By ROSELYNN YAZZIE
FORT HALL — Randy Thompson returned in May as the Bureau of Indian Affairs Superintendent for the Fort Hall Agency after working two years as a District Ranger for the Sawtooth National Forest on the Minidoka Range District.
He really enjoys working for the BIA and didn’t realize he would miss it as much, even though it could be tiring at times, especially considering the political climate of the previous administration. At the time he left he didn't feel like the national politics were aligned with his personal beliefs, so he took a break.
He said working as a District Ranger was a great experience and he’s glad he did it, however, it was time to return to work back at home.
“It’s nice to be back,” he said.
As Superintendent he oversees all the programs of the Agency, including Admin, who deals with administrative stuff, 638 contracting, and getting funds down to the tribes and building stuff; Realty, which does all the leases, including homesite and ag leases for the Tribes and tribal members.
“The tribes have a lot of their own rules now, but then the tribes do manage much of their own land, which is great. We do oversee the allotted lands and make sure that they’re, hopefully, not being taken advantage of and being treated right, and the allottees are getting fair compensation for their lands under lease,” he said.
He also manages Tech Services, which is their environmental group who do the technical plans for leases, water and soil plans, and making sure the water and soil are being used efficiently, as well as NEPA and environmental things like that.
He also manages the probate office.
Thompson said most of their programs have been slashed significantly making them short staffed everywhere and sometimes slow in getting things resolved.
He said only two of the staff are not tribal members, but are members of another federally recognized tribe.
He said they’re working for their families and friends to make sure they’re being taken care of.
COVID has affected them by slowing things down, their office is also not authorized from the government to be open to the public yet. He said the challenge is moving forward after COVID.
Thompson is focusing on improving communication to the Tribes and the landowners, Land Use and the Fort Hall Business Council.
He said, “We have our role to play, but it’s kind of the direction of the Tribes and what they want – our goal is to support self-sufficiency of the Tribes.”
He explained the Tribes have contracted several things that used to be done by the BIA and they run them the way they run them, which is great.
Thompson originally started working for the government in the Forest Service and worked on the Caribou-Targhee for several years, he moved to Montana, up by Gardiner, and when he first came to Fort Hall he was a Natural Resource officer. The Superintendent at that time retired, so he became acting for two years, however he always wanted to work for the Forest Service again.
Thompson said he missed working with the people in Fort Hall and the staff.
He wants the people to know he doesn’t always have the right answer, or the answer the people want to hear, but they all do their best to serve the folks within the limitations that they have.
He has lived on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation his whole life and grew up on Siler Road.
From the COVID-19 Emergency Operations Center
FORT HALL — You might have heard on the news that there are new versions of the COVID-19 virus called variants that are a little different than the original virus.
We have now seen possible evidence of one of these COVID-19 variants on the reservation. We are working with IHS and the State of Idaho to confirm this with a lab test. Here is what we know now:
• The variant virus we think is here spreads much easier and faster than the original virus
• Unvaccinated people account for the majority of new cases and 99% of deaths
• This variant may not cause loss of taste and smell, so it is much easier to mistake it for something else like coughing due to smoke or allergies
• The variant we suspect makes young people sicker than the original virus. People in their 20s and 30s are being hospitalized for this variant.
• This variant can sometimes infect people who have been vaccinated, especially people who have other health problems like diabetes or lung conditions
If this variant spreads, we may find ourselves back to where we were this time last year. Here are the things we need everyone committed to do to keep our community safe:
• Go the extra mile and wear your mask in public and stay distant even if you have been vaccinated
• Call the IHS clinic to schedule a test if you start coughing, even if you don’t have any other symptoms
• If you haven’t been vaccinated, get vaccinated now. Even though the vaccines don’t protect as well against the variant viruses, they still offer 60-70% protection. Vaccination is the best tool to fight COVID-19.
• Being young and healthy does not make you immune to this virus. Having the virus already does not make you immune to this virus. People have been hospitalized and even died who were either young or had gotten COVID-19 a second time. Get immunized!!
• Because this can spread really quickly through children, have your kids over 12 vaccinated right away so they have immunity before school starts. IHS and THHS are doing walk in vaccinations every day except Thursday mornings – no appointment needed.
• Think twice about traveling out of the area to powwows. These variants may be more common where you are going, and you may bring home an unwelcome guest.
We will send out more information once we receive it. It will take a week or two for us to know which version of the virus we have since it has to go to the state lab. Until then, stay safe and stay strong!
Total cases as of July 20: Total cases to date: 966; total active cases: 10; total currently hospitalized: 1; total recovered to date: 934; total deceased to date: 22.