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Montana politics, elections and legislative news.

Celebrations planned to mark the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the State Constitution

Montana Capitol
William Marcus
/
Montana Public Radio
Montana Capitol

Monday marked the 50th anniversary of the ratification of Montana’s Constitution. A celebration of the state’s bill of rights is scheduled at the State Capitol next week.

After a majority of Montanans voted in favor of rewriting the 1889 constitution, 100 delegates met at the Capitol in Helena in 1972 to iron out the details of a new one.

Mae Nan Ellingson was one of those delegates, and the youngest to serve at the constitutional convention.

“I’ve been going through and reading a lot of this Constitution again and reading some of the debates, and I continue to be incredibly proud of the document,” Ellingson said.

Only 10 delegates are still alive today, which Ellingson said makes the anniversary bittersweet.

There were 58 Democrats, 36 Republicans and 6 independent delegates. However, not a single Native American was elected to represent Indian country.

The state Supreme Court ruled that constitutional delegates could not hold public office. Delegates sat in alphabetical order instead of by party.

A celebration of the anniversary has been planned for June 15 and 16 at the State Capitol, with speeches by former governors from both sides of the aisle. There will be panel discussions on how the 1972 Constitution came to be and on its groundbreaking public information provision.

Panels will also discuss the parts of the Constitution that have impacted Native Americans, like Indian Education for All, the separation of powers, the right to a healthful environment, revenue and taxation, education and public lands.

Ellingson will give the celebration’s closing remarks.

“The state Constitution is just so important, just in terms of how we live our lives,” she said.

Shaylee is Montana Public Radio's Capitol reporter. She previously worked for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and covered the 2019 legislative session for the University of Montana's Legislative News Service.