Diane Sands of Missoula and Tony Incashola of St. Ignatius were honored Friday in Helena at the Montana History Conference for their work in preserving and interpreting the state’s history.

Sands, a state senator from Missoula, became just the third recipient of the Heritage Guardian Award.

Incashola was one of three people to receive the annual Heritage Keeper Award. He’s director of the Salish-Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee, which shared the historical society’s Trustee Award in 2000.

Also honored by the Montana Historical Society with Heritage Keeper Awards were Jim McCarthy of Butte and Penny Redli of Columbus. Director Bruce Whittenberg said the Historical Society board decided to do away with the former eastern and western Montanan distinctions for heritage keepers; thus, there were three this year for the first time.

Sands, who was born in St. Ignatius and grew up in Frazer on the Fort Peck reservation, has been shining a light on the history of Montana women for more than 40 years, according to the release, combining "her passion for history, community building, feminism, and Montana’s land and people.”

Sands founded the Montana Women’s History Project in 1976, spearheaded the Women as Community Builders oral history project in 1987, and directed the Montana Feminist history project from 2000 to 2004. In the Legislature she introduced the first legislation to remove the word “squaw” from Montana maps and led efforts to create a mural for the State Capitol recognizing the roles of Montana women as community builders.

The former development director at the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula, Sands played an important role in preserving and interpreting the history of Japanese-Americans held at the fort during World War II.

The Heritage Guardian Award has been presented just twice before, to Gen. John J. Womack of Dillon in 2011 and to Evan Barrett of Butte in 2016.

Under Incashola’s leadership, the Salish Pend d’Oreille Culture Committee has compiled an impressive record of preserving traditional language, knowledge, and cultural practices. The committee has shared that information through museum exhibits, interpretive signage, books, articles, websites and apps.

Incashola’s “steady leadership, dedication to the cause of cultural survival and revival ... has helped establish the SPCC as one of the foremost tribal cultural institutions in the nation,” and “helped spur our young people to learn their own identity and has helped the wider public gain greater respect for the CSKT,” said Vernon Finley, tribal chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. 

McCarthy co-leads a popular Butte history adult education class and has taken leadership in Butte celebrations, the Butte Sports Hall of Fame and the World Museum of Mining. He has particularly left his mark on the Butte-Silver Bow Public Archives and the Butte High School history club.

Redli has been executive director of the Museum of the Beartooths in Columbus since 2008, after nearly 10 years in the same role for the Carbon County Historical Society and Museum in Red Lodge. On a statewide level she has been involved in the Museums Association of Montana, Humanities Montana, and the Cultural and Aesthetics Projects advisory committee, which makes funding recommendations to the Montana Legislature.

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Mineral County, Veterans Issues Reporter

Outlying communities, transportation, history and general assignment reporter at the Missoulian