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Territory of Dakota


The Territory of Dakota, better known today as Dakota Territory, was created by an act of Congress on this day in 1861. The territory was carved out of Minnesota and Nebraska Territories, and included present-day North and South Dakota, and parts of Wyoming and Montana. Before this time, the area had fallen under several different names and claims by the United States government.

In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson sent Robert Livingston to France in order to persuade Napoleon to sell the port of New Orleans to the United States. Bonaparte initially refused, but in April of 1803 offered Livingston not only New Orleans, but the entire Louisiana Territory. The United States purchased the territory for fifteen million dollars in what has been called “the real-estate deal of all time”. Much of the later Dakota Territory was included in the Louisiana purchase, but the small, but very valuable, portion of North Dakota known as the Red River Valley still belonged to the British Empire. This area was included within the boundaries of Rupert’s Land, which was established in 1670 in a charter given the Hudson Bay Company by King Charles II. The Red River Valley was therefore not added to the United States territory until England and the United States agreed on dividing their two claims at the 49th parallel in 1818.

The area was now considered part of the larger Missouri Territory until 1834, when part of the area was incorporated into the nearby Michigan Territory. Over the next twenty years, the area to become Dakota Territory changed title between Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota Territories. Finally, in 1854, the majority of the land became part of Nebraska Territory. The western fringe remained designated as “Indian Country”. And in 1861, Congress created the Territory of Dakota. Montana was carved from the area in 1864, and Wyoming followed in 1868, reducing the area to the present-day states of North and South Dakota. The territory was divided between the two future states in 1889.







--Jayme L Job