North Dakota ( /- dəˈkoʊtə/ (listen)) is a U.S. state in the Upper Midwest, named after the indigenous Dakota Sioux. North Dakota is bordered by the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the north and by the U.S. states of Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south, and Montana to the west. It is believed to host the geographic center of North America, Rugby, and is home to the tallest man-made structure in the Western Hemisphere, the KVLY-TV mast.
North Dakota is the nineteenth largest state, but with a population of less than 780,000 as of 2020, it is the fourth least populous and fourth most sparsely populated. The capital is Bismarck while the largest city is Fargo, which accounts for nearly a fifth of the state’s population; both cities are among the fastest-growing in the U.S., although half of all residents live in rural areas. The state is part of the Great Plains region, with broad prairies, steppe, temperate savanna, badlands, and farmland being defining characteristics.
What is now North Dakota was inhabited for thousands of years by various Native American tribes, including the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara along the Missouri River; the Ojibwa and Cree in the northeast; and several Sioux groups (the Assiniboine, Yankton, Wahpeton, and Teton) across the rest of the state. European explorers and traders first arrived in the early 18th century, mostly in pursuit of lucrative furs. The United States acquired the region in the early 19th century, gradually settling it amid growing resistance by increasingly displaced natives.
The Dakota Territory, established in 1861, became central to American pioneers, with the Homestead Act of 1862 precipitating significant population growth and development. The traditional fur trade declined in favor of farming, particularly of wheat; the subsequent Dakota Boom from 1878 to 1886 saw giant farms stretched across the rolling prairies, with the territory becoming a key breadbasket and regional economic engine. The Northern Pacific and Great Northern railway companies competed for access to lucrative grain centers; farmers banded together in political and socioeconomic alliances that were core to the broader Populist Movement of the Midwest.
North Dakota was admitted to the Union on November 2, 1889, along with neighboring South Dakota, as the 39th and 40th states. President Benjamin Harrison shuffled the statehood papers before signing them so that no one could tell which became a state first; consequently, the two states are officially numbered in alphabetical order. Statehood marked the gradual winding down of the pioneer period, with the state fully settled by around 1920. Subsequent decades saw a rise in radical agrarian movements and economic cooperatives, of which one legacy is the Bank of North Dakota, the only state-run bank in the U.S.
Beginning in the mid 20th century, North Dakota’s rich natural resources became more critical to economic development; into the 21st century, oil extraction from the Bakken formation in the northwest has played a major role in the state’s prosperity. Such development has led to unprecedented population growth (along with high birth rates) and reduced unemployment, with North Dakota having the second lowest unemployment rate in the U.S. (after Hawaii). It ranks relatively well in metrics such as infrastructure, quality of life, economic opportunity, and public safety.