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North Dakota

North Dakota

State of North Dakota

ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: The state was formerly the northern section of Dakota Territory; dakota is a Siouan word meaning "allies."

NICKNAME: Peace Garden State; Flickertail State.

CAPITAL: Bismarck.

ENTERED UNION: 2 November 1889 (39th).

SONG: "North Dakota Hymn;" "Flickertail March." (march).

MOTTO: Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable.

FLAG: The flag consists of a blue field with yellow fringes; on each side is depicted an eagle with outstretched wings, holding in one talon a sheaf of arrows, in the other an olive branch, and in his beak a banner inscribed with the words "E Pluribus Unum." Below the eagle are the words "North Dakota"; above it are 13 stars surmounted by a sunburst.

OFFICIAL SEAL: In the center is an elm tree; beneath it are a sheaf of wheat, a plow, an anvil, and a bow and three arrows, and in the background a Native American chases a buffalo toward a setting sun. The depiction is surrounded by the state motto, and the words "Great Seal State of North Dakota October 1st 1889" encircle the whole.

BIRD: Western meadowlark.

FISH: Northern pike.

FLOWER: Wild prairie rose.

TREE: American elm.

LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., 3rd Monday in January; Presidents' Day, 3rd Monday in February; Good Friday, Friday before Easter, March or April; Memorial Day, last Monday in May; Independence Day, 4 July; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Veterans' Day, 11 November; Thanksgiving Day, 4th Thursday in November; Christmas Day, 25 December.

TIME: 6 AM CST = noon GMT; 5 AM MST = noon GMT.


Located in the western north-central United States, North Dakota ranks 17th in size among the 50 states.

The total area of North Dakota is 70,703 sq mi (183,121 sq km), comprising 69,300 sq mi (179,487 sq km) of land and 1,403 sq mi (3,634 sq km) of inland water. Shaped roughly like a rectangle, North Dakota has three straight sides and one irregular border on the e. Its maximum length e-w is about 360 mi (580 km), its extreme width n-s about 210 mi (340 km).

North Dakota is bordered on the n by the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba; on the e by Minnesota (with the line formed by the Red River of the North); on the s by South Dakota; and on the w by Montana. The total boundary length is 1,312 mi (2,111 km). The state's geographic center is in Sheridan County, 5 mi (8 km) sw of McClusky.


North Dakota straddles two major US physiographic regions: the Central Plains in the east and the Great Plains in the west. Along the eastern border is the generally flat Red River Valley, with the state's lowest point, 750 ft (229 m); this valley was once covered by the waters of a glacial lake. Most of the eastern half of North Dakota consists of the Drift Prairie, at 1,300-1,600 ft (400-500 m) above sea level. The Missouri Plateau occupies the western half of the state and has the highest point in North DakotaWhite Butte, 3,506 ft (1,069 m)in Slope County in the southwest. Separating the Missouri Plateau from the Drift Prairie is the Missouri Escarpment, which rises 400 ft (122 m) above the prairie and extends diagonally from northwest to southeast. The mean elevation of the state is approximately 1,900 ft (580 m).

North Dakota has two major rivers: the Red River of the North, flowing northward into Canada; and the Missouri River, which enters in the northwest and then flows east and, joined by the Yellowstone River, southeast into South Dakota.


North Dakota lies in the northwestern continental interior of the United States. Characteristically, summers are hot, winters very cold, and rainfall sparse to moderate, with periods of drought. The average annual temperature is 40°f (4°c), ranging from 7°f (14°c) in January to 69°f (21°c) in July. The record low temperature, 60°f (51°c), was set at Parshall on 15 February 1936; the record high, 121°f (49°c), at Steele on 6 July 1936.

The average yearly precipitation was about 15.8 in (40 cm) at Bismarck. The total annual snowfall averages 41.9 in (106 cm) at Bismarck.


North Dakota is predominantly a region of prairie and plains, although the American elm, green ash, box elder, and cottonwood grow there. Cranberries, juneberries, and wild grapes are also common. Indian, blue, grama, and buffalo grasses grow on the plains; the wild prairie rose is the state flower. The western prairie fringed orchid was the only plant species classified by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as threatened in 2006; no plant species were listed as endangered that year.

Once on the verge of extinction, the white-tailed and mule deer and pronghorn antelope have been restored. The elk and grizzly bear, both common until about 1880, had disappeared by 1900; bighorn sheep, reintroduced in 1956, are beginning to flourish. North Dakota claims more wild ducks than any other state except Alaska, and it has the largest sharptailed grouse population in the United States. Six animal species (vertebrates and invertebrates) were listed as threatened or endangered in North Dakota in April 2006, including the bald eagle, Eskimo curlew, pallid sturgeon, least tern, and whooping crane.


North Dakota has little urban or industrial pollution. An environmental issue confronting the state in the mid-1980s and early 1990s was how to use its coal resources without damaging the land through strip mining or polluting the air with coal-fired industrial plants. Major environmental issues confronting the state are importation of non-hazardous and hazardous solid wastes for treatment or disposal, non-point surface water pollution from agricultural and native land, groundwater contamination by fuel storage tanks and by irrigation, and air pollution by energy conversion plants.

The Environmental Health Section of the North Dakota Department of Health oversees programs to ensure water and air quality. North Dakota has little urban air pollution with one exception: motor vehicle traffic is causing excess ambient carbon monoxide in an area within the city of Fargo. The major industrial sources of air contaminants within the state are seven coal-fired electrical generating plants, a coal gasification plant, a refinery, and agricultural commodity processing facilities. The ambient air quality has been in compliance with federal standards, although an epidemio-logical study has associated certain air contaminants with a higher incidence of respiratory illness among persons living in the vicinity of coal-burning plants. In 2003, 23.6 million lb of toxic chemicals were released in the state.

To conserve water and provide irrigation, nearly 700 dams have been built, including Garrison Dam, completed in 1960. The Garrison Diversion Project, authorized by the US Congress in 1965, was intended to draw water from Lake Sakakawea, the impoundment behind Garrison Dam. As of the 1980s, there were about 2.7 million acres of wetlands in the state. This total has been diminishing, however, by agricultural development.

Diversion of household waste to recycling grew to about nearly 15% of the waste stream. Yard wastes, household appliances, and scrap tires are also diverted for compost, recycling, or fuel, respectively. In 2003, North Dakota had 17 hazardous waste sites listed in the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) database, but none were on the National Priorities List as of 2006. In 2005, the EPA spent over $2.6 million through the Superfund program for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in the state. The same year, federal EPA grants awarded to the state included $11.7 million for the water pollution control state revolving fund and $8.2 for the safe drinking water revolving fund.


North Dakota ranked 48th in population in the United States with an estimated total of 636,677 in 2005 a decrease of 0.9% from 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, North Dakota's population grew from 638,800 to 642,200, an increase of 0.5%. The population is projected to decrease to 620,777 by 2025. The population density in 2004 was 9.2 persons per sq mi, the fourth-lowest in the nation (after Alaska, Wyoming, and Montana). In 2004, the median age in North Dakota was 38.8; 21.9% of the populace were under age 18 while 14.7% was age 65 or older.

North Dakota is one of the most rural states in the United States, with over half of its population living outside metropolitan areas. The Fargo metropolitan area had an estimated population of 181,520 in 2004. The Bismarck metropolitan area had a population of about 97,924 and the Grand Forks area had a population of about 96,046.


As of 2000, about 92.4% of the state's population was white. The American Indian population was 31,329, or about 4.9% of the total; that percentage had increased to 5.2% by 2004. In 2000, there were some 3,916 blacks, representing 0.6% of the population. That percentage had increased to 0.7% by 2004. Among Americans of European origin, the leading groups were Germans, who made up 44% of the total population, and Norwegians, who made up 30%. Only about 1.9% of the state's population (12,114) was foreign born as of 2000, predominantly from neighboring Canada. In the same year, the Asian population totaled 3,606, with 230 Pacific Islanders. In 2000, 7,786 North Dakotans were Hispanic or Latino, representing 1.2% of the state's total population. In 2004, 1.5% of the population was Hispanic or Latino, 0.7% Asian, 0.9% of the population reported origin of two or more races.


Although a few Indian words are used in the English spoken near the reservations where Ojibwa and Sioux live in North Dakota, the only general impact of Indian speech on English is in such place-names as Pembina, Mandan, Wabek, and Anamoose.

A few Norwegian food terms like lefse and lutefisk have entered the Northern dialect that is characteristic of North Dakota, and some Midland terms have intruded from the south.

In 2000, 93.7% of the population five years old or older spoke only English at home, down slightly from 92.1% in 1990.

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "Scandinavian languages" includes Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The category "Other Native North American languages" includes Apache, Cherokee, Choctaw, Dakota, Keres, Pima, and Yupik. The category "African languages" includes Amharic, Ibo, Twi, Yoruba, Bantu, Swahili, and Somali.

Population 5 years and over 603,106 100.0
  Speak only English 565,130 93.7
  Speak a language other than English 37,976 6.3
Speak a language other than English 37,976 6.3
  German 14,931 2.5
  Spanish or Spanish Creole 8,263 1.4
  Scandinavian languages 3,193 0.5
  Other Native North American languages 2,536 0.4
  French (incl. Patois, Cajun) 1,597 0.3
  Other Slavic languages 1,350 0.2
  Serbo-Croatian 825 0.1
  African languages 459 0.1
  Polish 452 0.1
  Chinese 437 0.1
  Russian 331 0.1
  Tagalog 330 0.1


Most of the state population is mainline Protestant, with the leading denominations being the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with 174,554 adherents (in 2000) and the Untied Methodist Church with 20,159 adherents. The Lutheran ChurchMissouri Synod had about 23,720 members. The Roman Catholic Church had about 148,435 members in 2004. There were an estimate 920 Muslims and 730 Jews in the state in 2000. About 26.8% of the population did not specify a religious affiliation.


In 2003, there was 3,727 mi (6,000 km) of rail trackage in North Dakota. The largest railroad lines are the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) and the Soo Line. Farm products and coal accounted for most of the state originated tonnage carried by the railroads. As of 2006, Amtrak passenger service was provided to seven stations in the state via its Chicago-Seattle/Portland Empire Builder train.

There were 86,782 mi (139,719 km) of public roads, streets, and highways in North Dakota in 2004. There were also some 707,000 registered motor vehicles of all types and 461,780 licensed drivers in the state for that same year.

In 2005, North Dakota had a total of 308 public and private-use aviation-related facilities. This included 292 airports, 15 heliports, and 1 seaplane base. Hector International Airport at Fargo is the state's main airport, with 261,872 passengers enplaned in 2004.


Human occupation of what is now North Dakota began about 13,000 bc in the southwestern corner of the state, which at that time was covered with lush vegetation. Drought drove away the aboriginal hunter-gatherers, and it was not until about 2,000 years ago that Indians from the more humid regions to the east moved into the easternmost third of the Dakotas. About ad 1300 the Mandan Indians brought an advanced agricultural economy up the Missouri River. They were joined by the Hidatsa and Arikara about three or four centuries later. Moving from the Minnesota forests during the 17th century, the Yanktonai Sioux occupied the southeastern quarter of the state. Their cousins west of the Missouri River, the Teton Sioux, led a nomadic life as hunters and mounted warriors. The Ojibwa, who had driven the Sioux out of Minnesota, settled in the northeast.

