Crossing the divide

Charles Curtis was a man of many firsts. A member of the Kaw Nation, Curtis was the first known Native American elected to the Senate, representing Kansas for six consecutive terms. He was the first Native American chosen to serve as the Senate Majority Leader. And in 1929, Curtis was elected as the 31st vice president of the United States. This year, tribal members in Montana have the opportunity to establish a legacy of firsts. From constitutional reform to representation in state and federal Congress, Native Americans are shaping Montana’s state politics in ways often unseen, or at least underreported.

For the 25th issue of the University of Montana’s Native News Honors Project, we sent out eight teams of reporters to uncover the state of politics within Montana’s 12 Native American tribes spanning across seven reservations and for one landless tribe. Though Curtis left behind a legacy of firsts, he supported initiatives that weakened tribal sovereignty, revealing the complex nature of representation. His legacy is mixed at best. Our stories consider an often overlooked side of Montana’s politics, exploring progress and stagnation. In a multifaceted world of politics, we see tribal members, state officials and Montana citizens crossing the divide.

Check out exclusive street interviews with residents from Crow, Fort Peck, Flathead and Northern Cheyenne on the most important issues in the 2016 presidential elections.

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