On Sunday the frozen state of Minnesota turned 150. It’s our sesquicentennial! I’m an old pro at this, having lived in Michigan during their 1987 sesquicentennial (which means I can pronounce sesquicentennial, but can’t spell it without help). Some have argued that nobody really cares about 150 years of statehood. But I say it is a big deal, especially if you let me learn for free.
That’s right, on June 1 you can visit all Minnesota Historical Society sites and museums as well as Minnesota State Parks free of charge. Now that’s a celebration I can support.
But seriously, it is kind of cool. It’s fun to explore local history and understand how things came to be. Of course it shouldn’t be a chance to whitewash history—not everyone is eager to celebrate the sesquicentennial. After all, there have been people in Minnesota for far longer than 150 years and we didn’t exactly ask politely if we could have their homeland. Plus we have the distinction of being the location of the largest mass execution in U.S. history (how’s that for a tourist slogan?). That execution, by the way, involved military tribunals of questionable fairness, was personally reviewed by Abraham Lincoln, and ultimately only 38 of 303 death sentences were carried out, thanks to Episcopal Bishop Henry Whipple’s pleas for leniency (go Episcopalians!). As hard as it is to read about these sad moments in our history, it’s encouraging to read about people like Whipple who stood up against racism and violence.
Sometimes history’s lessons are somber, but they’re still important.
On a less somber note, I am disappointed we don’t have better sesquicentennial swag. Where are the yo-yos?
Since this is my second sesquicentennial, I thought it might be interesting to move around and celebrate sesquicentennials as they come. If that sounds like fun to you, you better head to Oregon in 2009, Kansas in 2011, West Virginia in 2013 and Nevada in 2014. You could also celebrate centennials in New Mexico and Arizona in 2012, but that’s not as fun to say.