European penetration of the Dakotas began in 1738, when Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de la Vérendrye, of Trois Riviéres in New France, traded for furs in the Red River region. Later the fur trade spread farther into the Red and Missouri river valleys, especially around Pembina, where the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company had their posts. After the Lewis and Clark expedition (180406) explored the Missouri, the American Fur Company traded there, with buffalo hides the leading commodity.

In 1812, Scottish settlers from Canada moved up the Red River to Pembina. This first white farming settlement in North Dakota also attracted numerous métis, half-breeds of mixed Indian and European ancestry. An extensive trade in furs and buffalo hides, which were transported first by heavy carts and later by steamboats, sprang up between Pembina, Ft. Garry (Winnipeg, Canada), and St. Paul, Minn.

Army movements against the Sioux during and after the Civil War brought white men into central North Dakota, which in 1861 was organized as part of the Dakota Territory, including the present-day Dakotas, Montana, and Wyoming. The signing of treaties confining the agricultural Indians to reservations, the arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad at Fargo in 1872, and its extension to the Missouri the following year led to the rise of homesteading on giant "bonanza farms." Settlers poured in, especially from Canada. This short-lived "Great Dakota boom" ended in the mid-1880s with drought and depressed farm prices. As many of the original American and Canadian settlers left in disgust, they were replaced by Norwegians, Germans, and other Europeans. By 1910, North Dakota, which had entered the Union in 1889, was among the leading states in percentage of foreign-born residents.

From the time of statehood onward, Republicans dominated politics in North Dakota. Their leader was Alexander McKenzie, a Canadian immigrant who built a reputation as an agent of the railroads, protecting them from regulation. Between 1898 and 1915, the "Second Boom" brought an upsurge in population and railroad construction. In politics, Republican Progressives enacted reforms, but left unsolved the basic problem of how North Dakota farmers could stand up to the powerful grain traders of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Agrarian revolt flared in 1915, when Arthur C. Townley organized the Farmers' Nonpartisan Political League. Operating through Republican Party machinery, Townley succeeded in having his gubernatorial candidate, Lynn J. Frazier, elected in 1916. State-owned enterprises were established, including the Bank of North Dakota, the Home Building Association, the Hail Insurance Department, and a mill and grain elevator. However, the league was hurt by charges of "socialism" and, after 1917, by allegations of pro-German sympathies in World War I, as well as of mismanagement. In 1921, Frazier and Attorney General William Lemke were removed from office in the nation's first recall election.

The 1920s, a period of bank failures, low farm prices, drought, and political disunity, saw the beginnings of an exodus from the state. Matters grew worse during the Great Depression. Elected governor by hard-pressed farmers in 1932, William Langer took spectacular steps to save farms from foreclosure and to raise grain prices, until a conflict with the Roosevelt administration led to his removal from office on charges that he had illegally solicited political contributions.

World War II brought a quiet prosperity to North Dakota that lasted into the following decades. The Arab oil embargo of 1973 and the rise of oil prices throughout the decade spurred drilling for oil, encouraged the mining of lignite for electrical generation, and led to the construction of the nation's first coal gasification plant, at a cost of $2 billion, in a lignite mining area near Beulah. In the 1980s, however, North Dakota's economy suffered a setback when oil prices dropped. In addition, a drought that began in 1987 damaged over 5.3 million acres of land by 1988 and persisted into the 1990s and early 2000s. Agricultural production was strong in early 1990s. However, severe storms and flooding in 1994 damaged about $600 million in crops. The state continues to experience extreme weather conditions.

The state's economy was boosted by the 1991 repeal of the "blue laws" enforcing the closing of all retail businesses on Sundays. Republican Governor Ed Schafer, elected in 1992 and reelected in 1996, set an aggressive plan for the state's economic development, resulting in an estimated 10% increase in the number of jobs and record-low unemployment. By 2000 Fargo boasted one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation. Nevertheless, poverty was on the rise in the 1990s. With 15.1% of its residents living below the nationally established poverty line, North Dakota ranked as the ninth-poorest in the United States in 1998. The state had begun the decade ranked nineteenth, with a 13.7% rate. It was also one of just 15 states where child poverty was on the riseone in five children lived in poverty in 1998. However, by 200304, North Dakota had turned its poverty statistics around: the poverty rate during that two-year average was 9.7%, well below the national average of 12.6%. Per capita personal income in 2004 was $31,398, just below the US average of $32,937. In 2003, North Dakota led the nation in personal income and wage growth.

Census Bureau figures in 2000 showed the state (population 642,200) continued to be one of the least populated in the nationonly Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming had fewer residents. Stemming the tide of North Dakotans moving out of state was a top priority. The state enjoyed the rank of safest in the nation in 1999, with only 89 crimes per 100,000 people.

As of 2005, it was illegal for unmarried couples to cohabitate in North Dakota, one of seven states to have such laws. Republican governor John Hoeven, during his second term in office, was committed to enhancing the state's business climate. In 2005, the state had a budget surplus and the budget called for tax relief through higher state funding for K-12 education, additional revenue sharing with cities and counties, tax credits for farms and businesses, and a property tax break for seniors and people with disabilities.


North Dakota is governed by the constitution of 1889, as amended (145 times by January 2005). The constitution may be amended by a majority vote in the legislature; a majority vote of the state electorate is required for ratification. Amendments may also be proposed by initiative (by petition of 4% of the state's population).

State elected officials are the governor and lieutenant governor (elected jointly), secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, attorney general, superintendent of public instruction, three public service commissioners, and the commissioners of insurance, taxation, and agriculture. With the exception of the public service commissioners, who serve six-year terms, all terms are four years. Candidates for governor must be 30 years old, US citizens, qualified voters, and state residents for at least five years prior to election. As of December 2004, the governor's salary was $85,506.

The legislature, which convenes every two years (in odd-numbered years) beginning in early January, is bicameral, with a 47-member Senate and a 94-member House of Representatives. Regular sessions are limited to 80 legislative days. The governor or a legislative council may call for a special session. All legislators must be at least 18 years old, state residents for at least one year, and qualified voters in their districts prior to election; they serve four-year terms. In 2004 legislators received a per diem salary during regular sessions of $125 per calendar day. A two-thirds vote of the elected members of each house is required to override a gubernatorial veto. Bills that are not vetoed or signed by the governor become law after three days (or after 15 days if the legislature adjourns).

Voters in North Dakota must be US citizens, at least 18 years old, and a precinct resident for at least 30 days prior to election. The state does not require voters to register. Restrictions apply to convicted felons and those declared mentally incompetent by the court.


Between 1889 and 1960, Republicans held the governorship for 58 years. North Dakota politics were not monolithic, however, for aside from the Populist and Democratic opposition, the Republican Party was itself torn by factionalism, with Progressive and Nonpartisan League challenges to the conservative, probusiness party establishment. Between 1960 and 1980, the statehouse was in Democratic hands. In the early and mid-nineties, the Republican party increased its influence at the state level, gaining dominance in both houses of the state legislature, having wrestled control of the Senate away from the Democrats in the November 1994 election. The state had 481,351 registered voters in 2002, 49% of whom turned out to vote. Following the 2004 election, the state Senate had 32 Republicans and 15 Democrats. The state House was dominated by the Republicans, who held 67 seats, while the Democrats had 27.

In the 2000 presidential election, Republican George W. Bush won 61% of the vote to Democrat Al Gore's 33%. Independent candidate Ralph Nader and Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan each received 3% of the vote. In 2004, Bush won 66% of the vote to Democratic challenger John Kerry's 33%. North Dakota had three electoral votes in the 2004 presidential election.

Republican John Hoeven was elected governor in 2000. North Dakota's US senators in 2003 were Kent Conrad, a Democrat elected in 1992 to fill a seat vacated by the death of Quentin D. Burdick and reelected to full terms in 1994 and 2000, and Democrat Byron Dorgan, who was also reelected for second and third terms in 1998 and 2004. Following the 2004 elections, North Dakota's sole representative to the US House was a Democrat.

North Dakota Presidential Vote by Major Political Parties, 19482004
*Won US presidential election.
**IND. candidate Ross Perot received 71,084 votes in 1992 and 32,515 votes in 1996.
1948 4 Dewey (R) 95,812 115,139
1952 4 *Eisenhower (R) 76,694 191,712
1956 4 *Eisenhower (R) 96,742 156,766
1960 4 Nixon (R) 123,963 154,310
1964 4 *Johnson (D) 149,784 108,207
1968 4 *Nixon (R) 94,769 138,669
1972 3 *Nixon (R) 100,384 174,109
1976 3 Ford (R) 136,078 153,470
1980 3 *Reagan (R) 79,189 193,695
1984 3 *Reagan (R) 104,429 200,336
1988 3 *Bush (R) 127,739 166,559
1992** 3 Bush (R) 99,168 136,244
1996** 3 Dole (R) 106,905 125,050
2000 3 *Bush, G. W. (R) 95,284 174,852
2004 3 *Bush, G. W. (R) 111,052 196,651


In 2005, North Dakota had 53 counties, 360 municipalities (all designated as cities regardless of size), 230 public school districts, and 764 special districts. In 2002, there were 1,332 special districts. Typical elected county officials are commissioners, a sheriff, a court clerk, a county judge, a county justice, and a state's attorney. Counties are divided into townships, each with its own elected administrative officers. Most municipalities operate by the mayor-council system of government.

In 2005, local government accounted for about 23,093 full-time (or equivalent) employment positions.


To address the continuing threat of terrorism and to work with the federal Department of Homeland Security, homeland security in North Dakota operates under the authority of the governor; the emergency management director was designated as the state homeland security advisor.

Educational services are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Public Instruction and the Board of Higher Education; there are state schools for the deaf, blind, handicapped, and developmentally disabled. Health and welfare agencies include the State Health Department, Department of Agriculture, Department of Economic Development and Finance, Council on the Arts, Veterans Affairs Department, Department of Human Services, and Indian Affairs Commission. Agricultural services include an extensive program of experiment and extension stations.


North Dakota has a supreme court of five justices, seven district courts with 43 justices, and a system of local (county) courts. Supreme court justices are elected for 10-year terms, district court judges for 6-year terms.

As of 31 December 2004, a total of 1,327 prisoners were held in North Dakota's state and federal prisons, an increase from 1,239 of 7.1% from the previous year. As of yearend 2004, a total of 129 inmates were female, up from 113 or 14.2% from the year before. Among sentenced prisoners (one year or more), North Dakota had an incarceration rate of 195 per 100,000 population in 2004.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, North Dakota in 2004, had a violent crime rate (murder/nonnegligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault) of 79.4 reported incidents per 100,000 population (the lowest in the United States), or a total of 504 reported incidents. Crimes against property (burglary; larceny/theft; and motor vehicle theft) in that same year totaled 12,158 reported incidents or 1,916.6 reported incidents per 100,000 people. North Dakota does not have a death penalty. It was abolished in 1973, with the last execution in that state taking place in 1930. North Dakota does provide for life without parole.

In 2003, North Dakota spent $26,679,568 on homeland security, an average of $39 per state resident.


In 2004, there were 7,840 active-duty military personnel and 1,706 civilian personnel stationed in North Dakota, the majority of whom were stationed at the Strategic Air Command bases at Minot and Grand Forks. North Dakota firms received more than $309 million in defense contract awards in 2004. Defense Department payroll outlays in that same year were $498 million.

