Idaho was not settled by whites – although the Shoshone people, along with the Bannock, have lived on this land for centuries – until gold was struck at Pierce in 1860. Miners rushed to Idaho’s mountains, establishing gold camps and trade centers, such as Boise and Lewiston. Rich silver and lead veins spurred further growth, and by the late 19th century a homesteading boom had begun.
The biggest news out of Idaho in the last 20 years involved a man named Richard G Butler, founder of the white supremacist group Aryan Nations.
Butler moved to northern Idaho from Colorado in the 1970s, and claimed he chose the location to spew his hate because he was impressed by the high percentage of white residents. The devoted began flocking to Idaho’s panhandle, and Butler’s church and the area became home to gangs of skinheads, ex-convicts and other shady characters. Over the years, Butler’s disciples included some of the most notorious figures in the neo-Nazi movement – many have since been imprisoned.
Butler’s demise began in 1998, when Aryan Nation security guards fired at local resident Victoria Keenen’s car. Keenen, and her son, Jason, a passenger, sued Butler. In 2000 they won. Today northern Idaho is trying to put its legacy of white supremacy to rest.
Idaho attracts more than 20 million visitors each year, and tourism is one of the state’s top three industries – manufacturing and agriculture are the other two.