MADISON — Social worker, human rights activist, and University of Wisconsin-Madison scholar Ada Deer will receive the State Superintendent’s Distinguished Public School Alumni Award on Oct. 8 at the Madison Concourse Hotel. The award will be presented during the reception for Wisconsin Title I Schools of Recognition prior to the noon awards ceremony at the State Capitol.
“Wisconsin’s public school graduates have made our state, our nation, and our world better through their contributions in the arts, science, athletics, and statesmanship,” said State Superintendent Tony Evers. “This is thanks to the public school teachers who have nurtured the hopes and dreams of millions of young people during our state’s history. Ada Deer has distinguished herself as an alumna of our public schools.”
Deer, born in Keshena, began her early education in Milwaukee Public Schools. After returning to the
Menominee Reservation, she attended Shawano High School, was its representative at Badger Girls State, and graduated in 1953. She is a graduate of UW-Madison and earned her master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of Social Work. Deer worked in Minneapolis at the Waite Neighborhood House, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis Public Schools, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
In 1971, Deer left the UW-Madison Law School to work on overturning the U.S. government’s termination policy, which had stripped the Menominee Nation of federal recognition, closed its membership rolls, ended education and health benefits, and established state control over the tribe. She organized DRUMS (Determination of Rights and Unity for Menominee Shareholders), a grassroots movement that worked to repeal termination and restore tribal sovereignty. On Dec. 22, 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the historic Menominee Restoration Act into law.
Deer was chair of the Menominee Nation from 1974-76. She has served on numerous national boards, such as American Indians for Opportunity, Common Cause, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., the Joint Commission on Mental Health of Children, and the American Indian Policy Review Commission. From 2000-07, Deer was director of the UW-Madison’s American Indian Studies program; she remains distinguished lecturer emeritus at its School of Distinguished Public School Alumni Award – Page 2
Social Work. The National Association of Social Workers Foundation has named Deer a “Social Work Pioneer,”because her “unique dedication, commitment and determination ha[s] improved social and human conditions.”
This is the second year the State Superintendent’s Distinguished Public School Alumni Award has been presented to a graduate of Wisconsin public schools.