In 2003, 55,374 veterans were living in North Dakota, including 7,558 from World War II; 6,787 from the Korean conflict; 17,850 from the Vietnam era; and 8,680 in the Persian Gulf War. A total of more than $156 million was spent on major veterans' benefit programs in the state in 2004.

As of 31 October 2004, the North Dakota Highway Patrol employed 134 full-time sworn officers.


During the late 19th century, North Dakota was largely settled by immigrants of German and Scandinavian stock. The state reached a peak population in 1930, but then suffered steady losses until well into the 1970s because of out-migration. This trend has shown some signs of abating, however. From 1980 to 1983, the state's population grew 4.3%, in part because of a net gain in migration of about 5,000 people. Also during the 1980s, the urban population grew to outnumber the rural population, rising from 48.8% to 53.3% of the total populace. From 1985 to 1990, North Dakota had a net loss of 44,142 from migration. Between 1990 and 1998, the state had a net loss of 30,000 in domestic migration but a net gain of 4,000 in international migration. In 1998, the state admitted 472 foreign immigrants. North Dakota's overall population decreased by 0.1% between 1990 and 1998. In the period 200005, net international migration was 3,687 and net internal migration was 18,568, for a net loss of 14,881 people.


North Dakota participates in such interstate agreements as the Yellowstone River Compact, Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, Interstate Compact for Juveniles, and Interstate Oil and Gas Compact. A Minnesota-North Dakota Boundary Compact was ratified in 1961. Federal grants in fiscal year 2001 totaled almost $1.3 billion. Mirroring a national trend, that figure declined significantly by fiscal year 2005, to $935 million. Federal grants were estimated at $908 million in fiscal year 2006, and an estimated $921 million in fiscal year 2007.


North Dakota has been and still is an important agricultural state, especially as a producer of wheat, much of which finds its way onto the world market. Many segments of the economy are affected by agriculture; for example, a substantial wholesale trade is involved in moving grain and livestock to market. Like other Midwestern farmers, North Dakotans suffered from high interest rates and a federal embargo on grain shipments to the Soviet Union in the early 1980s. Farm numbers have continued to decline, posing a threat to the vitality of the state's rural lifestyle. From 1970, 43 of North Dakota's 53 counties have lost population, and for 23 of these the population decline accelerated in the 1990s. The exodus has been aggravated by prolonged drought conditions, which in 2002 helped reduce wheat production (representing a quarter of the state's total agricultural revenues) by 24% and disrupted cattle production. Not being deeply involved in the frenzy of the 1990s, North Dakota was only slightly affected by the national recession and slowdown of 2001 and 2002. By December 2002, state unemployment which had risen to 3.6% in October, had fallen back to 3%.

Growth industries for the state include petroleum and the mining of coal, chiefly lignite. North Dakota has more coal resources than any other state. Manufacturing is concentrated to a great extent on farm products and machinery.

North Dakota's gross state product (GSP) in 2004 was $22.687 billion, of which manufacturing accounted for the largest share at $2.366 billion or 10.4% of GSP, followed by health care and social assistance services at $2.069 billion (9.1% of GSP), and the real estate sector at $1.840 billion (8.1% of GSP). In that same year, there were an estimated 59,158 small businesses in North Dakota. Of the 19,177 businesses that had employees, an estimated total of 18,522 or 96.6% were small companies. An estimated 1,747 new businesses were established in the state in 2004, up 20% from the year before. Business terminations that same year came to 2,621, up 27.9% from 2003. There were 85 business bankruptcies in 2004, down 19% from the previous year. In 2005, the state's personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13) filing rate was 345 filings per 100,000 people, ranking North Dakota as the 46th highest in the nation.


In 2005 North Dakota had a gross state product (GSP) of $24 billion which accounted for 0.2% of the nation's gross domestic product and placed the state at number 50 in highest GSP among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2004 North Dakota had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $29,494. This ranked 37th in the United States and was 89% of the national average of $33,050. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of PCPI was 4.5%. North Dakota had a total personal income (TPI) of $18,767,503,000, which ranked 50th in the United States and reflected an increase of 2.8% from 2003. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of TPI was 4.4%. Earnings of persons employed in North Dakota increased from $14,513,974,000 in 2003 to $14,966,009,000 in 2004, an increase of 3.1%. The 200304 national change was 6.3%.

The US Census Bureau reports that the three-year average median household income for 2002 to 2004 in 2004 dollars was $39,594 compared to a national average of $44,473. During the same period an estimated 10.3% of the population was below the poverty line as compared to 12.4% nationwide.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in April 2006 the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in North Dakota numbered 363,900, with approximately 12,000 workers unemployed, yielding an unemployment rate of 3.3%, compared to the national average of 4.7% for the same period. Preliminary data for the same period placed nonfarm employment at 349,800. Since the beginning of the BLS data series in 1976, the highest unemployment rate recorded in North Dakota was 6.9% in March 1983. The historical low was 2.5% in January 1998. Preliminary nonfarm employment data by occupation for April 2006 showed that approximately 5.6% of the labor force was employed in construction; 10.4% in manufacturing; 21.5% in trade, transportation, and public utilities; 5.4% in financial activities; 7.7% in professional and business services; 14% in education and health services; 9.2% in leisure and hospitality services; and 21.5% in government.

The US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2005, a total of 21,000 of North Dakota's 289,000 employed wage and salary workers were formal members of a union. This represented 7.3% of those so employed, down from 7.7% in 2004, and below the national average of 12%. Overall in 2005, a total of 26,000 workers (9.2%) in North Dakota were covered by a union or employee association contract, which includes those workers who reported no union affiliation. North Dakota is one of 22 states with a right-to-work law.

As of 1 March 2006, North Dakota had a state-mandated minimum wage rate of $5.15 per hour. In 2004, women in the state accounted for 47.8% of the employed civilian labor force.


North Dakota's farm marketings totaled $3.96 billion in 2005. Typically, North Dakota is the number one producer of hard spring wheat, durum wheat, sunflowers, barley, oats, flax, all dry edible beans, and pinto beans. In 2004, North Dakota led the nation in spring wheat, drum wheat, barley, dry edible beans, sun-flowers, and was second in the nation in overall wheat production. production.

The total number of farms has declined over the years as the average size of farming operations has increased. In 2004, the state had approximately 30,300 farms and ranches occupying 39.4 million acres (16 million hectares) and producing 306.5 million bushels of wheat (second after Kansas), 91.7 million bushels of barley (1st), 791.7 million lb of sunflowers, 14.1 million bushels of oats, 4.75 hundredweight of dry edible beans (1st), 120.8 million bushels of corn, 4.8 million tons of sugar beets (third), and 26.7 million hundredweight of potatoes. The average farm is 1,300 acres (526 hectares).


North Dakota farms and ranches had an estimated 1.7 million cattle and calves, valued at $1.83 billion in 2005. During 2004, there were around 169,000 hogs and pigs, worth $18.6 million. North Dakota farmers produced nearly 7 million lb (3.2 million kg) of sheep and lambs, which brought in $7.5 million in gross income in 2003, and nearly 29.4 million lb (13.4 million kg) of turkey were produced in that same year. North Dakota was the leading producer of honey in 2004, with 9.1 million lb (4.1 million kg), worth $31.9 million.


There is little commercial fishing in North Dakota. The Garrison Dam National Fish Hatchery produces up to 3 million northern pike and nearly 10 million walleye each year. Other species produced there and at the Valley City National Fish Hatchery include smallmouth bass, crappie, rainbow trout, lake trout, brown trout, cutthroat trout, chinook salmon, paddlefish, and pallid sturgeon. In 2004, the state issued 168,497 sport fishing licenses.


The dispersed forests on the rolling prairie are not a dominant feature of the landscape; North Dakota's climate is more favorable to grassland ecosystems. At the time of settlement, native forests cov-ered about 700,000 acres (283,000 hectares). In 2004, there were 673,000 acres (272,000 hectares) of forestland, with 441,000 acres (178,000 hectares) classified as viable timberland. Agricultural clearing, inundation by reservoirs, and other land use changes have resulted in a 9% reduction in total forestland since 1954.


According to preliminary data from the US Geological Survey (USGS), the estimated value of nonfuel mineral production by North Dakota in 2003 was $37.7 million, an increase from 2002 of about 3%.

According to the preliminary data for 2003, construction sand and gravel was the state's leading nonfuel mineral by value and accounted for around 75% of all nonfuel minerals produced, by value. In second place was lime, which was followed by crushed stone.

The preliminary data for 2003 showed that a total of 10.6 million metric tons of construction sand and gravel were produced, having a value of $8.1 million. Lapidary and collectible materials such as petrified wood, agates, jasper, and flint are also found in North Dakota. The state is also a producer of leonardite, an oxidized lignite that is used for viscosity control in oil well drilling muds, as a dispersant, a soil conditioner, and as a stabilizer for ion-exchange resins.


As of 2003, North Dakota had 39 electrical power service providers, of which 12 were publicly owned and 23 were cooperatives. Of the remainder, three were investor owned and one was federally operated. As of that same year there were 354,323 retail customers. Of that total, 213,027 received their power from investor-owned service providers. Cooperatives accounted for 130,081 customers, while publicly owned providers had 11,197 customers. There were 18 federal customers.

Total net summer generating capability by the state's electrical generating plants in 2003 stood at 4.644 million kW, with total production that same year at 31.322 billion kWh. Of the total amount generated, 99.2% came from electric utilities, with the remainder coming from independent producers and combined heat and power service providers. The largest portion of all electric power generated, 29.427 billion kWh (94%), came from coal-fired plants, with hydroelectric plants in second place at 1.723 billion kWh (5.5%). Other renewable power sources, petroleum fired plants, and plants using other types of gases each accounted for 0.2%.

North Dakota in 2004, had four producing coal mines, all of which were surface operations. Coal production that year totaled 29,943,000 short tons, down from 30,775,000 short tons in 2003. Recoverable coal reserves in 2004 totaled 1.19 billion short tons. One short ton equals 2,000 lb (0.907 metric tons).

As of 2004, North Dakota had proven crude oil reserves of 389 million barrels, or over 2% of all proven US reserves, while output that same year averaged 85,000 barrels per day. Including federal offshore domains, the state that year ranked ninth (eighth excluding federal offshore) in proven reserves and tenth (ninth excluding federal offshore) in production among the 31 producing states. In 2004 North Dakota had 3,072 producing oil wells and accounted for 2% of all US production. As of 2005, the state's sole refinery had a crude oil distillation capacity of 58,000 barrels per day.

In 2004, North Dakota had 117 producing natural gas and gas condensate wells. In that same year, marketed gas production (all gas produced excluding gas used for repressuring, vented and flared, and nonhydrocarbon gases removed) totaled 55.009 billion cu ft (1.56 billion cu m). As of 31 December 2004, proven reserves of dry or consumer-grade natural gas totaled 417 billion cu ft (11.8 billion cu m).


According to the US Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) for 2004, North Dakota's manufacturing sector covered some seven product subsectors. The shipment value of all products manufactured in the state that same year was $7.371 billion. Of that total, food manufacturing accounted for the largest share at $2.370 billion. It was followed by machinery manufacturing at $1.874 billion; computer and electronic product manufacturing at $454.510 million; wood product manufacturing at $305.188 million; and fabricated metal product manufacturing at $261.463 million.

