Idaho Fails to Heed Its Elders


When you watch the Idaho Legislature today, and follow the antics of current Governor Butch Otter, it’s hard to believe that Idaho once had a genuine liberal as governor; a Democrat, in fact. Who was elected to a total of four terms, from 1971 to 1977, and again from 1987 to 1995. It can’t have been an accident.

Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus addresses the Idaho House on Friday (Betsy Z. Russell)

Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus addresses the Idaho House on Friday (Betsy Z. Russell)

WC mentions this because Idaho recently celebrated Idaho Day, and former Governor Cecil Andrus was one of the speakers at that event. The whole business seems to have largely escaped the notice of Idaho newspapers because, you know, Democrats, but the Spokane, Washington Spokesman-Review had a nice article on the event. Betsy Russell wrote,

“It’s been over 20 years since I stood at this podium,” former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus declared today as he addressed the House during its “Idaho Day” commemoration – speaking from the same podium at which Idaho governors give their annual State of the State addresses to lawmakers. He joined former Idaho Govs. Jim Risch and Dirk Kempthorne and current Gov. Butch Otter in speaking about what they love about Idaho, and also sharing some reflections and experiences; a statement from former Gov. Phil Batt also was read, by Rep. Gayle Batt, R-Wilder.

Andrus said, “Other than the people … the quality of life in Idaho is outstanding. We’ve got the clear air, the clean water, we’ve got the open spaces … unlike many places in the United States.” He added, “One of the things that I love about this state is the fact that we have millions of acres of public land – now I said public land, not federal land. It’s public land owned by the public, managed by agencies of the federal government, under the rules and regulations that are put down by the Congress of the United States. And those millions of acres contribute tremendously to the economy of the state of Idaho.”

Andrus said, “Now I know there are people in this state and in this room today, and in other areas across America, where a few of them are saying that the title of those lands should go to the states. Ladies and gentlemen, that would be a devastating, ridiculous move that cannot happen, will not happen, because it would take congressional action, and believe me, I’ve been around long enough to tell you that the Congress of the United States is not going to permit that to happen.”

The four-term Idaho governor and former U.S. Secretary of the Interior said, “I love those lands, and I want to see them continue so that my children, my grandchildren, and my great-grandchildren and their children have the same opportunity to benefit from those lands as I do today.”

As long-time readers may know, WC spent some of his formative years in Bethel, out on the Kuskokwim River Delta. That’s Yup’ik country. As a consequence, WC has immense respect for Yup’ik culture. One of the sad differences between kassaqs – pronounced “gussicks,” the faintly derogatory Yup’ik term for white folks – and Alaska Natives is that the Yup’ik, Innupiat and Athapascan people respect and listen to their elders. Among Alaska Natives, elders are regarded as sources of information; after all, they have survived in an hostile environment. They hold the culture’s heritage. They have decades of experience. The Yup’ik people have survived because they listened to their elders.

Gussicks? No so much. Maybe not at all. Certainly no one in the Idaho Legislature listened to their elder, four-time governor and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Cecil Andrus.

The Idaho Legislature have ignored Governor Andrus’s remonstration. They seem to be hell-bent on passing one or more laws intended to make the federal government convey its land in Idaho to the state. A child throwing a tantrum. The difficulty is that the Legislature’s predecessors agreed to Congress’s Idaho Admission Bill, back in 1889. And in that bill Congress was pretty unambiguous:

Idaho Admission Act, 26 Stat c. 656, §12

Idaho Admission Act, 26 Stat c. 656, §12

WC suggests that if the current members of the Idaho Legislature don’t like the bargain made by their ancestors, they take the dispute up with them, not try to fast talk their way out of the bargain. No to threaten to hold their breath if they don’t get their way. This would, of course, involve listening to their elders. Like Governor Andrus.

Of course, much of the rest of the ALEC-inspired nonsense is contra-survival, too. This would just be another example. When the legislation goes down in flames in the federal courts, WC has dibs on the first “I told you so.”

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2 thoughts on “Idaho Fails to Heed Its Elders

  1. The news media in Boise Idaho is horrible, obviously directed by those in power, so thank you for writing this. Gov. Butch Otter is very disliked, he and the legislature have kept many from getting health care with their failure to expand Medicaid. Then there are the crazy legislators and some horrible people. There are however some people trying hard to change things, I was at the Bernie Sanders rally and surprised in a very positive way at people here. I am in Boise Idaho where I came with my civil cases in my suitcase so I could work on them without being harassed in Alaska. They were stolen and thrown away by the staff at a homeless shelter just because they could. Almost all the evidence for one case, years of work on one and months on the other, very devastating. I will now be filing a civil case against them now or I would be gone. I have been writing about my experiences and have been contacted by people encouraging me to continue to expose what goes on there. So far two of the administration staff have either resigned or were fired.

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