It is located in the Upper Midwestern region of the United States, bordered by the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the north, the states of Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south, and Montana to the west. The state capital is Bismarck, and the largest city is Fargo. North Dakota is the 19th most extensive but the 3rd least populous and the 4th least densely populated of the 50 United States.
North Dakota has weathered the Great Recession of the early 21st century with a boom in natural resources, particularly a boom in oil extraction from the Bakken formation, which lies beneath the northwestern part of the state. The development has driven strong job and population growth, and low unemployment.
Prior to European contact, Native Americans inhabited North Dakota for thousands of years. In the historic period, American Indian tribes included the Mandan people, the Dakota people and the Yanktonai, the latter two tribes of the Lakota peoples. The first European to reach the area was the French-Canadian trader La Vérendrye, who led an exploration party to Mandan villages in 1738.
Dakota Territory was settled sparsely by European Americans until the late 19th century, when the railroads were constructed into the region. With the advantage of grants of land, they vigorously marketed their properties, extolling the region as ideal for agriculture. An omnibus bill for statehood for North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington, titled the Enabling Act of 1889, was passed on February 22, 1889 during the administration of Grover Cleveland. His successor, Benjamin Harrison, signed the proclamations formally admitting North Dakota and South Dakota to the Union on November 2, 1889.
The rivalry between the two new states presented a dilemma of which was to be admitted first. Harrison directed Secretary of State James G. Blaine to shuffle the papers and obscure from him which he was signing first and the actual order went unrecorded, thus no one knows which of the Dakotas was admitted first. However, since North Dakota alphabetically appears before South Dakota, its proclamation was published first in the Statutes At Large. Since that day, it has become common to list the Dakotas alphabetically and thus North Dakota is usually listed as the 39th state.
Unrest among wheat farmers, especially among Norwegian immigrants, led to a radical political movement after World War I centered in the Non Partisan League ("NPL"). The NPL, which eventually merged into the Democratic Party, tried to insulate North Dakota from the power of out-of-state banks and corporations. In addition to founding the state-owned Bank of North Dakota and North Dakota Mill and Elevator (both still in existence), the NPL established a state-owned railroad line (later sold to the Soo Line Railroad). Anti-corporate laws were passed that virtually prohibited a corporation or bank from owning title to land zoned as farmland. These laws, still in force today, after having been upheld by both state and federal courts, make it almost impossible to foreclose on farmland, as even after foreclosure, the property title cannot be held by a bank or mortgage company.
The original North Dakota State Capitol in Bismarck burned to the ground on December 28, 1930. It was replaced by a limestone-faced art deco skyscraper that still stands today. A round of federal investment and construction projects began in the 1950s, including the Garrison Dam and the Minot and Grand Forks Air Force bases.
There was a boom in oil exploration in western North Dakota in the late 1970s and early 1980s, as rising petroleum prices made development profitable. This boom came to an end after petroleum prices declined.
In recent years the state has had a strong economy, with unemployment lower than the national average and strong job and population growth. Much of the growth has been based on development of the Bakken oil fields in the western part of the state. Estimates as to the remaining amount of oil vary, with some estimating over 100 years worth of oil remaining in the area.
Note: North Dakota was admitted as a State on November 2, 1889 with essentially its present boundaries. It was formed from Dakota Territory, organized in 1861 (for Dakota's earlier history, see the State note for South Dakota). In 1850 census coverage of present-day North Dakota was limited to a few settlements in what was then Minnesota Territory. In 1860, some forts and settlements in the present State were enumerated in Nebraska Territory as well as in Dakota, which was not yet organized. No determination has been made to assign the 1860 Dakota total of 4,837 to what became the two separate States. Census coverage first included the whole State in 1890. The 1870 and 1880 populations consist of the totals of those counties of Dakota Territory located wholly or primarily in what is now North Dakota, plus (in 1870) an estimated portion of the Territory's unorganized part. The 1890 total includes the population (4,206) of the entire Standing Rock Indian Reservation, much of which was in South Dakota.. Totals for 1870 and 1880 are the totals of those counties of Dakota Territory located wholly or primarily in what is now North Dakota; in addition, the 1870 total includes an estimated share (1,192) of the population of the Territory's unorganized portion (2,091). Total for 1890 includes the population (8,264) of certain Indian reservations not reported by county; this includes the population (4,206) of the entire Standing Rock Indian Reservation, much of which was in South Dakota. The 1890 total also includes the population (511) of the Fort Yates and Standing Rock Indian agency other than reservation Indians, likewise not reported by county. Total for 1900 includes the population (2,208) of the portion of the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, not reported by county.
Outstanding guide to North Dakota family history and genealogy (FamilySearch Research Wiki). Birth, marriage, and death records, wills, deeds, county records, archives, Bible records, cemeteries, churches, censuses, directories, immigration lists, naturalizations, maps, history, newspapers, and societies.