Presenter bio organized by panel.

Montana Women Vote in 2021: The Legislative Session and Beyond

SJ Howell (Montana Women Vote, Executive Director)

Over the last few years, Howell has worked on a successful campaign to pass Medicaid expansion, managed three cycles of civic engagement with low-income women, and served on ballot initiative campaign committees on several diverse issues. Before coming to MWV, Howell worked as a field organizer at the Western States Center, a regional social justice non-profit, in Portland. While not working, Howell brings their community organizer skills to outdoor recreation, enjoying a stiff drink, and parenthood.  

Ella Smith (Montana Women Vote, Program Director)

Ella Smith was born in Helena, MT. As a Grandstreet Theatre kid, she developed a taste for the stage at a young age. Ella studied jazz performance and composition at the University of North Texas, where she began to get involved in activism and politics. Passionate about getting good folks elected and promoting progressive values in her home state, Ella moved back to Helena to work as an organizer with the Democratic Party and then with Northern Plains Resource Council. Since then, she has worked on numerous political campaigns before joining Montana Women Vote as their Program Director in 2018. In her free time, Ella plays piano and sings as often as she can.  

Heather O’Loughlin (Montana Budget and Policy Center, Co-Director)

Heather O’Loughlin leads MBPC’s research and policy analysis, helping to produce credible research on the impact of tax and budget policies on the lives of Montana families. Prior to coming on board with MBPC, Heather served as the legislative director and counsel for Senator Max Baucus, managing the Senator’s legislative team. Previously, she served as legislative assistant to Senator Baucus, handling a broad policy portfolio including education, judiciary, banking and economic issues. She received her juris doctorate from the University of Montana School of Law, and bachelor’s degree in business-finance and economics from the University of Montana.

Laura Terrill (Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, Vice President of External Affairs)

Laura Terrill leads the Government Relations and electoral work and provides strategic direction for the Education Department. Prior to coming to Montana, Laura served as Chief of Staff to Oregon’s Secretary of State and helped implement the nation’s first automatic voter registration program and lead Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon where she helped draft the nation’s most expansive protections for reproductive health including coverage for all genders and regardless of citizenship status. Laura enjoys spending time with her family, dancing and kayaking in Montana’s spectacular mountain lakes.


Black and Indigenous Issues in Montana

Ivan MacDonald, Moderator (Montana Racial Equity Project)

Ivan MacDonald is an enrolled member of the Blackfeet tribe. He received his MSW from the University of Montana and since then has dedicated his career to racial and gender-based justice. His main focus has been indigenous rights, gender-based violence, and criminal justice reform. Currently he works as the community engagement lead for The Montana Racial Equity Project. With his sister Ivy he is the most recent receipt of the ACLU of Montana’s Jeanette Rankin Peace Award for 2020 for their work on raising awareness for the MMIWG2s crisis. In conjunction with his justice work he is a filmmaker and most recently produced Blackfeet boxing: Not Invisible with ESPN as well as being named a Firelight Media fellow. For the last two years he has been working on his first feature length documentary with his sister Ivy, which has received support from ITVS and the Montana film office.

Judith Heilman (Montana Racial Equity Project, Executive Director)

A native of San Francisco, Judith Heilman is the Founder and Executive Director of The Montana Racial Equity Project (MTREP,) a 501(c)3 nonprofit. MTREP is the only black-led non- profit in Montana; it’s mission is equity and justice for historically marginalized, disenfranchised, and oppressed people in Montana with an inclusive lens, and it is fully BIPOC staffed. Judith has a background in law enforcement, affordable housing, state and national political and issues campaigns (Obama 2012 State Director, Everytown for Gun Safety National Law Enforcement Outreach) and volunteer work in houselessness and citizen foreign diplomacy. Judith’s passions are racial justice and equity, access to the vote, and keeping bullets out of people.

