North Dakota History

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North Dakota

The following important events in the history of North Dakota affected political boundaries, record keeping, and family movements.

1803-1818: The United States acquired the southwestern half of North Dakota as part of the Louisiana Purchase from France. The northeastern half was acquired in 1818 by treaty with Britain.

1804-1806: The Lewis and Clark Expedition explored the area of present-day North Dakota.

1812: The first permanent white settlement in present-day North Dakota was made at Pembina by Scottish pioneers from Canada.

1823: Arickara (Riccaree) Indian ceded land

1851: Santee Sioux ceded land

1855: Teton Sioux ceded land

1861-1868: The Dakota Territory was organized. Its boundaries were reduced to include the area of the two Dakotas of today when the Montana Territory was created in 1864 and the Wyoming Territory in 1868.

1863: Free land was offered under the first Homestead Act, but the Civil War and Indian Wars delayed settlement.

1866: (December 21,) Fetterman massacre, Capt. William J. Fetterman of the U.S. army, often boasted he could whip the whole Sioux Indian nation with eigthy men, hed that exact number into an ambush by Sioux Indians  along the Bozeman Trail.

1868: Fort Laramie Treaty

1871: White settlement began in earnest in northern Dakota when railroads reached the Red River from St. Paul and Duluth, Minnesota.

1876: Cheyenne and Sioux Wars

1878-1879: Cheyenne ceded land

1878-1886: The eastern region was settled in the first Dakota boom era.

1889: The Dakota Territory was divided, and both North and South Dakota were admitted to the Union.

1898-1915: Additional lands were settled in a second Dakota boom. The peak year for new homesteads was 1906.

1890: (December 29,) About three hundred Sioux Indians, mostley women and children =, under Chief Big Foot, were massacred at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, by the U.S. Seventh Cavalry.

Helpful sources for studying the history of North Dakota are:

  • Robinson, Elwyn B. History of North Dakota. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press, 1966. (Family History Library book 978.4 H2r.)
  • Lounsberry, Clement A. Early History of North Dakota. Washington, DC: Liberty Press, 1919. (Family History Library book 978.4 H2L; film 1036397; North Dakota history and people, outlines of American history,1916 edition with biographical volumes is on Family History Library book 978.4 H2Lc v. 1; films 982024-5.)
  • A bibliography of local histories for North Dakota is included in Daniel Rylance and J.F.S. Smeall, Reference Guide to North Dakota History and North Dakota Literature (Grand Forks, North Dakota: Chester Fritz Library of the University of North Dakota, 1979; Family History Library book 978.4 A3r).