In 2004, a total of 22,027 people in North Dakota were employed in the state's manufacturing sector, according to the ASM. Of that total, 16,485 were actual production workers. In terms of total employment, the food manufacturing industry accounted for the largest portion of all manufacturing employees at 4,902 with 3,808 actual production workers. It was followed by machinery manufacturing at 4,707 employees (3,331 actual production workers); wood product manufacturing at 1,908 employees (1,745 actual production workers); computer and electronic product manufacturing at 1,785 employees (1,192 actual production workers); transportation equipment manufacturing at 1,573 employees (1,208 actual production workers); and fabricated metal product manufacturing with 1,417 employees (1,132 actual production workers).

ASM data for 2004 showed that North Dakota's manufacturing sector paid $764.390 million in wages. Of that amount, the machinery manufacturing sector accounted for the largest share at $182.480 million. It was followed by food manufacturing at $159.059 million; wood product manufacturing at $68.594 million; computer and electronic product manufacturing at $66.649 million; and fabricated metal product manufacturing at $55.437 million.


According to the 2002 Census of Wholesale Trade, North Dakota's wholesale trade sector had sales that year totaling $8.8 billion from 1,485 establishments. Wholesalers of durable goods accounted for 751 establishments, followed by nondurable goods wholesalers at 691 and electronic markets, agents, and brokers accounting for 43 establishments. Sales by durable goods wholesalers in 2002 totaled $2.7 billion, while wholesalers of nondurable goods saw sales of $5.4 billion. Electronic markets, agents, and brokers in the wholesale trade industry had sales of $627.3 million.

In the 2002 Census of Retail Trade, North Dakota was listed as having 3,433 retail establishments with sales of $7.7 billion. The leading types of retail businesses by number of establishments were: gasoline stations (496); motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers (471); building material/garden equipment and supplies dealers (432); food and beverage stores (368); and miscellaneous store retailers (353). In terms of sales, motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers accounted for the largest share of retail sales at $2.08 billion, followed by general merchandise stores at $1.1 billion; gasoline stations at $1.01 billion; and food and beverage stores at $902.4 million. A total of 41,342 people were employed by the retail sector in North Dakota that year.

Exports of North Dakota origin totaled nearly $1.2 billion in 2005, ranking the state 46th in the nation.


Allegations of consumer fraud and other illegal business practices are handled by the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division (CPAT) of the state's Attorney General's Office. The CPAT can investigate and prosecute instances of consumer fraud, as well as mediate consumer-business disputes and educates the public on how to avoid consumer fraud.

When dealing with consumer protection issues, the state's Attorney General's Office can initiate civil (but not criminal) proceedings; represent the state before state and federal regulatory agencies; administer consumer protection and education programs; handle formal consumer complaints; and exercise broad subpoena powers. In antitrust actions, the Attorney General's Office can act on behalf of those consumers who are incapable of acting on their own; initiate damage actions on behalf of the state in state courts; and represent counties, cities and other governmental entities in recovering civil damages under state or federal law. However the Office cannot initiate criminal proceedings in antitrust cases.

The offices of the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Division are located in Bismarck.


As of June 2005, North Dakota had 100 insured banks, savings and loans, and saving banks, plus 38 state-chartered and 20 federally chartered credit unions (CUs). Excluding the CUs, the Fargo market area accounted for the largest portion of the state's financial institutions and deposits in 2004, with 25 institutions and $3.412 billion in deposits. As of June 2005, CUs accounted for 8.3% of all assets held by all financial institutions in the state, or some $1.458 billion. Banks, savings and loans, and savings banks collectively accounted for the remaining 91.7% or $16.180 billion in assets held.

Regulation of state-chartered banks and other state-chartered financial institutions is the responsibility of the North Dakota Department of Financial Institutions and its three divisions: the Banking Division; the Credit Union Division; and the Consumer Division.

In 2004, the median net interest margin (the difference between the lower rates offered to savers and the higher rates charged on loans) stood at 4.15%, down from 4.17% in 2003.


In 2004, North Dakota had 416,000 life insurance policies in force, worth over $38.8 billion; total value for all categories of life insurance (individual, group, and credit) was about $56 billion. The average coverage amount is $93,500 per policy holder. Death benefits paid that year totaled over $138.3 million.

As of 2003, there were 19 property and casualty and 4 life and health insurance companies domiciled in the state. In 2004, direct premiums for property and casualty insurance totaled over $1.2 billion. That year, there were 5,136 flood insurance policies in force in the state, with a total value of $685 million.

In 2004, 55% of state residents held employment-based health insurance policies, 10% held individual policies, and 21% were covered under Medicare and Medicaid; 11% of residents were uninsured. North Dakota has the highest percentage of individual (non employment-based) policy holders among the fifty states. In 2003, employee contributions for employment-based health coverage averaged at 19% for single coverage and 27% for family coverage. The state offers a 39-week health benefits expansion program for small-firm employees in connection with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA, 1986), a health insurance program for those who lose employment-based coverage due to termination or reduction of work hours.

In 2003, there were 554,234 auto insurance policies in effect for private passenger cars. Required minimum coverage includes bodily injury liability of up to $25,000 per individual and $50,000 for all persons injured in an accident, as well as property damage liability of $25,000. In 2003, the average expenditure per vehicle for insurance coverage was $565.30, which is the lowest average of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.


North Dakota has no securities exchanges. In 2005, there were 170 personal financial advisers employed in the state and 480 securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents. In 2004, there were over six publicly traded companies within the state, with over four NASDAQ companies and two NYSE listings. In 2006, the state had one Fortune 1,000 company; MDU Resources Group, listed on the NYSE and based in Bismarck, ranked 546th in the nation with revenues of over $3.4 billion.


Total expenditures for fiscal years 199597 (including federal and special funds) totaled approximately $3.6 billion, including $500 million for transportation, a total of $1.1 billion for health and human services, and a total of $1.3 billion for education. North Dakota has the only state-owned bank and state-owned mill, contributing $50 million and $3 million, respectively, to the general fund during the fiscal year 199901 biennium.

Fiscal year 2006 general funds were estimated at $1.1 billion for resources and $975 million for expenditures. In fiscal year 2004, federal government grants to North Dakota were $1.5 billion.

In the fiscal year 2007 federal budget, North Dakota was slated to receive: $7.8 million in State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) funds to help the state provide health coverage to low-income, uninsured children who do not qualify for Medicaid. This funding is a 23% increase over fiscal year 2006; $4 million for the HOME Investment Partnership Program to help North Dakota fund a wide range of activities that build, buy, or rehabilitate affordable housing for rent or homeownership, or provide direct rental assistance to low-income people. This funding is a 13% increase over fiscal year 2006; and $12 million to complete the

North DakotaState Government Finances
(Dollar amounts in thousands. Per capita amounts in dollars.)
Abbreviations and symbols:zero or rounds to zero; (NA) not available; (X) not applicable.
source: U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division, 2004 Survey of State Government Finances, January 2006.
Total Revenue 5,228,053 8,220.21
  General revenue 3,172,034 4,987.47
    Intergovernmental revenue 1,220,547 1,919.10
    Taxes 1,228,890 1,932.22
      General sales 367,304 577.52
      Selective sales 299,434 470.81
      License taxes 118,377 186.13
      Individual income tax 213,982 336.45
      Corporate income tax 49,807 78.31
      Other taxes 179,986 283.00
    Current charges 516,265 811.74
    Miscellaneous general revenue 206,332 324.42
  Utility revenue - -
  Liquor store revenue - -
  Insurance trust revenue 2,056,019 3,232.73
Total expenditure 3,197,884 5,028.12
  Intergovernmental expenditure 613,513 964.64
  Direct expenditure 2,584,371 4,063.48
    Current operation 1,960,581 3,082.67
    Capital outlay 281,143 442.05
    Insurance benefits and repayments 223,187 350.92
    Assistance and subsidies 42,952 67.53
    Interest on debt 76,508 120.30
Exhibit: Salaries and wages 560,791 881.75
Total expenditure 3,197,884 5,028.12
  General expenditure 2,974,697 4,677.20
    Intergovernmental expenditure 613,513 964.64
    Direct expenditure 2,361,184 3,712.55
  General expenditures, by function:
    Education 1,057,056 1,662.04
    Public welfare 683,035 1,073.95
    Hospitals 44,002 69.19
    Health 57,081 89.75
    Highways 385,158 605.59
    Police protection 13,866 21.80
    Correction 45,458 71.47
    Natural resources 133,888 210.52
    Parks and recreation 13,934 21.91
    Government administration 123,047 193.47
    Interest on general debt 76,508 120.30
    Other and unallocable 341,664 537.21
  Utility expenditure - -
  Liquor store expenditure - -
  Insurance trust expenditure 223,187 350.92
Debt at end of fiscal year 1,662,390 2,613.82
Cash and security holdings 7,301,736 11,480.72

Army Corps of Engineers' urban flood damage reduction project in Grand Forks-East Grand Forks.


In 2005, North Dakota collected $1,403 million in tax revenues or $2,203 per capita, which placed it 21st among the 50 states in per capita tax burden. The national average was $2,192 per capita. Property taxes accounted for 0.1% of the total; sales taxes, 29.2%; selective sales taxes, 21.3%; individual income taxes, 17.2%; corporate income taxes, 5.4%; and other taxes, 26.7%.

As of 1 January 2006, North Dakota had five individual income tax brackets ranging from 2.1 to 5.54%. The state taxes corporations at rates ranging from 2.6 to 7.0% depending on tax bracket.

In 2004, state and local property taxes amounted to $584,622,000 or $919 per capita. The per capita amount ranks the state 31st nationally. Local governments collected $583,144,000 of the total and the state government $1,478,000.

North Dakota taxes retail sales at a rate of 5%. In addition to the state tax, local taxes on retail sales can reach as much as 2.50%, making for a potential total tax on retail sales of 7.50%. Food purchased for consumption off-premises is tax exempt. The tax on cigarettes is 44 cents per pack, which ranks 38th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. North Dakota taxes gasoline at 23 cents per gallon. This is in addition to the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline.

According to the Tax Foundation, for every federal tax dollar sent to Washington in 2004, North Dakota citizens received $1.73 in federal spending, which ranks the state fifth-highest nationally.


The North Dakota Economic Development and Finance Division of the Department of Commerce seeks to attract new industry, retain and expand existing industry, promote start-up businesses, and develop markets for state products. The state uses a local approach to provide business incentives, including job training, financing, and tax-abatement programs. The main operating units within the division include the Rural Development Council, Research, Marketing, and Business Development. Other divisions within the Department of Commerce focus on Community Services, Tourism and Workforce Development.


The infant mortality rate in October 2005 was estimated at 5.8 per 1,000 live births. The birth rate in 2003 was 12.6 per 1,000 population. The abortion rate stood at 9.9 per 1,000 women in 2000. In 2003, about 87.3% of pregnant woman received prenatal care beginning in the first trimester. In 2004, approximately 82% of children received routine immunizations before the age of three.

