8 Nicknames for North Dakota You Should Know

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A tall tower building next trees and a green lawn with a sculpture on it
North Dakota's names are based on various things, from its history to its landscapes

North Dakota is a vast territory known for its connection to the wilderness, famous national parks, and interesting collection of landmarks and attractions. It's a fantastic place to visit if you want to learn more about Native American culture, have a love for the great outdoors, or are looking for a quieter part of the United States to relax in.

What many don't know is that this part of the US has a few alternate names. Nicknames for North Dakota cover various topics, from its rich Native American history to its beautiful, rugged natural landscapes.

The following eight monikers offer insights into what makes North Dakota such a unique place for locals and visitors alike. Keep reading to learn about the nicknames for this Great Plains region.

8 North Dakota Nicknames

An earth lodge with wooden door entrance
Dakota is a name with Native American roots


While North Dakota isn't the only Dakota, residents of the state often drop the "North" and just refer to the area as Dakota. The word Dakota comes from a Native American word meaning friends or allies in the Sioux dialects. It is also used to signify the common name of the confederated Sioux tribes.

Interestingly, the state tried to get the North officially dropped from its name on two separate occasions, first in 1947 and then in 1989. However, both attempts were unsuccessful.

Flickertail State

The cutest North Dakota name is the Flickertail State. Flickertail is the common name for the Richardson's ground squirrel, a gopher-like creature that's famed for flicking its tail when running or just before entering its burrow.

While bountiful across North Dakota, the Flickertail is not the state's official animal. There was a push in the 1950s through the North Dakota Century Code to make it the official state animal emblem, but this wasn't successful. The only official animal symbol of North Dakota is a bird, the Western Meadowlark.

A field of sunflowers near barns and hills under a cloudy sky
Heaven on Earth is one of the nicknames for North Dakota due to its scenic landscapes

Heaven on Earth

If you ask residents of a picturesque region to describe their hometown, they'll likey use the moniker Heaven on Earth. North Dakota is no exception!

With just over 750,000 residents, North Dakota is a beautiful place to escape the hustle and bustle in exchange for more rustic relaxation. However, a surprising fact about North Dakota is that it's one of the least visited states in the country.

Yet, that doesn't mean it lacks fantastic attractions, and the region is filled with natural beauty. Theodore Roosevelt National Park (the Badlands), the Missouri River, and the Red River Valley are prime examples. Visiting some of these natural attractions will help you understand how the Heaven on Earth moniker came to be.

The Peace Garden State

Since 1956, all license plates for vehicles issued in the state bear the inscription Peace Garden State. This is the most popular North Dakota nickname and a source of great pride to residents.

The moniker is linked to the International Peace Garden, a beautifully designed 2,300-acre park located next to the International Peace Garden Border Crossing. This border separates North Dakota from the Canadian province of Manitoba.

The garden, created in 1932, is important as it signifies peace and friendship between Canada and the United States. Due to the attraction's significance, the Peace Garden State name was created as a reminder of North Dakota's peaceful relations with its neighbor.

A rocky mountain near a lush forest and grass under a blue sky with clouds
The Roughrider State was used as a tourism slogan for North Dakota in the 1960s

The Roughrider State

Roughrider State was coined in a tourism campaign of the late 1960s. The campaign culminated in a failed bid in the early 1970s to replace Peace Garden State with Roughrider State as the official state nickname.

However, the term can be traced as far back as President Theodore Roosevelt. He assembled the U.S. Volunteer Cavalry troop, the famed roughriders, that fought in the Spanish-American War. Because many of these Roughriders came from North Dakota, the name got linked to the area.

Interestingly, that's not the only link that Theodore Roosevelt has to the state. In 1947, the Badlands were renamed Theodore Roosevelt National Park to honor him. Today, this vast park is one of the most famous landmarks in North Dakota.

The Sioux State

The Dakota or Lakota nation of Native American tribes were collectively called Sioux, a term originally given to them by the Ojibwa tribe. Other tribes looked to the Sioux with a mix of fear and admiration due to their aggressive tactics and vast skills in hunting, horsemanship, raiding, and battle.

Great leaders of the Sioux peoples include Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, and Red Cloud, three of the most recognizable Native Americans in the world. Due to the prevalence of this Native American tribe in the area, North Dakota gained the moniker of the Sioux State.

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The Great Central State is one of the nicknames for North Dakota
North Dakota is believed to be home to the geographical center of North America

The Great Central State

Another ND State nickname is the Great Central State because the region is home to the geographical center of North America. A 21-foot tall stone and cement marker relating to this unique fact is found in the small town of Rugby, North Dakota. This town was long thought to be the approximate center of the continent.

However, recent calculations have suggested that the center point is around 140 miles from Rugby. Luckily, this location is still in North Dakota in the aptly named town of Center in Oliver County.

The 39th State

The story behind North Dakota being named the 39th State is quite interesting. After his election to replace President Grover Cleveland, new President Benjamin Harrison was tasked with ratifying North and South Dakota as parts of the Union.

President Harrison, rather than create unwanted controversy over the order, shuffled the papers he signed to deliberately obscure which state was added first. As North Dakota comes before South Dakota alphabetically, it became the 39th state ahead of its southern twin.

In Conclusion

It's useful to be able to readily answer the question: "What is North Dakota's nickname?" Yet, it's even more impressive to choose an answer from eight different possibilities.

Imagine telling your friends and family how President Harrison shuffled paperwork in order to avoid controversy between the newly created North and South Dakotas. Or that the Great Central State refers to the fact that the geographical center of North America is in North Dakota.

These nicknames relate to a range of topics, from the area's wonderfully rich history to its wildlife and much more. Hopefully, you've learned a few new things about this northern part of the United States. Maybe this list even inspired you to plan a trip to the beautiful Peace Garden State.

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Written by Alli Sewell

allisewell FORMER WRITER Currently based in Canada, Alli has also lived and worked in the UK and Brazil and traveled in North and South America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. She loves finding the best photo-ops and food and drink locations wherever she goes.

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