Ada E. Deer, a pioneer in social work, activism and politics, is visiting UNC as the fourth elder in residence at the University’s American Indian Center. She will serve in that position from March 14 through 19.
Tuesday she visited the School of Social Work and spoke to students on “Native American Rights: Policy, Organizing and the Role of a Social Work Leader.”
On Wednesday, she will give a free public talk, “Conversation on American Indian Tribal Governance” from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the George Watts Hill Alumni Center.
On Saturday, she will attend the University’s 24th annual Carolina Indian Circle Powwow in Fetzer Gym.
When Deer was growing up on the Menominee Indian Reservation in Wisconsin, she internalized her mother’s dictum not just to take up space on this Earth, but to make a difference.
She went on to do so in a number of roles, including many “firsts.” In 1993, she became the first American Indian woman to be appointed Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior, under President Bill Clinton. Deer was the first American Indian to earn a master’s degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work and to win a political primary for federal office. She was the first woman to chair the Menominee Tribe and was a fellow at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 2004, she received the Social Work Pioneer Award from the National Association of Social Workers.