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American Legion Post 99 holds second annual speech contest


Big Sky’s American Legion Post 99 is holding its second annual oratory competition at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center on Wednesday, Jan. 25 at 5 p.m.

The Constitutional Speech Contest, part of the national American Legion High School Oratorical Scholarship Program, will feature Lone Peak High School students giving 8-10 minute speeches that will focus on the U.S. Constitution and emphasize duties that citizens have to their government.

The Big Sky contest winner will advance to the district competition, which this year will be held in Big Sky on Feb. 25. The winner of the district contest will qualify to compete at the state-level in Helena on March 11, and the national competition follows in Indianapolis in April.

While this is only the second Constitutional Speech Contest held in Big Sky, the American Legion has sponsored national contests since 1938, and participants compete for cash scholarship prizes. First-, second- and third-place contestants will receive scholarship prize money for the top speeches.

“I think [speaking in public] enhances their confidence tremendously,” said Dick Allgood, adjutant for the local Post 99. “It’s eye-opening to see these youngsters compete.”

LPHS social studies teacher Tony Coppola helps spearhead the contest as part of his government and political science course, which includes the Constitution in its curriculum. Last year, four students competed in the inaugural Big Sky event, and now-senior Louisa Locker took home the first place prize then won third place at the district contest in Bozeman.

“Last year it was on a volunteer basis, but this year it’s part of a class assignment, and I’ll take the top five in the class,” Coppola said. “It’s not an easy task to get up and speak for 10 minutes in front of your classmates or anyone for that matter. I’m very proud of their progress and I’m looking forward to the competition.”

The public is encouraged to attend the contest, and admission is free of charge. Visit for more information.

Tester, Daines introduce Little Shell Recognition bill during first week of 115th Congress


Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines kicked off the 115th Congress by introducing bipartisan legislation to grant federal recognition to the Little Shell Tribe of the Chippewa Cree, a tribe of more than 4,500 members headquartered in Great Falls.

The Little Shell Tribe has sought federal recognition for nearly four decades, and has been recognized by the state of Montana since 2000. Tester has worked on federal recognition for the Little Shell Tribe since his first congressional term in 2007.

“The federal government can’t fulfill its trust responsibility to Montana’s Little Shell Tribe until it recognizes their sovereignty,” Tester said in a press release. “These folks have been waiting long enough for what they deserve, and we won’t stop fighting until we get this bill across the finish line.”

Tester and Daines ushered the bill through the Senate Indian Affairs Committee during the last congressional session, but it did not receive a vote on the Senate floor.

“The Little Shell Tribe has waited far too long and jumped through too many bureaucratic hoops to [not] secure federal recognition,” Daines said. “It’s time to do what is right and give the Little Shell Tribe the recognition they greatly deserve.”

Native American tribes must be recognized as sovereign nations by the federal government to exercise full self-governance. Under this nation-to-nation relationship, tribes access critical economic development, health care and education resources, and regulate affairs on tribal lands on terms socially and culturally appropriate.

Tribes can be recognized by the federal government through congressional legislation, or an administrative process through the U.S. Interior Department.

Big Sky School District receives grant for solar panels, renewable energy education


The Big Sky School District was awarded a Green Sense Universal Systems Benefit grant by NorthWestern Energy to help fund the installation of a solar power-generating unit on the roof of Ophir Middle School.

Energy 1, a Bozeman-based company specializing in clean energy, will design and install the 7.125-kilowatt solar photovoltaic unit this spring.

The grant will also help fund renewable energy educational tools for K-12 students. Live viewing of the data from the solar unit will be displayed in the school lobby on an interactive kiosk for students and community members, and remote online viewing of the data will also be available.

The Big Sky School District selected the award-winning Solar 4R Schools program to complement the solar unit. It will be available online for all Big Sky students and offers a comprehensive K-12 renewable energy STEM education experience.

“The educational opportunities available through this technology as well as economic and climate benefits are immeasurable,” said Big Sky School District Superintendent Dustin Shipman. “We are hopeful that this phase one project is just the beginning, and that we can expand our clean energy production even more in the future and do our part to tread lightly.”

A community event to unveil the solar system is planned for early summer. Experts will be on hand to explain how the system works and how students and community members can access the online tools to learn more about renewable energy.

Montana tourism and recreation conference to feature Shark Tank competition


This March, the Montana Small Business Development Center Network will partner with the Governor’s Conference on Tourism and Recreation to increase its reach to one of the state’s leading industries. The center will consult with businesses, host classes, and hold its annual Shark Tank live pitch business plan competition.

Shark Tank creates a forum for local entrepreneurs to present a business plan and receive constructive feedback from a panel of industry professionals. First place in the competition will win $5,000, second place will receive $2,500, and third place will take home $1,000.

Applications for the Shark Tank competition will be accepted until Feb. 4. Entrepreneurs with Montana startups in the pre-venture idea phase with less than one year of activity can participate.

This year’s panel of judges will include high-profile experts from Montana’s banking and finance industries. Participants will first pitch their business idea to an initial screening panel on March 13, and the live pitch will be held during the closing luncheon on March 14.

Advisors from the Small Business Development Center will also teach classes open to all attendees on human resources, financials and marketing. Advisors will also consult clients via prescheduled appointments during the conference.

To register for the March 12-14 Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Helena, visit To register for Shark Tank, go to before Feb. 4. Contact Rebecca Ziegler at (406) 841-2747 for more information.

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