The states of the United States are very proud of their heritage and the individuality that each has over the others. Each state has its own set of symbols and mottos that they use to uplift themselves above the others. It is a wonderful tradition and a source of a great pride in each citizen of each state. Idaho is no exception and has a collection of symbols that define the state and the history that made it what it is today. If you are just moving to Idaho and are curious to know what its inhabitants take pride in, or maybe you have lived here all your life and are just now wondering what your state’s symbols are, here are some of the highlights to give you a better sense of what Idaho is all about.
First and probably the most important symbol is the state flag. If you have lived in Idaho for a long time, you have probably come across it many times, but it is possible you have never had a really up-close look at what is on it. The background is a field of deep blue with “State of Idaho” scrawled just below the Great Seal of the State of Idaho. The words “Great Seal of the State of Idaho” run around a pictorial in a circle. In that pictorial is a gem miner, a classic kind of Idaho man, and a woman, who is the physical embodiment of equality, liberty and justice. In the center is a shield showing off a slice of what the Idaho wilderness looks like, with mountains in the background and a clear river winding its way out of sight. It is a seal depicting just what natural resources the state of Idaho has to offer and telling the story of its history in a simple yet complex way.
When talking about the flag of Idaho and the state seal, it is impossible not to mention the state motto, “Esto perpetua,” which can either mean “let it be perpetual” or “it shall be perpetual,” a sentiment that reinforces the power of the state, and the strengths of its foundation. It comes from a famous theologian from Venice, Pietro Sarpi. The state motto is imprinted on a handful of special currency, including the Idaho state quarter. Now, onto the important natural features of Idaho that the state has chosen to maintain as symbolic. Usually roosting and hanging out in the mountains of Idaho is Idaho’s state bird the mountain bluebird. The male of the species is a startlingly bright blue, distinctive among the greys and greens of Idaho’s mountainous regions. The female of the species is not so vibrantly colored, and while it does have some blue feathers, it is greyer. The mountain bluebird sticks to higher regions to avoid warm climates. It likes the cold, just so long as the weather is not too cold. Flocks of mountain bluebirds generally migrate to Idaho for the end of winter, and you are most likely to see one during the months of February and March. An interesting factoid about the mountain bluebird. The dad in a relationship between two birds tends to be a bit withdrawn. It will not help the female gather the materials for a nest or put the nest together. In fact, sometimes the male likes to pretend that it is helping, going out to get a piece for the nest but always dropping it off somewhere else so it looks like it is lending a hand.
Separate from the state bird is the state raptor, which for Idaho is the peregrine falcon. This mostly comes from the special place the peregrine falcon has in the heart of Idaho’s capital, Boise. Boise is home to the World Center for Birds of Prey, run by the Peregrine Fund. The peregrine falcon is endangered, and the World Center for Birds of Prey is on a mission to make sure it and other species of raptor are saved from extinction and preserve their existence for the foreseeable future.
Idaho has a state fossil, the Hagerman horse. It is three and a half million years old and comes from fossil bed just a little ways from Hagerman, Idaho. A large number of complete horse skeletons have been uncovered from this area, including the Hagerman horse, and the discoveries from the fossil bed have meant a large increase in the knowledge palaeontologists and other scientists have about the time period and the origin of the horse. The Hagerman horse is a relatively recent addition to the list of Idaho state symbols, only becoming official in the late 80s. The state has its own state horse, a living species where the Hagerman horse is long dead. The Appaloosa horse became a symbol after a petition from grade school students, something that happens quite often in Idaho and other states.
A symbol that almost certainly would not surprise anyone is the state vegetable, the potato. The potato is a huge part of the state’s identity, being one of Idaho’s most important exports. No one does potatoes better than Idaho, and considering how much America loves to eat potatoes, the state’s distribution of the vegetable is essential. Again, it was elementary schoolers that petitioned the state government to make the potato a state symbol. There are a host of other symbols that we cannot get to in detail here. The state tree is the western white pine, the state song is “Here We Have Idaho,” the state insect is the monarch butterfly, and the state gem (gems being something Idaho is well known for) is the star garnet. There are so many aspects of Idaho that make the people that live in the state beam with pride, and so much is unique to Idaho. What other state could make a claim to the potato? Not a single one. Idaho’s symbols are its own and are very personal to the state’s identity and history. Be sure to try and check them out in person if you are ever in the state.