History was made last year with the election of the first Native American women to Congress – Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland. A long, long time before that, Ada Deer was busy trailblazing a path for others to follow and to eventually succeed.

Deer is a well-known advocate for the Native American community — particularly for her home community, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin. She was the first Menominee to earn an undergraduate degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1957. In 1961, she was the first Native American to receive an M.S.W. from the Columbia University School of Social Work. Her work on behalf of the Menominee led to the Menominee Restoration Act of 1972, which officially returned the Menominee Reservation to federally recognized status.

In 1993, Deer was the first woman appointed assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, as head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. While in office, she helped set federal policy for more than 550 federally recognized tribes.

Deer will discuss her life and new memoir Nov. 19 at Memorial Union’s Shannon Hall, 800 Langdon St., according to a press release from the UW. A reception begins at 6 p.m. with programming from 6:30 to 8 p.m.

“I was born a Menominee Indian. That is who I was born and how I have lived,” she writes in “Making a Difference: My Fight for Native Rights and Social Justice.”

Book contributor Theda Perdue, professor emerita at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, will join Deer at the public talk that will be moderated by Professor and Director of American Indian Studies Larry Nesper.

“Making a Difference: My Fight for Native Rights and Social Justice” remembers Deer‘s life, from growing up in poverty on the Menominee Reservation in Wisconsin and earning degrees in social work, to running for Congress and serving as the assistant secretary of Indian affairs for the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Both Deer and Perdue will be available for book signings during a reception following the discussion, and the book will be available for purchase at this event. A portion of the proceeds from book sales will go toward the Chancellor’s Scholarship Program in Deer‘s name.

Earlier this month, Deer was inducted into the National Native American Hall of Fame.

“I speak up. I speak out,” Deer said in an interview last year recognizing the 150th anniversary of women getting undergraduate degrees at UW-Madison. “It’s not like I plotted and planned. I just had this general goal. I want to do and I want to be and I want to help. And I’ve been able to do it.

“People think you’re born this way but you create your way as you go along. No. Your life evolves. You create your own way as you go along,” she adds. “You can, and I did.”

To attend this free event, register by Nov. 18 by clicking here.