It was my wake-up call on my observation on American insularity that North Dakota is capital.
I had just returned from my first visit to America to stay with cousins and had enrolled in an American History module at university.
And in the knowing way of a student I was regaling my class with my New York rellies.
And asking how could they not know that Edinburgh was the capital of Scotland.
My tutor, a hippy, far removed from the Jesuit priests who had taught me, gently pulled me up.
Bismarck leaves his mark
By asking me if I knew the capital of North Dakota which I learned then and have used as an example to others to this day.
General George Custer certainly knew of Bismarck the day he left the North Dakotan capital to face down the Native Americans.
And he undoubtedly soon wished he’d stayed home rather than seek out.
North Dakota, a growing hub for German immigrants, had reached out to that country’s Otto Von Bismarck.
And renamed their town Edwinton after him in the hope that he would help with the costs of the railroad.
They got a danke but no marks but didn’t hold it against old Otto.
Custer’s North Dakota
You can get your fix of Wild West history (yes please) at the Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park just outside Bismarck which overlooks the Missouri river.
You’ll be glad to know the settlers and the Native Americans all rub along a lot more nicely now than back in the day.
And visitors in September can witness authentic tribal dancing at the United Tribes International Powwow.
Travel further back in time, say 600 million years.
At the newly expanded North Dakota Heritage Centre and State Museum which houses four galleries.
From a life-size T. rex skeleton cast to a 1950s soda shop to rare beadwork, the State Museum covers all the bases.
North Dakota is one of America’s least populous states with only 780,000 citizens across its 70,705sq miles borders.
And it is those Great Outdoors which drew no less a personage and adventurer than President Teddy Roosevelt.
‘It was here that the romance of my life began,’ he said.
In your stride
Getting to North Dakota is easy.
Minneapolis in Minnesota is the perfect gateway into the state.
And it is just under a four hour-drive away.
Or for closer access there are frequent flights into Fargo in the west of the state.
And so I’m more than happy to get the message out… North Dakota is capital.