Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Dakota

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DAKOTA, a territory of the United States of North America, bounded on the N. by the Dominion of Canada, E. by Minnesota and a small part of Iowa, S. by Nebraska, and W. by Montana and Wyoming. It is situated between 42° 28′ and 49° N. lat. and 96° 20′ and 104° W. long., thus extending about 400 miles from E. to W. and about as much from N. to S., with an area estimated at 150,932 square miles. With the exception of a small portion drained by the Red River and the Minnesota, Dakota belongs to the basin of the Missouri, which enters at the N.W. corner as a navigable river, and proceeds with considerable meandering for upwards of 1000 miles in a S.E. direction across the territory, receiving from the right the Little Missouri, the Big Knife, the Cannon Ball, the Grande River, the Owl, the Big Sheyenne, the Bad River, and the White River, and from the left, besides a large number of small tributaries, one considerable affluent known as the James or Dakota River, which traverses nearly the whole length of the territory with a predominant southern direction, and joins the larger stream at the S.E. corner. There are no mountains of any importance in the territory except the Black Hills on the western frontiers, which attain a height of 6700 feet; but a plateau called the Coteau des Prairies, with a mean elevation of 1450 feet above the level of the sea, occupies a considerable area on the eastern borders, and another known as the Coteau du Missouri stretches south between the Missouri and the Dakota. A large district in the south-west between the White River and one of the main branches of the Big Sheyenne bears the descriptive designation of the Mauvaises Terres. In the Coteau des Prairies and several other parts of the territory there are a large number of lakes, the most extensive of which is the Minniwakan or Devil's Lake, a sheet of salt water 40 miles long by about 12 miles in breadth. Dakota has hitherto been only partially explored, but the military expedition of 1874 under the command of General Custer reports very favourably of the soil and the climate of the virgin districts. A large part of the surface consists of open prairie-land finely adapted for the raising of stock, and most of the river-valleys appear suitable for the plough. The experience of the settlers shows that Indian corn, wheat, barley, oats, and potatoes, as well as apples, plums, grapes, and hops can be successfully cultivated. The hills are covered with timber, mostly pine and spruce; while the banks of the rivers are in many places bordered with ash, elm, poplar, maple, and other trees. The mineral wealth of the region includes deposits of iron ore, extensive beds of limestone, gypsum, and sandstone, and a certain amount of plumbago and gold. Coal, lead, and petroleum have also been discovered. Buffaloes, bears, antelopes, and elks are still abundant in the remoter districts; and the beaver still builds his dam in many of the streams. The population of Dakota is mainly aboriginal,—the principal tribes being the Sioux in the south, who number about 26,000, and the Arickarces, the Gros-Ventres, and the Mandans in the north-west. The chief settlement of the whites, Yankton on the Missouri, had in 1870 a population of 737; and the whole amount of land under cultivation at the same date was 42,645 acres. The northern Pacific railroad passes through the territory from east to west, entering at Fargo on the Red River, crossing the Missouri at Burleigh City, and proceeding onwards to cut the Yellowstone River at Wolf Rapids in Montana. The territory is administered in the same, way as the other territories of the United States. Dakota belongs to the ancient French district of Louisiana, which was purchased by the United States in 1803. It was not till 1861 that it was separated from Minnesota and received a separate organization; and its present boundaries only date from 1868, when it surrendered 89,665 square miles for the formation of the territory of Wyoming. It began to be colonized in 1859, and its first legislature met in 1862.