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"solely for the good of the whole"
The Seeds of Democracy in Montana's Constitution
I write simply to say Montana’s Constitution is beautiful. It is a vision worth being and a legacy worth leaving: one of kinship and common purpose, dignity and opportunity.
Should anti-democratic reactionaries gain just two seats in Montana’s Legislature, they will surely seek a constitutional convention. I fear their new version won’t much care for Montana’s enshrined rights of dignity and privacy, or rights to a clean and healthful environment, and to participate in an open, transparent, accountable government. I fear they’ll spoil something beautiful. Fortunately, we do still have time. We can vote them out this cycle, and we can organize against any new or altered constitution, should they get so far.
Before that, let me tell you about this magnificent document. This is my longest essay yet (5500). It has been months in the making and is yet imperfect. But then again, so are we.
That’s part of what makes Democracy beautiful.
“solely for the good of the whole”
the seeds of democracy in Montana’s Constitution
I. roots / respect
II. waters / reciprocity
III. futures / regeneration
I. roots / respect
Democracy is a good idea. When real and genuine, it is the best we can be: open and honest; accountable, creative, and free. As John Lewis reminds, it is not merely a state or constitution, but an action—a way of being and relating to one another. We embody Democracy by embracing the reciprocal responsibilities of living together.
These responsibilities are timeless, flowing beyond our being. We are descendants and will be ancestors. What will be of those futures? What will be of Montana in 20, 40, 100, or 500 years? Such perspectives are deeply rooted in Indigenous traditions of stewardship.What would it mean to embrace these traditions and honor the responsibilities of living once again? Who (or what) would we be then?
Good friend, we’d be a beautiful Democracy.
Article II, Section 1. POPULAR SOVEREIGNTY. All political power is vested in and derived from the people. All government of right originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.
Montana’s Constitution makes beautiful Democracy possible.
Publicly ratified 50 years ago, on June 6, 1972, it chooses people’s Democracy over corporate oligopoly. It is free and open, transparent and accountable, responsive and adaptable. It is visionary. Exemplary, both inspired and referenced by people around the world wishing to form more perfect unions for this and future generations.
In 1970, over 65 percent of Montanans voted to embark on the drafting of this new constitution. After nearly a century of mining-industry degrading waters, landscapes, and livelihoods, it became clear Montana’s previous constitution of 1889 protected industry far better than its people. So, the people of Montana began again.
Launching the new Constitutional Convention in January 1972, presiding Delegate Leo Graybill Jr. insisted on practicing honest, constructive politics:
We must be open. Open to ideas, to opinions, to debate. We must also be open to our own conscience and our inner selves. We must seek guidance and good fellowship right here in this room. We must be responsive to each other. If we can make government work here, then perhaps we can help Montana move into the future with confidence and vision.
Heeding this call, the 100 delegates sat in alphabetical order, rather than by party. Every meeting was open to the public and meticulously recorded, with public comment always welcomed. These practices later became Montana constitutional guarantees to observe, review, and participate in the deliberations of public bodies (Article II, Sections 8 & 9).The delegates understood their task was larger than any single person, issue, or entity. They engaged each other with humility, respect, and forethought—things we rarely see from political actors in office and media today. Especially not from those who want to discard and rewrite Montana’s Constitution. All they do is incite discord and distrust for personal gain.
“One of the things that so undergirded the mentality of [the delegates] was trust, trust in the legislative process, trust in the government, trust in the people’s ability to govern themselves,” Republican Delegate Mae Nan Ellingson recalled to the Montana Free Press. Together with Delegate Bob Campbell, Ellingson drafted the new Constitution’s opening words, declaring regenerative purpose with power and prose.
We the people of Montana grateful to God for the quiet beauty of our state, the grandeur of our mountains, the vastness of our rolling plains, and desiring to improve the quality of life, equality of opportunity and to secure the blessings of liberty for this and future generations, do ordain and establish this Constitution.
These lines sing of love and kinship, embracing our responsibilities to future generations. They sow the seeds of respect, reciprocity, and regeneration blossoming through the 12,000 words of Montana’s Constitution.
Even so, they’re only words until we live them.
Montana’s Constitution begins with a robust garden of rights and responsibilities. The Individual Dignity clause forms the prism through which we may understand it all. “The dignity of the human being is inviolable,” it unequivocally proclaims, as most post-World War II constitutions do. The clause continues, illustrating how dignity underlies Democracies’ most foundational values:
No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws. Neither the state nor any person, firm, corporation, or institution shall discriminate against any person in the exercise of his civil or political rights on account of race, color, sex, culture, social origin or condition, or political or religious ideas. (Article II, Section 4).
