North Dakota, state in the West North Central United States. It is bounded by Minnesota on the east, South Dakota on the south, and Montana on the west. North of it lies Canada. North Dakota belongs to the vast plains section of the United States, and like other plains states it is predominantly agricultural. Bismarck is the capital of North Dakota. Fargo is the largest city.
Early European residents were originally involved in fur trading, but after wars with Native Americans subsided and railroads were constructed, settlers poured into the state to take up its rich farmland. However, the prairie farmers have not always been successful economically. Political affairs in the state have vividly reflected the farmers’ resentments against outside control of wheat prices and against the rates charged for storage and transportation of their grain. When the region including present-day North Dakota was made a territory of the United States in 1861, it was named for the Dakota people who lived there. Residents chose to retain the name when the territory was divided into north and south states upon admission into the Union on November 2, 1889. North Dakota is the 39th state. The Dakota people are better known as the Sioux, and have given the state one of its several nicknames—the Sioux State. North Dakota is called the Peace Garden State—in reference to the International Peace Garden on the border between North Dakota and Manitoba. Finally, the state is called the Flickertail State, referring to the flickertail ground squirrel common to central North Dakota.
Located at the geographical center of the North American continent, North Dakota is bounded on the north by the 49th parallel, which separates it from the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Its eastern boundary, the only natural boundary of the state, consists of the Red River of the North, or Red River, and one of its headwater streams, the Bois de Sioux River. North Dakota’s boundaries enclose a rectangular area of 183,112 sq km (70,700 sq mi), including 4,465 sq km (1,724 sq mi) of inland water, making it the 18th largest state in the nation. From north to south its maximum distance is 341 km (212 mi), and from east to west, North Dakota extends for 581 km (361 mi). The state slopes downward from southwest to northeast. The lowest point, 229 m (750 ft) above sea level, is found at the Red River near Pembina, in the northeastern corner of the state. The state’s highest point, 1,069 m (3,506 ft), is White Butte, in southwestern North Dakota. The mean elevation of the state is about 580 m (1,900 ft).
North Dakota is a Plains state. Although it is largely flat or rolling, there are rough and hilly sections. In relatively recent geologic time a continental glacier spread over all but the southwestern section. It brought soil from Canada, scoured down the highlands, and filled in the lowlands. The glacier blocked the northward-flowing Red River, forming the glacial Lake Agassiz, whose dry lake basin forms the flat and fertile Red River valley in the east.
Two major physiographic provinces, or natural regions, are represented in North Dakota. These are the Central Lowland and the Great Plains, both subdivisions of the Interior Plains. Eastern North Dakota belongs to the Western Lake section of the Central Lowland. The low plains around the Red River are the remains of the lake basin of Lake Agassiz. West of the old lake basin the terrain rises a little and is known as a drift plain because of the drift, or finely ground rock and gravel, left by the glacier. In the northern part of the state the Pembina escarpment separates the Red River valley and the drift plain and is especially noticeable in the Pembina Mountains. In Canada the escarpment is called the Manitoba escarpment. The remainder of the Red River valley is separated by several successive beaches laid down by the retreating glacial Lake Agassiz. Another feature of the Central Lowland in North Dakota is the Turtle Mountains. Straddling the North Dakota-Manitoba border, these mountains, which resemble a mesa 760 m (2,500 ft) in elevation, present an interesting contrast to the plains because they are forested. Marking the division between the Central Lowland on the east and the Great Plains on the west is a section called the Coteau du Missouri, or “hills of the Missouri,” which is part of the glaciated section of the Missouri Plateau. The coteau, up to 40 km (25 mi) wide, consists of moraine, or boulders and rocks left by the glacier. The glacial moraine of the Coteau du Missouri appears in a series of hummocks and hills 30 to 40 m (100 to 150 ft) high. The coteau runs roughly parallel to the Missouri River in a long diagonal belt through the state.
The glaciated portion of the Missouri Plateau is mostly a subdued rolling prairie. The Missouri River has cut a channel from 120 to 150 m (400 to 500 ft) deep, and the stream bed between the bluffs is as much as 5 km (3 mi) wide in some places. Many old lake basins are seen in this plateau area, and here and there isolated mountains rise above the surface of the land. An example is the Killdeer Mountains in west central North Dakota. These sandstone-capped buttes are remnants of the landscape prior to the wind and water erosion and rise about 180 m (about 600 ft) above the surrounding countryside.
The unglaciated section of the Missouri Plateau in the southwestern corner of North Dakota is distinct from the other parts of the state chiefly because its surface features have not been affected by glaciation. This section contains White Butte, the highest elevation in the state, Sentinel Butte, Black Butte, Bullion Butte, the Killdeer Mountains, and the Badlands. They were so named by early travelers who found them bad lands to travel through. North Dakota’s Badlands are only one of several such areas in which erosion near rivers has cut down the land surrounding the river systems, leaving small buttes or peaks surrounded by deep gullies and ravines. Badlands topography is seen in dry areas where vegetation has not grown up to prevent such erosion, especially when sudden torrential rains occur. Usually in such areas the surface material is soft and easily cut away. In the Badlands of North Dakota slow-burning beds of lignite coal have melted adjoining clay beds into colorful masses called clinker. The Badlands follow much of the Little Missouri River to the point where it empties into the Missouri River.
|B||Rivers and Lakes|
The Missouri River, which flows south into the Mississippi River, and the Red River of the North, which flows north into Lake Winnipeg and ultimately into Hudson Bay, drain North Dakota. The principal tributaries of the Missouri in North Dakota are the Cannonball, Heart, James, Knife, and Little Missouri rivers. Tributaries of the Red that flow through North Dakota include the Sheyenne, Goose, Park, Pembina, and Souris rivers.
Many small lakes dot the glaciated portion of North Dakota. Devils Lake is the largest natural lake in the state. Its waters are salty because it lacks an outlet. There are also many artificial lakes. The largest, Lake Sakakawea, is a reservoir on the Missouri River north of Bismarck and is one of the largest lakes in the United States, covering 1,458 sq km (563 sq mi). Other important reservoirs include Arrowhead, Darling, and Heart Butte. Lake Oahe, also a reservoir on the Missouri, is shared between North and South Dakota.
