The Mississippi River's many islands are well known to navigators, and the roles of several as accessible and safe havens for villages, camps, and forts have made them significant in Minnesota's past. Lt. Zebulon Pike chose this island, later named for him, as a camp site on his 1805 expedition to explore the upper Mississippi following the Louisiana Purchase. Pike met with Dakota Indian Leaders here and purchased land which would later become the Twin Cities.
Grey Cloud Island, further downstream, was known to the Dakota people for its supernatural woods and its great variety of wild fruit. U.S. troops under the command of Colonel Henry Leavenworth found it a good campsite on their way up the river to establish Fort Snelling, and in 1838 Joseph R. Brown, a former fort drummer boy, established a trading post there.
The home of the Prairie Island Dakota Indian Community, who share it with a nuclear power plant, Prairie Island at the mouth of the Vermillion River may have been one of the first Minnesota locations visited by French explorers in the late 17th century. They called it Isle Pelée (Bald Island), probably because of its extensive prairie cover dotted with several lakes and sloughs.
ERECTED BY THE MINNESOTA HISTORICAL SOCIETY
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