In essence, without dignity there can be no Democracy. But what is dignity? Retired Montana Supreme Court Justice James C. Nelson offered a characteristically artful definition, concurring in a 2009 case on end-of-life healthcare:
Dignity is a fundamental component of humanness. Dignity belongs, intrinsically, to our species—to each of us—as a natural right from birth to death. It is inherent in human self-consciousness. It permeates each person regardless of who that person is or what [they] do. It cannot be abrogated because of one’s status or condition…the individual always retains [their] right of human dignity.
The question of dignity, then, is really the question of our existence and its true value. On what terms will we exist together? Will some people be degraded, sacrificed, or denied the opportunity to control their own lives, while others live as though that were fine and natural? Or will we recognize the inherent value of all life on earth and build relationships from there? Every generation decides.
The mining barons of Montana’s previous century chose to degrade and sacrifice for expedience and profit. Knowing the emptiness of that pursuit, Montanans in 1972 painted a different vision. One that is alive, designed to improve the quality of life, establish equality of opportunity, and secure the blessings of liberty for this and future generations. It is a vision worth being and a legacy worth leaving.
Montana’s constitutional right of privacy is an important corollary to the right of dignity. “The right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society,” Section 10 avows.Operating together, they thoroughly protect spiritual, sexual, and procreative autonomy from state intrusion or interference.
In 1999, for example, the Supreme Court of Montana unanimously concluded: the right of privacy “broadly guarantees each individual the right to make medical judgments affecting [their] bodily integrity and health in partnership with a chosen health care provider free from government interference.” The Court later added: the right of dignity “demands that people have for themselves the moral right and moral responsibility to confront the most fundamental questions about the meaning and value of their own lives and the intrinsic value of life in general, answering to their own consciences and convictions.”
The Court’s words here ring so true, they seem self-evident. Honestly, who is more fit to decide: a patient in careful consultation with their medical professional, or a reactive politician using the issue to chase clout?
The Montana constitutional rights of privacy and dignity remove individual healthcare decisions from the cynical spectacle of politics, empowering people to decide for themselves. Some folks don’t like this. They don’t believe in the right of privacy—at least not for persons other than themselves. And they don’t want an honest, experienced jurist like Justice Ingrid Gustafson on the Montana Supreme Court. They prefer a corporate lobbyist with no real experience. I wonder why.
Vote Justice Ingrid Gustafson for the Montana Supreme Court.
The right of privacy also protects our digital information, though it was written decades before smartphones, internet, and surveillance technologies.Indeed, this is because constitutions are as alive, imaginative, and free as the people composing them. This symphony of dignity, privacy, and freedom rings prominently throughout Montana’s constitutional list of inalienable rights:
All persons are born free and have certain inalienable rights. They include the right to a clean and healthful environment and the rights of pursuing life’s basic necessities, enjoying and defending their lives and liberties, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and seeking their safety, health and happiness in all lawful ways. In enjoying these rights, all persons recognize corresponding responsibilities.
There is a lot of forward-thinking, innovative beauty here. But the final line is vital because it speaks directly to the reciprocal nature of healthy democratic relationships.
At root, Democracy cannot be animated by dominance or exclusion, nor by the corrosive, short-sighted narcissism of extraction. There is no dignity in degradation. Democracy is a collective endeavor by nature: of, by, and for all of us. Thus, to make it real, we have to embrace the mutual responsibilities of living together. Where there is dignity for all, there can be Democracy too. That sounds to me of a legacy worth leaving.
II. waters / reciprocity
Barons of mining and finance dominated Montana’s first Constitutional Convention in 1889, with grimy William A. Clark presiding. Around that time, the copper rich hills of Butte, Montana supplied about 25% of the world’s copper and 51% percent of the U.S. supply. By around 1910, the benefits of this work amalgamated into one Rockefeller trust, the Anaconda Copper Company, which dictated life in Montana for decades.
Under Montana’s old constitution, most legislative votes were not even recorded. And government bodies deliberated behind closed doors, without public input or oversight.That constitution also provided mining companies like Clark’s with various tax loopholes. Though only arsenic-poisoned waters trickled down.
