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The Dakota Territory consisted of the northern most part of the land acquired in the Louisiana Purchase of the United States. Most of Dakota Territory was formerly part of the Minnesota and Nebraska territories. When Minnesota became a state in 1858, the leftover area between the Missouri River and Minnesota's western boundary fell unorganized. When the Yankton Treaty was signed later that year, ceding much of what had been Lakota land to the U.S. Government, early settlers formed an unofficial provisional government and unsuccessfully lobbied for United States territory status. Then three years later President James Buchanan established the Dakota Territory, two days before Lincoln took the oath of office. The territory included much of present-day Montana until 1864 and Wyoming until 1868. The Territory of Dakota existed until November 2, 1889, when that final extent of the territory was split and admitted to the Union as the states of North and South Dakota.

Pioneers of the Dakota Territory

                         G.W. Kingsbury        J.C. Holman
B.T. Bailey        J. H. Shober        William Jayne        J.R. Hanson

The residents of Dakota met to request that Congress authorize the creation of a territory allowing for a civil government. Eastern Dakota had been part of Minnesota Territory until Minnesota became a state in 1858. Western Dakota was part of a large unorganized territory that included Montana and Idaho. Lacking government and its stabilizing political structures, residents composed a memorial to Congress requesting civil status, but Congress did not respond until residents sent a second memorial on January 15, 1861. President Buchanan signed the Organic Act creating the Dakota Territory on March 2, 1861.

Before the Territory

The Indian Nation of the Dakotas had remained as one nation, governed by one tongue, and were called by the French (Nadoues-sioux, meaning enemy), from the latter termination of which word is derived the word “Sioux.” But during the great war and flight from the north, they had become disbanded and scattered into separate war parties, and in order to be distinguished from other tribes of the plains they called themselves Lakotahs, meaning the “friend-born” or friendly people. Since that period both history and tradition agree in placing the Dakotas as sovereigns of the vast region of country between the Mississippi and the mountains, and embracing the territory of Dakota.


The Dakota Territory continues to be a most unique part of the United States. The states of Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming, South Dakota and a small piece of north-eastern Nebraska make up the land known as the Dakota Territory. The open areas are immense and sites to see are amazing.

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