MAY 11, 1993


Born in Keshena, Wisconsin, August 7, 1935, Deer was the first Menominee to earn an undergraduate degree at University of Wisconsin (UW).  In 1961, she earned a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University.  Her activism led to the Menominee Restoration Act of 1972, which returned the tribe to federally recognized status.  Politically active, she ran for Wisconsin Secretary of State in both 1978 and 1982, and in 1992 for Congress.  Confirmed by the Senate in July 1993, Ada served from 1994-98 as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior–the 1st Native American woman to hold that position.  In early 1997, she also served as Chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission.  After Federal service, Deer chaired both the National Support Committee of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and NARF’s boards of directors, and taught at the UW-Madison School of Social Work.  Since 2000, Ada has been UW-Madison’s director of the American Indian Studies Program. 

Source:  “Ada Deer,” Wisconsin women Making History.  Retrieved 8/1/2019,
Photo:  U.S. Department of the Interior, between 1993-1997.  Public Domain.  Photograph taken by an officer or employee of the United States Government as part of that person’s official duties under the terms of Title 17, Chapter 1, Section 105 of the US Code.  

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