Native Minnesota

History can be found everywhere you look, even in the names of our cities and rivers. This was all native land once and that history can be found in many of our cities and landmarks names. If you’ve ever wondered how we came to have places like Bemidji, Minnetonka, or Shakopee we have your answer here!

 

Place

Origin

Meaning

Ah-gwah-ching

Ojibwe

Agwajiing

Outdoors
County & City
of Anoka

Dakota

On both sides
Ojibwe
ON-O-KAY
Working waters
Bemidji Ojibwe
Bemijigamaag
Traversing lake
Bena Pheasant
Chanhassen Dakota
chanhasen
Sugar-maple tree
Chaska Dakota
Shaska
A name given to the first born male child
Chengwatana Ojibwe
Zhingwaadena
Pine-town
Chippewa County  Chippewa another name for the Ojibwe
Chisago County Ojibwe
Gichi-zaaga‘igan
Big lake
Chokio Dakota The middle
Cohasset
Cokato Siouan At the middle
Dakota County Allies
Endion, Duluth
Eyota  Siouan
iyotak
Greatest or most
Hackensack Algonquian
Achinigeu-hach, or Ackingsah-sack
Stony ground
Hanska Siouan  On who is tall
Hokah Dakota Gar fish or the Dakota name for the nearby Root River
which derives from Chief Wecheschatope Hokah
County & City
of Isanti
Dakota isan – ‘knife’ + ati – ‘camp’ refers to the Santee people
Kanabec County Ojibwe
Ginebiko-ziibiing
At the Snake River
County & City
of Kandiyohi
Dakota Where the buffalo fish come from
Kasota Dakota Cleared off
Keewatin Ojibwe
Giiwedin
North
Keewaydin, Minneapolis Ojibwe
Giiwedin
North
Koochiching County Ojibwe
Goojijiing
At the inlet
County& City
of Mahnomen
Ojibwe
Manoomin
Wild rice
former Manomin County Ojibwe
Manoomin
Wild rice
Mahtomedi White Bear Lake
Mahtowa
Mankato Dakota Blue Earth
Menahga Ojibwe Blueberry
Mendota Dakota Mouth or junction of one river with another
Mendota Heights Dakota Mouth or junction of one river with another
Minnehaha, Minneapolis
Minneiska Dakota Name for the Whitewater River
Minnetonka Dakota
mni tanka
Great water
Nashwauk
Nokomis, Minneapolis Ojibwe Nanabozho‘s grandmother
nookomis My grandmother
Nokomis East, Minneapolis Ojibwe Nanabozho‘s grandmother
nookomis My grandmother
Nisswa Ojibwe
nessawae
In the middle or ‘three’
Township & City
of Ogema
Ojibwe Chief
Okabena Dakota
Onamia Ojibwe
onaman
Red ochre or locally as vermilion
Otsego
Owatonna Wakpá Owóthaŋna Straight River
Pequot Lakes Algonquian Pequot tribe in eastern Connecticut
Pokegama Ojibwe
Bakegamaa
Side lake
Shakopee Dakota
Shák’pí
Six
Squaw Lake
Wabasso Ojibwe Rabbit
Waconia Siouan Fountain or spring
Wadena Ojibwe Named after Chief Wadena
Wahkon Siouan Sacred
Waseca Dakota ‘Rich’ a reference to the fertile soil in the area
Waubun Ojibwe
Waaban
Dawn/East
Wayzata Lakota North Shore
Wenonah, Minneapolis We-no-nah First-born daughter
Winona We-no-nah First-born daughter

Water bodies

Lake Bemidji Ojibwe
Bemijigamaag
Traversing lake
Kawishiwi River Ojibwe The river full of beavers’ houses
Minnehaha Creek & Falls Dakota Waterfall or rapid water
Minnesota River Dakota ‘Sky-tinted water’ or ‘cloudy-sky water’
mní “water”  sóta  “sky-tinted” or “cloudy sky”
Mississippi River Ojibwe
misi-ziibi
Great River  Nickname: Old Man River
Nemadji River Ojibwe
“ne-madji-tic-guay-och” (Nemanjitigweyaag in the current spelling)
Left-hand river
Sauk River Ojibwe
Ozaagi-ziibi
River of the Sauks
Us-kab-wan-ka River Ojibwe
askibwaanikaa-ziibi
River full of Jerusalem artichokes
Watab River Anishinaabe/Ojibwe
wadab-ziibi
River with spruce-roots
Lake Winnibigoshish Ojibwe
Wiinibiigoonzhish
Filthy water or brackish water

Landforms

Mesabi Range Ojibwe
Misaabe-wajiw
Giant mountain