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        Idaho | Activity 8.5: American Indian Symbols of Idaho

        Students learn about Idaho’s American Indian heritage through two of its state symbols. 

        Lesson Summary

        Students learn about Idaho’s American Indian heritage through two of its state symbols. 

        This lesson is part of Great States: Idaho | Unit 8: State Symbols which illustrates how the images associated with the state reflect the geography, American Indian heritage, economy, and history of exploration and settlement that have created present day Idaho.

        Time Allotment

        20 minutes

        Learning Objectives


        4.SS.4.2.1: Explain the significance of Idaho symbols and the unique tribal seal of each federally recognized tribe in Idaho.

        4.SS.5.1.1: Analyze the roles and relationships of diverse groups of people from various parts of the world who have contributed to Idaho’s cultural heritage and impacted the state’s history.

        Supplemental Standards:

        Boise District 413.02: Explain the significance of Idaho symbols.



        1. Project the image of the Appaloosa Horse. Tell students that the two men in the photo are Nez Perce, an American Indian group of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.

          Image: Appaloosa horse with two Nez Perce men

          [License: Public Domain, source link]

        2. Explain to students that historians believe that the Nez Perce were the first to breed horses like the appaloosa for specific traits, such as intelligence and speed. The word “Appaloosa” comes from the Palouse River, which was the river that ran through the areas in which the Nez Perce lived. The horses were first called Palouse horses by settlers to the area, and then that eventually turned into “Appaloosa.”

        3. Point out to students that the Appaloosa is the state horse of Idaho. Explain that it was chosen as the state horse because they were the first horses to be bred by the American Indians of this region. Today, the Appaloosa is one of the most popular breeds in the United States. It is used in Western and Eastern riding styles, horse racing, trail riding, and other equestrian activities.

        4. Project the photo of a Syringa (lilac).

          Image: Syringa (Philadelphus lewisii)

          [License: CC0 Public Domain, source link]

        5. Explain that the state flower of Idaho is the Syringa, which is a shrub that has clusters of white flowers. American Indian groups used the wood from the shrub to make items such as pipe stems, bows, arrows, cradles, and snowshoes. They used the bark and leaves to make soap. Because of its historical importance and its beauty, the Syringa was thought to be a good choice as the Idaho state flower.

        6. Explain that today, the Syringa blossoms attracts nature-lovers. In the springtime, the Idaho hillsides turn white from Syringa flowers. They can also be viewed in the Boise National Forest, and conservatories such as the Morrison-Knudsen Nature Center.

        7. To conclude the lesson, have students imagine that they are a museum tour guide in front of a display that features a model of an Appaloosa horse and a model of a Syringa. Have them describe the objects as if to an audience, explaining the impact of American Indians on Idaho’s development and why the Appaloosa and Syringa are still important as Idaho’s state symbols today.


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