Dakota Territory

The Dakota Territory was an organized territory of the United States, which existed 1861-1889. The territory consisted of the northernmost part of the Louisiana Purchase, a region which the United States acquired in 1803 from France.


The largest part of the Dakota Territory was originally part of the Minnesota and Nebraska Territory. When Minnesota became a state in 1858, the remaining area east of the Missouri River was reorganized. In 1859 signed the Treaty Yankton tribe of the Lakota were a large part of their land from the U.S. government. Shortly afterwards there were the early settlers an unofficial provisional government and unsuccessfully attempted to influence the central government with respect to the territorial status.

The Dakota Territory was formed on March 2, 1861. It comprised at that time large sections of the present states of Montana and Wyoming. From 1868, new territories were established, reduced the size of the Dakota Territory to the present boundaries of the two states South Dakota and North Dakota.

The capital of the territory was 1861-1883 Yankton. Then it moved to Bismarck. The Dakota Territory was divided November 2, 1889 for several reasons in the two states of North Dakota and South Dakota. The two population centers were several hundred miles apart in the northeast and the southeast corners of the territory. Looking at the distribution of power in the U.S. Senate, the Republican Party urged to take two more States than one.

Life in the Dakota Territory

After the creation of the territory, the population initially grew slowly in the early years. However, that changed with the Dakota Boom 1870-1880. The main reason for the initially slow population growth, the Sioux Indians were considered. They were held for very hostile and saw them as a threat to the settlers. After the subjugation of the Sioux this obstacle fell away. The subsequent increase in population can be attributed to the railroad, especially the Northern Pacific Railroad. The settlers who came to the Dakota Territory were from other western territories as well as from North and West Europe, including Norway, Germany, Sweden and Canada.

The economy of the territory was essentially characterized by agriculture. The soil was fertile in Dakota, wheat was the main export product. In the 1880s, a drought struck the territory, at the same time the price of wheat fell. Dakota was therefore very in need. Also, livestock and mining played a role. As was found in the Black Hills gold, attracted more settlers to the area. The consequent increase in population transported livestock on Dakotas huge open pastures.

The first city in Dakota Territory was Medary, founded in 1857, south of the present Brookings, South Dakota, located.