North Dakota has hot summers and long cold winters. Its maximum precipitation falls in spring and early summer. Weather conditions, including temperature, can change rapidly. Mean temperatures in Bismarck, near the center of the state, are representative of those of most parts of the state. January, the coldest month, has an average temperature of -13° C (9° F), and July, the warmest month, averages 21° C (70° F). Extremes of 49° C (121° F) and -51° C (-60° F) have been recorded. At Bismarck, the growing season averages 134 days, as the average date of the last killing frost is May 11 and that of the first killing frost is September 22. The length of the growing season drops to about 110 days in the northerly reaches of the state. The long periods of summer sunshine at this latitude, providing as much as 16 hours of daylight in summer, help crops to mature quickly, thus compensating somewhat for the relatively short growing season.
Temperatures in the north are, on the average, several degrees lower than those in the south. Some of the greatest variations are from west to east. The west is affected by Chinook winds while the east is not. Average January temperatures range from -10° C (14° F) in the west to -16° C (3° F) in the east. The range for precipitation is also greater from east to west. Precipitation ranges from 510 mm (20 in) in the east to 360 mm (14 in) in the west. Snowfall is relatively light, although low temperatures keep the snow from melting and strong winter winds can cause enormous snowdrifts. Most of the precipitation falls during the growing season and therefore benefits farming. The precipitation averages are about the minimum needed for farming, and at times dry years have caused crop disasters.
The most valuable natural resource of North Dakota is its deep, dark, and rich soil. Developed under grass, this soil is among the best in the world and is capable of great agricultural production. Most of the soil is a loam, clay or a silt loam. The soils of the eastern part of the state, classified as udic haploborolls, are darker, deeper, and more productive than the chestnut-brown soils of the unglaciated Missouri Plateau.
North Dakota belongs to the grasslands that extend from the Rocky Mountains to the forests of eastern North America. Tall prairie grasses predominate in the east, especially the Red River valley, but short steppe grasses are dominant in the west. The central part of the state is a transitional zone of mixed tall, mid, and short prairie grasses. Most of the grasslands have been plowed for crops, but there are still about 6 million hectares (about 15 million acres) of grass in the state, most of it native prairie grass. In draws or hollows scattered brushes or shrubs are found, usually consisting of one or several varieties of chokecherries, Juneberries, wild plums, hawthorns, raspberries, buckbrushes, and wild roses. The wild prairie rose is the state flower.
North Dakota is a grassland state, and native forests amount to only 1.5 percent of its land area. Most of the forests are found in the Turtle Mountains, the Pembina Gorge region, the Missouri, Sheyenne, and Pembina river valleys, and around Devils Lake. The principal trees are the green ash, elm, quaking aspen, birch, oak, and cottonwood. In the western part of the state, ponderosa pines and cedars (junipers) are found. Most forestry activities in North Dakota are focused on planting. Both state and federal agencies participate in planting programs to establish shelterbelts and windbreaks to prevent wind from blowing away precious topsoil.
The great herds of bison that once roamed freely on the North Dakota prairie can now be seen in wildlife refuges and national park units. Elk and moose can be found in the forest areas between the Turtle Mountains and Pembina Gorge in the northeast, while elk also can be found in the Badlands, where wild horses also run. White-tailed deer are abundant throughout the state, and mule deer and antelope abound in the western part. Bighorn roam the Badlands, and the howl of the coyote can be heard at night. Rabbits, foxes, and squirrels are common. Mink, muskrat, skunks, beaver, weasels, and an occasional raccoon also inhabit the state, and prairie dog colonies can still be found.
Birds are abundant. There are sage hens, sharp-tailed grouse, plover, and ruffed grouse, as well as ducks, geese, pelicans, gulls, grebes, and other water birds. There are also many hawks, owls, and eagles. The Souris Loop refuges contain almost 300 species of birds. The ring-necked pheasant, wild turkey, chukar, and Hungarian partridge have been brought into the state. Among the fishes that live in the waters of the state are pike, saugers, trout, salmon, walleyes, and muskellunge.
Conservation of natural resources has become a major consideration in North Dakota. The state soil conservation committee, the state game and fish department, and the state water commission work with federal agencies to conserve the state’s natural resources.
Since the 1930s, the time of the Dust Bowl in the United States, prevention of soil erosion has been of special concern in the state. Many farmers have put conservation practices into effect. All of the state’s land area is included in soil conservation districts.
Hundreds of dams have been constructed in the state for flood control, municipal water supply, and irrigation. The largest is Garrison Dam on the Missouri River. Other important dams are Baldhill Dam, on the Sheyenne River; Homme Dam, on the Park River; Dickinson and Heart Butte dams, on the Heart River; Bowman-Haley Dam, on the Grand River; and Jamestown Dam, on the James River.
All of North Dakota’s coal production comes from strip mining, in which the soil and rock above the coal is stripped off by excavating machines. The land in a strip-mined area is devastated, but it can be reclaimed or restored for farming, grazing, or other productive uses. A state law requires the reclamation of land in strip-mined areas.
North Dakota does not have any significant urban or industrial pollution. However, the many irrigation and water diversion projects in the state have caused concern over possible pesticide and sediment runoff, and the major Garrison Diversion Project in western North Dakota was halted in the late 1970s after it was determined that agricultural runoff might disturb the ecology of the Souris River.
North Dakota is an agricultural state. Farming is, directly or indirectly, the major source of income. However, mining, manufacturing, and tourism are also important. The extraction of mineral fuels—petroleum, coal, and natural gas—is the principal mining activity. Food processing is the chief type of manufacturing.
North Dakota had a work force of 358,000 in 2006. Of those the largest share, 40 percent, worked in the diverse service sector, doing such jobs as working in tourist establishments or data processing. Another 21 percent worked in wholesale or retail trade; 21 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 9 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; 7 percent in manufacturing; 14 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 21 percent in transportation or public utilities; 5 percent in construction; and 1 percent in mining. In 2005, 7 percent of North Dakota’s workers belonged to labor unions. The state has a right-to-work law, which prohibits union membership as a condition of employment.
