Montana Historical Society events to celebrate 50th anniversary of state constitution | Local


The 50th anniversary of the Montana Constitution will be celebrated every Thursday in May at the Montana Historical Society.

All of the presentations are 4:30-5:30 p.m. in the historical society auditorium and will be live-streamed on the MTHS YouTube Channel. The programs also will be archived on the MTHS YouTube channel for viewing later.

Montana Historical Society

The Montana Historical Society building in Helena is shown in this January 2020 file photo.

The May 5 program “Rewriting Montana’s Constitution: How it Happened” features retired journalist Chuck Johnson, who was a 23-year-old reporter covering the 1972 Constitutional Convention, fondly termed “the ConCon.”

Johnson will discuss how the changing political currents in the 1960s paved the way for the convention to succeed. Delegates sat alphabetically and worked across party lines to hammer out the new state charter, which has won praise from experts and remains in place today.

On May 12, join a panel discussion with Carol Juneau and Joyce Silverthorne, moderated by Mike Jetty, on “Indian Education and the 1972 Montana Constitution.” Delegates in 1972 included a unique constitutional mandate to teach about American Indians. This commitment was reaffirmed in 1999 with the passage of Indian Education for All.

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Juneau, an enrolled member of the Mandan and Hidatsa tribes and the first president of the Blackfeet Community College from 1976 to 1983, is a retired legislator and educator. Silverthorne was director of the Office of Indian Education in D.C. from 2012-2016 and served as director of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes educational department from 1999 to 2008. Jetty is an Indian Education Specialist for the Montana Office of Public Instruction, and an enrolled member of the Spirit Lake Dakota Nation.

The May 19 program “Women and the 1972 Constitution” is presented by Diane Sands. She will discuss the female delegates and how the League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women, and other women’s organizations helped shape the new constitution and ensured its adoption.

Sands was director of the Montana Women’s History Project from 1975-1990 and co-project director of the Montana Feminist Project from 1999-2004. She also served eight years in the Montana House of Representatives and is wrapping up eight years in the state Senate. In 2017 the Montana Historical Society board of trustees presented her with the Montana Heritage Guardian Award.

The May 26 program “Before and After the Montana Constitution of 1972” is a panel discussion with Bob Brown and Dorothy Bradley, moderated by Evan Barrett. Brown and Bradley served in the state Legislature before and after the passage of the 1972 constitution and will discuss how its provisions surrounding the public’s right to know and participate in governmental proceedings transformed Montana politics.

Bradley was elected to the Montana Legislature in 1971 and served for 16 years, and was the Democratic nominee for governor in 1992.

Brown began his public service as a representative in 1970 and was president of the Montana senate, served as Montana Secretary of State, and was the Republican nominee for governor in 2004. He also was president of the Montana Historical Society board. Barrett is an award-winning producer of Montana history videos, columns and commentaries. He is a historian of the 1972 Constitutional Convention and an executive committee member of the Constitutional Convention Celebration Committee.


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