Daliyah Killsback

Daliyah Killsback (she/her/hers/they/them/theirs) is a citizen of the Northern Cheyenne nation and a descendant of the Assonet Band of the Wampanoag Nation. She is the current Deputy Political Director for Western Native Voice, an Montana-based organization that advocates for the democratic rights of American Indians and tribal sovereignty on state and federal policy levels. Daliyah’s policy work has included K-12 education, tribal fishing and water rights, voting rights, criminal justice, reproductive justice, MMIW, LGBTQIA2S+ rights, healthcare, and tribal taxation authority. Daliyah received a bachelors in anthropology from Reed College with a focus in American Indian Studies and legal anthropology. She has worked for the Montana Budget & Policy Center as the State-Tribal Policy Outreach Coordinator and as a Legislative Assistant to Washington State Senator John McCoy (Tulalip Tribes). Daliyah currently serves on the boards of the Missoula Food Bank & Community Center, Indian People’s Action, and the Society of War Dancers.

Preston Parish (Montana Budget and Policy Center, State-Tribal Policy Analyst)

As the State-Tribal Policy Analyst, Preston (he/him/his) focuses on the impacts on Indian country of state policies and budget decisions. His work aims to build power in tribal communities, increase state investments in Indian Country, and uphold tribal sovereignty. Prior to joining MBPC, Preston worked in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors on a variety of issues, including environmental justice, college access, and LGBTQ+ rights. Originally from Michigan, Preston is a citizen of the Bay Mills Indian Community and grew up on his tribal nation’s reservation. He holds a master’s degree in public policy and a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies, both from the University of Michigan.


Navigating the Legislature in 2021

SJ Howell (Montana Women Vote, Executive Director)

Over the last few years, Howell has worked on a successful campaign to pass Medicaid expansion, managed three cycles of civic engagement with low-income women, and served on a ballot initiative campaign committees on several diverse issues. Before coming to MWV, Howell worked as a field organizer at the Western States Center, a regional social justice non-profit, in Portland. While not working, Howell brings their community organizer skills to outdoor recreation, enjoying a stiff drink, and parenthood.  

Ella Smith (Montana Women Vote, Program Director)

Ella Smith was born in Helena, MT. As a Grandstreet Theatre kid, she developed a taste for the stage at a young age. Ella studied jazz performance and composition at the University of North Texas, where she began to get involved in activism and politics. Passionate about getting good folks elected and promoting progressive values in her home state, Ella moved back to Helena to work as an organizer with the Democratic Party and then with Northern Plains Resource Council. Since then, she has worked on numerous political campaigns before joining Montana Women Vote as their Program Director in 2018. In her free time, Ella plays piano and sings as often as she can.  


Healthcare Policy in Montana: Affordable, Accessible, Quality Care for All

Olivia Riutta (Montana Primary Care Association, Outreach and Engagement Manager)

Olivia Riutta is the Outreach and Engagement Manager at the Montana Primary Care Association (MPCA). She leads MPCA’s work to identify and impact the social needs of patients served at health centers. Olivia joined MPCA in 2013 and worked extensively on outreach, enrollment, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Prior to joining MPCA, Olivia was the co-director of Montana Women Vote. She helped plan and implement Montana Women Vote’s voter registration, GOTV, issue education, and ballot initiative efforts. Her work included policy advocacy on issues that impact low-income women and families in Montana including access to health care, reproductive rights, violence against women, and tax and budget issues. Olivia has a B.A. in Grassroots Development from the University of Michigan. She lives in Missoula, Montana with her partner and son.

Tressie White (Montana Healthcare Foundation, Program Director)

Tressie White directs all of the American Indian health programming for the Montana Healthcare Foundation with calm leadership and tireless dedication to improving health and reducing disparities for American Indian people in Montana. Tressie and her team provide funding, programming support, strategic guidance, and technical assistance for grantees participating in the American Indian Health focus area and initiatives and the Meadowlark Initiative. Before joining the MT Healthcare Foundation in 2017, Tressie served as executive director of the Helena Indian Alliance, and the director of the Wakina Sky Multicultural After School Program. Tressie is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and a descendant of the Rocky Boy Chippewa Cree Tribe. She currently lives in Helena and enjoys spending time with her three children.