In 2005 there were 30,300 farms in North Dakota. Of those 72 percent produced annual income of more than $10,000, a high rate by national standards. Many of the remaining farms were sidelines for operators who held other jobs. Farmland occupied 15.9 million hectares (39.4 million acres), of which 67 percent was cropland. Most of the rest was used as range for livestock grazing. In the early 1990s about 41,000 people worked on farms in North Dakota. That represented a decrease of nearly one-fifth from the early 1980s. However, projections are that employment in farming will remain steady into the early 2000s.
North Dakota lies in the heart of the spring wheat belt, where wheat is planted in spring and harvested in late summer. The state is surpassed only by Kansas in total wheat production. It harvests more durum wheat, which is used in making pasta, and other varieties of spring wheat than any other state. In barley, sunflower seed, and flaxseed the state also ranks first in the nation. Furthermore, it is a leading producer of dry beans, potatoes, honey, oats, and sugar beets. After wheat, cattle provide the second most important source of income for North Dakota’s farmers. The state also produces such crops as hay, soybeans, and corn, as well as dairy products and hogs.
|A1||Patterns of Farming|
The land bordering the Red River in eastern North Dakota is the richest agricultural land in the state. In addition to wheat growing, a variety of specialty crops are raised, including sugar beets, soybeans, and sunflowers, as well as most of the potatoes grown in the state. In the southeast, corn and oats are important and hogs, as well as cattle, are raised. Corn and hogs, traditionally raised together, are the important products of the Corn Belt, which borders this part of the state. Throughout much of the rest of North Dakota, cash grains, largely wheat but also barley and oats, are usually grown. Flax is grown in many areas. In the Missouri Coteau and in the southwestern part of the state many farmers combine cattle ranching with wheat growing. In south central North Dakota, dairy cattle are numerous.
Mineral fuels account for 97 percent of the value of North Dakota’s mineral output. Petroleum, which was first brought into production in 1951, accounted for three-fifths of the value of North Dakota’s annual mineral output in the late 1990s. It occurs in a large geologic structure, called the Williston Basin, that underlies western North Dakota as well as parts of South Dakota, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
Lignite, a low-grade coal, has been mined in the state since the 1880s. Output reached 3.3 million tons in 1950 and did not exceed that total again until 1966. Thereafter, production increased steadily, reaching 28 million metric tons in 2006. Only Texas produces more lignite than North Dakota.
Like other mineral fuels in North Dakota, lignite comes from the western half of the state. Mercer, Oliver, and McLean counties account for more than 90 percent of the production. Some of the lignite beds in southwestern North Dakota contain small amounts of uranium.
In national production the state ranks ninth in production of oil although it extracts just 2 percent of the U.S. total. Most of the crude oil is refined at Mandan, although some is shipped to refineries in other states. Williams and McKenzie counties lead all the others in petroleum production.
Natural gas was discovered in North Dakota at the end of the l9th century. Commercial production began in 1929. Most of the gas is taken from the oil wells of the Williston Basin. The largest of the nation’s three coal gasification plants is in North Dakota, located near Beulah. It turns the state’s lignite into a high quality synthetic natural gas, in addition to several chemical byproducts with industrial uses.
Other minerals of importance are sand and gravel, which are made into bricks and other products. Salt is found in the Williston Basin, peat is extracted in Bottineau County, and lime is made at Drayton.
North Dakota’s distance from large consumer centers and sparse population have discouraged the growth of manufacturing. The state ranks 47th in the nation as a manufacturing state, ahead of only Alaska, Hawaii, and Wyoming. Its industries are tied closely to the agricultural activity of the state. The production of industrial machinery, primarily for use on farms, and food processing together account for two-thirds of the total income generated by industry. Machinery production is the leading source of industrial income in North Dakota. The production of dairy products is the leading food-processing activity. Agricultural cooperatives are becoming increasingly popular in the state as farmers band together in an effort to retain a portion of the value added to the raw materials they produce. Closely tied to agriculture are such manufactures as animal feeds and fertilizers. Among the larger establishments in terms of employees are printing and publishing firms and petroleum and natural-gas refineries. Several firms make wood products such as household and commercial furniture and kitchen cabinets. Stone, clay, and glass products supply the construction industry. The state’s largest manufacturing center is Fargo. Other centers are Grand Forks, the Bismarck-Mandan area, and Minot.
Thermal power plants fueled by the state’s lignite supply account for 95 percent of the electricity generated. The remaining electricity comes from hydroelectric sources. The large Garrison Dam project on the Missouri River is publicly owned and operated. Fuels are more than adequate to support increased industry in the state.
North Dakota has an extensive system of railroad lines, many serving to transport agricultural products from small farming communities. Farm products account for 55 percent of the goods hauled by rail and originating in the state, coal makes up 20 percent, and processed foods represent another 19 percent. In 2004 the state had 5,782 km (3,593 mi) of railroad track.
The principal east-west highway is Interstate 94, which draws a nearly straight line across the southern portion of the state. The main north-south route is Interstate 29, along the eastern border. In 2005 North Dakota had 139,680 km (86,793 mi) of public roads, of which 919 km (571 mi) were federal interstate highways.
There were 8 airports in the North Dakota in 2007, many of which were private airfields. The largest was in Fargo, although none of the state’s airports were considered busy by national standards.
|IV||THE PEOPLE OF NORTH DAKOTA|
North Dakota is the 18th largest state, but in population it ranked 47th in 2000, with 639,715 people. Its population density was just 3.6 persons per sq km (9.2 per sq mi). In 1930 the state had 681,000 inhabitants, but the population then declined to 620,000 in 1950. The population grew by about 2 percent in the 1950s, then fell 2 percent in the 1960s. From 1970 to 1980 the population grew by 5.7 percent, only to fall again by 2.1 percent between 1980 and 1990. It grew by just 0.5 percent between 1990 and 2000.
