2019 – ADVOCACY
(1935-) Ada Deer is one of the most prominent Native political activists of our time. She was an outspoken opponent of tribal termination in the 1970s and continues through the present day in her work as a scholar and an advocate for Native rights. Ada has had a long and extremely accomplished career. In 1974, she was the first woman to serve as Chair of the Menominee Restoration Committee. From 1993-1997, she was the first Native woman to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, Department of the Interior.
Ada has had a distinguished political career. She ran for Wisconsin Secretary of State in both 1978 and 1982 and served as vice-chair of the 1984 Mondale-Ferraro presidential campaign. In 1992, she ran for a U.S. Congressional seat in Wisconsin’s Second District, winning the Democratic primary without “soft money” funding from political action committees. She has taught in the School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison since 1977 and currently holds the title of Distinguished Lecturer, and has been the director of the American Indian Studies Department at UW–Madison since 1999. She co-founded Milwaukee’s Indian Community School. She also created the first program at the University to provide social work training on Native American reservations. She is a fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.