USS Montana Committee: Heritage Guardians (posted 9/19/23)

“For tireless devotion to preserving and promoting Montana history”, the USS Montana Committee has been honored with the Montana Historical Society’s Heritage Guardian Award.

The Award was received by the Committee at a special September 14 ceremony in the rotunda of the State Capitol. There, Montana Historical Society Trustee and Board Secretary Bill Jones was joined by Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras in presenting the Award that is given periodically when it is determined to be warranted.

Jones told the large audience that the trustees of the Historical Society had made the decision to grant a Heritage Guardian Award this year to the Committee in recognition of its work “…for instilling the Navy’s newest submarine with a sense of place, history, and culture reflective of the Treasure State’s heritage and values”.

He described the range of projects undertaken by Committee members across Big Sky Country that have enabled sailors to meet and hear directly from Montanans about their state. Photos of many of those projects and crew visits were displayed on large banners. Lieutenant Governor Juras noted the importance of such history- and heritage-based work, especially involving young people such as those of the Montana Children’s Museum in Great Falls who did a USS MONTANA project, and whose project leader was in attendance.

The audience reflected the wide range of Montanans, communities and organizations statewide that have participated with the Committee and supported its efforts on behalf of the USS MONTANA and her crew.

Present were a number of statewide elected officials including Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen and State Auditor and Insurance Commissioner Troy Downing.

Tribal officials represented the state’s heritage diversity and the strong military and veteran support by Indigenous People. They included Gerald Gray, Chairman of the most-recently federally recognized tribe, the Montana Little Shell Chippewa, Jeff Stiffarm, the president of the Fort Belknap Tribal Council and others. CSKT Tribal Council member Matt Bing and Elder Gene Sorrell, who had provided a Native blessing at the USS MONTANA’s commissioning, were recognized. And the Brothers Drum group from the Flathead Indian Reservation opened and closed the event with flag and honor songs.

Nomination of the USS Montana Committee for a Heritage award was by the U.S. Submarine Veterans, Inc., Montana Base whose leaders and members were well-represented. Other veterans groups, government agencies at all levels (including active-duty sailors of the Navy Resource Support Center in Helena), museums and nonprofit organizations of all types that have partnered with the USS Montana Committee were among attendees, as were Committee leaders, members and financial supporters.

In his remarks accepting the Heritage Guardian Award, Committee Vice Chairman and Tribal Coordinator Brian Lipscomb said that it really belonged to all those present and many others around the state. He stressed the importance all have seen, even in Montana far from oceans, in supporting those who defend us from beneath the sea. Lipscomb said that, as a result, Montanans everywhere have been remarkable in stepping up when asked to help – or who have simply stepped forward on their own.

He also pointed out that the work of the Committee – work that will continue – has never been about awards or recognition, but it has in large measure been about ensuring that Montana’s heritage is recognized and goes with the MONTANA and her crew members. So, he said, the fact that the Montana Historical Society has recognized that purpose is truly an honor that is humbling and appreciated.

A statewide news report on the award ceremony is available here courtesy of KXLH-TV, Helena, and the Montana Television Network.