In 2000 only 56 percent of North Dakotans were classified as urban dwellers. The rural population has dropped markedly, however, since 1950 and undoubtedly will continue to do so as farmers seek employment in the cities. Some of North Dakota’s cities have shown sharp population increases. Bismarck more than doubled in population between 1950 and 1990.
North Dakota has three standard metropolitan statistical areas. The Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area, which extends into Minnesota, had a 2006 population of 187,000. The Grand Forks metropolitan area, which also extends into Minnesota, had a population of 96,500. The Bismarck metropolitan area had a population of 101,100. The city of Fargo by itself had 90,056 inhabitants in 2006. Bismarck, with 58,333 people, Grand Forks, with 50,372, and Minot, with 34,745, were the only other large cities. Most of North Dakota’s cities are important railroad junctions and therefore serve as supply centers for their regions. Fargo and Grand Forks are university cities, as well as trade and commercial centers, and Minot has a large state college. Bismarck, the capital, is the administrative center of the state and also a major commercial center. Bismarck grew up as a natural transportation junction because the Missouri River could easily be crossed at that site.
The ancestors of many North Dakotans emigrated from Norway, Germany, Russia, and Canada. In 2000 whites comprised the largest share of the population, representing 92.4 percent of the people. Native Americans, many of whom were of the Ojibwa and Sioux peoples, were 4.9 percent of the population; blacks were 0.6 percent, Asians were 0.6 percent, and those of mixed heritage or not reporting race were 1.5 percent. Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 230. Hispanics, who may be of any race, were 1.2 percent of the population.
More than three-quarters of North Dakota’s population are members of a Christian church, the highest rate of church membership of any state outside of Utah. Most church members belong to Protestant denominations, the largest of which is the Lutherans. Nearly one-third of churchgoers are members of the Roman Catholic church.
|V||EDUCATION AND CULTURAL INSTITUTIONS|
At the time the state was created, in 1889, there were more than 1,000 public schools. In the middle of the 20th century, North Dakota, like many other states, began to consolidate its school districts for greater economy and efficiency, and by 2001 the number of school districts had been reduced to 228. School attendance is compulsory for all children from the age of 7 to 16. About 6 percent of the state’s children attend private schools.
In the 2002–2003 school year North Dakota spent $7,721 on each student’s education, compared to a national average of $9,299. There were 12.7 students for every teacher (the national average was 15.9 students per teacher). Of those older than 25 years of age in 2006, 88.1 percent had a high school diploma, the national norm being 84.1 percent.
North Dakota’s major institutions of higher education are the state-supported University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, and North Dakota State University in Fargo. In 2004–2005 the state had 14 public and 7 private institutions of higher education. They included Dickinson State University, in Dickinson; Jamestown College, in Jamestown; University of Mary , in Bismarck; Mayville State University, in Mayville; Minot State University, in Minot, with a two-year school in Bottineau; and Valley City State University, in Valley City.
The first of the state’s public libraries was opened in Grafton in 1897. That same year the superintendent of public instruction established the traveling library system, which for decades rotated books from school to school throughout the state. The state library commission was also established, primarily to serve rural needs. The state has 82 tax-supported library systems. Each year the libraries circulate an average of 7.4 books for every resident. The largest libraries in the state are at the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University. Both have extensive special collections that include Scandinavian and Icelandic literature and materials on North Dakota’s history and politics. The University of North Dakota has a complete set of the original Nuremberg Trial records, which document war crimes committed during World War II (1939-1945) (see War Crimes Trials).
Two well-known museums are the museum of the State Historical Society at the North Dakota Heritage Center in Bismarck, and the University of North Dakota Zoology Museum, in Grand Forks. The society’s museum houses exhibits relating to North Dakota’s Native Americans and pioneers, and the university’s museum has natural history exhibits. The Geographical Center Historical Museum, at Rugby, is located on the site of the geographical center of the North American continent. The State Historical Society and a number of county historical societies maintain small museums in several cities.
Colonel Clement H. Lounsberry won fame as a journalist for his reporting of the rout of General George A. Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. Lounsberry, who for some years had been a reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune, founded the Bismarck Tribune as a weekly in 1873. It is North Dakota’s oldest newspaper. Other leading newspapers are the Forum, published in Fargo, and the Grand Forks Herald. In 2002 there were 8 daily newspapers in North Dakota.
North Dakota’s first radio station, WDAY, in Fargo, went on the air in 1922, within two years of the first radio broadcast in the United States. In 2002 the state had 34 AM and 44 FM radio stations, and 24 television stations.
|E||Music and Theater|
The early settlers brought with them a great love for music and pageantry that continued in their new land. Almost every community has a band and singing group, and there are a number of amateur theater groups in the state. Grand Forks, Fargo, and Minot sponsor community symphony orchestras. Other communities offer annual concert series by visiting musicians, and various towns have associations for the study and exhibition of art. Grand Forks is home to the North Dakota Ballet Company, and Fargo is the site of the Fargo-Moorhead Civic Opera Company.
|VI||RECREATION AND PLACES OF INTEREST|
North Dakotans participate in a variety of winter sports. These include skating, sleighing, and tobogganing. Ski trails and tows are being opened at various locations in the state, and the larger cities hold winter sports carnivals. People are also attracted to annual summer pageants depicting historical events associated with North Dakota and to the numerous agricultural fairs in the state.
The state’s many wildlife refuges (more than any other state) offer bountiful opportunities to observe animals. Bison, antelope, and bighorn sheep can frequently be seen, as can the hundreds of different species of birds that make the state home.
The two units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park encompass 28,509 hectares (70,447 acres) of rugged Badlands. Inside the park, near Amidon, is an area where burning underground coal beds emit an intense heat through a fissure in the earth’s surface. Prehistoric plant and animal fossils, as well as several petrified forests, are found at this location. Buttes, domes, and cones that resisted erosion rise up on both sides of the Little Missouri River. Mineral deposits cause these rock towers to cast hues of lavender, green, yellow, and red.
The Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, near Stanton, contains the location of large Native American villages encountered during the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1804 to 1806. The Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site is a reconstruction of the fort that was the major trading center of the northern plains in the early 1800s.
