Minnesota is the 12th largest in area and the 22nd most populous of the U.S. states; nearly 60% of its residents live in the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area (known as the "Twin Cities"). This area is the center of transportation, business, industry, education, and government, while being home to an internationally known arts community. The remainder 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.
Minnesota was inhabited by various indigenous peoples for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Europeans. 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 today 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, a large number of 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 its demographic and cultural composition. The state's economy has heavily 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.