Two new additions to the Gallery of Outstanding Montanans

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Posted at 8:10 AM, Mar 03, 2023

HELENA — People gathered at the Capitol Rotunda to recognize two Montanans and celebrate their induction into the Gallery of Outstanding Montanans.

The two individuals inducted were author and historian Ivan Doig, and Dolly Smith Cusker Akers, an Assiniboine woman who was Montana's first native legislator.

Doig devoted his career to telling the stories of ordinary people and examining the ways western lands shaped lives. He wrote 13 novels and three non-fiction books, and in 2007, Doig was recognized with the Wallace Stegner Award.

"Ivan told our story and told the story of hardworking real Montanans, not the romanticized version that so often gets portrayed in novels and movies. And for me, that means even more that he that he represented the real us," said Doig's friend and speaker at the ceremony Marcella Walter.

Akers championed Indian self-determination during the 20th century, and she was Montana's first coordinator of Indian Welfare.

In addition to her political service in Helena, Akers was a fixture in Washington D.C. for more than 60 years fighting for the passage of federal legislation including the Indian Citizenship Act and the Indian Civil Rights Act.

Dr. Eddy Crowley, a relative of Akers, spoke at the induction ceremony on Wednesday.

"To be a pioneer and groundbreaking for women moving forward, for equality for people, it just makes me very happy that she was she was available. She was around to do what she did to make our lives better," said Crowley.

The Montana Historical Society said it was proud to recognize these two individuals for their contribution to Montana, and America's, history.

"For both the state, the nation and globally, they've added significantly to the contributions to the to our nation, to our state, as we said. So it's really special both to have that ceremony here in the rotunda, a really beautiful capitol building, and also together as a community to honor those folks," said Montana Historical Society Director Molly Kruckenberg.

The gallery was established by the Montana State Legislature in 1979 to pay homage to Treasure State Citizens.