International Peace Garden, which lies partly in North Dakota and partly in Manitoba, Canada, features a formal garden, lakes, and picnic areas and honors the long friendship between the two nations. It is operated by a nonprofit corporation.
Two national grasslands, Sheyenne and Little Missouri, are strongholds for dozens of wildlife species. Sheyenne, located in the southeastern portion of the state, is well known as a stopping ground for migratory songbirds. Little Missouri grassland is located on North Dakota’s western border.
There are 17 national wildlife refuges and preserves dotted across the state. One of the country’s biggest game preserves is Sully’s Hill, where bison, elk, and deer can be seen in their natural environment.
Most of North Dakota’s 16 state parks have picnicking and camping facilities. Several others offer fishing opportunities. The wooded Turtle River State Park attracts visitors with its many lakes ideal for swimming and boating.
While usually thought of as a prairie state, a variety of trees grow in North Dakota’s four state forests. The aspen, bur oak, green ash, and balsam poplar that grow in Homen and Turtle Mountain state forests are ideal habitat for moose and deer, as well as a variety of smaller creatures. Tetrault Woods State Forest is a mixture of woods and wetlands, while Sheyenne State Forest is dominated by hardwoods such as elm, green ash, and oak.
|D||Other Places to Visit|
Garrison Dam and Lake Sakakawea are of great interest to visitors, as are the rich oil fields at Fryburg. A noteworthy historic site is the Château de Mores, the lodge of the Marquis de Mores, in the village of Medora, which was founded by the marquis in 1883. The state historic site at Fort Abercrombie contains restored infantry blockhouses dating from pioneer days, and Whitestone Hill Battlefield State Historic Site enshrines the site where a particularly fierce battle occurred between the Native Americans and United States Cavalry forces. The restored boyhood home of band leader Lawrence Welk can be visited in Strasburg. North America’s tallest structure, at 629 m (2,063 ft), is the television tower near Blanchard, north of Fargo. Native American tribes have opened gambling casinos in several areas.
Residents and visitors enjoy year-round festivals and fairs in North Dakota. Historic sites featuring reenactments of pioneering days are especially popular in the summertime. West Fargo hosts the Red River Valley Fair in July. Sodbuster Days, in mid-July, remember the pioneer farmers with demonstrations of agricultural techniques using antique tools and engines. The North Dakota State Fair, held in Minot, is also in July. Dickinson Roughrider Days, during the Fourth of July weekend, is the city’s largest rodeo. Events feature barrel racing, roping, and bareback riding by professional rodeo riders. A long-running football rivalry between the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University captures statewide attention with an annual game.
North Dakota is governed under its original constitution, adopted in 1889, as amended. A constitutional amendment may be proposed by the state legislature or by an initiative. To become effective, it must be approved by a majority of voters in a general election.
Executive power in the state is vested in the office of governor who is elected for a four-year term. Also elected for four years are the lieutenant governor; secretary of state; state auditor; state treasurer; superintendent of public instruction; the commissioners of agriculture, labor, insurance, and taxes; and the attorney general. Three public service commissioners are elected for six-year terms.
The Legislative Assembly comprises a 47-member Senate and a 94-member House of Representatives. Senators serve for four years; representatives serve for two years. The voters have the power of initiative—that is, they can propose constitutional changes through petition and a subsequent vote at the polls. They have the related power of referendum, whereby they can approve or reject at the polls a constitutional amendment proposed by the legislative assembly.
Judicial power in the state lies with a supreme court of five members, each elected for a ten-year term, seven district courts whose 25 judges are elected for six-year terms, county magistrates, and numerous county justices and police magistrates.
Each of the 53 counties in North Dakota is governed by an elected board of commissioners and other elective officials, including sheriffs, auditors, and treasurers. The commissioners serve four years, and other officials two years. North Dakota’s cities have the mayor and city council, commission, or city manager form of government.
North Dakota elects two U.S. senators and one member of the United States House of Representatives. The state casts three electoral votes.
The first people in what is now North Dakota were hunters and gatherers who appeared about 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. They had stone weapons and hunted many different animals, but disappeared about 5000 bc. About 2,000 years ago native peoples from the areas of present-day Minnesota and Wisconsin moved to the grasslands in what is now eastern North Dakota. In about ad 1100 the ancestors of the Mandan and Hidatsa peoples migrated to the area of North Dakota. By the end of the 17th century the Mandan, with their allies, the Hidatsa and Arikara, lived a largely sedentary life in earthen lodges clustered in fortified villages. They raised corn, beans, pumpkins, squash, sunflowers, melons, and tobacco and supplemented that diet by hunting and gathering. They conducted wide-ranging trading expeditions that covered the area between the Rocky Mountains, what is now northern Michigan, and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Cheyenne, whom the Ojibwa had driven out of Minnesota in the late 17th century, settled first on the Sheyenne River in what is now North Dakota, living in earth lodges, and farming. The Ojibwa destroyed this settlement about 1770, and the Cheyenne moved into the Black Hills of what is now South Dakota, became dependent on the bison, and adopted a nomadic lifestyle. By the early 19th century in the area of present-day North Dakota, the Yanktonai and Teton Sioux peoples lived in the southeast and southwest, respectively; the Ojibwa lived in the northeast, and the Assiniboine, related to the Yantonai Sioux, lived in the northwest.
In 1682 the French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, traveled down the Mississippi River and claimed all the land drained by the river for France, including most of present-day North Dakota. The first person of European descent known to have entered North Dakota was Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye, who traveled there in 1738. La Vérendrye had been authorized by the king of France to explore new areas for the fur trade and to search for the Northwest Passage, a route that was believed to connect the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean through what is now Canada. Such a route would allow ships to sail directly to Asia. La Vérendrye did not find the passage, but he did visit many Mandan villages and noted the complexity of their civilization, their farms, and their fortifications. Two sons of La Vérendrye also crossed the areas of present-day North Dakota and South Dakota in 1742.
