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Diversity in the ND Senate


Ole and Lena jokes might make it seem like North Dakota has nothing but Norwegians, but the state’s population represents a very wide variety of cultural backgrounds.

Just 65 years ago, the WPA employed the ND Writers Project to record personal histories of the state’s oldest settlers. At that point, foreign-born citizens represented forty-two different countries, and most still practiced old-world customs of speech, dress and social life.

Back in 1895, almost one-third of the State Senate’s 31 members were not born in this country. Six came from Canada, two from Norway and one was born in Wales. Of the 62 members of the House that year, exactly half were born outside the United States. Twelve were Norwegian, eleven were Canadian and two were Scottish. There was also a Brit, a Welshman, an Icelander, a German, a Swede and a Dane.

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm