Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: North Dakota from Collins English Dictionary

n

1 a state of the western US: mostly undulating prairies and plains, rising from the Red River valley in the east to the Missouri plateau in the west, with the infertile Bad Lands in the extreme west. Capital: Bismarck. Pop: 633 837 (2003 est). Area: 183 019 sq km (70 664 sq miles) Abbreviation: N. Dak., N.D. or with zip code ND


Summary Article: North Dakota from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

State in west north-central USA, one of the Great Plains states, bordered to the south by South Dakota, to the west by Montana, to the north by the Canadian states of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and to the east by Minnesota; area 178,647 sq km/68,976 sq mi; population (2010) 672,591; capital Bismarck. Located at the geographical centre of the North American continent, North Dakota is a sparsely populated rural state, characterized by plains and black-soiled prairies. It ranks among the top states in the USA for its number of national wildlife refuges, most of which are managed for waterfowl production. Agriculture, energy and tourism are the principal industries in the state. Oil has become increasingly important to the economy following new discoveries in 2006, and North Dakota now ranks among the top oil-producers in the USA. The largest city is Fargo and other major towns and cities are Grand Forks and Minot. One of the last US frontier states to be settled, it is known for its Old West legacy. North Dakota was admitted to the Union in 1889 as the 39th US state.

Physical North Dakota is about 550 km/340 mi long and 340 km/211 mi wide. The lowest elevation is 230 m/750 ft, at Pembina; the highest point is 1,068 m/3,504 ft, at White Butte. The eastern half of North Dakota lies in the Central Lowlands; the western half in the Great Plains.

The Central Lowland portion comprises the Red River Valley and the Drift Plains. The Red River Valley lies along the border of Minnesota and is one of the most fertile agricultural areas in the world. The region receives up to 50 cm/20 in of rain a year. To the west of the Red River Valley is the Drift Prairie, which rises from 60 m/200 ft to 600 m/2,000 ft over the Red River Valley. Shaped originally by glacial drift, the land rolls gently and is well suited for small-grain farming and livestock raising. It is also superb breeding habitat for wild waterfowl and is on the nation's central flyway for migrating birds.

The Missouri Escarpment separates the Drift Prairie from the Great Plains. The North Dakota portion of the Great Plains is called the Missouri Plateau. The withdrawal of ancient seas from the area and subsequent erosion carved the topography of the Badlands in the southwestern part of the state. Canyons, gorges, ravines, bluffs, and buttes mark the land. Deposits of lignite coal, oil, and gas underlie the land.

The Red River of the North and Souris River in the north and east drain about two-fifths of the state and empty into Hudson Bay. The James River system forms part of the drainage of the Missouri River, which then flows into the Mississippi and on to the Gulf of Mexico. Lake Sakakawea and Lake Ohe are the state's largest lakes.

North Dakota has a continental climate marked by hot summers with low precipitation and low humidity, and cold winters, particularly in the eastern section of the state.

The state's prairie grassland is a natural habitat for herds of bison and antelope. Animals such as white-tailed deer, elk, and bear can be found in the timberland along the rivers, although their numbers have dwindled in recent years. Antelope, coyotes, and prairie dogs can be found in the Badlands, along with bighorn sheep. The state's wetlands are home to thousands of ducks and other water birds.

Features The town of Rugby is the geographical centre of North America. Bonanzaville USA, near West Fargo, is a restored pioneer village, a self-contained city consisting of 40 museums. Dinosaur digs in the Hell Creek Formation have unearthed many fossils, including the skeleton of a triceratops now on display at the Dakota Dinosaur Museum in Dickinson.

Medora is a historic cattle town founded by a wealthy French nobleman, the Marquis de Mores. His summer home, the Chateau de Mores, is now a preserved State Historic Site. Other attractions in Medora include the Medora Musical, a play about the Wild West performed during the summer months, and the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, home to 283 sq km/110 sq mi of rugged land, including the Painted Canyon where clouds, rain, and sunlight transform the colour of the landscape.

Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site contains remnants of earth lodges and scattered bones and tools dating back 8,000 years. Flint from the Knife River area was highly regarded and was traded via ancient networks across the continent. Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center near Washburn focuses on the Lewis and Clark expedition's journey of 1804–06, with emphasis on their time spent at Fort Mandan during the winter of 1804–05.

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site commemorates the fur-trading era in North Dakota. The Indian Trade House inside the site is restored to its original 1851 appearance. Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park features the Custer House, General George Custer's camp where he stayed with the 7th Cavalry prior to their ill-fated battle with the Sioux at Little Big Horn. Fort Buford (1866) is the frontier fort where the Sioux leader Sitting Bull was imprisoned. Fort Abercrombie contains restored infantry blockhouses dating back to pioneer days.

Lake Sakakawea is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the nation at 285 km/178 mi long. Part of the Missouri River system, it was created in the 1950s when the Garrison Dam was completed. Tetrault Woods State Forest in the Pembina Gorge features the largest uninterrupted stretch of forest in the state.