Rethinking Justice: Criminal Legal Reform in Montana

SJ Howell, Moderator (Montana Women Vote, Executive Director)

Over the last few years, Howell has worked on a successful campaign to pass Medicaid expansion, managed three cycles of civic engagement with low-income women, and served on a ballot initiative campaign committees on several diverse issues. Before coming to MWV, Howell worked as a field organizer at the Western States Center, a regional social justice non-profit, in Portland. While not working, Howell brings their community organizer skills to outdoor recreation, enjoying a stiff drink, and parenthood.  

Zuri Moreno (Community Organizer)

Zuri Moreno (they/them) is a community organizer and policy specialist, who focuses on racial justice and the criminal justice system. Zuri is a student of abolition and restorative justice and believes these are essential for building systems of public safety that promote community wellbeing and health. In 2020, they organized alongside BIPOC and LGBTQ community members in Missoula to defund the police and were one of three organizers of #LetThemComeHome, an initiative demanding the decrease of jail and prison populations due to Covid-19 pandemic. Zuri is currently working as a lobbyist and legislative associate, focusing on criminal justice funding & policy and access to reproductive care. Their de-stress strategies include rye Manhattans, outdoor adventures, and cuddling their two cats, Dogwood & Milo.

Kelsen Young (Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Executive Director)

Kelsen Young is the Executive Director of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence located in Helena. In addition to serving as the Director, she has been MCADSV’s primary lobbyist for the past 9 legislative sessions. Kelsen is currently the crime victim representative on the Governor-appointed Criminal Justice Oversight Council and directs MCADSV’s work on criminal justice reform including their partnership with the many organizations who comprise the Montana Coalition for Public Safety. Kelsen wants you to know that she has loved ones who are, or who have been, incarcerated and has a deep commitment to reforming our systems so that communities and individuals can thrive. To learn more about MCADSV, visit their website at www.mcadsv.com.

Laurel Hesse (Community Organizer)

Laurel Hesse joined the ACLU of Montana in December of 2020 as a Legislative Program Managers for the 2021 legislative session. Prior to joining the ACLU, Laurel worked on pretrial reform efforts for Missoula County’s Criminal Justice Services Division, as an organizer and policy assistant for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, and as a shelter advocate for the YWCA of Missoula.


Cultural Strategy: A conversation on Art, Storytelling, and Social Change

Danielle Vazquez, Moderator (Montana Women Vote, Community Organizer)

Danielle is Mexican American, as well as an enrolled member of the Chippewa-Cree Tribe. Danielle grew up primarily on the Rocky Boy Indian Reservation in north-central Montana. Prior to joining Montana Women Vote, Danielle worked at the ACLU of Montana, in both the legal and development departments. Danielle graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in social work. During her last year at UM, Danielle served as a research assistant, working primarily on projects regarding the disproportionate rates of American Indians being incarcerated in Montana. In her free time, Danielle enjoys traveling, watching Wes Anderson films, and laughing at memes.  

Ivy MacDonald 

Ivy graduated from the University of Montana in 2017 with a BFA in Digital Filmmaking. She has produced and directed work for EPSN and the ACLU. She was recently named a Firelight Fellow (2020-2022) for the Firelight Media Documentary Lab, she is also an alumni for Tracy Rectors Fourth World Media Lab fellowship. Currently she working on her first feature length documentary tilted When They Were Here, a documentary about the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls crisis set within the state of Montana. She is also helping to produce a documentary tv series for Showtime, set on the Crow reservation in Montana.

