The geography of the state consists of western prairies now given over to intensive agriculture; deciduous forests in the southeast, now partially cleared, farmed, and settled; and the less populated North Woods, used for mining, forestry, and recreation.
Before Europeans arrived, Minnesota was inhabited for thousands of years by various indigenous peoples, some of whom continue to reside in Minnesota today. French explorers, missionaries, and fur traders began exploring the region in the 17th century, encountering the Dakota and Ojibwe/Anishinaabe tribes. Much of what is now Minnesota was part of the vast French holding of Louisiana, which was purchased by the United States in 1803. Following several territorial reorganizations, Minnesota in its current form was admitted as the country's 32nd state on May 11, 1858. Like many Midwestern states, it remained sparsely populated and centered on lumber and agriculture. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, many European immigrants, mainly from Scandinavia and Germany, began to settle the state, which remains a center of Scandinavian American and German American culture.
In recent decades immigration from Asia, the Horn of Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America has broadened Minnesota's demographics and culture. Its economy has greatly diversified, shifting from traditional activities such as agriculture and resource extraction to services and finance. Minnesota's standard of living index is among the highest in the United States, and the state is also among the best-educated and wealthiest in the nation.