Deer, Sarah

Year Inducted: 
  • Professor, Co-Director Indian Law Program at Mitchell Hamline School of Law
  • Legal Scholar and Advocate
  • Spearheaded a 2007 Amnesty International Report
  • Efforts instrumental in the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in terms of Oliphant v. Suquamish (1978) 

Sarah Deer, a 2014 MacArthur Fellow and a Citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, is a national leader, scholar and activist who, throughout her career, has centered the self-determination and dignity of survivors of violence with a focus on Native women. When describing Deer’s impact, one of her nominators spoke of her ability to “leverage her deep understanding of tribal and federal law to develop policies and legislation that empower tribal nations to protect Native American women from the pervasive and intractable problem of sexual and domestic violence.”  Her efforts were instrumental in the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.


Deer focuses her legal work on violent crime on tribal lands and has worked to end violence against women for more than twenty years. In 1995, She graduated with a B.A. in Women’s Studies and Philosophy from the University of Kansas. While attending KU, she began as a volunteer in the Lawrence Rape Victim Survivor Services (now Sexual Trauma and Abuse Care Center) and later received her Juris Doctorate with a Tribal Lawyer Certificate from the University of Kansas School of Law.


This coming fall 2017, Deer will return to the University of Kansas joining the KU Department of Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies and the School of Public Affairs & Administration in the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences as a professor. She is currently a professor of law at Mitchell Hamline School of Law in St. Paul, Minnesota. She has also taught at UCLA Law School, the University of Minnesota School of Law, and Lewis and Clark Law School.


Deer’s contributions are widespread and numerous, including her work with the U.S. Department of Justice in the Office of Violence Against Women, the Tribal Law and Policy Institute, Amnesty International USA, and advisory boards for several anti-violence organizations and projects, including the American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence.  She is the coauthor of three textbooks on tribal law, the author of the groundbreaking Amnesty International report Maze of Injustice and coeditor of Sharing Our Stories of Survival: Native Women Surviving Violence.  In 2015, she published The Beginning and End of Rape, Controlling Sexual Violence in Native America and has received critical acclaim in academia and the field alike. 

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