2019 – Government
Forrest Gerard had a long and dedicated life of service. During World War II, he served with the U.S. Army Air Corps as a member of a bomber crew. 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 the University of Montana in 1949.
Forrest was a key architect of the self-determination policy that has defined Native American affairs for more than 40 years. In 1971, he joined the staff of U.S. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-WA). The Indian Self Determination and Education Assistance Act legislation was introduced 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 began the era of self-governance and self-determination for tribes, which continues to guide federal Indian policy today. In 1977, Forrest was appointed the first Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior. In July 2013, he was recognized on the U.S. Senate floor by U.S. Senator and Chair of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Maria Cantwell (D-WA) for his “leadership in charting a new path for Native Americans, a path that won the support of Congress, tribal governments and the nation.”