Ada Deer to direct American Indian Studies

Oct. 20, 1999

Ada Deer, former assistant secretary for Indian Affairs in the federal Department of the Interior, will become director of the American Indian Studies program in January.


The program, created in 1972, offers a certificate for students and sponsors a visiting faculty series. Four faculty and staff in the American Indian Studies program hold joint appointments in other units.

Deer, a lecturer in the School of Social Work, says she will try to strengthen and expand American Indian Studies here. This year, historian Ned Blackhawk and educational policy analyst Rosemary Ackley Christensen joined the UW-Madison American Indian Studies faculty. Deer says these new hires are a fine start, but much more needs to be done.

"We are the native peoples of Wisconsin and of the nation. As we move into the 21st century, it will be important for the university to continue its outreach to and involvement with us. Given that, I would like to improve cooperation and coordination with the various programs and departments that work with native students," she says.

Deer has been a lecturer in the American Indian Studies program and the School of Social Work since 1977, taking four years off between 1993 and 1997 to serve as assistant secretary of Indian Affairs.

While in Washington, Deer helped set federal policy for the more than 550 recognized tribes across the country. In 1992, she became the first American Indian woman in Wisconsin to run for Congress, winning the Democratic primary without political action committee funding. She also ran for secretary of state in 1982 and 1978.

Deer also was the first woman to chair the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin, a position she held in 1974-76.

Deer graduated from the UW with a degree in social work. She holds a master's degree from Columbia University.