The area around St. Paul has been occupied for millennia; long before any European ever came to this continent. Delving back into explorer’s diaries, like those of Zebulon Pike (1805-7) and Stephen H. Long (1823), can give us a glimpse of life in those times, keeping in mind that that view is through foreign eyes.
The Iminijaska Suite’s name comes from those diaries and records. Iminijaska was the Dakota name for White Rock, located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers, probably where Fort Snelling is today. This was an ancient Dakota trading location.
There were various other names peppered around the St. Paul vicinity before it officially took on the name gifted by a Catholic missionary, many of which are still extant:
***Little Canada, named for the voyageurs and other French Canadian settlers, and currently a suburb north of St. Paul.
***Mendota is Dakota for “meeting of the waters.” Mendota and Mendota Heights villages are sited across the Mississippi from Fort Snelling.
***Fountain Cave, about 3 miles west of downtown, is often named as the birthplace of the city. That’s where Pig’s Eye Parrant, a French-Canadian fur trader, with vision in only one eye, set up his liquor trade, just outside the jurisdiction of Fort Snelling. He lost his claim in 1844, and moved on. Later the cave was a popular tourist attraction. It has since been walled up with the building of Shepard Road in the 1960’s,
***Pig’s Eye – As the first white settler in the area that became St. Paul, and being somewhat famous/infamous for his trade, the area was more or less named after Parrant. For a while, you could send and receive mail using Pig’s Eye as the address.
***Rev. Lucian Galtier, a Catholic missionary, was horrified (as were many people after him) that Pig’s Eye was not only the first citizen of the city, but also the source of its name. His Catholic chapel was dedicated Nov 1, 1841, and soon after the city was officially named St. Paul, after the chapel.
Sources and Further Reading:
The Expeditions of Zublon Montgomery Pike, P. 74-5, in the extensive footnotes.
Little Canada’s History
Mendota: Walking in the Footsteps of History
Part of Metis History of Red River 1500-1899
Narrative of an expedition to the source of St. Peter’s river, Lake Winnepeek, Lake of the Woods, &c., performed in the year 1823, … under the command of Stephen H. Long
Pig’s Eye Parrant and Pig’s Eye, the city
Sioux Research – Dakota, Lakota, Nakota