Hundreds of people gathered for the 50th anniversary celebration of the Montana Constitution at Montana State University earlier this week.
A live stream went out to those who wished to attend virtually, and the ballroom was filled with students, faculty members, community members, and even a delegate from the 1972 Constitutional Convention, Mae Nan Ellingson.
“When you’re young you have to try harder,” Ellingson said. “When you’re a woman you have to try harder.”
Ellingson was the youngest delegate, being 24 at the time of signing, and was a university graduate student. She notes that there were a number of women delegates, and she was privileged to be one of them. She recalls the moments leading up to her signing the constitution.
“That was one of the most touching experiences for me,” she said. “We went up one by one, and when it was my turn I got up, and I signed and people started clapping!”
Tears came down, and Ellingson remembers the time as "really something."
The Constitution tackled many issues, such as the environment, equality, and education. Detailing in Article X, Section 1, "The State…is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural integrity."
Ahmed, an MSU Student, notes that the Indian Education for All is what comes to mind when he thinks of the state Constitution.
“There was virtually no exposure to native culture, native governments, to native communities,” former Montana Governor Marc Racicot said.
An important theme mentioned at the celebration was the bipartisan nature of the document. The delegates were organized and seated by name, not political party, Sarah Vowell, moderator and author said.
A half-century later, a video time capsule was created by the Montana Free Press and others, interviewing delegates from the 1972 convention as well as a member of the press and staff that worked alongside the delegates. These interviews are archived at MSU’s public library for anyone to view.