The Indian Gaming Association joins the rest of Indian Country in Mourning the loss of two Menominee Women Warriors, Dr. Verna Fowler and Ada Deer

Washington, D.C. (August 15, 2023)The Indian Gaming Association joins the Menominee Nation and all of Indian Country in mourning two Indian Country Warrior Women – Dr. Verna Fowler and Ada Deer, who will leave a legacy of service.

Dr. Verna Fowler, a giant education advocate, led the Menominee Nation’s educational initiatives.   Education was her passion.  She was the founder and former President of the College of Menominee Nation.  She was also the past principal at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Shawano and taught at many schools around Wisconsin. She was a nun at Sisters of New Genesis in the Green Bay diocese. Verna was a member of the Franciscan order for many years. She was a St. Anthony’s Catholic Church member in Neopit, Wisconsin.

She was 81 when she passed away on August 12 at her home in Keshena, Wisconsin.  The Tribal flags across the Menominee Nation Reservation are at half-staff until Aug. 23 in memory of Dr. Verna Fowler.

Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernie Stevens, Jr., shared, “I am genuinely saddened to hear about Dr. Fowler’s passing.  I remember many visits to the Menominee community and always looked forward to her greetings when I arrived.  She was a true mentor to me and a great reminder of what humble leadership looks like.

“Education has always been my passion, and Dr. Fowler allowed me to be a part of her legacy.   So many years ago, she recruited me to help build the College of the Menominee Nation.”  Stevens said, “Though my contribution was minimal compared to hers, it meant so much to me.  Adding, “Whenever I ride by the Menominee college campuses, I always fondly cherish those memories and the opportunities I had to work by her side.”

Stevens shared that he had the honor of giving one of the first commencement addresses at the College many years ago. He said his last visit with Dr. Fowler was at the 2023 graduation ceremonies, where she was so appropriately honored. He said, “She thanked me for my continued support of the College. Dr. Fowler will be sorely missed.”

A funeral mass was held on Thursday, August 17, 2023, at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church in Neopit, Wisconsin, with Fr. Hanz Christian and Fr. O’Brien officiating. Inurnment will be held at St. Anthony’s Catholic Cemetery at a later date. A memorial has been established in Verna’s memory at the College of Menominee Nation.

Ada Deer, a renowned leader in Indian Country, passed away of natural causes on Tuesday, August 15.  Deer was 88 years old.

“Ada Deer was a prominent leader in Indian Country.  She always stood firm in her commitment to serving. Chairman Stevens shared.

He added, “I’ve known Ada since my early years of leadership serving on the Oneida Business Committee. My father, Ernie Stevens, Sr., worked with her many years ago in Washington, D.C., when he served as the Executive Director of the American Indian Policy Review Commission. I can only imagine the teamwork it took to make these things happen in those early days.  My father, like Ada, worked on many projects helping their tribe and many others while in Washington, D.C.”

Born August 7, 1935, on a Menominee reservation in Keshena, Wisconsin, Deer is remembered as a trailblazer and fierce advocate for tribal sovereignty. She played a key role in reversing the Termination Era policies of the 1950s that took away the Menominee people’s federal tribal recognition.  Her efforts on behalf of the Menominee led to the Menominee Restoration Act of 1972, officially returning the Menominee Reservation to federally recognized status.

Funeral services for Ada Deer will be held on Thursday, August 24, at 2:00 at Grace Episcopal Church in Madison, Wisconsin, with other memorial services planned in the fall on the Menominee Indian Reservation.