More than 50 years elapsed before more European explorers visited the area. In 1797 David Thompson of the North West Company mapped and explored the Assiniboine and Souris rivers, the Turtle Mountains, and much of what is now central North Dakota. The same year Charles Chaboillez of the North West Company built the first fur-trading post in North Dakota at the confluence of the Pembina River and the Red River of the North.
|C||The Louisiana Purchase|
In 1763 France was defeated by Great Britain in the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the last in a series of battles between Great Britain and France for domination in North America, and lost nearly all its North American possessions. However in 1762 France had secretly ceded all its lands west of the Mississippi (called the Louisiana Territory) to Spain, France’s ally in the war. France regained the land in 1800 under an agreement with Spain, and in 1803 the United States bought a huge region, including what is now the western half of North Dakota, from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, United States President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the newly acquired territory west of the Mississippi River (see Lewis and Clark Expedition). In 1804 they reached what is now North Dakota and spent the winter of 1804 and 1805 at Mandan and Hidatsa villages. While with the Mandan, Lewis and Clark met the French trader Toussaint Charbonneau, whom they hired as an interpreter and guide for the rest of their trip west. Charbonneau’s Shoshone wife, Sacagawea (or Sacajawea) and their young son were also allowed to go with the expedition when it set out in April 1805. Sacagawea proved invaluable. When the expedition encountered a tribe of Shoshone led by her brother, Sacagawea obtained food, horses, and guides, which allowed the explorers to continue. The following spring Lewis and Clark returned along the same route, and in September 1806 they left Sacagawea and Charbonneau at the Mandan village near present-day Stanton.
By 1801 the Hudson’s Bay and XY companies had established fur-trading posts in the area. That same year the North West Company’s Alexander Henry abandoned Chaboillez’s post and built a new one, later called Fort Henry, on the opposite bank of the Red River. Henry established posts in other parts of what is now North Dakota and wrote enthusiastically of his visits to the Mandan. Fur-trading companies continued to build trading posts throughout the area until the late 1830s when the fur trade began to decline.
In time a community of Native Americans and Métis (people of mixed Native American and European ancestry) grew up around the fur-trading posts. Métis staffed the trains of carts carrying furs and merchandise between Winnipeg, Manitoba, and Saint Paul, Minnesota.
Permanent white settlement had started in 1812, when a group of Scottish and Irish settlers under the sponsorship of Thomas Douglas, 5th earl of Selkirk, left Winnipeg in what is now Canada to start a colony at Pembina. These settlers began farming and built log houses and a stockade, which they named Fort Daer. In 1818 they founded the state’s first church and first school. Britain and the United States agreed on the 49th parallel as the boundary between the territory of the two nations in 1818, and when a U.S. survey in 1823 showed that the Fort Daer settlers were no longer in British territory, the colony moved across the border to Canada.
During the last years of the fur trade many prominent people visited the area of present-day North Dakota, including the naturalist John James Audubon; Paul Wilhelm, the prince of Wurttemberg; and Maximillian, the prince of Wied. The famous artist George Catlin also visited in 1832, riding aboard the Yellowstone, the first steamboat to sail up the Missouri River to Fort Union. During his eight-year stay, Catlin wrote, painted, or sketched much of what he experienced on the upper Missouri River. Especially valuable are his descriptions of many of the ceremonies of the Mandan prior to their decimation by smallpox in 1837. The remaining Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa moved near Fort Berthold, where their descendants live today.
|E||The Dakota Territory|
Until the late 1840s white settlement in the area of present-day North Dakota was largely limited to the areas along the Missouri. That began to change after the admission of Iowa to the Union in 1846, the discovery of gold in California in 1848, and the organization of the Minnesota Territory in 1849, each of which implied that what is now North Dakota would eventually become a territory as well. That possibility encouraged white settlers to move into the area. In the 1850s two land companies were formed, the Dakota Land Company in Minnesota and the Western Town Company in Iowa, each wanting to secure desirable land in the anticipated Dakota territory. By spring of 1857 both companies had built separate communities at the site of present-day Sioux Falls, South Dakota. By early 1861 hundreds of settlers had migrated to the region, establishing communities in what is now South Dakota at Vermillion, Yankton, and Bon Homme, and occupying farms in the surrounding lands. On March 2, 1861, President James Buchanan signed the act establishing Dakota Territory, which included all of present-day North and South Dakota, as well as large portions of Wyoming and Montana. The first legislature of the Dakota Territory met in what is now Yankton, South Dakota, in 1862. In 1868 the creation of the Wyoming Territory established the western boundary of the Dakotas. The southern boundary was fixed in 1882.
|F||Conflict with Native Americans|
To protect those living along the Missouri River and the migrants and settlers traveling through the area of present-day North Dakota on their way to the Pacific Coast, the federal government built many short-lived military posts in the latter half of the 19th century. The first of these, Fort Abercrombie, was built on the Red River in 1857. In 1862 Sioux peoples from Minnesota besieged Fort Abercrombie for several weeks. In 1863 U.S. General Henry H. Sibley and his troops headed west and drove the Sioux across the Missouri River. General Alfred H. Sully followed Sibley and fought several bloody battles with other Sioux bands that had probably not taken part in the earlier Minnesota war.
The U.S. government, despite building more forts to protect travelers, could not decisively defeat the various Sioux peoples. The government turned to negotiation instead, holding peace discussions with Sioux leaders in the mid-1860s. In 1868 many of them signed a treaty under which the United States agreed to abandon the Bozeman Trail, which led through Sioux lands to the mining camps of Montana, and in exchange the Sioux accepted a reservation west of the Missouri River. Not all Sioux signed the treaty, and many refused to live on the reservation.
In 1853 U.S. General Isaac Ingalls Stevens had led a party across what became North Dakota, surveying possible routes for a transcontinental railroad, and in 1864 the U.S. Congress had provided land grants to help build what became the Northern Pacific Railroad from Minnesota to what is now Washington state. The railroad arrived in northern Dakota Territory in 1871, crossed the Red River in June 1872, and reached Bismarck a year later. The Sioux deeply resented the construction of the railroad, however, and railroad workers had to be escorted by U.S. troops. In 1874 an expedition led by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer discovered gold in the Black Hills in what is now South Dakota, and white miners flooded into the area in violation of the 1868 treaty, which prohibited whites trespassing on Sioux lands.
