Bemidji ( bə-MIJ-ee) is a city and the county seat of Beltrami County, in northern Minnesota, United States. The United States Census Bureau estimates Bemidji's population as of 2019 at 15,434, making it the largest commercial center between Grand Forks, North Dakota and Duluth.
As a central city for three Indian reservations, Bemidji is the site of many Native American services, including the Indian Health Service. Near Bemidji are the Red Lake Indian Reservation, White Earth Indian Reservation, and the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. Bemidji lies on the southwest shore of Lake Bemidji, the northernmost lake feeding the Mississippi River; it is nicknamed "The First City on the Mississippi". Bemidji is also the self-proclaimed "curling capital" of the U.S. and the alleged birthplace of legendary Paul Bunyan.
Its name derives from the Ojibwe Buh-mid-ji-ga-maug (Double-Vowel orthography: bemijigamaag), meaning "a lake with crossing waters". Some sources say that Chief Bemidji, an Ojibwe leader, is the namesake.
On occasion, in Ojibwe, Bemidji is called Wabigamaang ("at the lake channel/narrows"), because part of the city is situated on the Lakes Bemidji/Irving narrows, on the south end of Lake Bemidji, and extends to the eastern shore of Lake Irving.
Beltrami County was created on February 28, 1866, by an act of legislation.
Bemidji Township was surveyed by European Americans in 1874.