Two enrolled members of the Three Affiliated Tribes have been honored by the ACLU of Montana as civil liberties leaders.
Carol Juneau, a former Montana state legislator, and her daughter, Denise Juneau, a former superintendent of Public Instruction for Montana, were recognized for their work with the 2018 Jeannette Rankin Award. Judith Heilman, founder and executive director of Montana’s only Black-led nonprofit, the Montana Racial Equity Project, also received the award.
The awards were presented March 3 at the Paris Gibson Square Museum in Great Falls, Mont.
This month is Women’s History Month, a month to celebrate women’s contributions to history, culture and society.
Carol was born at Elbowoods and raised on North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation.
According to ACLU information, Carol, a powerful advocate for education equity, served in the Montana Legislature from 1999-2010. She was instrumental in the groundbreaking passage of Indian Education for All in 1999, a long-overdue implementation of Montana’s constitutional mandate to teach K-12 students Native history and contemporary tribal issues. She has also been a tireless advocate for Native voting rights, registering many people to vote and countering gerrymandering through redistricting while at the legislature.
Carol first was a Democratic state representative in Montana and later a state senator. During her career she also was instrumental in the establishment of the Blackfeet Community College in Browning, Mont., one of Montana’s first tribal colleges. She and her husband, Stan, a longtime educator, are now retired and live in Great Falls.
Denise served for two terms as superintendent of Public Instruction for Montana from 2009- 2017, according to ACLU information. She is the first, and only, American Indian woman to hold a state constitutional office. She was also on the leading edge of implementing Indian Education for All, guiding the creation of culturally relevant curriculum and professional development and training for Montana educators. As superintendent, Denise prioritized student advisory boards and lowered the Native high school dropout rate by one-third.
Denise grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in northwest Montana. Her career has included teaching English at New Town High School and she also is an attorney. After serving two terms as Montana’s superintendent of Public Instruction, she was ineligible to seek a third term due to term limits. In 2016 she campaigned to become Montana’s sole U.S. House seat and the first ever Native American woman in Congress, according to news reports. She ran against Ryan Zinke but was defeated in the general election. Zinke now is U.S. Secretary of Interior. Denise lives in Missoula, Mont., and is owner of Blue Cloud Consulting.
The Jeannette Rankin Award is named for Jeannette Rankin, a women’s rights advocate from Montana, who was the first woman to serve in the U.S. Congress. She was elected to the House of Representatives by the state of Montana in 1916 and again about 24 years later. She was the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. participation in both World War I and World War II.
“Carol, Judith, and Denise are pathbreakers who have tirelessly pursued social justice in Montana, especially for Native people and other people of color. They are inspirational role models for those who want to make Montana a fairer place,” said Caitlin Borgmann, ACLU of Montana executive director.