Monica Gilles BringsYellow

Monica Gilles-BringsYellow is a self-taught Indigenous Artist based out of Missoula, Montana. She started painting, and inadvertently her art career, in the summer of 2019. Currently, Monica’s work primarily focuses on Native American people. She paints from historical images in hopes of offering a platform to discuss the resilience, importance, and impact Native people’s lives have had on present day society. She hopes her work creates a dialogue regarding Indigenous people that brings to light a history that is often unknown, concealed, or disregarded by broader American society. Currently, Monica’s preferred medium is what she refers to as 3-D collage. She incorporates acrylic paint, resin, markers, historical photos, and gold leaf to achieve the desired layered effect. Examples of her artwork can be seen publicly in Missoula at the TSB on the corner of Broadway and Madison. She also currently has an exhibition at KALICO Art Center called “Origin Stories” which will be open until the end of April. When she is not painting, she works as a therapist in group homes for children. Pre-pandemic she also played roller derby (poorly ��). She currently lives in Missoula with her husband.

Ann-Derrick Gaillot

Bio coming soon.

Shadow Devereux

Shadow Devereaux (he/him), also known by his stage name Foreshadow, is a Salish & Blackfeet hip-hop artist from the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana. His sound is described as a blend of modern trap rap and boom bap that includes descriptive lyrics which illustrate his own life experiences. Although he has his own style, the timbre, texture, and tonality of his compositions can be described as having influences from the likes of his idols Mac Miller and J. Cole. As a child growing up on the reservation, Shadow found his passion for music at the age of seven when his father gifted him a cassette tape recording of Tupac’s greatest hits. As he listened to this cassette religiously, he became more enamored with hip-hop. Later, at the age of fifteen, Shadow recorded his first ever rap song. Since then, he has remained motivated to make a living through an art form that he truly loves. Among Shadow’s myriad of accomplishments, his major feats consist of sharing a stage with well-known musicians such as Waka Flocka Flame, Machine Gun Kelly, Yelawolf, Deltron 3030, Tech N9ne, and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony. Although his list of musical accomplishments is quite impressive, his most meaningful achievements include keynote speaking to a graduating class of high school seniors, organizing a show for the youth on his reservation, and collaborating on a youth music project titled “Healing Through Music.” Shadow’s passion for music, his family, his supporters, and representation for Native American youth continue to be the driving forces behind his unwavering devotion to creating music.


Skill Lab: How to Run for Office

Barbara Bessette

Barbara Bessette (pronouns: she/her) was born in the wide open spaces of Montana. She works in her community to reduce substance abuse among youth and young adults. Barbara is an avid barrel racer and runner. She has served as the chair of her county’s DUI Task Force, currently serves on a number of coalitions that help to fight substance abuse and bring the community together. She is the former Representative for Montana House District 24. She is one of the first native urban women elected to the house.

Hannah Olson

Bio coming soon.


Skill Lab: Telling Your Story

Devi Cole (Montana Women Vote, Community Organizer)

Devi Cole is Little Shell, and Assiniboine from Fort Belknap, where she started life before moving with her parents to Missoula. Devi grew up in Missoula where she graduated from hellgate High school in 1998. A few years after that Devi decided to start her family, and now has a 19 year old son & 13 year old daughter. Three years ago Devi began volunteering with Planned Parenthood and advocating, she talked to both state legislators & federal elected officials on affordable healthcare. That then led to her becoming a National Storyteller For Planned Parenthood. Devi enjoys being an organizer and being involved in the community, she is also a part of the Native Youth suicide prevention program. Devi often says “If her life experience can help improve others lives, why not share your story”.

Iko’tsimiskimaki “Ekoo” Beck (Montana Women Vote, Community Organizer)

Iko’tsimiskimaki “Ekoo” Beck (pronouns: she/her) grew up in Missoula and is enrolled in the Blackfeet Nation, so she’s been around for a while. Prior to working for Montana Women Vote Ekoo worked as an organizer for Western Native Voice/ Montana Native Vote, as a conservation technician, and as a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) through various organizations. Ekoo grew up in Missoula and graduated from Harvard University with an honors degree in Social Studies. She wrote her senior thesis “The Black Robes must be to them in the place of their wise woman” on the forcible reformation of gender and Blackfeet cosmology at the Holy Family Mission Boarding School on the Blackfeet Reservation. In her free time Ekoo likes to hike, bead, hang out with her dog, and watch Netflix.