By 1900, Clark was one of the richest people on earth, worth an estimated $50 million. With such wealth, he and his contemporaries battled “to control both Montana’s vast copper deposits and its government,” as Professor Larry Howell recounts in his article Once Upon a Time in the West: Citizens United, Caperton, and the War of the Copper Kings. There, Professor Howell tells tales of the rampant corruption in Montana’s government, and the people’s response to reclaim their power and dignity:
Montanans amended Montana’s [old] Constitution in 1906, and granted themselves the right to enact laws through citizen initiative ‘after decades of trying to take back their state from corporate interests.’ Six years later, they used the power of the initiative to enact Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act, with 77 percent of Montana voters in favor.
Fast forward a century: following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, Western Tradition Partnership—a corporation registered at a post office address in Colorado—sued to invalidate Montana’s 100-year-old law limiting spending in political campaigns. Justice Gustafson’s opponent, James Brown, represented Western Tradition Partnership in the Montana court proceedings. In a documentary interview about the case, Brown actually said he believes money in politics “should be unlimited.”
The Montana Supreme Court upheld Montana’s anti-corruption law, wondering “when in the last 99 years did Montana lose the power or interest sufficient to support the statute, if it ever did.” The U.S. Supreme Court, however, summarily overturned Montana’s high court and invalidated the law. Citing Citizens United, the U.S. Supreme Court re-opened the floodgates of money in politics Montanans had shut 100 years before. During the 2020 U.S. election cycle, the total amount spent nationally reached $14 billion, Open Secrets reports, “making it the most expensive election in history and twice as expensive as the previous presidential election cycle.”
Clark eventually bought himself a seat in the United States Senate… twice actually, paying as much as $50,000 per vote. The first time, he resigned in disgrace after a U.S. Senate Committee found his election “null and void on account of briberies, attempted briberies, and corrupt practices by his agents.” His second attempt somehow passed muster. But that didn’t change Gilded Age author Mark Twain’s view of him: “He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag.”
The guy took no responsibility for anything. He and his fellow barons and bankers took everything they could, leaving the public to bear the burdens of their selfishness and greed. Look to one of the largest EPA Superfund cleanup sites in the United States, a toxic lake at the heart of Butte’s rich hills, to know we are still paying for their greed today. Clark wouldn’t care. Fend for yourselves he sneered, retiring from the U.S. Senate in 1907 after just one term:
In rearing the great structure of empire on the Western Hemisphere we are obliged to avail ourselves of all the resources at our command. The requirements of this great utilitarian age demand it. Those who succeed us can well take care of themselves.
There are surely people who’d nod along with these words today. Some are probably in the Montana Legislature. Others are senators, representatives, governors, judges, kings, presidents, and prime ministers all around the world. Plenty serve on the boards of Blackrock and Vanguard, Koch Industries and Exxon. One may even head the World Bank. Whomever they are, they’re nodding to a logic of death.
Very simply: because we depend on a stable earth environment to live, we should not destroy it. Montana’s Constitution of 1972 appreciates this basic reality.
Article IX entrusts “present and future generations” with the responsibility “to maintain and improve a clean and healthful environment in Montana.” It commands the legislature “provide adequate remedies for the protection of the environmental life support system from degradation” and “to prevent unreasonable depletion and degradation of natural resources.” It also resolves quite plainly: “All lands disturbed by the taking of natural resources shall be reclaimed.”
Each of these clauses represents a thoughtfully deliberated countermeasure to a century of unaccountable degradation and plunder of land and life in Montana.
One legislator has suggested adding “productive” to the “clean and healthful” provisions. But this idea fails to recognize the natural and inherent productivity of a clean and healthful environment. And it doesn’t account for the havoc wrought by what has been considered “productivity” and “economic growth.”
Much like Clark, some people still gaze upon Montana’s big skies, waters and plains, seeing only profits. But at what real costs? And who really pays them?
Droughts and floods, heatwaves, wildfires, hurricanes, and crop failures will intensify in the coming decades, destabilizing everything humanity took for granted. The cause of this collapse is not a matter of serious dispute either: burning heat-trapping gases into earth’s atmosphere increases global temperatures and disturbs the delicately balanced webs of life we depend on. Oil companies themselves have known this since the seventies. Much like Clark, they just didn’t care. Corporations don’t have to care.
