full article: History of North Dakota
The Dakotas were the last arable places in the United States to be explored and settled (in the whole of North America, Alberta and Saskatchewan were explored slightly before but settled slightly after). The French trader La Vérendrye was the first documented explorer of the area, leading a party to the Mandan villages about 1738.
The trading arrangement between tribes was such that North Dakota tribes rarely dealt directly with Europeans. However, the native tribes were in sufficient contact that by the time of Lewis and Clark, they were at least somewhat aware of the French, then Spanish claims to their territory.
The state was settled sparsely until the late 1800s, when the railroads pushed through the state, and aggressively marketed the land. On 2 November 1889, North Dakota was admitted to the Union with South Dakota (see Trivia below). By 1920 the state had about as many people as it has today.
Law and government
The capital of North Dakota is Bismarck and its governor is John Hoeven (Republican). Its two U.S. senators are Kent Conrad (Dem-NPL) and Byron Dorgan (Dem-NPL). Its congressman is Earl Pomeroy (Dem-NPL).
North Dakota has a bicameral legislature. The state elects two House Representatives and one Senator from each of 47 districts apportioned by population. The legislature only meets for 80 days in even-numbered years and when summoned by the governor. See also: North Dakota Legislative Assembly, North Dakota Senate, North Dakota House of Representatives
North Dakota's judiciary is rather simple. Each of the 53 counties has a court, from which appeals are sent straight to the Supreme Court. Because of the expense of having each county hire a judge, and the fairly low workload, the state is divided into seven judicial districts which collectively elect judges to travel to the various courthouses and hear cases.
District Judges are elected to six-year terms. Supreme Court Judges are elected to ten-year terms. The Supreme Court Justice is selected every 5 years by vote of the District and Supreme Court Judges.
North Dakota is bordered on the north by the Canadian Provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, on the west by Montana, on the south by South Dakota, and on the east, across the Red River of the North, by Minnesota. The Missouri River flows through the western part of the state, forming Lake Sakakawea behind the Garrison Dam. It is mainly a farm state and most of its industries (food processing and farm equipment) are connected to farming. Farms and ranches stretch across the rolling plains from the Red River Valley in the east to the rugged Badlands in the west. The geographic centre of the North American continent is located near Rugby.
North Dakota's 1999 total gross state product was $17 billion, the smallest in the nation. Its 2000 Per Capita Personal Income was $25,068, placing it 38th in the nation. The state's agricultural outputs include wheat, cattle, barley, flax, milk, soybeans, sunflowers, and sugar beets. Its small industrial output includes electric power, food processing, machinery, coal mining, and tourism.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2003, North Dakota's population was estimated at 633,837 people.
The racial makeup of the state is:
6.1% of North Dakota's population were reported as under 5, 25% under 18, and 14.7% were 65 or older. Females made up approximately 50.1% of the population.
Important cities and towns
See also: List of cities in North Dakota
By population, the ten largest urban centres in the state are:
Interestingly, Devils Lake tends to be considered more important than Wahpeton because of Devils Lake's geographic isolation. The population trends in the state are noting a distinct shift from the rural areas to the larger cities. Most of North Dakota's biggest cities grew between 1990 and 2000, with the notable exception of Grand Forks, which was decimated in the Red River Flood, 1997.
Between 1990 and 2000, the USA as a whole grew by 13.1%, yet North Dakota grew a mere 0.5%. It is the only state (along with Washington DC) whose population declined (by 1.3%) between April 1, 2000 and July 1, 2003; this decline has become a major political issue.
North Dakota's leaders frequently boast that the educational scene in the state is excellent. However, because the economic situation is no match for it, most skilled graduates leave the state.
Colleges and universities
North Dakota boasts one of the healthiest higher education scenes in the nation. There are 11 public colleges and universities, 5 tribal community colleges, and 3 private schools in the state. They are:
A bill for statehood for North and South Dakota (and Montana, and Washington) was passed on February 22 1889 during the Administration of Grover Cleveland. It was left to his successor Benjamin Harrison to sign proclamations formally admitting North and South Dakota to the Union on November 2 1889. However, the rivalry between the northern and southern territories presented a dilemma: only one, upon the President's signature on the proclamation, could gain the distinction of being admitted before the other. So Harrison directed his Secretary of State James Blaine to shuffle the papers and obscure from him which he was signing first, and the priority went unrecorded.