North Dakota Eclectics

It is estimated that people have lived in the area that is now known as North Dakota for more than eleven thousand years. The first inhabitants were hunters, whose ancestors had probably come to North America over a land bridge that formed between Asia and Alaska at a time when a large part of the world was covered by ice.

The world at that time was much colder and, as the temperatures fell, huge sheets of ice formed from snow, causing the sea levels to lower, exposing bridges of land, including one between what is now Siberia and Alaska. It is believed that hunters crossed into North America, seeking big game, such as the mammoths that once roamed the area. After crossing the land bridge, they continued south, following an ice-free corridor between the glaciers. It probably took several generations for them to reach North Dakota.

About twelve thousand years ago, most of North Dakota was covered by ice, up to a thousand feet thick. Only the region south and west of the Missouri River was free of ice. This area may have been an open grassland, or perhaps even a spruce forest. When the climate warmed, the glaciers melted and, since spruce trees grow only in cold climates, they would have been replaced by white oak and aspen. In time, grass replaced the trees, creating the open prairie that greeted the first European explorers who came through the area.

It is believed that the glaciers covered the northeastern corner of North Dakota up until about eleven thousand years ago. The advance of ice over the area would have driven out any animal life that may have been there. Large lakes were formed as it melted. The area where Minot would later be formed was once a large lake, as well as the entire Red River Valley. The glaciers formed the surface of North Dakota. As the glaciers grew, they picked up large amounts of dirt and rock, leaving behind long hills, granite rocks, boulders, and other deposits as they melted. The last glacier lake dried up about eight thousand years ago, and the surface of the region has not changed much since, other than by erosion, particularly in the Badlands. As the glaciers melted, the temperature warmed further, and the air became drier, supporting such animals as buffalo, elk, and deer.

Archaeologists don't know exactly when the first people found their way into what is now North Dakota, but estimates range from ten thousand to thirteen thousand years ago.

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