North Dakota State Study

North DakotaCold windy winters and gobs of oil, join us for a  North Dakota State Study.


The Dakotas were first inhabited by the Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikera, Sioux, and Chippewa tribes.  The Mandan in particular were civilized with permanent settlements, farming, trading and language developments.  The area was first explored by the French in 1743 and claimed for France, though never settled.

The French sold the huge Louisiana territory to the United States in 1803 in order to fund Napoleon’s wars.  A year later Lewis and Clark explored the area west to the Pacific.  They spent the first winter of the expedition with a Mandan tribe and that is where they picked up Sacajawea as a guide.

Fort Pierre was the first permanent settlement in the territory, established in 1817.  But settlers didn’t flow in until the railroad was built through in 1873.  Then in 1874 gold was discovered in the Black Hills and people really began to pour in.  Dakota became a territory in 1861 and in 1889 the two states, North and South Dakota, were created simultaneously.

Hay fields of North Dakota. Photo by S Yao, CC license, Wikimedia.

Fabulous Facts

  • The motto of North Dakota is Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.  North Dakota is known as the peace garden state because the international Peace garden between Canada and the United states is on its northern border.

On the cairn in the center of the garden is written:

“To God in His Glory… We two nations dedicate this garden and pledge ourselves that as long as men shall live we will not take up arms against one another.”

This is the monument at the center of the Peace Garden. Let’s hope this pledge of peace works out better than most man-made promises. Photo by Bobak Ha’Eri, CC license, Wikimedia.
  • In 1987 North Dakota made English the official state language.
  • More than once there have been efforts to rename the state “Dakota”, dropping the north.
  • “Dakota” is a Sioux word that means “friends”.
  • Lawrence Welk was born in North Dakota.
This is the Little Missouri River flowing through Theordore Roosevelt Natioanl Park in North Dakota. This area is known as the “badlands”, which means the soil and softer rock has been eroded away leaving exposed rock, steep slopes, and little vegetation. Photo by the National Park Service, public domain.

Map Exploration

Print out a North Dakota Map and label the capital cities and other major cities, draw in rivers, mountains, and other physical features using a student atlas.

North Dakota web

Additional Layers

  • In America the sub-divisions of our land are called states.  Other countries might have provinces, territories, or departments.  But words have meanings and in America states are called states because the definition of a state is a sovereign political body.  Originally the states were separate countries brought together in a federation for military and economic strength, but they never gave up their sovereignty, just their direct involvement in waging war and governing commerce.  Over time the states have become mere provinces of the national government. Many people want the states to reassert their sovereignty and take back usurped power from the federal government.  What do you think about that?
  • Along the western edge of the Dakotas is an area called the badlands.  It is filled with broken slabs of basalt rock, fault lines, and little vegetation.  It has never been much use economically, but in the days of the wild west outlaws liked to hide out there.  Find out more about it.
  • Did you know the United States has invaded Canada twice?  Once during the Revolutionary war and once during the War of 1812.  So maybe we need that peace cairn . . .
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, and Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder all take place in the Dakota territory.  Pa comes west looking for land and following the railroad.  these books are an excellent look into why the railroad affected settlement and into how tough a settlers life could be.

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