For more than 10,000 years, people have lived near the Mississippi River. The first cultures relied on hunting, fishing, and gathering for survival. As early as 1,000 years ago, however, Indian peoples were farming portions of the river valley near here, growing corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers.
Many early cultures used the river as a major transportation route. The river enabled the development of extensive trade networks between groups for items such as copper, lead ore, and shells from the sea.
Treaties for the Land
In 1851, federal agents pressured the Dakota into signing the Treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota, which gave the United States government all Minnesota land west of the Mississippi River.
The land east of the river, in what is now Washington County, had been ceded by the Ojibwe in 1837. The 1851 treaty opened a vast amount of land for settlement — setting the stage for the land rush that founded the city of Hastings.
"The Great River"
The Dakota and Ojibwe peoples had many names to describe their natural surroundings. Several of these place names have made their way into the English language.
"Mississippi" comes from the Ojibwe words Misi (great) and Zibi (river). The Dakota called the river by several names, including Tan-can (the principal part of anything) Wa-kpa (river). The Dakota referred to the area near Hastings and the Vermillion River as O-wo-bop-te.
Grey Cloud Island
Grey Cloud Island, just upstream from Hastings, is named for a Mdewakanton Dakota woman named Ma-hpi-ya Ho-ta-Win (Clouds Grey Woman). Also known as Margaret Aird, she was born in 1793, the daughter of a Dakota woman and Scottish fur trader.
She moved between both cultures, marrying two fur traders and living at various fur posts in Minnesota before her death in 1849.