Masonic organizations entered the Dakota Territory in 1875 through the Masonic groups already existent in Iowa. The Grand Lodge of Dakota was the first official large-scale association in the territory; many of its activities were based in what would become South Dakota, though the north's activity was not marginal. In 1889, when both North Dakota and South Dakota gained statehood, each state drew a new constitution for a Grand Lodge according to its area.
Masonic organizations are not by definition secretive, but because of their various rituals and often-unwritten constitutions and history, they could be considered enigmatic. "Freemasonry, as the most ancient and universal of all societies, is governed by its laws or rules of action, which either spring out of its organization . . . or which are derived from the enactment of its superintending tribunals," wrote Albert Mackey (1807-1881), one of the foremost Masonic historians. Each Grand Lodge and lodge many enact different customs, and evolution is sometimes undocumented.
North Dakota has or once had the following distinct Masonic groups: a Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons; a Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters; a Grand Commandery of Knights Templar; an Order of the Eastern Star, which is a Masonic group for women; and DeMolay, which is for youth and young men. A lodge is the term given to a chapter of the organization that is limited to a smaller geographical area. Many towns in North Dakota host lodges of these organizations.