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Native American Studies professor one of two MSU professors to receive award

BOZEMAN — Two Montana State University professors have been tapped to receive 2013 Governor’s Humanities Awards honoring achievement in humanities scholarship, service and enhancement of public appreciation of the humanities.

Walter Fleming, professor and chairman of the Department of Native American Studies, and Mary Murphy, MSU history professor, will receive the awards at ceremonies to be held Feb. 21 in Helena. Upon the nomination of Humanities Montana, the awards are given every other year. Fleming and Murphy are among the seven awardees who are the first recipients awarded by Gov. Steve Bullock.

Murphy said she was thrilled to learn of the award, which honors both her scholastic work as well as her work supporting the humanities in the state.

Fleming said he was “humbled by the award.”

“I think it is a testament about how far we have come today that we’re recognizing Native culture and Native history as part of the important disciplines in the humanities,” he said.

Murphy first came to Montana in 1980 to research the history of Butte for her doctoral thesis from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She’s taught at MSU since 1990. In that time, she’s won several awards for her teaching and scholarship, including the Wiley Award for meritorious research, and the Betty Coffey Award for contributions on behalf of women at MSU. She was the Michael P. Malone Professor of History from 2005-2010.

Murphy is known for her engaging history books focusing on gender in Montana. She has published 10 books and book chapters, including “Hope in Hard Times: New Deal Photographs of Montana, 1936-1942,” which won the Montana Book Award in 2003. Her “Mining Cultures: Men, Women, and Leisure in Butte, 1914-41,” received the 1998 Barbara Sudler Award from the Colorado Historical Society and was a Choice Outstanding Academic Book in 1997.

She has served on the Humanities Montana and Montana Historical Society Boards. Humanities Montana named Murphy a Humanities Hero in 2012.

Murphy is currently researching the historic role of food in the American West, as a way of tracing the history of women in the region. She is also collaborating on a Montana cookbook that will combine essays about food and cooking in Montana with recipes drawn from historical cookbooks.

A native of Massachusetts, she said she has “completely fallen in love with Montana, its people and its history.”

“I still would rather give a talk in Ekalaka than go to a committee meeting,” she said with a grin.

An enrolled member of the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas, Fleming’s parents both worked in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and he was born in Crow Agency, grew up in Lame Deer and graduated from Colstrip High School and MSU-Billings. He has taught American Indian history and culture and American Indian literature since he came to MSU to study guidance counseling in 1979, later earning a doctorate in American studies from the University of Kansas.

A man known for his good humor and ability to tell a story, Fleming is the author of the bestselling “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Native American History” and co-editor of “Visions of an Enduring People.” He is currently co-writing with Stan Juneau the “History and Foundations of American Indian Education Policy in Montana,” to be published by the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

Fleming has worked as an adviser and consultant on Native perspectives in Montana history, and is working on training Montana teachers in the fields of science, mathematics and engineering in Native-based scientific inquiry.

Fleming is also traditional Native dancer and a member of the Gourd Dance Society, a traditional ôwarriorö society of the Southern Plains. He has served as a consultant to several films including Charles Dye’s documentary, “Indian Relay,” which will air on MontanaPBS. Fleming served two terms on the Humanities Montana board, from 1989 to 1992, serving as chair in 1992. He also completed Henrietta Mann’s term on the board in 2005-2006 when Mann, MSU professor emeritus of Native American Studies, left to take a position in Oklahoma.

Other recipients of the 2013 Governor’s Humanities Awards are John and Anna Brumley of Havre, Larry Lahren of Livingston, Lawrence Small of Billings and Robert Swartout of Helena.

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