The Sioux, fearing the loss of their land, went to war. Much of the fighting between the U.S. government and the Sioux, led by the Hunkpapa Sioux Sitting Bull and the Oglala Sioux Crazy Horse, took place outside the area of present-day North Dakota, including the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, in which Sioux and Cheyenne killed Custer and about 260 U.S. soldiers near the Little Bighorn River in what is now Montana. Within the year, however, the Sioux had suffered a series of defeats, and most returned to the reservations. Sitting Bull and his band went to Canada and remained there until 1881, when they returned to surrender at Fort Buford, in northern Dakota Territory, marking the end of the military threat posed by Native Americans to white control over the area. In the late 1880s followers of the Native American messiah Wovoka introduced the ghost dance, which was supposed to help the Native Americans regain their lands and live in peace. The ghost dance gave the Sioux hope and added to their restlessness. In North Dakota the army believed Sitting Bull might instigate a rebellion, and on December 15, 1890, he was arrested at the Standing Rock Reservation south of Bismarck. As he was being led away from his cabin over the objections of his men, a gunfight erupted during which Sitting Bull and 12 others were killed. In the next two decades the U.S. government reduced the size of the Native American reservations dramatically, opening up large amounts of land to white settlement.
In 1851 a group of settlers sponsored by Charles Cavileer had begun the first permanent farming community at Pembina. The colony grew slowly; as late as 1870 there were no more than 2,500 whites permanently living in the area of present-day North Dakota. The Civil War (1861-1865) and warfare with Native Americans had kept most settlers out, although the Homestead Act of 1862 had offered 65 hectares (160 acres) to settlers who remained on the land for five years, and railroads sold land very cheaply. In 1868 Joseph Rolette, who had been a fur trader at Pembina for 25 years, made the first land claim under the Homestead Act. During the 1870s a few more claims were filed in the Red River valley.
Rapid agricultural development in the eastern area of North Dakota began after the arrival of the railroads in the 1870s and 1880s, which provided access to the markets of Minneapolis and Saint Paul in Minnesota and Chicago in Illinois. As the Red River valley became a supplier of wheat for emerging milling businesses in Minnesota, farmers poured into the northern part of Dakota Territory along with merchants and others who provided services to farmers. The farm and farm-service population gradually spread westward from the Red River valley to the Missouri River valley. The railroad companies, in an effort to attract settlers and their business, conducted nationwide advertising campaigns that portrayed the northern Dakota Territory as a bountiful land.
In the 1870s entrepreneurs began creating farms of thousands of acres, called bonanza farms, in North Dakota. Managers hired hundreds of workers to plant and harvest the wheat in these very profitable operations. The first bonanza farm was created in 1875 in the Red River valley from land purchased from the Northern Pacific Railroad. Oliver Dalrymple managed its 16,200 hectares (40,000 acres); others had farms as large as 25,500 hectares (63,000 acres).
In the 1870s and 1880s most farmers prospered. Settlers, responding to railroad advertisements and letters from relatives, immigrated from the eastern United States and from northern Europe, especially from Norway. In the 1880s and 1890s large numbers of ethnic Germans from Russia, Ukrainians, Czechs, and others from central and eastern Europe arrived in western Dakota Territory to start their own wheat farms, although much of this land received far too little rain for successful farming. By 1900, after North Dakota had become a state, the population had increased to 320,000 and in the next ten years another 250,000 people arrived.
The cattle raising industry also grew rapidly after the railroad arrived. The possibility of quick profits attracted both U.S. and European investors, especially in the western region of what is now North Dakota, where grasslands could rapidly fatten cattle for the Chicago market. Dakota Territory ranchers included future U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909) and the Frenchman Antoine de Vallombrosa, the marquis de Mores. Both arrived in northern Dakota Territory in 1883 at the age of 25. Roosevelt had come to hunt in the Badlands and established the Elkhorn and Maltese Cross ranches, and at one time probably had about 5,000 head of cattle. Roosevelt got along well with the other ranchers, and eventually served as chairman of the Stockgrowers’ Association. The marquis settled on the Little Missouri River and founded the town of Medora. He bought thousands of head of cattle and more than 10,000 sheep, hired more than 100 cowboys, opened a meatpacking plant, and built a chateau for his wife and himself, a guest house, and a hotel. Ranchers were generally successful until a drought in 1886, the hard winter that followed, and a decline in cattle prices changed the industry. Ranches became smaller and were fenced, cowboys disappeared, and beef cattle replaced the roaming range cattle.
During the late territorial period and after statehood, the most influential man in North Dakota was Alexander McKenzie, Northern Pacific Railroad representative and skillful political operative who dominated state politics without ever holding a state office. Later referred to as Alexander the Great, McKenzie had arrived in northern Dakota Territory with a wagon train in 1867 when he was 17 and settled in Bismarck in 1873. He became an influential lobbyist for the railroad and eventually the leader of the North Dakota Republican Party. In 1883 McKenzie arranged with Dakota Territorial Governor Nehemiah Ordway to move the territorial capital from Yankton, in the south, to Bismarck, in the north, an action that intensified the belief that southern and northern Dakota Territory had little in common. In 1887 a general election set the boundary between northern and southern Dakota Territory; on February 22, 1889, the U.S. Congress passed the enabling act permitting both Dakotas, Montana, and Washington to become states; and on November 2, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison signed the documents that made North Dakota and South Dakota the 39th and 40th states of the Union. McKenzie and the well funded Republican Party dominated early state politics; all the first state officials were Republicans, including the governor, John Miller, and legislation favored the interests of the railroad companies.