People do. Collapse of ecological home already displaces “an average of 25.3 million people annually,” which is “one person every one to two seconds,” Harsha Walia reports in Border and Rule: Global Migration, Capitalism, and the Rise of Racist Nationalism. By 2050, climate disasters will displace an estimated 143 million from just three regions—and as many as 1 billion people worldwide. What about their dignity? This movement of people will generally flow south to north globally, though “just one hundred corporations are responsible for 71 percent of global emissions and the poorest half of the world are responsible for only 10 percent,” Walia informs.
That is to say: those most affected are also the least responsible.
Political actors in office and media have made well-paid careers scapegoating and harassing migrants, thus “channeling irregular migration into precarious labor migration, lowering the wage floor for all workers, and expanding carceral governance,” Walia clarifies. Rather than address the root causes of ecological collapse and migration, they solicit moral panic and push new fossil fuel extraction.
Have no illusions as to who they truly work for. In Montana alone over the past 20 years, oil and gas campaign contributions have totaled nearly $450,000.
A group of sixteen young Montanans filed suit against the State in March of 2020, challenging this modern-day corruption of Montana’s government. They base their claims on the Montana Constitution’s right to a clean and healthful environment, including the right to a stable climate system; the right to seek safety, health, and happiness; the right of individual dignity and equal protection; and the responsibility to protect Montana’s clean and healthful environment and public trust resources for present and future generations—all of which are imperiled by fossil fuel extraction.
Globally over the last 50 years, the oil and gas industry has tallied $2.8 billion a day in pure profits. And as gas prices rise, these companies are posting record profits. Profits, by the way, which are publicly subsidized. In 2021, public subsidies of the industry globally doubled to $700 billion a year. And a recent analysis determined that 50 percent of new oil production would be unprofitable without these public subsidies. Moreover, increasing oil production in the U.S. would not actually lower prices because oil prices hinge on the actions of an international oil cartel, which includes Russia and OPEC. Maximum U.S. output is simply not enough to significantly change the global supply. So, until we get off oil, we will always depend on the whims of dictators and demagogues.
Energy independence is actually energy democracy. It is local production and control of renewable energies. “Montana’s big skies contain the nation’s 7th best wind energy potential,” geologist Karin Kirk writes. “Our copper electrified the nation [and the world], and our coal helped keep the lights on. Montana’s wind can carry us into the next chapter as one of America’s energy leaders.”
Ultimately, a safe, livable environment depends on the urgency with which we shift resources and discourses toward life and futures.
Whatever one may think or feel about the “economy,” we have to seriously wonder: what is Montana without its quiet beauty, grandeur, and vastness? What is it without the fresh mountain streams and cool spring lakes? Without the wandering trails, stars, and buffalo? What if the rivers didn’t run through it?I can’t imagine.
Apparently, neither could the ‘72 Delegates. Nor for that matter, could the original stewards of these lands. Without a stable, livable environment there is nothing. Oil cartels knowingly assault this network of life today, just as mining barons of the previous century did. We are living through the perils of this plunder.
Montana’s Constitution guides toward life—rivers, forests, and futures instead.
III. futures / regeneration
Long before I came to Montana, before settlers came digging for gold, silver, and copper, before poor, mostly Chinese, immigrants laid the railroad tracks from sea to shining sea, and for millennia before the genocidal “Doctrine of Discovery” ruled these lands, other people lived and thrived here. The Salish, Pend d’Oreille, Kootenai, Blackfeet, Gros Ventre, Assiniboine, Sioux, Arikara, Northern Cheyenne, Crow, Shoshone, Nez Perce, Little Shell, and Métis are still here.
Notably, not a single descendent of these peoples was elected to serve as a delegate at the ‘72 Constitutional Convention. However, two students from Poplar High School, Lynn Leuppe and Mavis Scott, did appear to offer brief, impactful testimony, concluding: “We would like, very simply, our history, our culture, and our identity.”
A few weeks later, by an 83-1 roll-call vote, the Delegates added a unique provision to Montana’s Constitution, which became known as Indian Education for All:
The state recognizes the distinct and unique cultural heritage of the American Indians and is committed in its educational goals to the preservation of their cultural integrity.
The unique educational goals it references are “to establish a system of education which will develop the full educational potential of each person.” Further, they guarantee “equality of educational opportunity…to each person of the state.”
As Denise and Carol Juneau explain, Indian Education for All means exactly what it says. It “is an educational undertaking seeking to integrate factual and legitimate information about American Indians into every content area—from history to science to music—for every student across Montana from kindergarten through graduate school.”
