MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — On May 11, 1858, Minnesota became the 32nd state. It would be another three years before “L’etoile du Nord” became the state’s official motto.

So, how did that happen? Good Question.

L’etoile du Nord – that’s interpreted as the Star of the North,” says Brian Pease, the State Capitol’s Historic Site Manager for the Minnesota Historical Society.

In 1861, then-Governor Henry Sibley thought the saying would make a good state motto. Not only was Minnesota the most northern state at the time, Sibley appreciated the symbolism of the star.

“That’s always a light or a star that explorers would use to navigate,” said Pease. “He was looking to the future, to follow Minnesota’s lead, we’re a state to be followed.”

Legislators approved the motto in French as a nod to the early French-Canadian settles and Voyageurs in Minnesota.

And, as for Minnesota’s unofficial state nickname – the Land of 10,000 Lakes? That was a 1920s tourism campaign to lure people to Minnesota.

Heather Brown

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