Here at HerStory, we celebrate Indigenous Peoples‘ Day on the second Monday of October. It celebrates the indigenous people of the US – promoting Native American culture and history. Hopefully soon, it will be the dedicated federal adopted holiday for this day.
While brainstorming awesome ladies to highlight on this day, it seemed an obvious choice to talk about Ada Deer. The first woman to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Ada is a lifelong advocate for Native American peoples and history.
Her advocacy included fighting to ensure that her tribe, the Menominees, was not declassified as a tribe in the 1960s and 1970s. She helped organized a massive march in Wisconsin from the Menominee County to the capital in Madison and regularly spent time in DC, lobbying Congress to protest the declassification. Due to her efforts, the original federal law terminating their status was reversed. She also served as the Chairperson of the Restoration Committee after the tribe was re-instated.
While she led the Bureau of Indian Affairs under President Clinton, she met with dozens of tribes and tried to empower tribe businesses to succeed, whether or not if they were on reservations.
Ada recently retired as a social work and taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also co-founded an Indian community school and started a program to provide social work training on Native American reservations.
Just a few of her honored posts: She was honored by the National Women’s History Month as a featured honoree, was a fellow at the JFK School of Government, and helped on the United Nations Human Rights Commission, Native American Rights Fund, and National Indian Gaming Commissions.
To be fair, I’ve only given you broad strokes on her awesomeness. Everything I found shows that Ada has spent her entire life, every minute, helping her community and making positive change. Even retired, she’s involved in providing support for her tribe and community.