There was an American Indian Studies program at UW-Madison when Aaron Bird Bear was hired on campus back in 2002. But, as he remembers it, there was “hardly anything else related to American Indians.” He’s quoted in a UW press release as saying of the time, “I was totally appalled at the complete lack of infrastructure, the complete lack of commitment, to Indigenous people in any sincere way, shape or form.” In the following 22 years he set out to change that—and he succeeded. Having just begun his well-earned retirement from the university this week, Bird Bear joins host Andy Moore on the Friday 8 O’Clock Buzz to reflect on his more than two decades of service to the UW community.
Aaron Bird Bear is the newly retired Director of UW-Madison Tribal Relations, a role he had been in since its creation in 2019. He previously served as Assistant Dean of Student Diversity Programs in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education. He is enrolled in the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota and is a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Diné nations.
Photo courtesy of Bryce Richter via the UW-Madison Photo Library