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View of Fort Snelling

The U.S. Indian Agency was built here to oversee traders doing business with Indians in the region.

This Anishinabe shoulder bag was once owned by the first Indian agent at Fort Snelling, Lawrence Taliaferro.


key idea
The meeting point of two rivers had long been a meeting point for people.

Fort Snelling was completed only 25 years before Edward Thomas painted this picture. Dakota tipis, on the other hand, were not new to “Mdo-te,” or “the place where rivers meet.” An old Dakota story tells that the first humans came into the world from a cave near this spot. Dakota bands regularly gathered on the plain below the bluff for council meetings, celebrations, and ceremonies.

The confluence of the rivers became a good place for trade as well. Anishinabe Indians (also known as Chippewa or Ojibwe) traveled down the Mississippi from their hunting grounds to the north. In time white traders, mostly French and British, also appeared. They called the place Mendota.

By the early 1800s, this territory was part of the United States. The government wanted to protect the rich business of trade with the Indians for American trading companies. They also hoped to control conflicts between Indian groups, who frequently fought over dwindling hunting grounds. The bluff above the joining of the rivers was an ideal location for such an outpost. Fort Snelling was built on the first Indian land given up in the region of Minnesota.

May 2004