Mankato is a city in Blue Earth, Nicollet, and Le Sueur counties in the State of Minnesota. The population was 39,309 at the 2010 census, making it the fourth largest city in Minnesota outside of the Minneapolis–Saint Paul metropolitan area. The county seat of Blue Earth County, it is located along a large bend of the Minnesota River at its confluence with the Blue Earth River. Mankato is across the Minnesota River from North Mankato. Mankato and North Mankato have a combined population of over 53,000, according to the 2010 census. It completely encompasses the town of Skyline. North of Mankato Regional Airport, a tiny non-contiguous part of the city is located within Le Sueur County. Most of the city of Mankato is located within Blue Earth County.
Mankato is the larger of the two principal cities of the Mankato-North Mankato metropolitan area, which covers Blue Earth and Nicollet counties and had a combined population of 94,149 at the 2010 census. Mankato was designated a Metropolitan Statistical Area by the U.S. Census Bureau in November 2008.
The area was long settled by various cultures of indigenous peoples. After European colonization began on the East Coast, pressure from settlement and other Native American tribes caused different peoples to migrate into the area. By the mid-nineteenth century Dakota language–speaking four divisions of the Dakota Sioux were the primary indigenous group in the territory.
Mankato Township was not settled by European Americans until Parsons King Johnson in February 1852, as part of the nineteenth century migration of people from the east across the Midwest. New residents organized the city of Mankato on May 11, 1858. The city was organized by Henry Jackson, Parsons King Johnson, Col. D.A. Robertson, Justus C. Ramsey, and unnamed others. A popular story says that the city was intended to have been named Mahkato, but a typographical error by a clerk established the name as Mankato. According to Upham, quoting historian Thomas Hughes of Mankato, "The honor of christening the new city was accorded to Col. Robertson. He had taken the name from Nicollet's book, in which the French explorer compared the 'Mahkato" or Blue Earth River, with all its tributaries, to the water nymphs and their uncle in the German legend of Undine.'...No more appropriate name could be given the new city, than that of the noble river at whose mouth it is located." While it may or may not be true that the city was intended to be called Mahkato, the Dakota called the river Makato Osa Watapa (meaning "the river where blue earth is gathered." The Anglo settlers adapted that as the Blue Earth River. Notwithstanding the above history of the name for town of Mankato - Dakota word for Blue Earth, according to Frederick Webb Hodge, in his "Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico," Volume 1, page 801, the town was named after the older of the two like-named chiefs of the Mdewakanton division of the Santee Dakota, whose village stood on or near the site of the present town.
Ishtakhaba, also known as Chief Sleepy Eye, of the Sisseton band of Dakota Indians was said to have directed settlers to this location. He said the site at the confluence of the Minnesota and Blue Earth Rivers was well suited for building and for river traffic, and yet safe from flooding.
In 1880, Mankato ranked fourth in size in the state. The population was 5,500.