The crude death rate in 2003 was 9.6 deaths per 1,000 population. As of 2002, the death rates for major causes of death (per 100,000 resident population) were: heart disease, 255.9; cancer, 203.9; cerebrovascular diseases, 74; chronic lower respiratory diseases, 50.8; and diabetes, 33.7. North Dakota and Ohio share the distinction of having the third-highest diabetes mortality rate in the nation (following West Virginia and Louisiana). The mortality rate from HIV infection was not available in 2002. In 2004, the reported AIDS case rate was at about 2.7 per 100,000 population, on of the lowest in the nation. In 2002, about 59.3% of the population was considered overweight or obese. As of 2004, about 19.8% of state residents were smokers.

In 2003, North Dakota had 40 community hospitals with about 3,600 beds. There were about 88,000 patient admissions that year and 1.8 million outpatient visits. The average daily inpatient census was about 2,100 patients. The average cost per day for hospital care was $859. Also in 2003, there were about 84 certified nursing facilities in the state with 6,582 beds and an overall occupancy rate of about 93.2%. In 2004, it was estimated that about 69.6% of all state residents had received some type of dental care within the year. North Dakota had 244 physicians per 100,000 resident population in 2004 and 1,059 nurses per 100,000 in 2005. In 2004, there were a total of 319 dentists in the state.

About 12% of state residents were enrolled in Medicaid programs in 2003; 16% were enrolled in Medicare programs in 2004. Approximately 11% of the state population was uninsured in 2004. In 2003, state health care expenditures totaled $767,000.


In 2004, about 13,000 people received unemployment benefits, with the average weekly unemployment benefit at $226. For 2005, the estimated average monthly participation in the food stamp program included about 42,204 persons (18,927 households); the average monthly benefit was about $88.21 per person. That year, the total of benefits paid through the state for the food stamp program was about $44.6 million.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the system of federal welfare assistance that officially replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1997, was reauthorized through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. TANF is funded through federal block grants that are divided among the states based on an equation involving the number of recipients in each state. North Dakota's TANF program is called Training, Employment, Education Management (TEEM). In 2004, the state program had 8,000 recipients; state and federal expenditures on this TANF program totaled $29 million in fiscal year 2003.

In December 2004, Social Security benefits were paid to 114,720 North Dakota residents. This number included 71,820 retired workers, 15,650 widows and widowers, 10,820 disabled workers, 9.330 spouses, and 7,100 children. Social Security beneficiaries represented 18% of the total state population and 94.9% of the state's population age 65 and older. Retired workers received an average monthly payment of $891; widows and widowers, $869; disabled workers, $840; and spouses, $447. Payments for children of retired workers averaged $489 per month; children of deceased workers, $582; and children of disabled workers, $274. Federal Supplemental Security Income payments in December 2004 went to 7,966 North Dakota residents, averaging $337 a month. An additional $160,000 of state-administered supplemental payments were distributed to 355 residents.


In 2004, North Dakota had 300,815 housing units, 262,585 of which were occupied; 68.1% were owner-occupied. About 63.2% of all housing units were single-family, detached homes. Utility gas and electricity were the most common energy sources for heating. It was estimated that 10,860 units lacked telephone services, 1,161 lacked complete plumbing facilities, and 1,825 lacked complete kitchen facilities. The average household had 2.32 members.

In 2004, 4,000 new privately owned units were authorized for construction. The median home value was $84,354, one of the lowest in the nation. The median monthly cost for mortgage owners was $902. Renters paid a median of $466 per month, representing the second-lowest rate in the nation (above West Virginia). In 2006, the state received over $4.9 million in community development block grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).


In 2004, 89.5% of North Dakota residents age 25 and older were high school graduates; 25.2% had obtained a bachelor's degree or higher.

The total enrollment for fall 2002 in North Dakota's public schools stood at 104,000. Of these, 69,000 attended schools from kindergarten through grade eight, and 35,000 attended high school. Approximately 88% of the students were white, 1.2% were black, 1.4% were Hispanic, 0.8% were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 8.5% were American Indian/Alaskan Native. Total enrollment was estimated at 102,000 in fall 2003 and expected to be 94,000 by 2014, a decline of 10.2% during the period 200214. Expenditures for public education in 2003/04 were estimated at $901 million. There were 6,209 students enrolled in 52 private schools. Since 1969, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has tested public school students nationwide. The resulting report, The Nation's Report Card, stated that in 2005, eighth graders in North Dakota scored 287 out of 500 in mathematics compared with the national average of 278.

As of fall 2002, there were 45,800 students enrolled in college or graduate school; minority students comprised 9.4% of total postsecondary enrollment. In 2005 North Dakota had 21 degree-granting institutions. The chief universities are the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and North Dakota State University in Fargo. The North Dakota Student Financial Assistance Program offers scholarships for North Dakota college students, and the state Indian Scholarship Board provides aid to Native Americans attending college in the state.


The North Dakota Council on the Arts (NDCA) was established in 1967 and is a branch of the North Dakota state government. NDCA provides grants to local artists and groups such as the Trollwood Performing Arts School and the Annual United Tribes Indian Art Expo; encourages visits by out-of-state artists and exhibitions; and provides information and other services to the general public.

In 2005, the North Dakota Council of the Arts and other North Dakota arts organizations received 9 grants totaling $647,800 from the National Endowment for the Arts. The state also provided the council with funding. In 2006, the North Dakota Humanities Council, established in 1973, provided programs that included Read North Dakota, to promote literature from and about the state, and the Great Plains Chautauqua Society. In 2005, the National Endowment for the Humanities contributed $778,772 to six state programs.

The historic Fargo Theater presents live theatrical performances as well as films and sponsors the annual Fargo Film Festival. Fargo is also the center for the Fargo-Moorhead Opera and the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony. The Northern Plains Ballet is based in Bismarck but tours to Sioux Falls, Fargo, Billings, and Grand Forks.

Two popular musical events are the Old Time Fiddlers Contest (at Dunseith in June) and the Medora Musical (Medora, June through Labor Day); the latter features Western songs and dance.

The North Dakota Museum of Art is the official state art museum. Founded in the mid-1970s, its permanent collection focuses on, but is not exclusive to, contemporary Native American Art.


In 2001, North Dakota had 82 public library systems, with a total of 89 libraries, of which eight were branches. In that same year, North Dakota public libraries had 2,158,000 volumes of books and serial publications on their shelves, and a total circulation of 3,937,000. The system also had 61,000 audio and 51,000 video items, 7,000 electronic format items (CD-ROMs, magnetic tapes, and disks), and 14 bookmobiles. The leading academic library was that of the University of North Dakota (Grand Forks), with 1,221,953 items. In 2001, operating income for the state's public library system totaled $8,837,000 and included $75,000 in federal funding and $565,000 in state funding. Operating expenditures that year totaled $8,185,000, of which 60.5% was spent on staff, and 19.6% on the collection.

Among the most notable of the state's 50 museums are the Art Galleries and Zoology Museum of the University of North Dakota and the North Dakota Heritage Center at Bismarck, which has an outstanding collection of Indian artifacts. Theodore Roosevelt National Park contains relics from the Elkhorn ranch where Roosevelt lived in the 1880s.


In 2004, 95.0% of North Dakota's occupied housing units had telephones. Additionally, by June 2002 there were 245,578 mobile wireless telephone subscribers. In 2003, 61.2% of North Dakota households had a computer and 53.2% had Internet access. By June 2005, there were 56,057 high-speed lines in North Dakota, 47,278 residential and 8,799 for business. There were 28 major radio stations (10 AM, 18 FM) in 2005. As of 2005, 9 major network television stations were in operation. A total of 15,091 Internet domain names were registered in North Dakota in 2000.


As of 2005, there were six morning dailies and four evening dailies. There were also seven Sunday papers in the state. The leading dailies were the Fargo Forum, with a daily circulation of 51,106, Sunday, 62,097; the Grand Forks Herald, 31,524 morning, 34,763 Sunday; the Minot Daily News, 20,974 morning, 21,848 Sunday; and the Bismarck Tribune, 27,620 morning, 31,081 Sunday. In addition, there were about 15 periodicals. The leading historical journal is North Dakota Horizons, a quarterly founded in 1971.


In 2006, there were over 1,276 nonprofit organizations registered within the state, of which about 770 were registered as charitable, educational, or religious organizations. Two of the state's largest organizations are the Friends (Service Club) and the Northwest Farm Managers Association, both headquartered in Fargo.

State organizations focusing on arts, culture, history, and the environment include Arts on the Prairie, ArtWise, the Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association of North Dakota, the Crazy Horse Memorial Foundation, Fargo Garden Society, the North Dakota Council on Arts, the Badlands Conservation Alliance. and the North Dakota Wildlife Federation. The North Dakota Academy of Science is located in Grand Forks. There are at least three chapters of the Sons of Norway active in the state.

The National Sunflower Association is in Bismarck.


North Dakota's 17 state parks received 922,434 visitors in 2003, a 5% decline over 2002. Visitors to Theodore Roosevelt National Park and other national historic sites in the state in 2003 numbered 517,356, representing a 15% increase over 2002. Some 40% of all park users come from other states and countries.

A $1.8-million tourism campaign in 2005 brought $88 million in tourism revenue to the state. Tourism is North Dakota's second-largest industry, accounting for $3 billion of economic impact.

Among the leading tourist attractions is the International Peace Garden, covering 2,200 acres (890 hectares) in North Dakota and Manitoba; it commemorates friendly relations between the United States and Canada. Ft. Abraham Lincoln State Park, south of Mandan, has been restored to evoke the 1870s, when General Custer left the area for his "last stand" against the Sioux. The most spectacular scenery in North Dakota is found in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. The so-called "badlands," an integral part of the park, consist of strangely colored and intricately eroded buttes and other rock formations. Hunting and fishing are major recreational activities in North Dakota.


There are no major professional sports teams in North Dakota. In collegiate football, the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux and the North Dakota State University Bison compete in the North Central Conference. The University of North Dakota competes in collegiate ice hockey, winning National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships in 1959, 1963, 1980, 1982, 1987, 1997, and 2000.

Other annual sporting events include the PWT Championship (a walleye fishing tournament) in Bismarck in September, and several rodeos throughout the state. Former New York Yankee slugger Roger Maris grew up in Fargo, North Dakota.


Preeminent among North Dakota politicians known to the nation was Gerald P. Nye (b.Wisconsin, 18921971), a US senator and a leading isolationist opponent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's foreign policy, as was Senator William Langer (18861959). Another prominent senator, Porter J. McCumber (18581933), supported President Woodrow Wilson in the League of Nations battle. US Representative William Lemke (18781950) sponsored farm-relief legislation and in 1936 ran for US president on the Union Party ticket. Usher L. Burdick (18791960), a maverick isolationist and champion of the American Indian, served 18 years in the US House of Representatives.

Vilhjalmur Stefansson (b.Canada, 18791962) recorded in numerous books his explorations and experiments in the high Arctic. Orin G. Libby (18641952) made a significant contribution to the study of American history. Other North Dakota-nurtured writers and commentators include Maxwell Anderson (b.Pennsylvania, 18881959), a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright; Edward K. Thompson (Minnesota, 190796), editor of Life magazine and founder-editor of Smithsonian; radio and television commentator Eric Severeid (19121992); and novelist Larry Woiwode (b.1941).

