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A woman of many 'firsts' and an author of the American West honored at Montana Capitol

Portraits of Dolly Smith Cusker Akers and Ivan Doig
Dolly Smith Cusker Akers and Ivan Doig are the two newest inductees into the Gallery of Outstanding Montanans at the Capitol in Helena.

Two new inductees will be added next month to the Gallery of Outstanding Montanans at the Capitol in Helena.

The gallery was established by the Montana Legislature in 1979 to pay homage to Treasure State citizens who made contributions of state or national significance.

Bryan Baldwin is an Interpretive Historian for the Montana Historical Society. He says inductee Dolly Smith Cusker Akers was a woman of many “firsts.”

“She was elected in 1933 from Roosevelt County and was the first American Indian to serve in the Montana legislature and was the only woman to serve in that session,” Baldwin said. “And then in 1934, Governor Frank Cooney appointed her as the first coordinator of Indian Welfare.”

Second inductee Ivan Doig authored numerous books on the American West before his death in 2015. Sabrina Lee was a writer and co-producer for a new Montana PBS documentary on Doig. She says she was impressed by how Doig truly embodied his characters.

“He wrote incredibly eloquently about small towns, rural life, hard working character but he did it in such a way that his prose elevated it, his well-done research elevated it so that it was accessible and of interest to people not just in Montana but all over the country,” she said.

The displays are rotated in the west wing of the Capitol when the legislature is in session. Each is honored for an eight-year period.

MTHS Director Molly Kruckenberg and Gov. Greg Gianforte will recognize the achievements of the two new inductees with a ceremony at noon, March 1, in the Capitol rotunda. The public is invited to attend.

Orlinda Worthington hosts “Morning Edition” weekdays on YPR. She brings 20 years of experience as Montana television news anchor, producer, and reporter.