It took decades of organizing to be implemented into classroom curriculums, and its ultimate realization remains unfulfilled, as a recent lawsuit alleges. Amber Lamb from the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, a party to the suit, explains why full implementation of Indian Education for All is so important:
If we want a cohesive community, it is necessary to present details and truths about the lives of Indigenous people in order to work together to be a strong community. We want our schools to be safe places where all children feel accepted and open to learning together and about each other.
One student illustrates Lamb’s point with beautiful simplicity: “learning about Indians in Montana has made me curious about other kinds of people in the world.”
A quality education stimulates this kind of curiosity, cooperation, and solidarity. It empowers us to build a cohesive whole through genuine connection, rooting relationships in honesty and mutual respect—bridging aspirations of Democracy into authentic practice. It is not to make us love a flag, but to love and respect one another.
Historian Jill Lepore perfectly responds aptly to the latest wave of ahistorical book bans and curriculum censorship in schools across the country:
In the end, no matter what advocates of parents’ rights say, and however much political power they might gain, public schools don’t have a choice; they’ve got to teach, as American history, the history not only of the enslaved Africans who arrived in Virginia in 1619 and the English families who sailed to Plymouth on the Mayflower in 1620, but also that of the Algonquian peoples, who were already present in both places, alongside the ongoing stories of all other Indigenous peoples, and those who came afterward—the Dutch, German, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, Italian, Cambodian, Guatemalan, Japanese, Sikh, Hmong, Tunisian, Afghani, everyone. That’s why parents don’t have a right to choose the version of American history they like best, a story of only their own family’s origins. Instead, the state has an obligation to welcome children into that entire history, their entire inheritance.
In essence: our history is our inheritance and what we do with it is our legacy.
The late sixties marked an important turn toward more genuine practice of Democracy in the U.S. Following decades of direct activism resisting segregation, exclusion, and degradation, Congress passed the Civil and Voting Rights Acts. These laws for once secured the agency and dignity of people with darker skin tones.
Race, remember, was not real until the law made it real. The law “necessarily diminished” original land rights. Under the law, dark-skinned folks had “no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Before the Civil War and after, treaties were never honored— though they are the “supreme Law of the Land,” according to the U.S. Constitution. The law enslaves, segregates, dispossesses, and incarcerates.
The law is not neutral, nor has it ever been.
U.S. federal Indian law also pivoted in the seventies from Termination toward Self-Determination. For decades prior, between 1869 and the 1960s, the U.S. government forcibly separated children from their families and trafficked them into what were effectively death camps. “Many children never returned home and their fates have yet to be accounted for by the U.S. government,” The National Native American Boarding School Healing Coalition records.
They changed the children’s names and their clothes, cut their hair, and beat them for speaking other languages and practicing other cultures. As Rebecca Nagle explains in her podcast This Land: “if you took Native children and cut them off from their families, their culture, and their tribe, they wouldn’t be Native anymore. And if you did this to enough Native children, there wouldn’t be Native people anymore.”
“The mission at these schools was not education,” Nagle concludes, “it was genocide.”
The Bureau of Indian Affairs opened 26 boarding schools and churches opened hundreds more. There were seventeen such institutions in Montana. By 1926, nearly 83% of school age Native children were held in boarding schools. The Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978, put an end to this more modern phase of state-sponsored genocide. Mass unmarked grave sites are being uncovered at these schools throughout the U.S. and Canada, as Secretary of the Interior reports are only beginning to reveal. Anti-democratic reactionaries in Montana and across the country seek to somehow outlaw these truths we inherited. As their calls intensify, we must know: “Post-truth is pre-fascism” warned Timothy Snyder following the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. “When we give up on truth, we concede power to those with wealth and charisma to create spectacle in its place.”
In essence, without truth, there can be no Democracy. Indian Education for All is a constitutional mandate, holding truth central to education in Montana. And it is key to generating and regenerating just, thriving democratic relations.
In the years after Montana’s Constitution came into effect, the world began shifting again. A combination of international trade policies and domestic deregulation enabled companies to consolidate, ship jobs overseas, and store surplus wealth in tax havens. Working wages stagnated even as “productivity” and “the economy” grew.
We tend to take this notion of “economic growth” at face value, as though it is always good. But the pursuit of infinite growth on a finite planet is irrational. It’s even cannibalistic, as Winona LaDuke writes, because it engenders “an economic system that destroys the source of its wealth, Mother Earth.”
