Discover Minnesota's Ethnic Heritage

By Explore Minnesota

Minnesota museums and heritage sites present the experiences of the Ojibwe and Dakota Indians and immigrants who settled in Minnesota—years ago or just recently. The stories they tell reflect the rich tapestry that is Minnesota.

American Indian Heritage Sites

Petroglyph HandThe oldest pictures of our past are etched in ancient rocks at Jeffers Petroglyphs, in southwest Minnesota. This site, which is sacred to American Indians, features more than 2,000 carved images of human figures, tools and animals such as bison, turtles, elk and thunderbirds. Another sacred site is Pipestone National Monument, where pipestone has been quarried here for centuries to carve prayer pipes.

Explore the history of American Indians and voyageurs in the fur trade at Grand Portage National Monument, near the border of Canada, and at North West Company Fur Post in Pine City.

Chapters of the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862 unfolded at various sites along the Minnesota River Valley. An award-winning exhibit at the Brown County Historical Society tells the story of the battles that took place in and around New Ulm. For more information on Minnesota Historical Society sites, events and a mobile tour related to the U.S.-Dakota War, visit

Learn more about American Indian history at Historic Fort Snelling in St. Paul and the Mille Lacs Indian Museum in Onamia, in central Minnesota.

Hjemkomst CenterScandinavian Heritage

Several museums celebrate Scandinavian roots and culture in Minnesota. Visit the American Swedish Institute (ASI), located just south of downtown Minneapolis, for exhibits of Swedish, Swedish-American and Nordic culture. The ASI’s historic Turnblad Mansion features sculpted ceilings, intricately carved wood, beautiful rugs of Swedish wool, and exquisite porcelain kakelugnar. In 2012, ASI opened the new Nelson Cultural Center, which brings modern Scandinavian design and a new cafe to the ASI campus. The Gammelgården Museum in Scandia is an 11-acre site with historic buildings built by Swedish immigrants in the 1850s. See Minnesota’s oldest Lutheran church, a log home, barn, parsonage and cottage. The Hjemkomst Center in Moorhead brings Scandinavian heritage to life with its Viking ship, stave church, special exhibits and large seasonal festivals.

Immigrant Experiences

The Minnesota Discovery Center and other Iron Range sites tell the story of Italians, Finns and other 20th-century immigrant mineworkers in northeastern Minnesota. At the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, the exhibit Open House: If These Walls Could Talk tells a series of stories about immigrants who lived in one house in St. Paul over several decades. Learn about the German immigrant family who first lived there, and the Italians, African-Americans, and Hmong who succeeded them.

Other Ethnicities

The Museum of Russian Art, located in a beautiful, remodeled church in south Minneapolis, hosts exhibits of all types of Russian art and culture. The Minnesota African American Museum and Cultural Center opened in 2012 in a historic building just south of downtown Minneapolis.