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North Dakota

State History

Native Americans

People have inhabited the land of North Dakota for thousands of years. Before the arrival of Europeans, there were several Native American tribes in the region. These tribes included the Mandan, Arikara, and Hidatsa. The most dominant of these tribes was the Mandan who lived along the banks of the Missouri River. They hunted buffalo and grew crops such as corn, beans, and squash. They lived in dome-shaped earth lodges and actively traded with other tribes in the area.

Canyon in North Dakota
Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
by Michael Oswald
Europeans Arrive

France laid claim to the land in 1682 when Robert de La Salle claimed much of the land west of the Mississippi for France. The first European to really explore the land of North Dakota was French fur trader Pierre de La Verendrye in 1738. He also established trade with the Mandan villages along the Missouri River.

Louisiana Purchase

In 1803, the United States bought most of North Dakota from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase. President Thomas Jefferson sent explorers Lewis and Clark to learn about and map out the new territory. Lewis and Clark entered North Dakota in the fall of 1804. In order to survive the winter they built Fort Mandan on the Missouri River where they stayed until they could continue their journey in the spring. Over the course of the winter they met with the leaders of the Mandan tribe. They also met French trader Toussaint Charbonneau and his Shoshone Indian wife Sacagawea. Sacagawea would later serve as a guide and interpreter for Lewis and Clark.

Early Settlers

Settlers from the eastern United States began to move into North Dakota in the early 1800s. The first permanent settlement was built at Pembina in 1812. However, it wasn't until the Homestead Acts of 1862 that people really began to move into the region.


Farms in North Dakota
Windbreaks in North Dakota by Erwin Cole

As more and more settlers moved in, the Native Americans were pushed off of their lands. This sparked battles and wars between the U.S. army and the Native Americans. Eventually, the Native Americans were forced onto reservations.

Becoming a State

In 1861, North Dakota became part of the Dakota Territory which included present day North Dakota, South Dakota, and some of Wyoming and Montana. North Dakota continued to grow in the 1870s and 1880s with the arrival of the railroad. On November 2, 1889 North Dakota was admitted to the Union. It was admitted at the same time as South Dakota. President Benjamin Harrison kept it a secret as to which document he signed first, so no one is sure whether North Dakota was the 39th or the 40th state. It is usually recognized as the 39th state because it comes before South Dakota alphabetically.



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Works Cited

History >> US Geography >> US State History





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