We need to start asking: growth of what? For what purpose? To what end?
And wherever we decide to go, we need to move away from this economy, which transforms “everything into commodities: water, earth, the human genome, ancestral cultures, biodiversity, justice, ethics, the rights of people’s and life itself,” as the People’s Agreement of Cochabamba declares. “It is imperative that we forge a new system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings.”
In Montana, we face developing and interwoven challenges. The present threat of climate change primary among them. There are also the interrelated challenges of ensuring housing affordability and quality healthcare; along with the tasks of de-consolidating food production, fending over-exploitation of resources, and cutting off the limitless flow of money poisoning public discourse.
Through Montana’s Constitution of 1972, we are empowered to meet these challenges with courage and humility, determining for ourselves the futures we will be.
At last, Democracy is a forward-thinking endeavor. It thrives in open public spaces: libraries and schools, parks and plazas, mountains and waters. It is sustained through local, investigative journalism, always seeking and speaking truth to power. It lives in honest, thoughtful debate, not television appearances, tweets, and scripted press conferences; in open town hall meetings, where “everyone and every question is welcome,” not closed-door meetings and carefully screened phone calls.
Democracy is freedom and responsibility. It is a good idea, dear friend, because at root its heartbeat is love.Love of one another and our unique, creative beauty. Love of the majestic, natural beauty that surrounds and sustains us. And love of those future generations yet to come. This love animated the drafting of Montana’s Constitution in 1972. And that’s what makes it so damn beautiful.
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Election Day is Tuesday, November 8!
Thank you to my friend Madeleine Brink, and an anonymous rascal, for their invaluable help with this piece. Happy Birthday to my sister, Giuliana!
See, e.g., Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, As We Have Always Done: “the future is here in the form of the practices of the present, in which the past is also influencing.”; Nick Estes, Our History is the Future: “There is no separation between past and present, meaning that an alternative future is also determined by our understanding of the past.” These ideas also call to mind the Orwellian axiom from 1984: “who controls the present controls the past, who controls the past controls the future.”
Article II, Section 8. RIGHT OF PARTICIPATION. The public has the right to expect governmental agencies to afford such reasonable opportunity for citizen participation in the operation of the agencies prior to the final decision as may be provided by law.
Article II, Section 9: RIGHT TO KNOW. No person shall be deprived of the right to examine documents or observe the deliberations of all public bodies or agencies in state government and its subdivisions, except in cases in which the demand of individual privacy clearly exceeds the merits of public disclosure.
Article II, Section 10. RIGHT OF PRIVACY. The right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest.
Keep in mind, women forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term are more likely to live and remain in poverty. Perhaps this whole “debate” has more to do with that.
Constitutional Amendment 48 seeks to make this digital privacy protection explicit. Though it will not change current practice and precedent, which already requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant for digital information, it will written in the Constitution for future generations. That is a good thing.
See Montana Historical Society, Montana: Stories of the Land, Chapter 10–Politics and the Copper Kings, 1889-1904. Explore the full textbook Montana: Stories of the Land here.
See Michael Parenti, Against Empire: “The essence of capitalism is to turn nature into commodities and commodities into capital. The live green earth is transformed into dead gold bricks, with luxury items for the few and toxic slag heaps for the many. The glittering mansion overlooks a vast sprawl of shanty towns, wherein a desperate, demoralized humanity is kept in line with drugs, television, and armed force.”
Read the transcripts of the Constitutional Convention here. For a summary of the Delegate’s debates on the Montana Constitution’s environmental provisions, see Hallee C. Kansman, Constitutional Teeth: Sharpening Montana’s Clean and Healthful Environment Provision, Montana Law Review (2020).
Article IX, Section 3 of Montana’s Constitution reserves “all surface, underground, flood, and atmospheric waters” for “the use of its people,” while permitting “beneficial uses as provided by law.”
In State v. Curran (1985), the Montana Supreme Court resolved: “the public has a right to use the state-owned waters to the point of the high water mark except to the extent of barriers in the waters, in case of barriers, the public is allowed to portage around such barriers in the least intrusive way possible, avoiding damage to the private property holder’s rights.”
Ralph Ellison described love and democracy as synonyms, writing: “The way home we seek is that condition of being at home in the world, which is called love, and we term democracy.” See Eddie S. Glaude Jr., Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and its Urgent Lessons for Our Own. See also bell hooks, All About Love (2000), and Paolo Freire, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1968).