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When European explorers first
visited North Dakota, there were several Native American groups living
there. The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara lived along the Missouri
River, farming corn, sunflowers, beans, and squash.
The Sioux, Chippewa, and Assiniboine lived in the northeast and
were mainly hunters.
the early 1600s, France established trading posts in Canada.
René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle claimed all land
surrounding the Mississippi River for France in 1682.
This included the southern half of North Dakota, because the
Missouri River flows into the Mississippi River.
France also claimed the northeastern half of North Dakota, but in
1713 gave this land to Great Britain.
first known explorer to actually visit North Dakota was French-Canadian
Pierre La Vérendrye. He and
his sons visited Mandan villages near present-day Bismarck.
In 1762, France gave Louisiana to Spain. Spanish traders began traveling up the Missouri River to
exchange goods for furs. In
1797, David Thompson explored English North Dakota, including the Turtle
Mountains and the land along the Souris River.
Alexander Henry built Pembina, the first permanent trading post of
North Dakota, in 1801.
1800, Spain had given Louisiana back to France. The United States bought Louisiana from France in 1803.
The following year, President Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether
Lewis and William Clark to explore this new territory and establish a
trail to the Pacific Ocean. In
October 1804, Lewis and Clark reached North Dakota and built Fort Mandan
across from present-day Stanton. As
they made friends with the Mandan and Hidatsa Indians they were introduced
to Sacajawea, a young Shoshone woman who had been kidnapped years before
by the Hidatsa. Lewis and
Clark set out again in April 1805. With
them were Sacajawea, her baby, and her husband, a French-Canadian fur
1812, Scottish settlers from Canada established a settlement at Pembina.
In 1818, Great Britain gave the United States the northeastern
region of North Dakota. All of present-day North Dakota was then U.S. territory.
Many of the Canadians moved north onto British territory and by
1823, all had left North Dakota.
created the Dakota Territory in 1861.
The territory included North and South Dakota, and a large part of
Wyoming and Montana. The
territory was open for settlement on New Year’s Day 1863.
Settlers could receive free land if they improved it.
However, few settlers came to North Dakota due to poor roads, harsh
winters, and Indians attacks. In
1862, Sioux Indians massacred hundreds of settlers in Minnesota.
Some of these then fled to the Dakota Territory.
By 1870, North Dakota only had a population of around 2,400 people.
the 1870s, settlers began to establish towns in North Dakota.
Fargo and Grand Forks were begun in 1871.
Bismarck was founded in 1872.
That same year North Dakota’s first railroad reached Fargo, then
Bismarck in 1873. Large-scale farming began in 1875 in Red River Valley.
These farms earned such large profits, they became known as bonanza
farms. Where there were
trees, people built wooden houses. But,
most people built sod houses by piling huge chunks of ground together.
the 1880s, people in the Dakota Territory sought statehood.
However, they wanted two states to be formed, as the north and
south had very little in common. Congress
divided the territories and North Dakota became the 39th state
on Nov. 2, 1889.
Dakota’s population grew rapidly following statehood. Farming increased as well.
In the early 1900s, farmers grew angry at banks, railroads, and
mills that were making a lot of money.
In 1915, the Nonpartisan League (NPL) was established in North
Dakota. It worked in behalf
of the state’s farmers. The
following year, the NPL helped to elect Lynn Frazier as governor.
He opened state-owned businesses such as the Bank of North Dakota
at Bismarck in 1919 and the North Dakota Mill and Elevator at Grand Forks
in 1922. The bank gave
low-interest loans and the mill gave farmers better prices.
The state reduced farm taxes and more money was given to rural
Dakota became the country’s top barley producer in 1925.
Sugar beets and red potatoes also became important.
As farming diversified, new people came to the state.
By 1930, North Dakota’s population reached 680,845 people.
Great Depression (1929-1939) caused many in the nation to lose their jobs
and their land. North Dakota
experienced a drought during the 1930s as well.
This led to a severe drop in farm production and population for the
state. By 1936, almost
one-half of North Dakotans were receiving government aid.
By 1939, one-third of the state’s farmers had lost their land. During this time, the state and federal governments took
steps to help North Dakota farmers. The
North Dakota Water Conservation Commission was created in 1937.
Other agencies worked to help provide irrigation methods and
prevent erosion of the soil.
War II (1939-1945) also helped North Dakota’s economy to recover.
Farmers supplied large amounts of food for the armed forces.
But, after the war farm prices fell and the increased use of
machinery led many workers in search of employment elsewhere.
Garrison Dam near Riverdale was completed in 1960. It is one of the world’s biggest earthen dams.
The dam provides flood control, hydroelectric power, water for
irrigation, and recreation on Lake Sacajawea.
In 1951, oil was discovered in Tioga.
By 1984, North Dakota had become a leading oil producer by
generating 53 million barrels of oil a year.
1957, North Dakota founded an economic development commission that works
to attract industry to the state. The
state’s rate of industrial growth was the highest in the country from
1958-1969. The U.S. Air Force
built bases in Grand Forks and Minot during this time. In 1968, the Garrison Diversion Project was started.
It was designed to bring water for irrigation from the Missouri
River to North Dakota. However, environmental concerns slowed the progress of the
project until 1986.
the 1970s, coal, oil, and natural gas production increased while the
farming industry struggled. Blizzards
and floods destroyed the animals and land.
During the 1980s, heat and drought did the same.
The number of farms fell from 45,000 in 1970 to 33,000 by 1993.
Oil production also fell during the 1980s.
Thousands of North Dakotans again left the state in search of