The Flag of North Dakota: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Where is North Dakota?

North Dakota is a state in the midwestern region of the United States. It is the nineteenth-largest state by area and the fourth least populous state, with a population of 780,000. It is bordered by the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the north, Minnesota to the east, South Dakota to the south, and Montana to the west. The capital city is Bismarck, and the largest city is Fargo.

When Was North Dakota Formed?

North Dakota became a state on November 2, 1889, as the 39th state to enter the union. It was part of the Dakota Territory until it was divided into North and South Dakota. The territory was inhabited for many thousands of years by various Native American tribes. European explorers and traders arrived in the early 18th century.

Map showing North Dakota and nearby areas
North Dakota is bordered by the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba as well as Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana in the US.

©Mio Buono/Shutterstock.com

What is the Geography of North Dakota?

North Dakota is the most northern of the Midwestern states. It is mostly flat and rolling terrain, with some rugged badlands in the state’s western portion. The highest point in the state is White Butte, which stands at 3,506 feet above sea level. The Missouri River is the longest in the state and is also the largest tributary of the Mississippi River. The state is home to two national parks, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site.

What is the Climate of North Dakota?

North Dakota has a continental climate, with hot summers, cold winters, and moderate to low precipitation throughout the year. Average summer temperatures range from the mid-70s to the mid-80s Fahrenheit, while winter temperatures range from the mid-teens to the mid-20s Fahrenheit. The state receives an average of 17.31 inches of rain and 18.7 inches of snow each year.

North Dakota's badlands
North Dakota is mostly flat and rolling terrain with some rugged badlands in the state’s western portion.

©iStock.com/Tammi Mild

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What is the Culture and Cuisine of North Dakota?

North Dakota has a diverse culture, with influences from Native American, Scandinavian, German, and other European cultures. The cuisine of North Dakota is heavily influenced by its European roots, as well as traditional Native American cuisine. Common dishes include pemmican, a type of dried meat similar to jerky, bison stew, and wild rice. Many dishes are cooked with wild game, such as elk, venison, and prairie chicken.

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What Animals Can Be Found in North Dakota?

North Dakota is home to a wide range of animal species, from white-tailed deer and elk to moose and bison. The state also boasts a large population of pronghorn antelope, as well as prairie chickens and wild turkeys. 

In addition to these more commonly found animals, North Dakota is also the home of the endangered black-footed ferret. The whooping crane can likewise be found in North Dakota’s vast expanses of land or wetlands; this species has been listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List since 2018. Other birdlife that calls North Dakota its home includes waterfowl such as ducks and geese, songbirds like swallows and finches, plus predatory raptors such as red-tailed hawks or bald eagles.

Pronghorn antelope live in North Dakota
North Dakota boasts a large population of pronghorn antelope.

©matthieu Gallet/Shutterstock.com

What Plants Can Be Found in North Dakota?

North Dakota is home to a variety of plant life, including grasses, shrubs, and trees. Among the most common types of grass found in North Dakota are western wheatgrass, blue grama grass, prairie junegrass, needle-and-thread grass, and buffalo grass. Common shrubs include green ash and prickly pear cacti. Trees that grow in the state include red oak, ponderosa pine, and quaking aspen. North Dakota also has many wildflowers native to the area, such as yellow coneflower, blanket flower, and Indian paintbrush. Wetland areas support bulrushes and cattails, while patches of wetlands are often filled with purple loosestrife or marsh marigolds.

Flag of North Dakota: Description

On January 21, 1911, Representative Colonel John H. Fraine designated an official flag for the state of North Dakota. The flag of North Dakota is a blue field with a large bald eagle in the center. The eagle holds an olive branch in the talons of its left foot and a bundle of arrows in its right. In its beak, it has a ribbon with the Latin words “E Pluribus Unum” (out of many, one). On the eagle’s breast is a red, white, and blue shield with thirteen stripes. The name of the state – North Dakota – is on a banner below the eagle. There is a rising sun with 13 stars above the eagle’s head.

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This flag conforms to the design of the regimental flag carried by infantry during the Spanish-Amrican War in 1898 and the Philippine Island Insurrection in 1899. The only difference is the words North Dakota are now scrolled below the eagle.

Flag of North Dakota: Symbolism

The bald eagle on the flag symbolizes strength and freedom, while the shield represents protection. The bundle of arrows represents the many Native American tribes that have inhabited the area for centuries. The banner symbolizes the union and the unity of the many states that created one nation. The 13 stripes on the eagle’s breast represent the 13 original states. The rising sun above the eagle’s head stands for the birth of a new n nation.

Flag of North Dakota waving in the wind
The bald eagle on the flag of North Dakota symbolizes strength and freedom, while the shield represents protection.

©Larich/Shutterstock.com

What are the State Symbols of North Dakota?

The state of North Dakota has a variety of official symbols, including the western meadowlark as the state bird and the wild prairie rose as the state flower. The state fruit is the chokeberry (Prunus virginiana), which grows commonly across the state.

Does North Dakota Have a State Motto?

Yes, North Dakota does have an official state motto. It is “Liberty and Union, Now and Forever, One and Inseparable.” This motto was adopted in 1889 when North Dakota became a state. The phrase comes from Daniel Webster’s speech to the House of Representatives on January 26, 1830, which was made during the debate over South Carolina’s threat to secede from the union due to tariffs imposed by Congress. The phrase has become a rallying cry for Americans who are proud of their country’s unity despite its disagreements and differences.

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Does North Dakota Have a State Song?

Yes, North Dakota has an official state song titled “North Dakota Hymn.” The words were written by James W. Foley, and the music by Dr. C. S. Putnam.

Does North Dakota Have a State March?

Yes! In 1975 Spirit of the Land by James D. Ployhar was designated by officials as the official state march of North Dakota. The title was so similar to another existing song that a new title – Flickertail March – was assigned in 1989.

Does North Dakota Have a State Nickname?

Yes, North Dakota is often referred to as the “Peace Garden State” or the “Flickertail State.” The name comes from the International Peace Garden, located near the Canadian border. The term “flickertail” is derived from Richardson’s ground squirrel, which is native to the state.

10 Fun Facts About North Dakota

  1. North Dakota is the number one producer of honey in the U.S.
  2. Ninety percent of the land in North Dakota is farms and ranches.
  3. North Dakota is home to the largest grassland, with over 1 million acres in the Little Missouri National Grasslands.
  4. North Dakota has 63 wildlife sanctuaries.
  5. North Dakota is home to the Enchanted Highway, a 32-mile stretch of highway with many metal sculptures.
  6. North Dakota has a statue of a buffalo that is 26 feet tall!
  7. Former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt loved North Dakota.
  8. The smallest city in North Dakota is Maza, with a population of only five people. 
  9. The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota is 1 million acres, which is the same size as Rhode Island. 
  10. In the Sioux language, the word Dakota means friend. 

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