A Look at the Democratic National Convention: Climate
Change and Poverty
|Ada Deer was the lead organizer of the Menominie people as
they successfully pushed Congress to restore their federal
tribal status in the early 1970s.
lot of friends.
It was a lot of fun. There were many, many exciting events to go to. And then, of course, we had the business of the convention. That’s when Senator Walter
Mondale was the Democratic nominee. The whole country was awaiting the announcement of the first woman vice-presidential candidate of a major party. That was
Geraldine Ferraro. When Mondale got on the stage, there was this big, stand-up, clapping and exciting reception of him by everyone. And when he introduced her,
the same thing happened. It was a very, very memorable convention.”
Deer also met American Indians who were also trying to effect change through national political engagement and activism.
“I actually saw several American Indian people there,” Deer recalled. “I ran into my friend, the chair of the Navajo Nation, Peterson Zah. I had just seen him a
couple of weeks before then. He flew me around the Navajo Nation. Then I met a new woman. I was looking on the floor and I saw these beaded moccasins. I
looked up and there was this beautiful young woman. She was running for Democratic office also. I think there were very few American Indians running for office at
that point. She was the only one that I had heard of. But I also I had read somewhere that there were other American Indian delegates. It was just great to have a
voice and a vote on some of the items that the Democratic Party was voting on.”
Deer emphasized that she wasn’t a token American Indian delegate. She became a delegate the hard way. She earned it.
“I was a very active member of the Democratic Party,” Deer said. “I helped on a lot of campaigns and showed up for meetings. I was very visible. And I thought it
was very important at this point in time to be visible, to show the Democratic Party’s inclusiveness. I will just call your attention to the fact that usually, then and
now, they show a real contrast between the people who are attending Democratic events where there are a nice scattering of the various people in our population:
Blacks, Mexican Americans, women and others. And that’s not true of the Republican Party.”
In 1992, Deer won the Democratic nomination to be Congresswoman in Wisconsin’s Second District — reportedly the first American Indian woman to do so — but
lost in the general election. Deer went on to be appointed the first American Indian woman to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs by President Bill Clinton.
While Deer has contributed much to the Democratic Party, in which she is still active, she could take nothing for granted when running to be a Biden delegate.
Part 1 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling
At age 85, Ada Deer is almost a dean of politics on the local to national levels. While Deer, a
delegate to the 2020 Democratic National Convention, was introduced to politics at an early age
observing the work of the Menominee Tribal Council and as a delegate to Badger Girls State as a
high school student, Deer’s almost complete immersion into politics as she led the successful
Menominee restoration movement, which involved acting as a lobbyist for the tribe in Congress
and the U.S. bureaucracy in the early 1970s.
Deer ran unsuccessfully for Wisconsin Secretary of State in 1978 and 1982 and was the vice-chair
of the Walter Mondale – Geraldine Ferraro 1984 presidential campaign, which really rooted her in
“I was a delegate to the 1984 Democratic National Convention, which was held in San Francisco,”
Deer said. “It was exciting. You just saw all kinds of public figures in the hallways. You ran into a
“I really had to campaign slightly because that was then and this is now,” Deer
stated matter-of-factly. “There are lots of new people. It was an honor then and it’s
an honor now and I am happy to represent the Democratic Party, the best in the
party showing the inclusiveness and the respect and recognition that the
Democratic Party is of all people.”
When asked to name two important issues that need to be highlighted in the
Democratic Party’s platform, Deer named climate change and race and poverty.
“The first issue that needs to be highlighted is climate change,” Deer said. “If we
don’t do something about the climate, we’re all going to be in dire straits. That’s
number one. And then racism and poverty is number two. They are both linked
together. As we all know, these are extremely serious problems and issues
today. We had a War on Poverty under President Johnson that was started by
President Kennedy. Guess what? It wasn’t a war. It was a skirmish and we lost.
And here we are 50 years later or so fighting the same battle and having the
same barriers keeping people down. There is greater awareness, though, among
the general population of these two issues. Hopefully there will be more serious
efforts and funding addressed to all three of these areas so that we can procced
as we should in this democracy.”
Before Joe Biden announced that Kamala Harris would be his vice-presidential
running mate, Deer speculated on whom he might select. Deer thought — like
many people — that Stacey Abrams would make a great vice-presidential
“I was very excited when I saw her on the television when she was running for
governor in Georgia,” Deer said. “She was so exciting to listen to. And then I
decided that I should look up more information about her and listen for it. She’s a
lawyer. I think she is a graduate of Yale Law School. She was an elected person
in the Georgia legislature. She was a leader there. She speaks up. She speaks
out. She has a wonderful warmth about her. She projects warmth, competence,
and caring, I think she would be a wonderful, wonderful vice-president. She
would excite people around the world because she is down-to-earth. She’s
realistic. And she cares about people. And she comes up with solutions
addressed to the issues and the problems. She talks about how we can address
voter suppression, for example. All of the wonderful points can be seen in the
book cover Our Time Is Now. She’s gotten rave reviews. She’s a New York
Times best-selling author. And I am thinking ‘Yeah.’”