Rights advocate Medicine dies

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WAKPALA - Beatrice Medicine of Wakpala, a noted educator, scholar, author and advocate for minorities, has died.

Medicine, 82, died Dec. 19 during emergency surgery in Bismarck, N.D.

Medicine was born at Wakpala on Standing Rock Indian Reservation and grew up there. She graduated from South Dakota State University in 1945 and studied anthropology at several universities, earning a master’s degree at Michigan State University and a doctorate at the University of Wisconsin in 1983.

Medicine taught at Indian schools and colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada, including Stanford University, Dartmouth College, San Francisco State University, the University of Washington, the University of Montana and the University of South Dakota.

She was the author of two books about indigenous women. The University of Illinois Press published a collection of her writings titled “Learning to be an Anthropologist and Remaining Native” in 2001.

Medicine was an advocate for the rights of children, women, ethnic minorities � especially American Indians � and gay, lesbian and transgendered people, according to a news release.

She served as head of the Women’s Branch of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples for the Canadian government, helping draft legislation to protect the legal rights of Indian families.

She served as an expert witness in several trials pertaining to the rights of American Indians, including the 1974 federal case brought against the individuals involved in the Wounded Knee occupation of 1973.

Medicine received awards including several honorary doctorates, the Ohana Award from the American Counseling Association, the Outstanding Woman of Color Award from the National Institute of Women of Color, an Honoring Our Allies Award from the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Bronislaw Malinowski Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Society for Applied Anthropology, and the George and Louise Spindler Award for Education in Anthropology from the American Anthropological Association. 

Another less formal honor she was accorded was having been the Sacred Pipe Woman at the Sun Dance at Sitting Bull’s Camp in 1977.

After retiring from teaching, Medicine returned to the Wakpala area, where she helped ensure construction of a new public school and served on the school board for the Wakpala-Smee School District.

At Medicine’s request, there will be no services, and the family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in her name to the American Indian College Fund, 8333 Greenwood Boulevard, Denver CO 80221.


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