For the last few centuries, Minnesota, along with the rest of our great nation, has been an ever-changing landscape of culture and ethnicity. To better understand our history and learn from it, Trademark interviewed Michael Brennan, an instructor at MN Realty School. We hope through his knowledge and insights, you gain a better understanding of our state’s settlement history and an empathy for each clients’ unique journey moving forward.

A brief history

Before diving in, it’s important to recognize the different ways in which people groups come to live in a specific city, state or country. “Settlers” refers to a group of people who move with others to live in a certain region. “Immigrant” refers to a person who chooses to live in permanence in a foreign country. “Refugee” refers to a person who is displaced by war, persecution, natural disaster or forces beyond their control. “Indigenous” refers to those native to a particular region.

Minnesota, like other states, includes people and their ancestors who fit into all these categories. Check out this brief history from Michael Brennan.

Prior to the settlement of Minnesota by Europeans, the Dakota and Ojibwe resided in Minnesota for centuries. By treaty and conflicts, the Dakota and Ojibwe were restricted to reservations and settlers began the creation of towns, villages and cities.

In the 1850s, settler-colonists with British roots had already ventured west to Minnesota Territory. Immigrants from Sweden, Norway, and Germany followed them throughout the 1860s and 1870s. In 1896, official voting instructions were offered in nine different languages: Czech, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Polish, and Swedish.  Free land was the incentive to move west!

Jewish people from multiple countries came to Minnesota too—first to St. Paul and Duluth and later to Eveleth, Virginia, Hibbing, and Chisholm primarily as merchants. The first documented Chinese immigrants to Minnesota arrived in 1876. The St. Paul Resettlement Committee formed in October of 1942 to assist with the relocation of Japanese Americans from the concentration camps established by the US government in March of 1942. It was one of thirty-five such committees that operated across the country during World War II.

Latinx people have made Minnesota their home since the early 1900s. In Minnesota, Latinx men, women, and children worked hard in the sugar-beet fields of the western part of the state. In the 1920s they began to settle in neighborhoods in St. Paul and Minneapolis

In the 1970’s Minnesota began to take in refugees as the Vietnam conflict was ending. The collapse of American-supported governments in Cambodia, Laos, and South Vietnam in 1975 led to a mass exodus of refugees fleeing from repressive regimes. This included Hmong and Lao people who had fought against communist forces in Laos on behalf of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

Somalis started arriving in Minnesota in 1992. Some came as refugees, while others arrived as immigrants through the sponsorship of family members or relocation to Minnesota from other parts of the United States. Refugee resettlement agencies include the International Institute of Minnesota and World Relief Minnesota, non-profit faith-based service organizations like Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Charities.

Moving forward in sensitivity

While we reflect on our state’s history, it can seem like ethnicities and cultures are all lumped into one, making movements and choices in mass. Not so. It’s so important to remember as an agent, that each and every family and individual has their own needs, desires, and influences when choosing their home.  Making assumptions is the way of the past, not the future.

“While there may be large concentrations of ethnicities at the beginning of a migration (whether settlers, immigrants, refugees or indigenous), eventually, everyone identifies their personal preference,” says Brennan.

If you would like more training on this topic, the MN Realty School teaches a class entitled “Customs and Cultures, which encourages agents to C.U.R.E. (Communicate, Understanding, Respect, Empathy).