Author Timothy Egan Talks Politics and Edward Curtis at Boise State


More than 300 people came to the first Andrus Center for Public Policy lecture.
  • Andrew Crisp
  • More than 300 people attended the first Andrus Center for Public Policy lecture Nov. 28.

Former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus sat close to the stage Nov. 28, as the Andrus Center for Public Policy hosted its first lecture at Boise State University.

"Tonight we inaugurate the first Andrus lecture. By virtue of the size of the crowd tonight, we appear to have the right guy," said Marc Johnson, Andrus Center president.

Johnson introduced author Timothy Egan, listing his books, which include nonfiction titles The Big Burn and The Worst Hard Time, both of which peer into fallout from ecological disasters. But Egan is also known for his Opinionator blog at The New York Times, and he didn't mince words on the outcome of the 2012 election.

"Republicans made up their own reality and retreated from information they didn't agree with," said Egan.

But Egan spent the second half of the evening on Edward Curtis, the long forgotten photographer and subject of his new book, Short Nights of the Shadow Catcher. As a 28-year-old man, Curtis began a yearslong tour of the American West to capture the country's dwindling Native American populations.

"In many instances, the last time a person spoke those languages, they spoke them to Edward Curtis," said Egan.

Curtis collected 40,000 glass plate photographs, and more than 10,000 songs on a primitive recording device, which he compiled into his life's work—a 20-volume set called The North American Indian. Though Curtis died penniless, editions of his massive collection are now worth $2 million a piece.

After Egan was finished, he took questions from the audience and signed copies of his books. But not before Andrus gave some final words.

"Thank you, Tim, for being our first speaker and an outstanding American," said Andrus.