In 1682, La Salle claimed for France all of the territory that drained into the Missisippi. That included the southern part of present-day North Dakota. France also claimed territory south of Hudson Bay, which it gave to Britain in 1713. In 1762, France also gave its holdings west of the Missisippi to Spain, but in 1800, Napoleon forced the Spanish to return them. The French then sold them to the United States through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
President Jefferson sent the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery to explore the newly acquired territory and in October 1804, the expedition arrived near present-day Stanton and constructed Fort Mandan, where they stayed until the following April. The first white settlers in North Dakota came south from Canada in 1812, but when the borders were finally established and they learned that their settlements were within the United States, they moved back.
The Dakota Territory was created by Congress in 1861 to include the North Dakota, South Dakota and parts of Montana and Wyoming. Homesteading was not a great success in North Dakota, due to transportation and conflicts with Indians. The first large-scale farming was started in the Red River Valley around 1875, where wheat proved to be a profitable crop.
The population centers of the Dakotas were widely separated and people started asking for Congress to divide the territory. Early in 1889, Congress created North and South Dakota territories. North Dakota and South Dakota became the 39th and 40th states later that year. In the early 1900s, the Nonpartisan League agitated for progressive legislation. Its candidate for governor was elected in 1916 and several pieces of groundbreaking legislation were passed.