Great Falls, MT -- The ACLU of Montana is honored to recognize three civil liberties champions as the 2018 Jeannette Rankin Award recipients. Carol Juneau, Denise Juneau, and Judith Heilman demonstrate the strength of character and commitment exemplified by Jeannette Rankin – ACLU founding vice president in the 1920s – and embodied in the ACLU of Montana’s mission. The awardees’ commitments to racial justice and educational equity will benefit generations of Montanans.
Carol Juneau (Mandan Hidatsa Nation), 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. Carol has also been a tireless advocate for Native voting rights, registering many people to vote and countering gerrymandering through redistricting while at the legislature.
Denise Juneau (Mandan Hidatsa Nation and descendant of the Blackfeet Nation) served for two terms as Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2009 – 2017. She is the first, and only, American Indian woman to hold a state constitutional office. Denise 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.
Judith Heilman is the founder and Executive Director of Montana’s only Black-led nonprofit, the Montana Racial Equity Project (MTREP). Judith’s passion is equity and justice for all historically marginalized, disenfranchised, and oppressed peoples. She has spent her lifetime in service, including 13 years as a police detective. Over the last two years, Judith's work with MTREP has filled an essential need in Montana for conversation and education around racial equity and she has become an inspirational and powerful ally of the ACLU of Montana.
“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 ACLU of Montana Executive Director, Caitlin Borgmann. “The ACLU of Montana is honored and excited to recognize these incredible civil liberties leaders.”
The 2018 Jeannette Rankin Civil Liberties Award reception will take place on Saturday, March 3rd, from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Paris Gibson Square Museum in Great Falls. The event will have sign language interpreters and is open to the public. Attendees can RSVP through the ACLU of Montana website.