• Cite
  • Share
  • Print this Page

Fort Snelling, about 1850"I don't think we need forts in the United States anymore. Because their usefulness is no longer beneficial to us today. And so I think we've outgrown those structures of colonial dominance over Native American people. If we expect Native American people to be a part of and proud of who they are and a part of American society, we need to start to make concessions, historical concessions of reconciliation."

Dr. Clifford Canku, Sisseton Wahpeton community of Dakota, 2010


The junction of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers is a place of major social, cultural, and historical significance to all people inhabiting the region, a place whose history evokes both pride and pain. For Dakota people it is a historical gathering place, the site of the Bdote creation story, and a place of internment and exile after the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862.

The site was the crossroads of two major river highways of the fur trade, one of the most lucrative businesses of the 19th century. After the War of 1812, the U.S. government established its strategic presence at the river junction with the arrival of military forces and an Indian agent, whose goals were to promote and protect the interests of the United States in the region's fur trade and to gain the friendship and cooperation of Indian communities. The fort and its Indian Agency became a foothold of U.S. expansionism in the territory that would become Minnesota.


Located on top of the bluff overlooking the river junction, Fort Snelling served the U.S. military for over 120 years, through conflicts at home and abroad, and thousands of Minnesotans received their first taste of military service within its walls. By the late 20th century its national cemetery became the site of the final resting place for more than 180,000 men and women who served in the armed forces.



Hall, Steve. Colossus of the Wilderness. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1987.

Jones, Evan. Citadel in the Wilderness: The Story of Fort Snelling and the Northwest Frontier. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1966.
Prucha, Frances Paul. Broadax and Bayonet: The Role of the United States Army in the Development of the Northwest, 1815-1860. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1953.
Wingerd, Mary Lethert. North Country: The Making of Minnesota. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.
Resources for Further Research: 


The Park Service must leave Coldwater Spring. MinnesotaHistory.net


Fort Snelling in 1823, Heckle's map breakdown. Minnesota Historical Society Collections.

Henry H. Sibley Papers, Minnesota Historical Society Manuscript Collections.

Lawrence Taliaferro Papers, Minnesota Historical Society Manuscript Collections.


Date, Steve. A Visual Visit to Fort Snelling. 

Mato Nunpa, Chris. Fort Snelling, U.S. imperialism and the Dakota People. Twin Cities Daily Planet.

Ziebarth, Marilyn. A Fort Snelling Calendar. Minnesota History. Fall, 1970.

Historic Sites

Historic Fort Snelling

Fort Snelling State Park

Glossary Terms: 
  • Cite
  • Share
  • Print this Page