Ada Deer died at 88, American activist passed away peacefully, cause of death and obituary

Ada Deer died aged 88. (Source: Facebook)
Ada Deer died aged 88. (Source: Facebook)


We regret to inform you of the passing of Ada Deer, a cherished friend and hero to so many of us. In addition to many other milestones, she was the first American Indian woman to win a Congressional primary, the first Native woman to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the first woman to chair the Menominee nation.

She just celebrated turning 88 in the company of friends and family. The affection and appreciation of countless people were conveyed by Ada. Her tremendous legacy endures in people everywhere in the nation and the world.

Keep reading to know more about the American activist Ada Deer and her cause of death in detail.


Who was Ada Deer?

Ada Deer was a Menominee Indian from Wisconsin who served in government and advocated for Native Americans.

She was an activist who resisted federal termination of tribes beginning in the 1950s as a result of legislation sponsored by Republican senator Arthur Vivian Watkins. Deer held the position of Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs during the Clinton Presidency.

Deer was raised on an Indian reserve after being born in 1935 in Keshena, Wisconsin. Deer was a committed member of the Menominee tribe, which is situated in Wisconsin’s northeast.

She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she earned her undergraduate degree and the New York School of Social Work (later Columbia University School of Social Work) where she earned her master’s degree. Deer eventually went on to work as a social worker among the Menominee.

Educational Career

Deer has been a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Social Work since 1977, where she currently has the status of Distinguished Lecturer.

She has served as the department’s director of American Indian Studies at UW-Madison since 1999. She was there when Milwaukee’s Indian Community School was co-founded.

She also started the university’s first program to train people in social work on reservations for Native Americans. She also holds a fellowship at the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s Harvard Institute of Politics.

Native American advocacy

Deer relocated to Minneapolis after completing her PhD studies in order to be nearer to the Menominee Nation. She discovered that there were few local resources available for Native Americans residing in cities. Ada used her experience in social services to advocate for them before government officials.

She also paved the way for a younger generation of Native American leaders who struggle to continually put self-determination into practice as well as acquire acceptance of it. In 1991, Ada Deer led the Menominee in their effort to mend their ties with the federal government.

She became head of the Native American Rights Fund in 1991, which gave her the power to mend relations with the federal government.

This significant achievement opened up a wealth of leadership prospects. Ada Deer is mentioned as one of the “increasing number of women” who are changing the Native American environment in Hagan’s book American Indians.

The Menominee tribe has been controlled by a corporation called Menominee Enterprise, Inc. since the “Termination Era” of the 1950s and 1960s (which resulted in less government oversight of Native American matters). Menominee tribal members did not own any shares in Menominee Enterprises, Inc., which was managed by a voting trust.

Menominee made up four of the voting members of the trust, but the trust needed five votes to act. Renewing congressional support for the social and economic reconstruction of tribal infrastructure occurred in the 1960s and 1970s.

DRUMS (Determination of Right and Unity for Menominee Shareholders)

Deer joined an organization named DRUMS (Determination of Right and Unity for Menominee Shareholders) at that time to protest the selling of former Menominee lands by Menominee Enterprise.

Wayne Aspinall, the chairman of the Interior Committee in Congress, had backed ending the Menominee’s status as a federally recognized tribe, but Deer initially had trouble with him.Clarification is required.

She visited Washington frequently, but she was never given the chance to talk with Aspinall. Deer gained attention for the Menominee cause after losing the election for his seat and garnered support for it.

Her efforts helped to end the Termination Era, along with those of numerous other Menominees. The Menominee Restoration Act was ratified by President Richard Nixon on December 22, 1973. The Menominee tribe’s official federal recognition was restored by this legislation.

Ada Deer was the first woman to lead the Menominee tribe in Wisconsin as a result of her active role in amending the law. Deer presided over the Menominee Restoration Committee from 1974 to 1976.

Deer was a member of the National Support Committee (NSC) of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) before and after she worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). She has held the positions of NSC and board of directors chair for the NARF.

Federal government

Deer led the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) from 1993 to 1997 before being named Assistant Secretary of the Interior by President Bill Clinton in 1993. The first female to occupy this role was Deer.

She was recognized for her “lifelong commitment to American Indian rights, to improving the lives of American Indians, and to the strengthening of tribal governments” by Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt.

She served as a representative to the UN Human Rights Committee during this time. She was Chair of the National Indian Gaming Commission from January to May 1997.

Political Career

Election politics have been a part of Deer’s life since the 1970s. Deer failed to win the position of Wisconsin Secretary of State in the years 1978 and 1982. Deer worked as the vice chair for Walter Mondale’s presidential campaign in 1984.

She launched a campaign in the 2nd congressional district of Wisconsin in 1992 to be elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

She won the Democratic primary without receiving “soft money” contributions from PACs. A local newspaper published a photo of Deer after she won the primary, proudly holding a placard that stated “Me Nominee” in honor of her tribal affiliation.

Ada Deer was the first Native American woman to run for office in Wisconsin. But Republican incumbent Scott Klug defeated her in the main election.

