Ada Deer, BSW ’57 was a remarkable force. We were lucky to count her as an alumna, social worker, and distinguished lectuerer.
She was the first Menominee to earn an undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin. She was the first Native American to receive an MSW from the Columbia University School of Social Work. Her work on behalf of the Menominee led to the Menominee Restoration Act of 1972, which officially returned the Menominee Reservation to federally recognized status. Because of this accomplishment, Deer became the first woman to chair the Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin. In 1992, she became the first Native American woman in Wisconsin to run for U.S. Congress. In 1993, Deer was appointed assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She was the first Native American woman to hold that position. While in office, she helped set federal policy for more than 550 federally recognized tribes.
“Ada was one-of-a-kind. We will remember her as a trailblazer, a changemaker, and a champion for Indigenous communities. But above all, (Wisconsin first lady) Kathy (Evers) and I will always remember Ada for her kindness and compassion.”
-- Governor Tony Evers
National Coverage of Ada Deer
Ada Deer Was an Epic Figure in US History (The Nation)
Ada Deer, First Woman to Lead Bureau of Indian Affairs, Dies at 88 (Arizona Public Radio)
Wisconsin Coverage of Ada Deer
Forging Firsts: The Remarkable Life of Ada Deer (Wisconsin Alumni Association)
Ada Deer, Prominent Native American Leader in Wisconsin, Dies at 88 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinal)
Native American Leader and Trailblazer Ada Deer Dies at 88 (Wisconsin State Journal)
Ada Deer Remade History as she Restored Tribal Sovereignty (Cap Times, Opinions)
“Force of Nature” Ada Deer Dies at 88 (Wisconsin Examiner)
Ada Deer, Beloved Indigenous Leader, Dies at 88 (Madison365)
Native Rights Trailblazer, Former Menominee Chair Ada Deer Dies at 88 (Wisconsin Public Radio)
Friends Remember Trailblazing Ada Deer (Channel 3000)