This Montana Indian Law website was originally proposed to Judy Meadows, State Law Librarian, by Denise Juneau, who at the time was director of the Office of Public Instruction’s Indian Education Division. Identifying and acquiring Montana’s tribal legal documents had always been a challenge for the State Law Library, and being offered funding to do this and mount the information on a website provided the resources and momentum needed.
A steering committee was appointed, that included Meadows and Juneau, as well as representatives from the Governor’s office, the Indian Law Resource Center, the Montana School of Law, the Office of Public Instruction, the Montana Historical Society, and the Department of Administration’s Information Technology Services Division. The Committee agreed on the required elements for the Portal, the necessity of cataloging them and permanently preserving the legal heritage of the tribes, and the desired qualifications of the project manager.
A Request for Proposals was prepared, and promulgated in February, 2008. Daniel D. Belcourt was the successful applicant, and the position of project manager was his. During the length of the contract his biggest challenge was getting letters of understanding signed with each of the tribes, so that documents would continue to be added to the website as they were developed. The information that was already digital was harvested from trusted sites and captured for permanent public access and preservation. Other documents were digitized in situ, to demonstrate the project’s respect for the ownership of the information.
After the documents (such as tribal court opinions, constitutions, water rights compacts, gaming compacts, fish and game regulations, and codes) were delivered to the law library, a contract was signed with the Information Technology Services Division to design the portal for us. While this work was being undertaken, law library staff began cataloging the documents, using Dublin Core standards, and putting the information into OCLC’s CONTENTdm® for worldwide access at any library computer, as well as the Montana Memory Project. The latter will allow researchers to access legal information about a Montana Tribe at the same time as they are searching for water rights or maps digitized by the University of Montana. In several months we will send all the documents to OCLC’s Digital Archives for long term permanent preservation.
We strongly felt that in addition to being able to search for and find the information through library catalogs and the Montana Memory Project, a robust and interactive website would assist researchers in discovering our tribal legal heritage. The Montana Indian Law Portal was developed for Montana’s Indian Nations, for the citizens of the state, and for educators and students. Please help us to keep it current and accurate by reporting to Debra Lund (firstname.lastname@example.org) when you see problems or updates that are available.