Place Names in the Minnesota River Basin

The Minnesota River
The Dakota name Minnesota means sky-tinted water (Minne, water, and sota, somewhat clouded). During floods, the river becomes whitishly turbid. An illustration of the meaning of the words was told toWarren Upham by the widow of a well-known missionary of the Dakotas. She stated that at various times the Dakota women explained it to her by dropping a little milk into water and calling the whitishly clouded water "Minne sota." (Upham)

The Objibwa called the Minnesota River "the Young Leaf River," alluding to its early foliage while their own northern country was still standing exposed and leafless. This stream, later called the St. Peter, was named for Captain Jacques LeGardeur de Ste. Pierre. In 1737 he commanded Fort Beauharnois on Lake Pepin. Some erroneously believed it was named after the saint himself or from the fact that the lower valley was free from stones-sans pierres. (Durand)

(1) river (2) water (3) translucent, blearish, as in the expression “bleary-eyed.” The Dakotas considered Lac qui Parle “the lake that talks” the source of the Minnesota River. (Durand)

Watersheds | Blue Earth | Chippewa | Cottonwood | Hawk Creek | Lac qui Parle | Le Sueur | Pomme de Terre | Redwood | Watonwan | Yellow Medicine | Minnesota River |


Upham, Warren (1969) Minnesota Geographic Names. Minnesota Historical Society: St. Paul, MN
Durand, Paul (1994) Where the Waters Gather and the Rivers Meet: An Atlas of the Eastern Sioux. Prior Lake, MN
Minnesota Place Names

This page was last updated 4/15/03