To the entertainment world North Dakota has contributed band leaders Harold Bachman (18921972), Lawrence Welk (190392), and Tommy Tucker (Gerald Duppler, 190889); jazz vocalist Peggy Lee (Norma Delores Egstrom, b.1920) and country singer Lynn Anderson (b.1947); and actresses Dorothy Stickney (190098) and Angie Dickinson (Angeline Brown, b.1931).

Sports personalities associated with the state include outfielder Roger Maris (193485), who in 1961 broke Babe Ruth's record for home runs in one season.


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Hintz, Martin. North Dakota. New York: Children's Press, 2000.

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Preston, Thomas. Great Plains: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Vol. 4 in The Double Eagle Guide to 1,000 Great Western Recreation Destinations. Billings, Mont.: Discovery Publications, 2003.

Raaen, Aagot. Grass of the Earth: Immigrant Life in Dakota Country. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1994.

Rees, Amanda (ed.). The Great Plains Region. Vol. 1 in The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Regional Cultures. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2004.

US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, US Census Bureau. North Dakota, 2000. Summary Social, Economic, and Housing Characteristics: 2000 Census of Population and Housing. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 2003.

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North Dakota


NORTH DAKOTA, a state with an area of 70,665 square miles, is bounded by the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan to the north, Montana to the west, and South Dakota to the south. The meandering Red River of the North forms the state's eastern border with Minnesota. The state's topography is as varied as it is beautiful. Pembina, the lowest point at 792 feet above sea-level, is situated in North Dakota's northeast corner. To the west, the fertile farms give way to prairies teeming with migratory waterfowl and rolling hills along the Sheyenne, Missouri, and Knife Rivers. In western North Dakota, vast grasslands, plateaus, and multicolored Badlands

dot the landscape, and the state's highest point, White Butte, rises 3,506 feet above sea-level.

Colonial Origins

When Europeans first arrived on the northern Plains during the eighteenth century, they encountered the agricultural Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara, who lived in earth lodge villages near the Missouri River. The Chippewa or Ojibway resided to the east in the Turtle and Pembina Mountains. The seminomadic Assiniboine, Cree, Cheyenne, and Dakota or Lakota (called "Sioux" by their enemies) depended upon the bison for their survival. Although the acquisition of the horse transformed these groups into seminomadic buffalo hunters by 1750, they also established commercial ties with traders.

Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, Sieur de La Vérendrye, the first known European to reach present-day North Dakota, visited the region in 1738 during his futile search for a Northwest Passage. The race for colonies, which sparked several armed conflicts, ultimately delayed European settlement of the Northern Plains. In fact, Great Britain, France, and Spain each claimed the Dakotas at some point during the eighteenth century. In 1763, following Britain's victory in the French and Indian War, England acquired France's North American holdings, including the Red River valley, which England later surrendered to the United States in 1818.

From 1762 until 1800, Spain controlled all lands drained by the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Napoleon Bonaparte regained this territory for France in 1800, only to sell it to the United States on 2 May 1803. Following Senate approval of the Louisiana Purchase in 1804, President Thomas Jefferson dispatched Meriwether Louis and William Clark to explore the region. The Corps of Discovery's subsequent two-year expedition, much of which was spent in North Dakota at Fort Mandan, revealed a land teaming with abundant game and peaceful natives. Trappers eager to accumulate wealth rushed in. By 1827, the Upper Missouri Outfit monopolized the business. Sadly, the fur trade unleashed a series of devastating epidemics that decimated the region's Natives beginning in 1837.

Dakota Territory and Statehood

Violence erupted across the northern Plains when white settlement increased after the creation on 2 March 1861 of the Dakota Territory, an area initially encompassing the two Dakotas and parts of Montana and Wyoming. The subsequent Homestead Act of 1862, a law offering pioneers 160 acres of free or inexpensive land, accelerated settlement. That same year, Dakota warriors attacked Fort Abercrombie, the first military fort established in present-day North Dakota. General Alfred Sully's subsequent victories at the battles of Whitestone Hill and Killdeer Mountain created conditions fostering white settlement by 1868.

Construction of the westbound Northern Pacific Railway and gold-hungry miners sparked more bloody conflicts during the 1870s. Weakened by disease and hunger, many tribal groups accepted the government's offer of permanent reservations. Lakota warriors, led by Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, and Crazy Horse, remained defiant. Only the destruction of the bison herds forced Sitting Bull, the last holdout, to surrender at Fort Buford in northwestern Dakota Territory in 1881. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, many of the state's 35,228 American Indians lived on one of five reservations: Spirit Lake, Fort Berthold, Standing Rock, Turtle Mountain, and Lake Traverse.

Political Trends

Alexander McKenzie, the Northern Pacific's political agent in northern Dakota, demonstrated the power of outside corporate interests when he conspired with Nehemiah Ordway, the corrupt Republican governor of the Dakota Territory, in 1883 to transfer the territorial capital from Yankton to Bismarck, a town located on the railroad's main line. Hard feelings regarding the relocation motivated residents of southern Dakota Territory to push for the creation of two separate states. On 2 November 1889, President Benjamin Harrison signed legislation admitting both North Dakota and South Dakota into the Union.

Populists, who dominated state politics during the depression years of the early 1890s, fought government corruption. Seeking to strengthen their position, they joined forces with Democrats in 1892 to elect Governor Eli Shortridge. Although defeated by McKenzie's powerful Republican machine in 1894, the reformers had forced the railroads to reduce their rates. When political bosses continued to ignore calls for reform, George Win-ship, the editor of the Grand Forks Herald, founded the Good Government League in 1905. The following year, angry voters elected "Honest" John Burke, the state's first Democratic governor. New movements, particularly the American Society of Equity and the North Dakota Socialist Party, continued to fight outside predatory interests. The progressives' direct appeals to voters tired of corruption produced several changes, including cooperative rural grain elevators, direct primaries, the initiative and referendum, workers' compensation laws, and laws regulating monopolies.

The revolt against out-of-state banks, railroads, and grain interests culminated in Arthur C. Townley's establishment of the Nonpartisan League in 1915. Progressives eager to improve services and to eliminate corruption from government elected Lynn J. Frazier governor in 1918. Frightened conservatives responded by establishing the Independent Voters Association to fight the Non-partisan League, its candidates, and its proposals. The economic downturn of the 1920s ultimately ended the Nonpartisan League's political power but not its legacy. Despite fierce opposition, reformers created the Bank of North Dakota and the State Mill and Elevator. Remarkably, both state-owned businesses survived into the twenty-first century.

The economic catastrophe of the 1920s and 1930s united citizens in a campaign to eliminate the crooked practices that drove them into bankruptcy. The North Dakota Farmers' Union, established in 1927, became more militant as the depression worsened. William Langer became governor in 1933, and that year he reacted to the farmers' plight by imposing a moratorium on mortgage foreclosure sales. Hoping to drive up commodity prices, Langer also issued an embargo on the shipment of grain and beef from North Dakota. A federal investigation, however, threatened to derail the political maverick's career. The sham trial that followed resulted in the governor's conviction and removal from office in 1934. Langer, whose conviction was overturned following a lengthy legal battle, was reelected governor in 1936 as an independent.

The explosive politics of the Great Depression evolved into a modern political tug-of-war between two parties. The Republicans, led by Fred G. Aandahl and Milton R. Young, dominated the state's post–World War II politics. Liberals, responding to the Republican dominance of the 1940s and 1950s, joined forces. The tactic produced positive results when, in 1958, Quentin N. Burdick became North Dakota's first Democratic congressman. Two years later, a Democrat, William L. Guy, was elected governor, a post Democrats occupied until 1981.

During the 1980s, Republicans reasserted their political clout. After 1986, when Democrats gained control of the state senate for the first time, Republicans piled up impressive electoral victories. By 2000, Republicans once again dominated both branches of the state legislature. Despite the popularity of Republicans, however, North Dakotans, leery of entrusting too much power to one party, subsequently elected an all-Democratic congressional delegation.

Economic and Population Trends

Pacification of the region's Indians, coupled with the completion of new railways, attracted 100,000 new settlers to Dakota Territory between 1879 and 1886. By 1890, North Dakota's population had reached 190,983. Bonanza farms, extensive operations exceeding 3,000 acres, helped popularize North Dakota's bounty. A series of harsh winters, floods, and drought later drove many pioneers away. A second wave of settlers from 1898 to 1915, mostly Scandinavians and Germans, increased the state's resident population to 646,872 by 1920.

A twenty-year depression, compounded by prolonged drought, began in 1921. Hardship and out-migration followed as 40,000 residents fled the state, dubbed "the Too Much Mistake, " during the 1930s. Favorable weather conditions and wartime demand for commodities triggered an economic recovery. By 1974 increased global demands produced record-breaking commodity prices. Within two years, however, slumping grain sales and plummeting wheat prices drove many farmers into bankruptcy. Agricultural price supports became a necessary means of survival for many farmers. During the 1990s, weak international demand for American commodities produced even lower prices. The Federal Agricultural Improvement and Reform Act of 1996, which replaced price supports with a fixed and slowly declining subsidy, aggravated the situation. Not surprisingly, the decline of the state's family farms continued.

While North Dakota's reliance on agriculture declined, the state remained a major producer of wheat, sugar beets, barley, sunflower seeds, canola, and flaxseed. The success of producer-owned cooperatives, particularly the Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative and the Dakota Pasta Growers Association, became encouraging. In addition, the growth of the state's food processing and agricultural equipment manufacturing industries helped revive North Dakota's slumping agricultural economy.

The energy sector, notably coal and oil, has played a critical role in the state's economy. The discovery of high-grade oil near Tioga on 4 April 1951 initiated the state's petroleum industry. The energy crisis of the 1970s revitalized western North Dakota's crude oil operations. A decade later, the oil boom peaked with 52.7 million barrels of crude oil production in 1984. By 1992, production had dropped to 32.9 million barrels. However, international trends, particularly rising energy costs and the uncertain production policies of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), rekindled interest in the nation's ninth largest oil-producing state.

The state's bountiful lignite coal deposits also attracted investors. Following the Arab oil boycott of 1973, corporations built several generating facilities and launched huge strip-mining operations in the state. Exporting two thirds of its power production, North Dakota became a major supplier of electrical power. The quest for alternative sources of energy also produced the country's first coal-to-synthetic natural gas conversion facility near Beulah in 1983.

North Dakota's industrial structure differs from other states. North Dakota relies heavily upon government employment, with 21 percent of all workers classified as government employees versus just 15 percent nationwide. Unlike other states, North Dakota's manufacturing sector employs a mere 7 percent of the state's workers, half the national average. In addition, agriculture's role in the state economy is five times as large as the national average, with farm production accounting for 7.6 percent of the state's total economic output. When farm-related industries, such as food processing and transportation and distribution of food products, are factored in, this figure rises to 13 percent.

Recognizing the danger of relying too heavily on the boom-and-bust cycles of the state's leading industries, North Dakotans have implemented measures to diversify the state's economy. As a result, the percentage of residents in private nonfarm employment increased 26.8 percent between 1990 and 1998, nearly doubling the national average of 15.7 percent during the same period. Motivated by the success of Fargo's Microsoft Great Plains Business Solutions, politicians also lured information technology businesses to the state by touting North Dakota's affordable utilities, high quality of life, educated workforce, low taxes, and right-to-work laws. The economy also benefited from a booming service sector industry consisting of bank service centers, travel agencies, computer technical support facilities, and health care management companies.

