Political Notebook

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Pence sets Sagamore rules

Gov. Mike Pence could give more Sagamore of the Wabash awards in one year than former Gov. Mitch Daniels did in his entire eight years in office.

Pence Chief of Staff Bill Smith sent a memo recently to all legislators saying they are allowed to nominate two individuals per calendar year for the Sagamore of the Wabash Award.

If the nominations are accepted, that could be 300 Sagamores a year alone.

In comparison, Daniels gave 245 Sagamore of the Wabash awards during his eight years.

He drastically reduced giving the award because he believed the number of them had risen so high it had devalued the honor.

The memo from Smith makes the awards seem almost like a tax credit – saying the two annual nominations are non-transferable between legislators. And lawmakers cannot roll unused nominations into future years.

Nominees must also be 18 years of age and be an Indiana resident.

Thousands of "Sags" have been given over the years, though sometimes the numbers aren't clear because each governor has kept his own roll, and some Hoosiers have received the honor multiple times.

According to statistics compiled by Daniels' office in 2005, the fewest given were by Gov. Ralph Gates, who served from 1945 to 1949.

The Sagamore was created by Gates so he could give a similar award alongside the Kentucky Colonel at a tri-state meeting in Louisville.

The term "Sagamore" was used by American Indian tribes of the northeastern United States to describe a lesser chief or a great man among the tribe to whom the true chief would look for wisdom and advice.

Gates awarded just two Sagamores in his four years in office.

Since then, the number has ballooned. The first governor to reach 100 awards was Matthew Welsh, who served from 1961 to 1965.

Former Gov. Robert Orr presented an average of more than 500 a year during his two terms in office and totaled 4,236 awards.

Govs. Evan Bayh and Frank O'Bannon each gave more than 3,000 apiece. And Gov. Joe Kernan awarded 1,147 over his 15 months in office.

To contact Niki Kelly email her at nkelly@jg.net or follow her on Twitter @nkellyatJG.

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