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Idaho joins America250 initiative to celebrate founding of the United States • Idaho Capital Sun

Idaho joins America250 initiative to celebrate founding of the United States • Idaho Capital Sun

Although America’s 250th anniversary is still a year, 11 months and 23 days away, Idaho officials and agencies are already hard at work planning a celebration befitting the nation’s sesquicentennial.

July 3 Idaho Governor Brad Little the proclamation was signed Establishing a statewide agency task force to plan and promote state-level activities for the 2026 national celebration. The task force will work with the America250 Idaho Advisory Council, established by passage of the Idaho Legislature in 2024. House of Representatives Resolution No. 31which includes $1.65 million in project financing.

“The United States of America is the greatest country in the world and deserves to be celebrated,” Little said in a press release announcing the task force. “As we approach the 250th anniversary of American independence, Idaho proudly recognizes our nation’s triumphant history and the contributions of the Gem State. I look forward to America250 in Idaho inspiring patriotism, building civic participation and celebrating freedom.”

The Idaho State Historical Society and its staff will play a key role in the task force’s work.

“It’s really about promoting the ideals that came out of the American Revolution — especially equality, freedom and justice — through meaningful community engagement,” Idaho state historian HannaLore Hein said in a phone interview. “And we hope that in doing that, we also have a chance to really look at Idaho’s journey in this American heritage, and that others can recognize, appreciate and commemorate that journey.”

Hein hopes that through some of the projects planned for the next two years, the history of Idaho and the West can be told alongside the history of the country itself. Often, American history is lumped together with the North and the South, but Hein said Idaho and its people have a story that is just as important and educational to tell.

“When you add that regional component, well, wait a minute, what about the American West? And how did all those additional resources and the movement of so many people across such a vast area drive the country’s economic development, drive the country’s standing in the world?” Hein said. “We are not an add-on to American history. We are a critical component of the creation of modern America.”

Idaho Gov. Brad Little met with key state stakeholders after signing a proclamation supporting a new initiative to commemorate the 250th anniversary of our nation’s founding in 2026. (Courtesy of the Idaho Governor’s Office)

Idaho State Historical Society Wants to Hear Your Stories for America250 Project

Two areas the historical society has focused on for this project are collecting oral histories from diverse Idahoans and making grants to help other local organizations and nonprofits tell the story of Idaho and America through their own projects and materials.

The America250 in Idaho Oral History initiative aims to collect the stories of Idahoans from all walks of life and socioeconomic status through a subscription to the historical society Their historyHein said. TheirStory, which the state has been using since 2021, is an online platform that people can use to capture, transcribe, edit and preserve interviews for oral history purposes.

The following participants are eligible to apply to participate in the oral history project:

  • Idaho 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organizations
  • Tribal governments
  • Federal and local governments
  • Universities and K-12 schools
  • Profit-oriented companies
  • Tax-exempt organizations, including churches

“Our state’s oral history program … and really oral history as a field of practice really emerged during the bicentennial in the 1970s,” Hein said. “At that time, there was a kind of revival of the importance of storytelling and the oral tradition, and it gained a little bit more recognition in the academic world, but also in the museum and cultural space.”

It’s important to collect these stories from Idahoans now, Hein said, before it’s too late. She especially encouraged anyone with a connection to Idaho’s past, economy, environment, agriculture, arts, Native American tribes, traditions or heritage to get involved.

Funding is available to help celebrate America250 across Idaho

A second major initiative of the historical society as part of its America250 planning is to award grants to other organizations to host their own projects, events, or celebrations.

Hein said the historical society hopes the grants will help increase involvement in the celebration by city and county officials, local historical societies and other Idaho organizations.

“Projects funded through this program provide a way to preserve and pass on our rich historical, cultural and natural heritage to inspire and educate those yet to come,” Idaho writes on the America250 website.

The Idaho State Historical Society will lead a statewide task force to celebrate America’s 250th anniversary. The group will include the following state officials and agencies:

  • First Lady of Idaho Teresa Little, Honorary
  • Idaho Secretary of State Phil McGrane
  • Debbie Critchfield, Idaho State Superintendent of Public Instruction
  • Idaho State Department of Agriculture
  • Idaho Arts Commission
  • Idaho Department of Commerce
  • Idaho Department of Education
  • Idaho State Historical Society
  • Idaho Library Commission
  • Idaho Parks and Recreation Department
  • Idaho Public Television

Application window for subsidywhich are available up to $25,000, should open in the next few weeks, Hein said. Potential grant projects could include proposals for capital investments, interpretation and signage projects, publications, development of educational materials, historic and cultural preservation projects, tourism and records preservation projects, she said.

“For many of our partners that we work with regularly, we hope that the grant amount will have a real impact at the local level,” Hein said, “and with this type of funding, they will be able to develop their own programs, projects and initiatives to align with the overall celebration of America250 and Idaho.”

Local organizations can also submit their America250 celebrations and related events to the state events calendar at America250.idaho.gov.

Hein said she hopes the 250th anniversary celebration will emphasize the study of Idaho and U.S. history and, in the end, bring people together. Studying history does two important things, she said: It teaches critical thinking skills and it builds a framework in which to reflect on and analyze the past to make better decisions about the future.

“If we learn as individuals, as students, to stop and reflect on our world today and think about what we have experienced, just as we would stop and think about the experiences of people from our past, we will have a better basis for experiencing the world,” Hein said.