North Dakota: People Living on the Land

State Historical Society of North Dakota
Bismarck, ND

This project developed an innovative online curriculum for eighth graders in North Dakota and presents a comprehensive and accessible look into the state’s past. Crafted by professional educators, it includes ninety topics on state history, geology, geography, and culture from about 500 million years ago to the present.

The curriculum is based on primary sources from the Archives of the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and is complemented with documents, photographs, maps, and films. The topics range widely over the state’s history, covering everything from the formation of soil to the recent oil boom. North Dakota: People Living on the Land avoids a traditional chronological organization typical of many history texts by using both a chronological and thematic organization. It is divided into four chronological units from the Paleozoic Era to the present. Within each unit are four thematic lessons. The same four lessons (“Changing Landscapes,” “Making a Living,” “Building Communities,” and “Alliances and Conflicts”) appear in each of the four units. Many of the topics have sub-topics that build further on the subject. Teachers may choose to present a subject across the millions of years covered in the curriculum (chronological), or examine a particular time period through geographic, economic, social, and political perspectives (thematic).

The project also sought to celebrate North Dakota’s cultural diversity. For thousands of years, peoples of different cultures have lived near one another on the land that is now North Dakota. They traded, inter-married, fought, and formed alliances. In the appropriate units and lessons, all of North Dakota’s residents, past and present, share a place in the text as they shared space on the land.

North Dakota: People Living on the Land fulfills the mission of the State Historical Society by extending its resources to the state’s eighth graders, other residents, and the world through online delivery. By creating an engaging curriculum based in primary sources and available online, this work makes a valuable contribution to local history education and serves as a model for other states.