Today, people across the state and nation will remember, celebrate and share their bountiful blessings with family and friends. It's a day North Dakotans have officially celebrated for nearly 150 years.
Although Thanksgiving's origins date back to the 17th century Plymouth colony, the modern concept of the holiday was born out the Civil War. After the United States tore itself apart, President Abraham Lincoln hoped to unite the nation around a national day of thanksgiving. In October of 1863, Lincoln issued a proclamation declaring this day, November 26, to be a day of "thanksgiving and praise." In his proclamation, Lincoln reminded Americans that although the "Most High" was "dealing with us in anger for our sins," he continued to show mercy by granting gifts of peace with foreign nations, strength of industry, "fruitful fields and healthful skies."
For a nation facing the turbulent times of the Civil War and the US-Dakota Conflict, it was an inspiring message. After reading the President's proclamation in the St Paul Pioneer, the newly-appointed territorial governor of Dakota, Newton Edmunds, decided his first official act would be to follow Lincoln's lead. On October 26, 1863, Governor Edmunds issued Dakota's first official Thanksgiving Proclamation from the territorial capital at Yankton.
"In accordance with the proclamation of the President of the United States..." Edmunds began, "...I do hereby appoint the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God for His great mercies and many blessings of the past year; in that he has preserved our lives, blessed us with health, and given us an abundant harvest." Edmunds continued, "Let us thank God for the immortal triumph of our armies in this great struggle...Let us thank God for the preservation of our free institutions, won by the fortitude, bravery and blood of our fathers and handed down to us with their blessing." In closing, Governor Edmunds admonished Dakotans to "acknowledge before God our manifold and grievous sins as a nation, and with firm reliance on the Great Ruler of the Universe, commit our cause to Him in whose hands are the destinies of nations."
Dakota Datebook written by Christina Sunwall
Gerhardt, Tom. Thanksgiving Proclamation. KXNet.com Bismarck November 23, 2007. http://www.kxnet.com/custom404.asp?404;http://www.kxnet.com/t/tuttle-nd/183550.asp
Kingsbury, George W. History of Dakota Territory Vol. 1. Chicago: The S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1915.