Posted: Jun 6, 2012 9:33 PM
Updated: Jun 6, 2012 9:35 PM
BILLINGS - They've contributed significantly to the humanities, and Wednesay night eight people in the community were honored as "Humanities Heroes."
Humanities Montana honored the winners with a reception an awards ceremony at the Western Heritage Center.
The honorees are: Howard Boggess, Tami Haaland, Elizabeth McNamer, Joe Medicine Crow, Mardell Plainfeather, Janine Pease, Ben Steele and Karen Stevenson.
The honorees contribute to the community through the gift of their talents, their time and their financial contributions in the areas of Humanities. Those include: presenting engaging programs, hosting many humanities events, composing important books and articles about humanities topics, donating funds to sustain humanities work, and more. All were nominated by the community.
Howard Boggess is a member of the Crow Tribe with a passion for history, historic preservation, and museum work. He studies Crow history and has been a key figure in many preservation projects, including the route and stories of the Bozeman Trail, the Northern Plains largest concentration of pictographs at the Weatherman Draw, and the Lewis and Clark site Pompey's Pillar. He has also helped preserve and interpret battlefield sites with the Frontier Heritage Alliance. Boggess has been a part of the Big Horn County Historical Society in Hardin for many years and served on the Board of Directors of the Museums Association of Montana for more than a decade. His determination, enthusiasm, and desire to keep many different organizations and groups working together has brought about great results for the humanities in Montana.
Tami Haaland has had great success in the fields of poetry and teaching-she won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize for her first collection of poems,Breath in Every Room, and has a new collection,When We Wake in the Night, which was a finalist for the May Swenson Award. Haaland is exceptionally generous about sharing her talents and her teaching wherever and whenever she is asked to do so. She travels to communities to offer poetry workshops and has taught creative writing classes at the Montana Women's Prison in Billings. Her classes are sought after by serious writing students. Haaland is a founder of the Yellowstone Writers Collective, which plans and sponsors readings for writers, and is involved withStone's Throw, an online magazine she started with Russell Rowland, a Billings author. She is a board member for Aerie, a youth literary journal based in Missoula, emphasizing her commitment to all of Montana. Her online teaching for students as far away as Iran underscores her commitment to both poetry and people worldwide.
Elizabeth McNamer has devoted her life to connecting the dots with her students and the cultural, religious, artistic, and historical influences that are important for an enlightened educational experience. She is professor of religious thought and Zerek Chair at Rocky Mountain College. McNamer is devoted to mentoring and teaching and has been an advocate for art, humanities and education for decades. She served on the Institute for Peace Studies; was one of the earliest scholars involved in the excavation of Bethsaida; authors a regular column inThe Billings Gazetteabout religion; encourages students to attend symphony and opera; provides scholarships to the Students for Academic Success, which pays for them to attend theatre at Alberta Bair; and speaks internationally on religion and religious tolerance.
Joe Medicine Crow was the first member of the Crow tribe to obtain a master's degree. He graduated from Linfield College in 1938 and obtained a master's degree in anthropology from the University of California in 1939. His thesis, "The Effects of European Culture Contact Upon the Economic, Social and Religious Life of the Crow Indians" remains the most widely read source on Crow culture. He has also written many books on Crow culture, including two children's books. While he was studying toward a doctorate degree, war broke out and he joined the Army. He became the last war chief of his tribe when he performed the four necessary acts during WWII. For his war deeds and "contributions to the preservation of the culture and history of the First Americans" and "his importance as a role model to young Native Americans across the country" he received America's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He has also been awarded honorary doctorates from Rocky Mountain College in 1999 and the University of California in 2003.
Mardell Plainfeather is an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe and fluent speaker of the Crow language and a distinguished Crow/Absaalooke oral historian. A graduate of the Rocky Mountain College History program, she has been recording, researching, and sharing the history of the Crow/Absaalooke for over 30 years. She continues to be a key historian for translating and transcribing interviews with Crow Elders and historians. Plainfeather has interviewed Crow Indian Elders for Little Bighorn College, the Native Graves Protection & Repatriation Act Project and the Western Heritage Center. She organized and guided tours to the Little Bighorn Battlefield and was National Park Service Ranger at Little Bighorn Battlefield and Fort C.F. Smith for sixteen years. She was Crow Indian field director and exhibit curator for the American Indian Tribal Histories Project of the Western Heritage Center. She is presently on the roster for Humanities Montana Speakers Bureau. Through years of great energy and effort, she has served as an ambassador for Crow history by gathering and sharing hundreds of Crow Indian oral histories through translations, transcriptions, exhibits, educational programs, and publications.
Janine Pease is an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe. She was the founding president of Little Big Horn College in Crow Agency, which she guided from an abandoned gymnasium with little funding into an accredited, modern college in the 18 years she was there. She established the Crow Indian Archives to preserve records, letters, photographs, histories and research on Crow culture. She was the lead plaintiff in voting rights litigation against Big Horn County, which resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned a Montana state law that had discriminated against the voting rights of American Indians. She is currently the head of the Crow Tribe's Department of Education. Her dedication to improving educational opportunities for American Indians and preserving the culture and history of the Crow Tribe are lasting contributions to the humanities in Montana.
Ben Steele joined the Army Air Corps in 1940 and in late 1941 fought on the front lines against the Japanese on the Bataan Peninsula. Bataan was surrendered on April 9, and the 8,000 American survivors and 40,000 Filipino prisoners were forced to march in what has become known as the Bataan Death March. The 1,244 days that followed as a prisoner of war were filled with starvation, disease, and inhumane treatment. Although he had not been trained as an artist, Steele recorded the experience by drawing on scraps of paper with whatever he could find to make a mark. All but two of these drawings were lost in the war. Steele was liberated from a Japanese mine in 1945. During a lengthy recuperation he reproduced his drawings from memory. Steele attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and continued to paint and draw from his memories. He came home to Montana to teach generations of Montana artists at Montana State University-Billings. The most amazing thing about Ben Steele is his remarkable good humor and his joy in living each day.
Karen Stevenson consistently advocates for programs and grants in her region and is committed to supporting the humanities in eastern Montana. She was part of Humanities Montana's Speakers Bureau performing her living history presentation of Evelyn Cameron, British ex-pat, brilliant photographer of eastern Montana, and all-around eccentric for several years. Stevenson also played the silhouette actress in the MT/PBS documentary,Evelyn Cameron: Pictures from a Worthy Life. She brought Cameron's wit, oddity, and love of place to life and led audiences to a better understanding of a refined woman's life on the rough-and-tumble plains. Stevenson continued to study and champion strong women in eastern Montana through her biographyElsie Fox: Portrait of an Activist. Stevenson served on the Board of Directors of Humanities Montana for three years and brought passion and dedication to her work.
Humanities Montana is the state's independent nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Since 1972, Humanities Montana has provided services and grants to hundreds of Montana organizations in support of public programs in history, literature, values, and public issues. Among its many programs are its grants, Montana Conversations: Speakers Bureau and Speakers in the Schools, the Humanities Montana Festival of the Book, Letters About Literature, and the Governor's Humanities Awards.