Formerly part of the Dakota Territory, North Dakota became a state on the same day South Dakota entered the Union, November 2nd, 1889. The geography of North Dakota varies widely from the fertile Red River Valley in the east to the butte-spotted and rugged Badlands of the west. The Missouri River cuts through the state and is a major source of freshwater and irrigation for the surrounding areas. The geographic center of North America is located in North Dakota, near the town of Rugby. The harsh weather of North Dakota includes fiercely cold winters, some of the windiest areas of the U.S., frequent thunderstorms and a rather active tornado season. Though the land was aggressively marketed for new settlement through the early twentieth century, geographic isolation and economic stagnation meant the population of the state changed little over the years (current population is roughly equal to the population of the state in 1920).
German is by far the largest ancestry group in North Dakota, with nearly 44% of the population citing majority heritage in 2000. Some counties however, have large Russian, Ukrainian and Hungarian populations. Approximately 5% of the population is American Indian. From the 2000 Census to 2005 population estimates, North Dakota lost roughly 18,000 people, and population trends show the decline could continue. The economy of North Dakota is largely agricultural, though much of the land is arid and not suitable for large-scale agricultural production. The exception is the Red River Valley, a fertile strip of land near the Minnesotan border which was devastated by a flood in 1997. The region is also home to North Dakota's largest city and cultural hub, Fargo, as well as the city of Grand Forks. The capital, Bismarck, is in the center of the state, and the city of Minot is noted for its U.S. Airforce base. Because of the state's strategic isolation, North Dakota has a large number of ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile) silos. Important economy industries include wind energy technologies and food processing. Firmly conservative, the state has given its 3 electoral votes to every Republican Presidential candidate since 1964.