Forrest Gerard (1925 – 2013)
ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO — Forrest Gerard, who provided the blueprint for Indian Self-Determination that led to today’s current federal policy towards American Indian and Alaska Natives has walked on. He died in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Saturday, December 28, 2013. He was 88.
Gerard was a tribal citizen of the Blackfeet Tribe of Montana.
Gerard joined the staff of Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson D-WA in 1971. He was one of the primary architects of the Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975. He was appointed the first Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.
The legislation was introduced the Act by Senator Jackson in 1973. The Act, which passed Congress in 1974 and was signed by President Gerald Ford in 1975, reversed a policy of termination and assimilation, and launched the era of self governance and self determination, which continues to guide federal Indian policy today.
In July, Gerard was recognized on the United States Senate floor by U.S. Senator Marie Cantwell, D – Washington and chair of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, who read:
“Today we recognize Forrest Gerard for his dedication, intelligence, and persistence, which paved the way for the political achievements that transformed the landscape of Indian affairs.Tribes now have greater autonomy in managing their resources, preserving their cultures, and utilizing their land base,”
stated Senator Cantwell as she applauded Gerard for his commitment to Tribal sovereignty.
Cantwell emphasized Gerard’s role in strengthening the government to government relationship between the United States and Indian Tribes. Gerard helped promote a shared goal of Tribal self determination and self governance. Today, Cantwell said, that relationship is a mature one.
“I think we are long overdue in commending Forrest for his pioneering, industrious career as a voice for Indian Country,”
Senator Cantwell said.
“Today we celebrate his leadership in charting a new path for American Indians, a path that won the support of Congress, Tribal governments, and the nation.”
Gerard’s service began with the US Army Air Corps as a member of a bomber crew in World War II. After flying 35 combat missions over Nazi occupied Europe, he became the first member of his family to attend college, receiving a bachelor’s degree from University of Montana in 1949.
Over the next two decades, Gerard worked for the state of Montana, the newly formed Indian Health Service, the Bureau of Indian Affairs as a legislative liaison officer, and the Director of the Office for Indian Progress in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare.
Gerard spent the last 30 years advising Indian people on how to effectively participate in developing policy with government leaders and how to be part of the political process.