The ACLU of Montana proudly presents the 2024 Jeannette Rankin Civil Liberties Award to the members of the Montana Legislature’s 2023 American Indian Caucus. We are honored to celebrate the dedication of these Indigenous lawmakers who showcased their commitment to principled and values-driven leadership during the 2023 Montana legislative session. The 2023 American Indian Caucus demonstrates the strength of character and commitment to principles exemplified by Jeannette Rankin–ACLU's first vice president in the 1920's–and embodied in ACLU's mission and vision. 

The 2024 awardees are:

The Montana American Indian Caucus is comprised of 11 Indigenous lawmakers who serve in Montana’s state legislature. It is one of the legislature’s few bipartisan caucuses, composed of four senators and seven representatives representing reservations and tribes all across Montana. 

In addition, the ACLU of Montana honors Lance FourStar for his invaluable contributions in his role as Director of Montana's American Indian Caucus.

In the face of adversity, and outright racism, these elected officials showed up every day to uplift the voices of Indigenous people and issues. Further, they were among the first and only caucuses to publicly condemn the censorship and treatment of Rep. Zooey Zephyr, and publicly decry the violation of her first amendment rights

Montana is unique in that it is the only state where the percentage of Indigenous elected lawmakers exceeds that of the state’s overall Indigenous population, a testament to the Native vote and Native organizing power built over the decades. It wasn’t until 1932 that Montana had a Native representative, with the election of Dolly Smith Cusker Akers. 

Despite this Caucus’s monumental achievement of representation, Native people and issues continue to be marginalized within our state politics. Not more than a few days into the 2023 legislative session, a slew of anti-Indigenous bills were introduced–including a resolution to “investigate alternatives to the reservation system”. The Indian Caucus used their positions to promote Native issues, educate their colleagues, fight back on bad bills, and put forth a proactive slate of legislative priorities. 

This year, we are proud to honor these lawmakers who have embodied Indigenous leadership and exemplified what it means to build collective power in Indian Country.