Students learn how Idaho got its name. Students write a poem expressing what Idaho means to them.
This lesson is part of Great States: Idaho | Unit 7: Territory-to-State which looks at the key turning points that led to Idaho evolving into the 43rd state of the Union. Students will learn that statehood was a complex process and not an inevitable historical outcome.
Boise District 413.21: Explain how all cities, regions, and states have histories.
- Lined paper
- Construction or drawing paper
- Ask students if they know where Idaho’s name came from. Explain that many stories say that “Idaho” is an American Indian word, but in fact it is a word that was made up by politician George M. Willing. When Colorado was ready to become a territory in 1860 it needed a name, and a politician thought up the word “Idaho,” explaining that it meant “gem of the mountains.” When people found out that it wasn’t an American Indian name they asked Congress to change the name back to Colorado, which it did. But the name Idaho stuck around anyway. When gold was discovered in the Clearwater region of what is now Idaho, the gold mines were called the Idaho mines. The mines had been named after a steamboat named “Idaho” that brought the miners to the area. When this mining region was made a territory in 1863, Congress named it Idaho.
- Ask students to discuss why George M. willing told people that it was an American Indian word. Why would he think that the people in the area would like that in a name?
- The students know that the name “Idaho” does not really mean “gem of the mountains.” Ask students to come up with a definition for the name “Idaho” that they think best describes their state.
- To conclude the lesson, have students create an acrostic poem about Idaho, using the letters I-D-A-H-O as the first letter of each line. The poem should express what Idaho means to them.