Montana PBS

Montana's Declaration of Rights | The Montana Constitutional Convention

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Montana’s Constitution is generally held to be unique because specific rights were included, within the body of the document, which relate to individuals. In some ways, these were a result of what was included in the US Bill of Rights and the resulting amendments.

Fort Peck Dam: Behind the Scenes

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Work on the Fort Peck Dam went on twenty-four hours a day and feeding the workers was a challenge. 12,000 sandwiches were made in the commissary every day. The amount of beef and pork in the the meat lockers looked like a slaughterhouse; that was just the storehouse to feed the workers. Everything was made from scratch, so raw products like sugar and flour were in high demand. Goods came in from all over Montana; no single company could provide the scale necessary to feed the entire workforce.

Fort Peck Dam: New Deal in Montana

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At the end of the 1920’s America left an era of prosperity behind. The rain stopped falling and crops failed, the stock market plummeted, and more than 12.5 million Americans were out of work. In order to find work families moved “on to someplace else.” In the midst of this despair Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to the Presidency, and developed the Public Works Administration, creating millions of jobs. Many of those jobs reached Montana in the form of the Fort Peck Dam, five times bigger than any dam then in existence.

Political Landscapes Affect the Writing of the Constitution | The Montana Constitutional Convention

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The two constitutions by which Montana has been governed are very different documents. The 1889 one was a boilerplate version used by many states which were forced, by virtue of when they entered the Union, to use because it was quick, fairly easy, and available! The 1972 constitution, on the other hand, is not like most other state constitutions…from the Preamble to the Declaration of Rights to sunshine laws, the Montana constitution is still held as a unique document among state constitutions.

Passage of Montana 1972 Constitution | The Montana Constitutional Convention

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Montana offers three different paths to having a constitutional convention. They are:

•Section 1, Article XIV says that the Montana State Legislature, “by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of all the members ... may at any time submit to the qualified electors the question of whether there shall be an unlimited convention to revise, alter, or amend” the constitution. •Section 2, Article XIV says that the state’s electors can put a question about whether to hold a convention on a statewide ballot if a petition is signed by at least ten percent of the qualified electors of the state, including at least ten percent of the qualified electors in each of two-fifths of the legislative districts. •Section 3, Article XIV says that a question about whether to hold a convention shall automatically go on the ballot every twenty years if it has not otherwise appeared on the ballot. The Montana State Legislature can put a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment on the ballot, according to Section 8 of Article XIV. Any member of the legislature can propose an amendment. The amendment must then be adopted by an affirmative roll call vote of two-thirds of all members of the legislature.

A Constitution | The Montana Constitutional Convention

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James Madison said “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, no controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government of men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: You must first enable the government to control the governed, and in the next place oblige it to control itself.” A constitution merely gives the populace the communal boundaries for behavior and the law-keepers the guidelines for prosecution. The Founding Fathers knew the U.S. struggled for many years under the Articles of Confederation, which actually were a good intermediate step between English rule and the eventual Constitution. In many ways the Articles made the case for a different national guideline: states working as one nation for the common good, while retaining many powers for themselves. George Harper (archival footage): "Well, a constitution is roughly the set of guidelines that the organized state will follow as it sets up its business and decides how it will live together as a society.”

The People | The Montana Constitutional Convention

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There was a unique dynamic in play when it came time to elect the delegates to the Montana Constitutional Convention and that was a prohibition from any standing office holder becoming a delegate. The result was a true citizen-delegate effort. It might be surprising to your students to see how many women identified themselves as housewives. Delving deeper, though, one finds that these housewives were also the ones who had been on local school boards, participated in League of Women Voters, or did the fundraising for local candidates. Many of them had training as nurses or teachers but had “retired” to raise families. There were many farmer/ranchers, many educators, and quite a few business owners. This activity focuses your students’ attention on these people.

Montana 1972 Constitution and Native American Rights | The Montana Constitutional Convention

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Montana is quite unique with its the constitutional commitment to preserving the cultural integrity of its American Indians. One result is Indian Education for All effort in all schools in Montana.

Indian Relay Stereotypes

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This activity sheds light on stereotyping in students' lives...they will be asked to see if they notice anything that might be considered stereotyping in the video, but Native American stereotypes are not emphasized. 

Behind the Scenes | The Montana Constitutional Convention

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Before writing the new constitution, there was an entire staff formed which researched issues long before the delegates met. This video talks a bit about the work that occurred both before and during the winter of 1972.

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