The Making of a State and a Constitution: An Overview

From 1861 until 1889, what would become North Dakota was part of Dakota Territory. A region remained a territory until Congress believed it was ready for statehood. Under the territorial system the president appointed the governors, secretary, and judges; the people elected a non-voting delegate to Congress and the territorial legislature. The governor appointed other officials and could veto legislative bills.

By the 1880s people, especially in southern Dakota, were tired of presidential and congressional control of the political system. The statehood movement grew, especially after the corruption of Governor Nehemiah Ordway’s administration was exposed in 1883. That year and in 1885 residents approved a constitution for Dakota, but Congress rejected the plan. Finally on February 22, 1889, Congress passed the Omnibus Bill that permitted constitution-making for North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington.

The following North Star Dakotan accounts recreate the important steps in constitution-making and present two controversial issues that faced delegates: child labor and women’s right to vote. These viewpoints are quoted directly from the printed record of the constitutional convention.

By Dr. D. Jerome Tweton


Originally published as The North Star Dakotan student newspaper, written by Dr. D. Jerome Tweton and supported by the North Dakota Humanities Council.

Subject Matter

Social Studies

North Star Dakotan:

Journals and Art Work: The Indian People, The Trade, and The Land

The Indian People

The Purchase and Exploration of Louisiana

The Fur Trade

Dakota Territory

The Military Frontier

The Reservation System

George Armstrong Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The Great Dakota Boom, 1878-1890

Reservation Troubles, 1886-1890

The Making of a State and a Constitution

The North Dakota Economy, 1890-1915

Life on the Indian Reservations

The North Dakota National Guard and the Philippines

North Dakota, The Great War and After

The Nonpartisan League's Rise to Power

The Nonpartisan League in Power

The Nonpartisan League's Decline

The 1920s

1930s: North Dakota's Economic and Political Climate

The New Deal in North Dakota

The Road to World War II

North Dakota and American Society

North Dakota Optimism and Economic Developments

North Dakota and Political Change