In 1763 France was defeated by Great Britain in the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the last in a series of battles between Great Britain and France for domination in North America, and lost nearly all its North American possessions. However in 1762 France had secretly ceded all its lands west of the Mississippi (called the Louisiana Territory) to Spain, France’s ally in the war. France regained the land in 1800 under an agreement with Spain, and in 1803 the United States bought a huge region, including what is now the western half of North Dakota, from France as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, United States President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to explore the newly acquired territory west of the Mississippi River (see Lewis and Clark Expedition). In 1804 they reached what is now North Dakota and spent the winter of 1804 and 1805 at Mandan and Hidatsa villages. While with the Mandan, Lewis and Clark met the French trader Toussaint Charbonneau, whom they hired as an interpreter and guide for the rest of their trip west. Charbonneau’s Shoshone wife, Sacagawea (or Sacajawea) and their young son were also allowed to go with the expedition when it set out in April 1805. Sacagawea proved invaluable. When the expedition encountered a tribe of Shoshone led by her brother, Sacagawea obtained food, horses, and guides, which allowed the explorers to continue. The following spring Lewis and Clark returned along the same route, and in September 1806 they left Sacagawea and Charbonneau at the Mandan village near present-day Stanton. "North Dakota" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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