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Mandy Smoker Broaddus

A tribal member and former Montana poet laureate who helped implement the Indian Education for All Act across the state will receive an honorary doctorate this spring from the University of Montana.

Mandy Smoker Broaddus, Frazer, will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from UM during the graduation ceremony Saturday, May 13, 2023, in Missoula.

Smoker Broaddus will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, and Shaffner will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts.

Smoker Broaddus attended Pepperdine University for her undergraduate work, earned a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from UM in 2002, and pursued additional graduate studies at UCLA and the University of Colorado. She was awarded the Richard Hugo Memorial Scholarship at UM and also received the Arianna and Yellow Thunder Scholarship at UCLA.

In 2005 she published an acclaimed book of poetry titled “Another Attempt at Rescue,” which explores culture, language, identity, relationships and the natural world.

“Thunderous” by Mandy Smoker Broaddus

Other publications followed, including 2022’s “Thunderous,” a children’s graphic novel she co-wrote with Natalie Peeterse whose central characters are all American Indian. The novel works to authentically represent Lakota values and traditions.

Early in her career, Smoker Broaddus taught at Fort Peck Community College and was dean of students at Frazer Public Schools.

In 2005, the Montana Legislature funded the Indian Education for All Act, she joined the state Office of Public Instruction as the first Indian student achievement specialist in the Indian Education Program.

She was promoted to director of Indian Education in 2009 and served in that role until 2018, becoming instrumental in helping classrooms across Montana learn more about Native history, contributions and issues.

At OPI, Smoker Broaddus also advanced the Schools of Promise initiative, which worked to close achievement gaps for Montana’s lowest-performing schools. In 2015 she was named Educator of the Year by the National Indian Education Association.

In 2019 Gov. Steve Bullock named Smoker Broaddus and Melissa Kwasny co-poet laureates for the state of Montana. They served in that role until 2021.

Now living in Helena, Smoker Broaddus is managing consultant for Native and culturally responsive education for Education Northwest, which works to address pressing education and youth-services needs across the region and nation. She also serves as a member of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education for the Department of Education and the Department of the Interior.

UM alumna Denise Juneau, who was Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2009 to 2017, wrote this of Smoker Broaddus: “She is a phenomenal role model who manages to be as comfortable as a data geek as she is a poet laureate. She is a teacher, mother, advocate and leader who has had significant influence in Montana and the nation. She ensures that tribal voices are included at every table she sits at and brings forward a view of building inclusive systems.”

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