North & South Dakota

North Dakota and South Dakota became US States on November 2, 1889. Previously they were parts of the larger Dakota Territory, which was originally part of the Minnesota and Nebraska Territories. The politics of how these western states were slowly parceled out from their respective territories is an interesting study.

Europeans first came through the area in 1738 when Pierre Gaultier de Varennes came through surveying the area for the French fur trade. The US acquired the area during the Louisiana purchase and the Treaty of 1818.
Previous to European settlement, the Mandan Indians controlled much of what became North Dakota, and the various Sioux nations dominated South Dakota and the Great Plains. The entire region saw a great many immigrants from Eastern and Northern Europe come in to homestead and start agricultural concerns. In the mid-1800s, the Black Hills Gold Rush was one of many 19th century gold rushes to sweep the continent, and that brought even more population and industry to the area. North and South Dakota nonetheless remain very sparsely populated states. The fictional historical drama “Deadwood” (not suitable for children) is set in South Dakota in the late 1800s.

Mandan Earthlodge 01 by SnoShuu, on Flickr
Women of Pine Ridge by Hamner_Fotos, on Flickr
Black Hills Gold locket, showing the gold, pink and green gold colors that make this gold distinctive.


Montana became a state on November 8th, 1889, after being included in parts of several earlier territorial expansions. Best known for its northern entrances to Yellowstone Park and the historic Battle of the Little Bighorn, Montana was part of the plains homesteading movement, the gold rush, railway development, and the scene of several conflicts with First Nations peoples.

Big Horn Sheep via Flickr

The Great Northern Railway connected Seattle with Saint Paul, and had veins interlacing the entire northwest, including spurs up north to Winnipeg in Ontario and all the way south to Bieber in Northern California. Helena, Montana acted as a hub for much of this activity and drew railroad barons and shipping magnates.

By Charles E. Morris, Chinook, Montana, about 1900 C.E.
via Wikimedia Commons
Assinboine Indian Children
Keeoma by Charles Marion Russell, famous Montana artist

Further Reading:
Famous Montanan Biographies
Chippewa-Cree, Rocky Boys Reservation
Grant Kohrs Ranch National Historic Site Virtual Tour
PBS: The West: Battle of Little Bighorn
The Great Northern Railway
Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes
Fort Belknap: Assinibone and Gros Venture Tribes
Northern Cheyenne Nation
Apsaalooke (Crow) Nation
Blackfeet Nation
Flathead Indians
MontanaKids Study Site

Previously: Washington
Next: North and South Dakota


Washington officially became the 42nd US state on November 11, 1889. It was an organized, incorporated territory of the US for four years previous to statehood. One of thirteen states that share a boundary with Canada, it is located south of the Canadian Province of British Columbia.  Like the rest of the west coast of the United States, what is now Washington was first visited by Europeans in the late 1700s and claimed for Spain. British explorers, including George Vancouver, for whom Vancouver and Vancouver Island is named, more thoroughly explored the area and discovered the Salish Sea and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The southern outlet of the Inside Passage, still used heavily today to allow safe ship passage up the far northwestern coast of North America, is in northern Washington.

Civil War veteran and BIA official Issac Stevens
first governor of Washington Territory.
Richard D. Gholson was sitting governor at statehood.

Washington was originally home to many Native American tribes. Smallpox epidemics from contact with Europeans wiped out a large portion of the original population. The largest city in Washington, Seattle, was named after the Duwamish (Suquamish) chief, Si’ah’l. Other tribes in the area included the Chinook, Salish, Lummi, Quinault, Muckleshoot, Makah, and inland, the Yakima and Nez Perce. Although several rural reservations do exist in Washington, after World War II, “urban Indian” centers were formed, and many Native Americans now live in Seattle.

Chief Seattle


Chief Jospeh, Nez Perce of Wallowa Valley, WA
“A man who will not defend his father’s grave is worse than a wild beast.”

In its early days, Washington was a very active area for the fur industry, and later cities on the coast became busy industrial centers for smelting and shipping silver, gold and other ore. Today Washington has a large agricultural sector as well as industries such as aerospace and computer technology. Washington currently has the 13th largest population in the U.S., with a wide mix of ethnic groups including Asians, Pacific Islanders and Hispanics, though the main body of the population is Anglo.

Mount Saint Helens erupting in 1842 by Paul Kane, 1847

Mount Saint Helens
Much of the northwestern portion of North America is geologically active. The largest known volcanic event in the US in recent history happened in Washington when Mount Saint Helens exploded in 1980. Although Mount Saint Helens is the only volcano to explode in recent times in the area, it’s not the area’s only volcano. It belongs to a chain of volcanoes referred to as the Cascade volcanoes, named after the mountain chain they inhabit. Mount Rainier, highest point in Washington, is another Cascade volcano that is considered to be the most dangerous volcano in the world. Its eruption could devastate the most populous area of the state.

Mount Rainer by orcmid, via Flickr

Further Resources
Mount Saint Helens National Monument
Quinault Indian Tribe
Muckleshoot Indian Tribe
Makah People Homepage
Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation
The Suquamish Tribe
Official State of Washington page
Washington State Parks


Idaho, originally part of the territory of Oregon, became the 43rd state of the United States on July 3rd, 1890. It’s one of  thirteen states which share a border with Canada. Its northern border neighbor is the Province of British Columbia. Humans have occupied Idaho for almost 15,000 years. Some of the oldest artifacts found in North America were discovered at Wilson Butte Cave in Idaho. Europeans first made contact with the area during theLewis and Clark Expedition. Sacajawea, a Lemhi-Shoshone, was one of the expedition’s guides.
Idaho is known for its outdoor recreation activities and for its agriculture. One of its primary crops is potatoes. You can learn about Idaho potatoes at the Potato Expo link below. There’s also a link to a unit study on log cabins. Though most Scandinavian people in the US, the prime builders of log cabins, settled around the Great Lakes, some went farther westward, taking log cabin technology far and wide.
Old homestead, Nez Perce Forest, Idaho
First Nations in Idaho
There are several bands of  Shoshone in Idaho, including the Lemhi and Bannock bands. Today they live on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. Cour de Alene and Nez Perce also live in the area, and other tribes came through on hunting or raiding expeditions. In this way Sacajawea was raided away to live with the Haida Sioux tribe, where she eventually was married to Toussaint Charbonneau and went on expedition with him.
Lehmi Shoshone sisters
by Ridley Stevens, via Flickr
Nez Perce man dancing by armigeress, on Flickr
Portneuf Mountain Man Rendezvous

Further Resources
Idaho History
Sacajawea’s Story
Lemhi Shoshone
Cour de Alene
Nez Perce
Shoshone Bannock
Portneuf Mountain Man Rendezvous 
Idaho Potato Expo
Log Cabins Unit Study