Tourism also became a fast-growing industry. History buffs enjoy the state's abundance of museums, historic trading posts, and military forts. The International Peace Garden and the rugged Badlands also attract visitors. The legalization of casino gambling on the state's American Indian reservations in 1992 and 1993 fueled tremendous growth in amusement and recreation services across the state, and the booming gaming industry brought economic development to the reservation communities. Outdoor enthusiasts, eager to take advantage of the state's unpolluted environment, arrived in growing numbers.

While economic diversification remained central to North Dakota's development, legislators recognized the need to attract new residents. Following a massive influx of Europeans during the 1920s, the state's population peaked at 680,845 in 1930. By 1950, the resident population had dipped to 619,636. In 1970, the state's population reached a modern low of 617,792. The 1980 census counted 652,717 residents, marking the state's first population gain since 1930. The 1990 census, however, enumerated only 638,800 residents, and by 2000 that number had increased to only 642,200 people. North Dakota's Hispanic and American Indian populations increased during the 1990s.

Census numbers also point to the continuing decline of rural North Dakota. While the 1990 census revealed that the state's urban population had eclipsed the rural population, the 2000 census revealed that only six of the state's fifty-three counties gained population during the 1990s. Amazingly half of the counties lost 10 percent of their residents during the decade, a fact attributed to the slumping agricultural economy and out-migration to Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks, and Minot.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the residents of North Dakota continued to reap the benefits of their reform-minded predecessors, who established a system of government that limited corruption in politics by empowering the people with a direct share in the decision-making process. Although they frequently disagreed, North Dakotans wanted to solve the thorny issues that most threatened their state, including halting the out-migration of young people, promoting rural economic development, and diversifying an economy historically tied to the volatile agriculture and energy sectors.


Bochert, John R. America's Northern Heartland. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

Danbom, David B. Born in the Country: A History of Rural America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995.

———. "North Dakota: The Most Midwestern State." In Heart Land: Comparative Histories of the Midwestern States. Edited by James H. Madison. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1988.

Howard, Thomas W., ed. The North Dakota Political Tradition. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1981.

Kraenzel, Carl Frederick. The Great Plains in Transition. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1955.

Lamar, Howard Roberts. Dakota Territory, 1861–1889: A Study of Frontier Politics. Rev. ed. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1997. The definitive history of Dakota Territory politics.

Lindgren, H. Elaine. Land in Her Own Name: Women as Homesteaders in North Dakota. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1991.

Newgard, Thomas P., William C. Sherman, and John Guerrero. African-Americans in North Dakota: Sources and Assessments. Bismarck, N.Dak.: University of Mary Press, 1994.

Robinson, Elwyn B. History of North Dakota. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1995.

Schneider, Mary Jane. North Dakota Indians: An Introduction. 2d ed. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall/Hunt Publishing, 1994.

Tweton, D. Jerome, and Theodore B. Jellif. North Dakota: The Heritage of a People. Fargo: North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies, 1976.

Wilkins, Robert P., and Wynona H. Wilkins. North Dakota: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1977.


See alsoDakota Territory ; Great Plains ; Populism ; South Dakota ; Tribes: Great Plains .

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North Dakota

North Dakota, state in the N central United States. It is bordered by Minnesota, across the Red River of the North (E), South Dakota (S), Montana (W), and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba (N).

Facts and Figures

Area, 70,665 sq mi (183,022 sq km). Pop. (2010) 672,591, a 4.7% increase from the 2000 census. Capital, Bismarck. Largest city, Fargo. Statehood, Nov. 2, 1889 (39th state), simultaneously with South Dakota. Highest pt., White Butte, 3,506 ft (1,069 m); lowest pt., Red River, 750 ft (229 m). Nicknames, Sioux State; Flickertail State. Motto, Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable. State bird, Western meadowlark. State flower, wild prairie rose. State tree, American elm. Abbr., N.Dak.; ND


Situated in the geographical center of North America, North Dakota is subject to the extremes of a continental climate. Semiarid conditions prevail in the western half of the state, but in the east an average annual rainfall of 22 in. (55 cm), much of it falling in the crop-growing spring and summer months, enables the rich soil to yield abundantly. North Dakota is one of the most rural states in the nation; the cities and towns supply the needs of neighboring farms, and industry is largely devoted to the processing of agricultural products.

The eastern half of the state is in the central lowlands, a belt of black earth covered in spring by the soft green of sprouting grain and later by the bronze of flowering wheat or the blue of flax. Along the banks of the Red River lies a wedge of land, c.40 mi (60 km) wide at the Canadian border and tapering to 10 mi (16 km) in the south, that is the floor of the former glacial Lake Agassiz. Treeless, except along the rivers, and without surface rocks, this flat land was transformed into the bonanza wheat fields of the 1870s and 80s, with farms ranging in size from 3,000 to 65,000 acres (1,200–26,000 hectares). Today the average farm in the Red River valley is about 450 acres (180 hectares); the state average is about 1,300 acres (525 hectares). Its major crop, wheat, is varied with such crops as flax and seed potatoes.

To the west of the valley a series of escarpments rises some 300 ft (91 m) to meet the drift prairies, where rolling hills, scattered lakes, and occasional moraines form a pleasant and fertile countryside. The productivity of the soil makes North Dakota a leader in wheat (ranking second in the nation), barley, sugar beets, oats, soybeans, and sunflowers. In income earned, however, cattle and cattle products exceed all the crops except wheat.

In the western part of the state a combination of unfavorable topography and scant rainfall precludes intensive cultivation except in the river valleys. An area some 50 mi (80 km) E of the Missouri River is a farm and grazing belt, separated from the drift prairies by the Missouri escarpment. Westward from the Missouri rolls an irregular plateau, covered with short prairie grasses and cut by deep gullies. Where wind and rain have eroded the hillsides there are unusual formations of sand and clay, glowing in yellows, reds, browns, and grays. Along the Little Missouri this section is called the Badlands, so named because the region (once described as "hell with the fires out" ) was difficult to traverse in early days. Situated there, where from 1883 to 1886 the young Theodore Roosevelt spent part of each year ranching, are the three units of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Bismarck, on the eastern bank of the Missouri River, is the capital and Fargo is the largest city.


On the plateau cattle graze, finding shelter in the many ravines, and large ranges are an economic necessity. In the northwestern area of the state oil was discovered in 1951, and petroleum is now North Dakota's leading mineral product, ahead of sand and gravel, lime, and salt. There are also natural-gas fields. Underlying the western counties are lignite reserves; close to the lignite beds are deposits of clay of such varied types that they serve as both construction and pottery materials.

Despite mineral production and some manufacturing, agriculture continues to be North Dakota's principal pursuit, and the processing of grain, meat, and dairy products is vital to such cities as Fargo, Grand Forks, Minot, and Bismarck. The Missouri and Red rivers, once the major transportation routes, are more important now for their irrigation potential. Several dams have been built, notably Garrison Dam, and a number of federal reclamation projects have been completed as part of the Missouri River basin project. There has also been reforestation. With such attractions as the Badlands, the International Peace Garden on the Canadian border, and recreational facilities provided by reservoirs (resulting from dam building in the 1950s), tourism has become North Dakota's third-ranking source of income, behind agriculture and mineral production.

Government and Higher Education

The state is governed under its 1889 constitution, often amended. The legislature consists of 49 senators and 98 representatives. The governor is elected for a four-year term; Republican Edward Schafer, elected in 1992 and reelected in 1996, was succeeded by fellow Republican John Hoeven, elected in 2000 and reelected in 2004 and 2008. Lt. Gov. Jack Dalrymple succeeded Hoeven when the latter resigned in 2010; he was elected to the office in 2012. North Dakota elects two U.S. senators and one representative; it has three electoral votes.

The state's institutions of higher education include Jamestown College, at Jamestown; North Dakota State Univ., at Fargo; and the Univ. of North Dakota, at Grand Forks.


Native Americans and the Fur Traders

The first farmers in the region of whom there is definite knowledge were Native Americans of the Mandan tribe. Other agricultural tribes were the Arikara and the Hidatsa. Seminomadic and nomadic tribes were the Cheyenne, Cree, Sioux, Assiniboin, Crow, and Ojibwa (Chippewa).

With the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 the northwestern half of North Dakota became part of the United States. The southeastern half was acquired from Great Britain in 1818 when the international line with Canada was fixed at the 49th parallel. Earlier the Lewis and Clark expedition had wintered (1804–5) with the Mandan and the North West Company and the Hudson's Bay Company had established trading posts in the Red River valley. These ventures introduced an industry that dominated the region for more than half a century. Within that era the buffalo vanished from the plains and the beaver from the rivers.

From its post at Fort Union, which was established in 1828, John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company gradually gained monopolistic control for a time over the region's trade. Supply and transport were greatly facilitated when a paddlewheel steamer, the Yellowstone, inaugurated steamboat travel on the turbulent upper Missouri in 1832. Additional transportation was provided by the supply caravans of Red River carts, which went westward across the Minnesota prairies and returned to the Mississippi loaded with valuable pelts. In 1837, the introduction of smallpox by settlers decimated the Mandan tribe.

Early Settlers and the Sioux

An attempt at agricultural colonization was made at Pembina in 1812 (see Red River Settlement), but the first permanent farming community was not established until 1851, when another group settled at Pembina. This was still the only farm settlement in the future state in 1851 when the Dakota Territory was organized. The territory included lands that would eventually became North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming.

Several military posts had been established starting in 1857 to protect travelers and railroad workers. Even when free land was opened in 1863 and the Northern Pacific RR was chartered in 1864, concern with the Civil War and the eruption of open warfare with Native Americans discouraged any appreciable settlement. Gen. Alfred H. Sully joined Gen. Henry H. Sibley of Minnesota in campaigns against the Sioux in 1863–66. A treaty was signed in 1868. In 1876, after gold was discovered on Native American land in the Black Hills, the unwillingness of the whites to respect treaty agreements led to further war, and the force of George A. Custer was annihilated at the battle of the Little Bighorn in present-day Montana. Ultimately, however, the Sioux under Chief Sitting Bull fled to Canada, where they surrendered voluntarily; they were returned to reservations in the United States.

Immigration and Agrarian Discontent

The first cattle ranch in North Dakota was established in 1878. With the construction of railroads in the 1870s and 80s, thousands of European immigrants, principally Scandinavians, Germans, and Czechs, arrived. They worked the land on their own homesteads or on the large Eastern-financed bonanza wheat fields of the low central prairies. Borrowing the idea from Europe, they founded agricultural cooperatives.

Local politics were rapidly reduced to a struggle between the agrarian groups and the corporate interests. Alexander McKenzie of the Northern Pacific was for many years the most important figure in the state. Republicans held the elective offices. Agrarian groups formed the Farmers' Alliance and in 1892, three years after North Dakota had achieved statehood, the Farmers' Alliance combined with the Democrats and Populists to elect Eli Shortridge, a Populist, as governor. Later, when the success of the La Follette Progressives in Wisconsin encouraged the growth of the Republican Progressive movement in North Dakota, a fusion with the Democrats elected "Honest John" Burke as governor for three terms (1906–12).

