Please note that we have elected not to include a picture of Minnesota Minnie in respect for the wishes of descendant tribes.
In 1931 construction crews working on Highway Route 59 came across a human skeleton in along the eastern shore of Prairie Lake near Pelican Rapids. The remains were reported to be found roughly nine feet below the ground surface. It was speculated that the remains, at that point thought to be those of a fifteen year old boy, were deposited at the bottom of a lake that predated glacial Lake Agassiz. He was estimated to have died about 20,000 years before present and were in possession of some unusual items even for that period. An conche and elk antler knife was found not far from the body. For many archaeologists, the boy’s body was proof of early inhabitants in the North American region.
Not long after the completion of the project a plaque was placed at the site where the remains were found to commemorate the young person. In 1959, a new rest stop was built in the area and a new monument was erected by the Minnesota Historical Society.
Much later the remains were re-examined and determined to be a young girl rather than a boy. The monument was changed to account for this discovery. In October 1999, members of the Dakotas tribes worked with archaeologists and museum staff under the newer Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) regulations to have the teenager’s remains reburied in South Dakota.
There have been many speculations as to how the girl ended up in the lake. Some believe that she fell off a boat or through a crack in the ice covering the lake. Unable to swim, she drowned and sunk to the bottom where the silty clay encased her, only to be found many centuries later.
While we cannot be certain she was traveling alone, I consider the unknown girl to be a candidate for “great girl” status as it is certain her journey was neither easy nor painless. Although there is nothing particularly auspicious about her death, it does make one think about how strong and brave the girl must have been to expose herself to the elements; whether she was alone or not.