Centrally placed halfway between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the International Peace Garden is a botanical memorial to peace that blooms on both sides of the US–Canadian border. The garden is also home to the International Music Camp, where hundreds of high-school students gather each year for intensive training in music and the arts.

Culture North Dakota culture consists of a mix of ethnic and regional traditions. Minot celebrates the Norsk Hostfest every October, the largest Norwegian gathering in North America, attracting international entertainers. The Turtle Mountain Chippewa Metis hold annual festivals. Sodbuster Days feature demonstrations of agricultural techniques used in pioneer times.

Four federally recognized American Indian tribes live on reservations in North Dakota: the Spirit Lake Sioux, Standing Rock Sioux, Three Affiliated Tribes (Hidatsa, Arikara, and Mandan), and the Turtle Mountain Chippewa. The Spirit Lake Nation located at Devil's Lake is home to Spirit Lake Sioux. Standing Rock Reservation is home to the Standing Rock Sioux. The Fort Berthold Reservation is home to the Three Affiliated Tribes, and the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation is just south of the Canadian border. The reservations are rich in the tradition and culture of its peoples. These tribes were the first to develop wind farms, wind-driven electrical generating technology which they see as harmonious with nature.

During July, the North Dakota State Fair is held in Minot and the Red River Valley Fair is held in West Fargo. Dickinson Roughrider Days on the Fourth of July weekend is the city's largest rodeo, featuring bareback riding, barrel racing, and roping.

Bismarck is a cosmopolitan centre of North Dakota, home to a Victorian former governor's mansion. The North Dakota Museum of Art in Grand Forks collects contemporary international and American Indian art in all media from the early 1970s onwards.

North Dakotans are known for their love for ethnic music and pageantry. Most communities have a band and singing group. Amateur theatre groups are also popular in the state. Grand Forks, Fargo, and Minot sponsor community symphony orchestras. Grand Forks also has its own amateur ballet association, and Fargo has a civic opera company.

Biking, hunting, canoeing, fishing, golfing, and snowmobiling are all popular pastimes. The Prairie Rose State Games is the largest amateur sports festival in North Dakota. More than 80,000 athletes compete each year. The annual football game between arch-rivals University of North Dakota and North Dakota State gains statewide attention.

North Dakota's major institutions of higher education are the state-supported University of North Dakota (1883) in Grand Forks and North Dakota State University (1890) in Fargo. Respectively they house the largest libraries in the state to include special collections of Scandinavian and Icelandic literature, and materials on North Dakota's history and politics.

GovernmentNorth Dakota's state constitution North Dakota ratified its state constitution in 1889 and is still governed by it, with amendments.

Structure of state government The Legislative Assembly comprises a 47-member Senate and a 94-member House of Representatives, serving four-year terms. Voters have the power of initiative and referendum. North Dakota sends one representative and two senators to the US Congress, and has three electoral votes in presidential elections.

The state's Democratic party is known as the Democratic-NPL (Non-Partisan League) party. The state has favoured Republican party candidates in presidential elections over recent decades and in governorship elections.

A governor who is elected for a four-year term heads the executive branch. Republican Jack Dalrymple took the governorship in December 2010. The remaining executive branch consists of a lieutenant governor; secretary of state; state auditor; state treasurer; superintendent of public instruction; the commissioners of agriculture, labour, insurance, natural resources, and taxes; and the attorney general, all elected officials. In addition, three public service commissioners serve six-year terms.

The judiciary is headed by a five-member Supreme Court, each justice elected for a ten-year term. There is an intermediate appellate court, as well as district courts (trial courts of general jurisdiction, with one in each county) and municipal courts.

A board of commissioners, along with several other elective officials, including auditors, treasurers, and sheriffs, directs each of North Dakota's 53 counties. The counties are further divided into townships, all of which elect administrative officers. The vast majority of municipalities have mayor–council governments.

Economy North Dakota's agricultural economy is much larger than that of most other states, and is geared to crop growing and livestock production, particularly beef cattle. About 90% of the state is covered with cultivated farmland and pastures. It is a major producer of wheat, barley, sunflower seeds, flaxseed, oats, rye, and sugar beets. It also produces more honey than other states.

Oil was first found in the western part of the state in the 1950s and production has increased dramatically since 2007, following new discoveries in the Bakken region. North Dakota also has major lignite coal reserves, and is additionally in the forefront of renewable energy development.

Manufacturing industries include food processing, agricultural machinery, computer and electronic products, fabricated metal goods, and motor and aircraft parts. Business and personal services are leading activities in the service sector, and tourism is a significant contributor to the economy.

HistoryIndigenous inhabitants Archaeological findings in the region verify the existence of hunting cultures following the retreat of glaciers 10,000 years ago and hunting and farming people as far back as 2000 BC. By the time the first white explorers arrived, distinct groups of native people existed: the nomadic Dakota or Lakota (Sioux to their enemies), Assiniboine, and Cheyenne and the sedentary Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara. Around 1800, Chippewa pushed into the northern Red River Valley, while Cree, Blackfeet, and Crow roamed the western buffalo ranges. Nomadic tribes relied on the buffalo for all basic necessities: food, clothing, shelter, and tools. The introduction of the horse in the 18th century gave them greater mobility and ease of hunting. Sedentary tribes lived in earth lodges near the Missouri River; eventually these became centres for fur trading.

