Heritage Keepers honored at Montana History Conference
Each year the Montana Historical Society’s Board of Trustees honors individuals or groups who have made exceptional contributions to the study and preservation of Montana’s past. This year, board members presented the Heritage Keeper award to Mardell Plainfeather of Billings and the Extreme History Project of Bozeman. Additionally, the board recognized an additional Heritage Guardian: Larry Len Peterson of Sisters, OR.
According to MHS Board president Kent Kleinkopf of Missoula, “these awards represent the highest honor the Historical Society can bestow upon those doing the daily work of saving Montana’s past for future generations! Their contributions, and their level of devotion are amazing.”
Mardell Plainfeather’s Crow name – Baa Hinnaché, or Always Working – reflects her tireless spirit and dedication to preserving, documenting, promoting and teaching the history, culture and identity of the Crow Apsáalooke people. She is an enrolled member of the Crow (Apsáalooke) Tribe, a member of the Big Lodge clan, and a Whistling Waters child.
She speaks fluent Crow and is adopted in the Sacred Tobacco Society of the Crow – the original “medicine” of the tribe. Over the past 20 years, Plainfeather has been instrumental in developing and completing a wide range of museum, tourism and public outreach projects on Crow history through partnerships with a wide variety of organizations. From public lectures, museum exhibits and tribal tourism initiatives, to extensive oral history projects, articles and books, her collected work comprises an invaluable contribution to the permanent record of the Crow people.
Marsha Fulton and Crystal Alegria founded the Extreme History Project in 2011. Dedicated to bringing attention to underrepresented communities and overlooked historical subjects, the Extreme History Project began with Fulton and Alegria’s research on the first Crow Indian agency at Fort Parker. The result was, in 2015, the preservation of Fort Parker along with the collection of more than 15 oral histories with Crow tribal members.
The Extreme History Project continued to grow with the launch of its website, social media platforms, and public lecture series in 2012. Since 2013, Extreme History has championed efforts to draw attention to a wide range of lesser-known histories through both conventional and offbeat presentations that reach a wide audience. “After Dark” ghostly living-history tours, “Red Light” district tours, bus tours, workshops, plays and college courses call out hidden-away history and show how it informs us today.
Dr. Larry Len Peterson, a Montana native born and raised in Plentywood, was recognized for his outstanding efforts to preserve and promote Montana history and culture by writing engaging books about Montana’s historic artists. Through these publications, Peterson has not only dedicated his efforts to well-known artists like Charlie Russell and L. A. Huffman, but also brought to light lesser known, but extremely significant Montana artists like John L. Clarke, John Fery, and a variety of artists who worked in Glacier National Park.
Peterson has published a prolific eight books relating to Montana artists, and his non-art, 2017 masterwork, American Trinity: Jefferson, Custer, and the Spirit of the West, has won several prestigious awards.
The honorees were recognized Sept. 27, during the Montana History Conference. For more information visit mhs.mt.gov.