Sun-drenched California or hip New York attract tons of tourists. A US state such as North Dakota can take a back seat. There are only a few holidaymakers there. But this state is particularly interesting for Germans.
North Dakota doesn’t exactly look like the center of North America. Geographically speaking, he is here. Otherwise, the state is a quiet place, far from the hectic cities of California or the east coast – and that is why it is attractive for tourists.
The capital of the mighty federal state has a name that is very familiar to Germans: Bismarck. “Yes, there used to be a lot of German immigrants. You can still see it by the names around here,” says Mike Seminary. Seminary is mayor of the largest city in North Dakota. “Our main industries are still agriculture and oil. But tourism comes right after.” The vast majority of visitors are Americans. “But every now and then a German comes over and then asks why we are called Bismarck.”
Real Prussians could be disappointed. Because the legacy of the great statesman is not exactly maintained here. Neither street names nor a school are named in his sense and a bust is also sought in vain. “Yes, you really shouldn’t tell anyone,” says Seminary. “But basically Otto von Bismarck had nothing to do with our city. It was just admirers who founded it.” The prince himself never made it to America.
Few traces of German immigrants left
The biggest attraction for the mayor is the people themselves. “It’s easy and unconventional here. The doors are open everywhere and there is no such thing as security here.” In fact, you can just walk into the State Capitol, the state parliament of North Dakota. Everyone can peer into both chambers of law whenever they want, and even the governor’s conference room is open.
In addition to the small Bismarck, there are other interesting destinations in North Dakota. Fort Abraham Lincoln is a few minutes south. It was founded in 1872. What can be seen today are largely replicas of the original. It also houses the last home of what is perhaps the most famous cavalry officer of the Indian Wars: George Custer was the commanding officer here before he led his men into the demise in the Battle of Little Bighorn.
Proud of Sitting Bull
Right behind the fort is a replica of an Indian village. People are proud of the Indians here, especially the most famous of all: Sitting Bull. For decades he was the driving force behind the resistance of the Indians. He later appeared in wild west shows and campaigned for reconciliation. Today there are two graves for the great Indian leader. Both are on the west bank of the Missouri. The northern one is only called the place of burial. Sitting Bull was buried here. Today the job can hardly be found.
But in 1953 his brothers wanted to see the great chief buried with dignity. So they exhumed what they thought was his body and made it to another place on Missouri near Sitting Bull’s birthplace. A simple column with a bust of the chief stands there today.
Nobody knows whether the right remains have been excavated. In addition, the place, now officially recognized as a funeral, is already in South Dakota. But you won’t find any borders in this part of America anyway.