The Nonpartisan League

Much of the agrarian discontent was focused on marketing practices of the large grain interests. Although many small cooperative grain elevators were established, they did not prove effective, and the farmers pressed for state-owned grain elevators. When this movement failed in the legislature of 1915, the Nonpartisan League, directed in North Dakota by Arthur C. Townley, was organized on a platform that included state ownership of terminal elevators and flour mills, state inspection of grain and grain dockage, relief of farm improvements from taxation, and rural credit banks operated at cost.

Working primarily with the Republican party because it was the majority party in North Dakota, the league captured the state legislature in 1919 and proceeded to enact virtually its entire platform. This included the establishment of an industrial commission to manage state-owned enterprises and the creation of the Bank of North Dakota to handle public funds and provide low-cost rural credit. The right of recall was also enacted, by which voters could remove an elected official. However, the reforms were disappointing in operation.

Dissension arose within the league, and the Independent Voters Association was organized to represent the conservative Republican position. The industrial commission was accused of maladministration, and the provision of recall was exercised three times, the first against Gov. L. J. Frazier in 1921. William Langer, who had been active with both the Nonpartisan League and the Independent Voters Association, was elected governor in 1932 running as a Nonpartisan. Langer was convicted on a federal charge of misconduct in office in 1934, although the conviction was later reversed. Langer again became governor in 1936, running as an individual candidate and not on the ticket of either party; subsequently he was elected to the U.S. Senate four times.

Present-day North Dakota

The state's heavy dependence on wheat and petroleum has made it unusually vulnerable to fluctuations in those markets; North Dakota has undergone a number of booms and busts in its petroleum industry. Red River flooding in 1997 devastated Grand Forks, adding to economic problems. In recent years North Dakota has become more urbanized, and telecommunications and high-tech manufacturing have created jobs, but between 1990 and 2000 it had the slowest rate of population growth of all the states.


See E. L. Waldo, Dakota: An Informal Study of Territorial Days (2d ed. 1936); Federal Writers' Project, North Dakota: A Guide to the North Prairie State (1938, rev. ed. 1980); M. E. Kazeck, North Dakota (1956); E. B. Robinson, History of North Dakota (1966); L. R. Goodman and R. J. Eidem, Atlas of North Dakota (1976); F. M. Berg, Ethnic Heritage in North Dakota (1983).

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North Dakota


Bismarck . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 413

Fargo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 425

Grand Forks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 437

The State in Brief

Nickname: Flickertail State; Sioux State; Peace Garden State

Motto: Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable

Flower: Wild prairie rose

Bird: Western meadowlark

Area: 70,699 square miles (2000; U.S. rank: 19th)

Elevation: Ranges from 750 feet to 3,506 feet above sea level

Climate: Continental, with a wide variety of temperatures; brief, hot summers; winter blizzards; semi-arid in the west and 22 inches average rainfall in the east

Admitted to Union: November 2, 1889

Capital: Bismarck

Head Official: Governor John Hoeven (R) (until 2008)


1980: 653,000

1990: 638,800

2000: 642,200

2004 estimate: 634,366

Percent change, 19902000: 0.5%

U.S. rank in 2004: 48th

Percent of residents born in state: 72.5% (2000)

Density: 9.3 people per square mile (2000)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 15,258

Racial and Ethnic Characteristics (2000)

White: 593,181

Black or African American: 3,916

American Indian and Alaska Native: 31,329

Asian: 3,606

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 230

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 7,786

Other: 2,540

Age Characteristics (2000)

Population under 5 years old: 39,400

Population 5 to 19 years old: 144,064

Percent of population 65 years and over: 14.7%

Median age: 36.2 years (2000)

Vital Statistics

Total number of births (2003): 7,938

Total number of deaths (2003): 6,090 (infant deaths, 57)

AIDS cases reported through 2003: 57


Major industries: Agriculture, manufacturing, mining

Unemployment rate: 3.2% (April 2005)

Per capita income: $28,521 (2003; U.S. rank: 35)

Median household income: $38,212 (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Percentage of persons below poverty level: 11.7% (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Income tax rate: Ranges from 2.1% to 5.54%

Sales tax rate: 5.0% (food and prescription drugs are exempt)

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North Dakota

North Dakota State in n central USA, on the Canadian border; the capital is Bismarck. French explorers first visited the region in 1738. The USA acquired the w half of the area from France in the Louisiana Purchase (1803), and the rest from Britain in 1818 when the boundary with Canada was fixed. Dakota was divided into North and South Dakota in 1889. The region is low-lying and drained by the Missouri and Red rivers. Wheat, barley, rye, oats, sunflowers and flaxseed are the chief crops. Cattle rearing is the most important economic activity. Area: 183,022sq km (70,665sq mi). Pop. (2000) 642,200.

Statehood :

November 2, 1889

Nickname :

The Flickertail State

State bird :

Western meadowlark

State flower :

Wild prairie rose

State tree :

American elm

State motto :

Liberty and union, now and forever, one and inseparable

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North Dakota


As a surveyor for the North West Company (Canada) in 1797, David Thompson was the first to describe part of what is presently North Dakota. Thompson completed the task of mapping the main travel routes through Canadian and United States territory. He also recorded details of the land and described Indians he encountered along the way.

In 1801 the first long-term trading post was set up at Pembina, and it became the center for the first white settlers in the state. Locally, trading furs provided the economic base for early settlers. It also became big business abroad as American trading companies competed with British-Canadian companies for control of the fur trade business. After the Lewis and Clark Expedition was completed, the fur business soared in North Dakota. Because trading furs became more lucrative as more companies were established, John Jacob Astor (17631848), founder of one of the biggest fur trading companies in the United States, convinced the American government to pass a law prohibiting other countries from trading with the Indians.

In the 1800s demand for furs was great and traders in the west could answer the call. Fur trading flourished into the 1850s as Astor built the first steamboat to run on the upper Missouri River. (It could carry 144 tons of goods.) Soon after, more trade routes were established including a major trade route that was opened for cart caravans between St. Paul, Minnesota, and what is now Walhalla, North Dakota. St. Paul merchants offered $1,000 to the man who would open more trade markets by putting a steamboat on the Red River. In 1859 Anson Northrup received $2,000 for dismantling a small boat he had launched on the Crow River; using 32 teams of oxen, he hauled it to the Red River and successfully launched it there.

Dakota became a territory in 1861. Some settlers traveled west to Dakota to take advantage of the Homestead Act, which was passed by Congress in 1862. This bill gave free land to those who would work on the land for five years and plant crops. In 1864 Congress gave Northern Pacific Railroad 50 million acres in Dakota to lay tracks from Minnesota to the West Coast. Unfortunately, funds ran out after a few years and the project was not completed until 1881. In the 1870s and 1880s the development of other modes of transportation made it easier for settlers to move west. Steamboats, stagecoaches, and ox-drawn wagons brought hundreds of thousands of people to Dakota in the ten-year period between 1880 and 1890. European immigrants also began to settle in Dakota. However, life on the plains was not easy. The dry summers, forest fires, spring floods, and winter blizzards made every day life extremely difficult.

In 1870 wheat became a major source of revenue in the state. A new milling process was developed for spring wheat, a northern crop that was planted in the spring and harvested in the fall. When the wheat was ground the bran was separated from the flour. Also the railroad companies started up "bonanza farms" that covered thousands of acres of land and produced tons of wheat. A land agent for the Northern Pacific persuaded railroad president George W. Cass and a director, Benjamin Cheney, to purchase more than 13,000 acres for a bonanza farm. This enterprise, and more than 90 others like it, became very successful. The farms were owned by businessmen and were managed by foremen or superintendents. New settlers took advantage of the opportunity to work the farms or to start their own, smaller farms.

Though bonanza farming was successful, it also caused land prices to increase. To turn a substantial profit, many owners sold the farms when they knew they could get the highest price. However, in 1890 a depression caused wheat prices to fall drastically; most of the larger farms had to be broken up and sold in smaller parcels.

While farmers were tending wheat, cattle ranching started to take hold in the 1880s. Among the first was a business built by the Marquis de Mores, a Frenchman trying to make his fortune in Dakota. Instead of shipping live herds to markets in the East, the marquis devised a plan to slaughter his cattle on the range and send the beef to market. In the first year, the marquis was very successful, but he overextended himself and had to go back to France, leaving a $1 million debt behind. Other ranchers in the area had difficulties as wellgrasshoppers and fire destroyed the grass in 1886. As a result many ranchers pulled out of the area.

During the late 1880s, Dakota's territorial governor, Nehemiah Ordway, and his friend, Alexander McKenzie, were major political bosses who protected the financial interests of the railroad, banks, lumber and insurance companies ahead of the interests of the people. Along with special interest groups, they were opposed to Dakota's bid for statehood. However, after a new (state) constitution was approved, North Dakota and South Dakota became states on November 2, 1889.

The first action taken by the state's new government was to pass laws regulating railroads and grain businesses. For the next two decades Dakota worked hard to establish a stable economy. More railroad lines were built to serve more towns because the price paid for crops was good. In order to gain more control over wheat marketing, farmers formed cooperatives. These groups of farmers, who worked together to try to reduce the costs of transportation and storage costs and to get fair market prices for their wheat had little success.

Another attempt at fair trade was made by Arthur C. Townley, who developed a powerful farmer's organization called the Nonpartisan League (NPL). A popular organization, it became 40,000 members strong in one year. The NPL called for state-owned businesses such as banks to offer low-interest loans to assist farmers; they also favored grain inspectors to maintain consistent standards. Many voters opposed what they called "state socialism," but in 1918 NPL candidates took over state leadership. The League continued in state politics through the 1950s. Reforms that were achieved under the NPL included tax breaks for farmers, funds for schools, and a better process for grading grain. However, despite NPL reforms, the Great Depression (19291939) caused banks to close, farmers to lose their land, and widespread unemployment in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

In the 1940s the economy began to pick up again with the construction of the Garrison Dam. The project relieved flooding along the Missouri, produced hydroelectricity, and provided irrigation for farms. In 1951 another major event took place that would bring new money to the state. Oil was discovered on the Clarence Iverson farm. An oil boom brought oil companies and prospectors flocking to the area. Although production from these wells declined in the 1960s and 1970s, new oil wells were discovered in the late 1970s. The OPEC oil embargo of 1973 and the rise of oil prices throughout the decade encouraged additional drilling and supported another oil boom. However, the state's economy suffered in the 1980s when oil prices dropped and a drought that started in 1987, continued into the 1990smore than 5.3 million acres of land were damaged. While the agricultural production was strong in the 1980s and early 1990s, more than $600 million in crops were damaged from severe storms and flooding in 1994.

The 1995 median household income in North Dakota was $29,089; twelve percent of all North Dakotans lived below the federal poverty level.

See also: John Jacob Astor, Bonanza Farming, Homestead Act, Lewis and Clark Expedition


Berg, Francie M. North Dakota: Land of Changing Seasons. Hettinger, ND: Flying Diamond Books, 1977.

Grabowski, John F. The Great Plains: Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1992.

Krummer, Patricia K. North Dakota. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 1999.

Norris, Kathleen. Dakota: A Spiritual Biography. New York: Ticker and Fields, 1993.

Worldmark Encyclopedia of the States. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998, s.v. "North Dakota."

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N.Dak. • abbr. North Dakota.

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