Indian Country politics and public policy

Commentary by Mark Trahant

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The year was 1977. I was editor of the Sho-Ban News and Idaho’s Gov. Cecil Andrus had recently been named by President Jimmy Carter as Secretary of the Interior. If I remember right, this interview took place in his Boise office.

Andrus was a politician who gave clear answers and was a great storyteller. I remember our last interview, I wanted to find out more about Joe Garry from the perspective of Idaho Democrats. Andrus wouldn’t go there. Not his topic. Next.

At the time of this photograph, tribes were not happy with the Carter administration because of a national water policy that pushed a lot of the decision-making to states (a problem for tribal water rights that pre-date many states). The policy was later changed because of the inside work of Forrest Gerard, Suzan Harjo, and Tom Fredericks.

I remember a story Andrus told me when he was at Interior. He said one of the frustrating things about that job was how hard it was to effect a policy decision. As governor of Idaho, he said, I could make a terrible decision and make it so. But as Interior Secretary it was difficult to make a good decision so.

After Interior he was re-elected Governor. Twice.

RIP. — Mark Trahant

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