Three nicknames are commonly used to refer to the state of Minnesota: The Gopher State; Land of 10,000 Lakes; and the North Star State. "L'etoile du Nord" (translated "star of the north") is Minnesota's official state motto.
In February 1858, the new Minnesota Legislature introduced the “Five Million Loan” bill. The purpose of the bill was to provide money to build railroads in the state. A highly controversial proposal, the bill ultimately passed. During the public debate, a cartoon was circulated depicting the railroad tycoons as nine gophers with human heads pulling a Gopher Train. Minnesota’s nickname “ the gopher state” came from this 1857 cartoon. A full description of the Five Million Loan may be found in William Watts Folwell, A History of Minnesota, Volume II (St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1961), pages 37-58. In fact, the nickname refers to the “striped gopher” which is not actually a gopher, but is a thirteen-lined ground squirrel.
Minnesota is called the “land of 10,000 lakes” despite the fact that there are 11,842 lakes larger than 10 acres in size in the state. The legend of Paul Bunyan gives Paul and Babe the Blue Ox credit for creating the lakes with their footprints. In reality, Minnesota’s many lakes were created by the filling of depressions in the Minnesota landscape when four large glacier systems melted. Read more about it: House Information, Minnesota State Government Series - State Profile.
An official state slogan was proposed in 1959 (HF437), “your vacation and convention dollar goes further in Minnesota.” The bill was amended to add, following the word Minnesota, the phrase “-No Sales Tax!”.