The First Peoples of what is now Rice County, Minnesota
Prehistoric Peoples of Rice County
We at the Rice County Historical Society are also students of our own history. As more information is found and more stories are shared, we are both honored and honor-bound to share that history. In particular, we are actively working to expand our understanding of the people who have called this part of the world “home”.
It is logical that we begin with those who came here first.
Minnesota’s history did not begin in the 1600s with the arrival of the fur traders. Through our archeological collection of more than 1,700 points collected in Rice County, we can prove that this land has steadily supported people for the last 13,000 years.
Prehistory, especially in the Americas, is a complex labyrinth of discoveries. These people left behind no written record and therefore we must use archaeological evidence in order to try to understand and honor them. It is not enough to just know the classifications of the projectile points, we must ask ourselves what the points tell us about the lives of the people who made, used, and discarded these projectiles. Rice County has been populated since the end of the last Ice Age. There is little left of these people, but even the broken pieces of projectiles can tell us a great deal about the people who wielded them in the first place.
To help better understand the First Peoples of Rice County, we partnered with Carleton College’s Historians For Hire student, Bee Candelaria to create an online timeline, “Prehistoric Peoples of Rice County”. We encourage all to visit the site and explore just a small portion of the treasures left by those who came before us.
We acknowledge that the land that is now Rice County, MN, was a part of their homeland and for many tribal members it is still their home today
Before other cultures and races began immigrating to North America, the entire continent was occupied by hundreds of thriving tribes. In what is now Minnesota, the Dakota occupied most of the state and much of the neighboring states. In our region of the state, the band of the Dakota that was here were the Wahpekute.
These semi-nomadic people knew the land, not only as a resource but as a relative and partner in the way of life. Their winter homes were teepees made from American Bison skins and during the summer the Wahpekute made their homes in elm bark lodges near the lakes and rivers. The land that is Rice County was opened up to European Settlement after the Treaty of Mendota was signed in 1851. This created great opportunities for those coming from other places, but it came at a great cost to the Dakota.
To better share the history of the Wahpekute in our area, we again partnered with a Carelton College Historians for Hire Class who created this website, “History of the Wahpekute“.
This is, of course, only a small portion of the history of the First Peoples of our area. We continue to research and better understand those who have come before us. To learn more about the Wahpekute and to see some of the artifacts left behind millenia ago, please visit our museum, Rice County Historical Society, 1814 NW 2nd Ave., Faribault, MN.