Many farmers, however, believed that railroads charged excessive rates for shipping North Dakota goods out of the state and favored eastern manufacturers shipping goods into it. Railroads also owned many of the grain elevators that graded farmers’ grain and set the price to be paid for it. In addition, large wheat buyers in Minnesota conspired with the railroads to keep the price for wheat low. With the North Dakota legislature largely controlled by railroad interests, in the early 1880s farmers began creating their own cooperative associations, and in 1885 founded the Dakota Farmers’ Alliance to advance the social, educational, financial, and political interests of Dakota Territory farmers. The Alliance collected money from farmers to buy coal, twine, and other products as a cooperative venture. Although it had little money, the Alliance signed a contract with a plow manufacturer and even created an insurance company to save farmers money on insurance.
Efforts to pass laws to regulate the railroad failed consistently until 1906 when Democrat John Burke was elected governor. In 1911 Democrats and Republican progressives, who believed in using state power to meet the needs of individuals, gained control of the legislature. Although they did not seriously threaten railroad companies, they did pass laws providing compensation for injured workers, reforming election practices, and regulating the railroad practice of providing free passes.
The beginning of World War I in 1914 helped North Dakota farmers by increasing demand for wheat, but serious problems in agriculture reemerged in the 1920s. Low crop prices and high costs of production prevented many farmers from sharing in the general increase in prosperity in the 1920s, and in the 1930s economic depression, drought, dust storms, and grasshopper infestations made it even more difficult for farmers to repay their debts. Thousands of small farmers could not survive and left the state in the early 1920s; many businesses collapsed, and entire towns vanished. The exodus accelerated in the 1930s, despite state and federal programs providing easier credit and stabilizing crop prices. Those who remained on the land began to run larger farms, invested in more mechanization, and adopted more scientific farming methods.
|K||Early 20th-Century Politics|
Politicians tried once again to respond to the needs of farmers. In 1915 Arthur C. Townley, a former flax farmer and a skilled organizer for the Socialist Party in North Dakota, started a new political organization, the Nonpartisan League (NPL). Townley believed that a nonpartisan group could pass the agricultural reforms that farmers wanted. Townley quickly attracted a number of bright and ambitious colleagues such as Lynn Frazier, William Lemke, and William Langer, as well as the support of a large number of farmers. In 1916 the NPL won a number of overwhelming victories; Frazier became governor, receiving almost 80 percent of the vote. The NPL enacted a law establishing a nine-hour workday for women, created a state highway commission, and dramatically increased state funding for rural education. Two of the most enduring features of the early NPL, however, were the creation in 1919 of the state-owned Bank of North Dakota, which helped farmers borrow money for improvements, and a state-owned and operated grain mill and elevator.
William Langer was elected governor in 1932. Within a few months a federal court convicted Langer of conspiracy to obstruct an act of Congress after he tried to solicit political contributions from federal employees. After a series of appeals, the conviction was reversed, and in 1936 Langer was reelected without NPL support, the first governor in the United States to be elected as an independent. Langer was the most influential figure of the 1930s; he provided strong leadership during the difficult drought years of the Great Depression, the economic hard times of the 1930s. He gained considerable support for an embargo on grain shipments from the state that helped raise grain prices, and in 1937 he authorized the creation of a state water conservation commission to develop and conserve water resources. In 1939 Langer was succeeded by the Democrat John Moses, who investigated financial irregularities in state-owned enterprises and cut government spending.
World War II (1939-1945) helped the state recover from the Depression. Because many North Dakotans were German-Americans, opposition to U.S. involvement in the war was strong in North Dakota. The war, however, brought federal work programs that created jobs and increased the demand for farm products that encouraged innovative agricultural techniques such as the use of new pesticides and fertilizers that increased productivity. In the late 1940s prices for farm goods dropped, agricultural unemployment increased, and as people began leaving rural areas, farms became fewer and larger. Farm consolidation in North Dakota continued into the 1990s. Between 1987 and 1992, the number of farms decreased by about 12 percent, but the acreage of the remaining farms increased by about 11 percent. In 1890 the rural population was about 95 percent of the total population; in 1990 North Dakota’s rural population fell below 50 percent of the state’s total population for the first time, to about 47 percent.
Since the 1980s North Dakota has diversified its economy. Although agriculture remains the most important industry, agriculture-related producer cooperatives now also manufacture finished products such as pasta and ethanol. Energy industries have also developed: North Dakota now produces a substantial amount of crude oil; several coal-fired electrical generating plants sell electricity to neighboring states; and North Dakota has the only significant plant in the United States that converts coal to natural gas. A wide variety of small manufacturing businesses have appeared, and tourism has become a major industry.
Native Americans in North Dakota have also been economically and politically important. In 1990 more than 25,300 Native Americans were living in North Dakota, and they remain an integral part of North Dakota society. In 1992, 58 Native Americans held public offices and Native Americans contributed more than $1.3 billion to the state’s economy.
In April 1997 North Dakota was hit by the flooding of the Red River, which forms the North Dakota-Minnesota border and empties into Lake Winnipeg in Canada. The river crested at more than 16 m (54 ft), about 8m (about 26 ft) above flood level, and damaged many areas, including the cities of Fargo and Grand Forks. Almost all of the residents of Grand Forks had to be evacuated, and the flood caused electrical fires in the downtown section of the city that destroyed 11 buildings. President Bill Clinton visited the area and declared a state of emergency.
Republicans controlled North Dakota politics from 1944 until 1960, when Democrat Quentin Burdick was elected U.S. senator and his popularity helped fellow Democrat William L. Guy win the governorship. In 1964 Lyndon B. Johnson became the first Democratic presidential candidate to win North Dakota since Franklin Delano Roosevelt had won it in 1936, and following Johnson’s lead, the Democrats swept the lower house of the legislature. In 1968 the state voted for the Republican presidential candidate, Richard M. Nixon, and elected a Republican legislature, but Democrats retained the governorship through the 1970s. In 1980 Allen I. Olson, a Republican, was elected governor, but in 1984 he was defeated by Democrat George Sinner, who was reelected in 1988. Sinner chose not to run in 1992 and was succeeded in office by Republican Edward T. Schafer. Schafer was reelected in 1996. In 2000 Republican John Hoeven was elected governor. Hoeven was reelected in 2004.
The history section of this article was contributed by Russell R. Veeder. The remainder of the article was contributed by Lowell R. Goodman.