Deer was appointed to the position of assistant secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs of the U.S. Department of Interior in 1993. She contributed to the development of a federal strategy for more than 550 federally recognized tribes while in office.

Deer attended the 2020 Democratic National Convention (DNC) as a representative of Joe Biden. Sarah Godlewski, the state treasurer, received Deer’s support in her bid for the Senate in the 2022 election.

How did Ada Deer die?

On August 15, 2023, at about 9:45 p.m., Ada Deer passed away calmly while sleeping. She was 88 years and 8 days old. Columbia Pictures chose Ada as one of six Native American women for a Hollywood screen test.

She eventually worked as the assistant secretary of the interior and director of the bureau of Indian affairs before becoming a researcher and activist for Native American interests.

Ben Wikler, the chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, conveyed the tragic news on Facebook while also expressing how much Ada Deer meant to him as a Godmother.

He said that, after his parents, she was the first person to hold him when he was born. She served as his kid’s great-godmother and a mentor to him throughout his life.

He wrote,

“Ada Deer has passed away.

She died peacefully, in her sleep, at approximately 9:45pm on August 15, 2023. Eight days ago, she celebrated her 88th birthday, surrounded by friends and family. Ada carried with her the love and gratitude of so many. Her extraordinary legacy lives on around the country and the world, and in all of us.”

Ada Deer’s belief in inspiring hidden stories continues to pave the road for many even today, despite her untimely passing. The memory of Ada Deer continues. May we continue her powerful energy and carry on this great voice’s legacy.

‘Ada Deer Day’

In order to honor Ada Deer’s breakthrough efforts as a champion for Tribal rights and Indigenous communities, an advocate for social justice, and a key changemaker in the state, Governor Tony Evers declared August 8, 2023, as “Ada Deer Day” throughout Wisconsin.

Ada Deer Day Proclamation:

Deer has received numerous awards for her contributions to society, including induction into the National Native American Hall of Fame and recognition as a Social Work Pioneer by the National Association of Social Workers.

She released a memoir titled Making a Difference: My Fight for Native Rights and Social Justice at the conclusion of 2019. It was written in collaboration with Theda Perdue and details the major incidents of her amazing life, which lasted for eight decades.

Quotes by Ada Deer:

When she was advocating for the Menominee cause in Washington, she said:

You don’t have to collapse just because there’s a federal law in your way. Change it!

In an interview with CSSW Communications, she stated:

I’ve learned that one person can make a difference and be the spark. If I hadn’t decided I was going to do something about the challenges my tribe was facing, I’m not sure it would have happened.

Deer stated the following in a 2018 interview with University of Wisconsin News:

People are always criticizing you no matter what you do. I just did what I thought was right. And a lot of people came along with me.

Ada Deer was a real warrior and an inspiration for all Native Americans. She has relentlessly battled for Indigenous rights and left a significant mark on society. So let’s all get together and recognize Ada Deer for her outstanding achievements today and every day.

Ada Deer cause of death

The entire town is in a state of grief over the loss of their beloved Ada Deer as they grieve her demise, but especially his close family members.

Ada Deer was admitted to the hospital four days ago, according to a post by Ben Wikler. He made no mention of what had occurred to her. But he urged everybody to pray for the adored Godmother and activist Ada Deer.

Ada Deer, a transformative leader who inspired and touched the lives of countless others, was adored by many as a friend and family member. Unfortunately, on August 15, 2023, at about 9:45 p.m., she died peacefully while sleeping.

There was no precise description of the cause of Ada Deer’s passing when the news of her passing was announced. Her family members are anticipated to provide more details regarding her condition and funeral shortly.

Tributes to Ada Deer

Netizens have been paying their respects to the activist’s departed spirit on various social media platforms since the news of her departure broke.

Lecturer Jessica wrote: “I aspire to be a change maker and fighter, warrior, teacher all of the incredible things Ada Deer has done in her life. I did my whole constitutional law final report on her life and her book. She is one of my greatest role models and she is a heroic strong warrior for not only her people in Menominee but for all across the country. I wish I could’ve gotten the chance to meet her. Incredible woman whose legacy will live on forever ❤️ We lost one of the greatest warriors Indian Country has ever had. Ada ❤️Prayers for her journey and to all who love her 💔🙏🏽 Migwetch Ada for all you have done 😭💔🙏🏽🙏🏽❤️❤️

Yee Lion wrote: “I’m so sorry for the loss, Ben. Ada was an incredible individual, and I was so blessed to have met her when both of us came to visit.My heart goes out to you and your family. She will be missed dearly.”


We offer our sincere sympathies to the activist Ada Deer’s family, friends, and all of her loved ones. May God give her family the fortitude they need to get through this difficult period. Additionally, we hope that this article in the media was able to provide you with all the information you required regarding Activist Ada Deer’s passing. Please continue to check out this page if you wish to read such informative stuff on a regular basis.

Please leave a tribute in memory of Activist Ada Deer in the comment section below.


Tony Lazaga, 53, teacher from Bacolod found dead with multiple stab wounds

JC Oliver, a.k.a. Juice, Bass & Piano player from Lansing, MI passed away suddenly

Follow us on Twitter for more updates.

Leave a Comment