A grim reminder of the consequences of overreaching police power is among the 150 items in the Idaho sesquicentennial exhibit that opens at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Idaho State Historical Museum.
The bullet-ridden door of the Ruby Ridge cabin of Randy and Vicki Weaver stands in a plexiglass case at “Essential Idaho: 150 Things that Make Idaho Unique. The exhibit runs through Dec. 31.
The Weaver family loaned the door for the exhibit, which includes a video on the standoff and a signed photograph of Randy Weaver with his daughters, Sara, Elisheba and Rachel.
The door was government evidence in the 1993 trial of Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris, who was gravely injured in the stand-off. The door also appeared at a 1995 U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Ruby Ridge, with the committee later recommending reforms.
Vicki Weaver was killed by a shot that pierced a window in the denim-curtained cabin door, fired by FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi in August 1992. The FBI’s evidence markings remain on the door, including the notation, “Front door to cabin.”
Family friend Kevin Harris also was injured but survived. Also killed in the standoff were the Weavers 14-year-old son, Sammy, and U.S. Marshal Bill Degan. Harris was acquitted by an Idaho jury of murder and other charges. Randy Weaver was acquitted of the most serious charges but convicted of lesser charges related to missing a court date. Harris walked out of U.S. District Judge Ed Lodge’s courtroom a free man, Harris spent another four months in prison. The government later settled a lawsuit with the Weaver family for $3.1 million.
There’s also some extra from Monday’s festivities marking the 150th anniversary of Idaho Territory.
At least two of the celebrants were also on hand in 1963 for the Territorial Centennial: Former House Speaker and Secretary of State Pete Cenarrusa and Lt. Gov. Brad Little.
Cenarrusa, 95, used two canes to get around but was obviously enjoying himself. Cenarrusa, the longest-serving state official ever, was speaker in 1963. “I have an affinity for these things!” he said.
Little, 59, wore a red commemorative string tie over his traditional fabric model. He told the Senate just before Monday’s ceremony: “I don’t think I’ll be here for the bicentennial, but I hope one of my grandkids gets to wear it.”
Gov. Butch Otter spoke at Monday’s event and signed a Proclamation designating Monday as Idaho Territorial Day.
Finally, Idaho GOP Congressman Mike Simpson, a former Idaho House Speaker, entered the following speech into Monday’s Congressional Record:
Mr. Speaker: On this day in 1863, 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln signed a congressional act creating the Idaho Territory. Twenty-seven years later, part of that territory would become the 43rd State, the State of Idaho.
The Idaho Territory was initially much larger than the borders of Idaho today; it included most of what would later become Montana and Wyoming. The territory, to be governed by William H. Wallace, an old friend of Lincoln’s, was previously part of the Washington Territory.
Western Washington politicians moved to discard large tracts of land in eastern Washington Territory partly because the population in those areas was increasing rapidly and they wanted to assure Olympia would remain the capital of the region. That population increase was mostly gold miners seeking out their fortunes in the Clearwater region, now Idaho’s panhandle. This goes to show you, Mr. Speaker, gerrymandering is not a new phenomenon, it is in fact one of the reasons the Idaho Territory was created in the first place.
However, the land mass for the Idaho Territory was so expansive that within a year Montana broke away, and four years later Wyoming did the same, leaving the Idaho Territory looking very much like the State does today.
In 1890, after 27 years as a territory, Idaho became the 43rd State. However, much of what distinguishes Idaho today came about during its territorial years, including the creation of its main highways, many of its public schools, its tax system, its tribal laws, its universities, its water laws, and indeed, its eventual Constitution, written in the summer of 1889 in Boise. Idaho’s Constitution remains today almost exactly how it was written, and it still forms the basis for all Idaho laws to this day.
The citizens of Idaho have always demonstrated a unity and sense of pride in their traditions and history, and this rich history is what makes them who they are today. From the Canadian border to Yellowstone, from Craters of the Moon to Coeur d’Alene Lake, Idahoans celebrate today. It is my privilege today to commemorate Idaho’s territorial sesquicentennial.