Wisconsin’s Ada Deer Dies at 88

(UnitedHeadlines.com) – A Wisconsin Native American leader, Ada Deer, 88, died Aug. 15. Members of her family stated that she had been in hospice care since July, and she died of natural causes.

“We miss her, but what a life she led,” her nephew as well as one of her primary caretakers Joe Deer stated.

Her family remembers her as someone who was kind and generous, who had a calming presence.

Ada Deer was born in Keshena, Wisconsin on the Menominee reservation on Aug. 7, 1935. Her 88th birthday was just declared Ada Deer Day by Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, becoming the first member of the Menominee Tribe to do so. Deer went on to earn a master’s degree from Columbia University in social work, where she was also the first Native American to do so.

Deer organized grassroots political movements during the early 1970s that fought against policies that she believed caused the Native American to lose their rights.

In 1961, the Menominee Tribe was placed under the control of a corporation. However, in 1973, former President Richard Nixon restored the Menominee Tribe’s rights and repealed termination policies because of Deer’s efforts.

Deer was then elected to serve as head of the Menominee Restoration Committee. She worked at the University of Wisconsin as a lecturer in American Indian studies as well as social work.

Though unsuccessful, she ran twice for Wisconsin’s secretary of state. In 1992, she also ran unsuccessfully for Congress.

In 1993, she was appointed as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs by former President Bill Clinton. She was the first woman to hold the position. During her four years in the position, she helped strengthen federal protections as well as the rights for hundreds of tribes.

In 2019, Deer was inducted into the National Native American Hall of Fame.

On Twitter, Evers posted that Deer would be remembered as both “a trailblazer, a changemaker and a champion for Indigenous communities.”

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