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USS Montana Committee receives Heritage Guardian Award

| September 15, 2023 7:00 AM

A special celebration honoring the USS Montana Committee for instilling the U.S. Navy’s newest submarine with a sense of place, history, and culture – reflecting Treasure State’s heritage and values – is set for 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Montana Capitol Rotunda.

At the celebration, the Montana Historical Society Board of Trustees will present the Committee with the Heritage Guardian Award, which recognizes significant contributions to the preservation and presentation of Montana.

The committee, with diverse stakeholders from across the state, played a critical role in imprinting the submarine’s shared spaces with iconic Montana imagery.

Common areas come alive with the spirit of the Big Sky through the artwork of Charlie Russell, a panorama of Glacier National Park in the crew mess room and an authentic ceremonial pipe made by Blackfeet artist Dwight Billedeaux.

The ship’s bell, installed on the boat at its commissioning, also is rich with Montana symbolism and connection with the Navy. The bronze bell incorporates gold and silver from the Philipsburg and Butte areas as well as gold and silver dolphin pins, worn by qualified sailors, melted into the bronze.

Before installation, committee members traveled to towns across Montana to hold bell-ringing ceremonies in honor of all veterans.

Indigenous outreach played an important role in building support for the ship and included USS Montana crew member visits to veteran recognition ceremonies on Indian reservations in Montana.

The commissioning ceremony and related events featured extensive Indigenous recognition, including flag and honor songs by Indigenous singers and drummers, a solemn blessing by a Tribal elder, Tribal flags and presentation of the beautiful ceremonial pipe now displayed in the submarine.

The Committee’s work continues, with a full-length documentary underway featuring the history of the USS Montana with a goal of preserving the ship’s significance in Montana’s history.

In addition, the Committee maintains an enduring bond through additional crew visits, veterans’ recognition ceremonies, and a planned college scholarship fund for crew members.

Members of the public are invited to attend the celebration.