Exploration and settlement The first recorded visitor to the region was French-Canadian explorer Pierre La Vérendrye in 1738, followed four years later by his sons. For the remainder of the century, most of the non-natives were Canadian fur trappers. The fur-trapping trade was intense, with Britain, France, and Spain vying for territorial possession. The Treaty of Paris (1783) gave Britain all French territory drained by the Hudson Bay. One year earlier, France had ceded lands drained by the Missouri and Mississippi to Spain, but it regained them in 1800. Three years later, the area was sold to the USA by Napoleon Bonaparte, as part of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1804 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark charted the territory and spent the winter of 1804 and 1805 at Mandan and Hidatsa villages. The first permanent white settlement was established at Pembina in 1812. Scottish and Irish settlers began farming, built log cabins, and opened the state's first church and school. In 1818 they moved their colony back across the border, when the London Convention established the 49th parallel as the northern boundary between British and US possessions and the Red River Valley area came under US control.

Major trading posts developed at Fort Union and Fort Clark, where native trappers would trade meat and fur for guns, tools, cloth, and beads. For the most part, relations between the native tribes and white traders were amicable, though the exchange between them dramatically altered tribal culture. Around the Red River Valley, a new nation, the Metis, evolved, descended from Euro-American fur company employees and Chippewa Indian women. The Metis were instrumental to trade between Winnipeg, Manitoba, and St Paul, Minnesota, but faded out when the buffalo became less available east of the Missouri River. In 1837 a smallpox epidemic virtually wiped out the Mandan tribe at Fort Clark.

US settlement of the Northern Plains began in earnest in 1861 when the Dakota Territory was established, which included all of present-day North and South Dakota, as well as large portions of Wyoming and Montana. To protect settlers to the area and those on the way to the Pacific coast, the federal government established a series of military posts, including Fort Abercrombie, built on the Red River in 1857. Antagonism between the US government and the Sioux peaked following Custer's defeat at Little Big Horn in 1876 and most Sioux either defected to Canada or were forced on to reservations. For the next 20 years, the US government continually reduced the size of the American Indian reservations, opening up large amounts of land to white settlement.

Political and economic development The 1862 Homestead Act attracted farmers and entrepreneurs to the territory. New towns sprang up along the westbound Northern Pacific Railway after its completion in 1873, including Fargo and Bismarck. Slightly later, the Great Northern Railway took a northern route, through Grand Forks and Minot, on its way to the Pacific. A great settlement boom between 1879 and 1886 brought more than 100,000 people to North Dakota. Entrepreneurs such as Oliver Dalrymple created bonanza farms, massive tracts of land requiring hundreds of workers to plant and harvest wheat for profit. The population increase led to a shift in political power, and in 1883 the territorial capital was moved from Yankton to Bismarck, precipitating the eventual split between North and South Dakota. On 2 November 1889, President Benjamin Harrison decreed North Dakota as a state of the Union.

20th-century history The early part of the 20th century was marked by internal political battles over how to encourage investment to the state and protect residents' rights at the same time. A new political organization, the Nonpartisan League (NPL), established a progressive agenda in the state, establishing a nine-hour working day for women, a state highway commission, and state funding for rural education. The NPL's most enduring accomplishments were the state-owned Bank of North Dakota, which subsidized farming improvements, and the State Mill and Elevator at Grand Forks, which provided a market for grain and seed.

Economic depressions in the 1920s and 1930s forced North Dakota to extend its farming regime from an almost all-wheat reliance, while exploitation of the state's mineral resources from the 1950s helped to encourage a more diversified economic base. Nevertheless, the state continued to experience a steady population drain through much of the rest of the country in response to boom-and-bust cycles. However, significant new oil discoveries in the first decade of the 2000s have prompted a resurgence in employment opportunities and corresponding population growth.

Despite its economic challenges, North Dakota has been ranked among the safest states in the nation in terms of violent crime.

Famous peoplethe arts John Bernard Flannagan (1895–1942), sculptor; Lawrence Welk (1903–1992), bandleader; Louis L'Amour (1908–1988), writer; Peggy Lee (1920–2002), jazz singer; William Gass (1924– ), experimental writer; Angie Dickinson (1931– ), actor

economics Roy Durstine (1886–1962), advertising executive

politics and law William Lemke (1878–1959), politician.

images

North Dakota – flag

© RM, 2016. All rights reserved.

Related Credo Articles

Full text Article North Dakota
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

A state in the N central USA. It comprises three main physical regions: the Red River Valley along the E border, the Central Lowlands just W...

Full text Article North Dakota
Rawson's Dictionary of American Quotations

North Dakota is a doomed state. In twenty years, it will revert to the Indian and the buffalo. We must be moving on. —Anonymous,...

Full text Article North Dakota
Philip's Encyclopedia

State in N central USA, on the Canadian border; the capital is Bismarck . French explorers first visited the region in 1738. The USA acquired...

See more from Credo