This Day in History - Ten Thousand Years Ago
by Leanne Brown and Larry Hutchings
While this year marks the 150th anniversary of Carver County's establishment but the history of people in Carver County dates back thousands of years before Europeans began to settle the area. The story of these people is woven from the evidence found in the earth and the stories of the elders.
Long, long ago this area was covered by ice. As the climate warmed, the glacier receded and shaped a landscape of lakes, rivers, and hills. The First People, or Paleo Indians, arrived in this area about 12,000 years ago and lived in small family groups. They gathered plants and hunted mammoths, mastodons, and giant bison with stone-tipped spears. They lived a migratory lifestyle since they needed to follow the herds for food. As the climate began to change, the large animals began to die off and the People had to change their way of life to survive.
Many generations passed and the landscape continued to change. The climate became habitable for deer, bison, and fish. The Archaic People lived in the region from about 6,000 BC-100 AD. They used both stone and copper tools for hunting and fishing and other daily tasks. They needed to move their homes seasonally to stay close to their food source. Loved ones were often buried in a shallow grave on high lakeshores or hillsides. Although we know little about what customs the ancient people practiced, we can hypothesize that they had beliefs about the afterlife since they often buried their dead with projectile points and tools.
Forests began to spread across the landscape and the people adapted to their changing environment. The Woodland People lived throughout the region from about 1200 BC until 1650 AD. Hunting deer and other smaller animals was an important part of their lives and many of the points found today were made by the Woodland cultures. Besides hunting, the people living further north near Mille Lacs began to cultivate wild rice. Other cultures introduced maize to the Woodland people living in southern Minnesota.
The people were beginning to live in villages by lakes and rivers, although they still moved through the circle of seasons to stay close to natural resources. Trade amongst villages was important but trade also extended to different bands of Indians, making it possible to get goods that were otherwise unavailable. A cowry shell, found in a field in Camden Township, is a type of marine snail found in oceans like the Pacific and Caribbean. Cowry shells would have been prized decorations for clothing. Its presence in Carver County tells us that extensive trade networks existed here long ago.
Trade continued to play an important role as the Dakota and Ojibwe moved into the region. It was through the fur trade that many native cultures first had contact with Europeans.
To learn more about local native cultures and see more of the Historical Society's collection of native artifacts that date from the contemporary to the Paleo Indian period, please visit the Akta Dakota exhibit at the Carver County Historical Society in Waconia.