Main articles: New France, Canada (New France), Louisiana (New France), French and Indian War, Treaty of Paris (1763), New Spain, Louisiana (New Spain), Province of Quebec (1763–1791), American Revolutionary War, and Treaty of Paris (1783) In the late 1650s, Pierre Esprit Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers were likely the first Europeans to meet Dakota Native Americans while following the southern shore of Lake Superior (which would become northern Wisconsin).

New industry came from iron ore, discovered in the north, mined relatively easily from open pits, and shipped to Great Lakes steel mills from the ports at Duluth and Two Harbors.

Economic development and social changes led to an expanded role for state government and a population shift from rural areas to cities.

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