June 2, 1932 – Saturday, February 15, 2014
Turtle Mountain Community College-Belcourt, ND
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Turtle Mountain Community College
Tuesday, February 18, 2014
Beginning at 3:00 P.M.
“Everything is a circle. We are each responsible for our own actions. It will come back.”
–Betty “Migizi” Laverdure
The Honorable Betty “Migizi” Laverdure walked on in the presence of family and loved ones on Saturday, February 15, 2014 in Minocqua, WI at the age of 83.
Known lovingly as Kookum and Migizikwe, and, during her distinguished justice career as Judge Laverdure, Betty’s legacy is carried on by what she considered her greatest love, her extensive family of relations and friends from almost every corner of the world.
She was born on June 2, 1930 on the Turtle Mountain Ojibwa Reservation in North Dakota. Her early influences were her kookums Shyoosh and Julienne who taught her the challenges of living in two cultures and worlds, allowing her to master the careful art of advancing in the modern and complex world while incorporating the lessons and values of her history and origins.
Betty grew up on the Turtle Mountain reservation with several brothers and sisters. She was a true outdoors woman and nature-lover. She was the best horsewoman on the reservation, and she loved to help her brother George train and care for horses. She also excelled at hunting, fishing, and carving and, unapologetically, she was more skillful than many of the men of her time. From her early days it was not hard to see that she was growing in to a tireless adventurer and fearless traveler.
She was a proud member of the Bear Clan of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. In that role, she took to heart, more than most, her duty to protect the rights and dignity of her people, and, in fact, any populations considered to be marginalized and vulnerable. Her interpretation of that role was to serve as an educator, advocate and Chief Tribal Justice.
She began her law studies at the Franklin Pierce Law School, and then completed her training at the University of Alabama, the Coalition of Indian Controlled School Boards, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Her career as advocate for Indian people started as a juvenile judge at the Turtle Mountain Tribal Court in the 1960’s where she later served as Chief Judge. During that time she wrote the first tribal law and order code in the U.S., receiving a Bureau of Indian Affairs Incentive Award for her work. These efforts went on to serve as the template and process with which many current tribal courts operate.
During her tenure as Chief Judge she was not only an active member in her local judicial and political system, but sought justice and fought for Native rights on national and international forums. In the 1970s she traveled with the International Indian Treaty Council to attend the United Nations Conference in Geneva, Switzerland on Indigenous Peoples and the Land. In the summer of 1975, she traveled to the West African countries of Senegal, Mali, Liberia, and the Gambia as a participant in the three-month West African Ethnic Heritage Seminar. During this seminar, she noted the similarities between the French colonial experience of African peoples and her own people. Betty’s work and passion also took her to France, Haiti, Canada, and Mexico. Her work as Judicial Services Officer took her to many Indian Reservations throughout the United States as she monitored Tribal Courts, trained court personnel, and assisted tribes in developing and revising their tribal codes. Furthermore, she attended sessions of the United Nations General Assembly in New York City, and was interested in the identification and repatriation of Native artifacts from Western and European possession back to Indian people.
She was Vice President, founding member, and honorary lifetime member of the National American Indian Court Judges Association (NAICJA). The NAICJA’s early mission which continues today is the excellent training of tribal judges, attorneys, court personnel, and law enforcement officers.
In addition to her advocacy for the rights and dignity of all Native populations, she took on a special cause for the welfare of Indian children. Betty was quoted as saying, “Children are sacred. They are living treasures, gifts from the Great Spirit.” She participated in formulating policy statements for the Indian Child Welfare Act and served on Bureau of Indian Affairs workshops to train others on Indian Child Welfare issues.
Her passion took her beyond the courtroom and into the classroom. She was integral to the creation of the Turtle Mountain Community College by helping to write many of the initial grants which acted as the seed investment for the college, and later, as a staff member and administration officer.
Culture, heritage and tradition were always important to Betty. She was active in the Midewiwin Medicine Lodge, was a Medicine Bundle and Pipe carrier, and participated for many years in the Eagle Sun Dance. She became expert at carving pipe stems from Sumac branches as gifts for other sun dancers, including for some of her family members.
In addition to her passions for justice and her Indian heritage she had a love for bargaining and finding hidden treasures at yard sales and thrift stores. One of her family members’ favorite pastimes was sorting through her collection of eclectic trinkets, hats and memorabilia.
She could never resist the opportunity to travel to different lands and experience new cultures if it meant a new experience which she could share with her family and friends. Until her final passing, she frequently accompanied others to powwows and other adventures.
Betty cherished the value of integrity, cultural dignity, justice, the search for knowledge, and facing adversity with humor, courage, determination. She instilled in her children the strong appreciation of education, and is proud of their accomplishments. Betty has often said that her life’s greatest work has been her children and she is most proud of their accomplishments, including careers in law, medicine, higher education, and civil service.
She was preceded in death by her husband Andrew Richard Laverdure, her parents Albert Wilkie and Betsy Allard, her grandfather and War Chief John B. Wilkie, —her brothers and sisters–, her daughter-in-law Wanda (Morin) Laverdure, her grandchildren Harry and Dennis Beauchamp and Paris “Kimowan” Laverdure.
She is survived by her children Andrew Laverdure, Andrea Laverdure, Julienne (Laverdure) Cross, Betsy (Laverdure) McDougall, Napoleon Laverdure, Adrienne Laverdure, Michael Laverdure, Harry Beauchamp and Jace Cuny; Her grandchildren Douglas Gourneau, Dominique Gourneau, Ronnie Laverdure, Rachel (Gourneau) Poitra, Michelle Laverdure, Elizabeth Lavedure, Felina Laverdure, Kyle Hill, Kenneth Bernard, Nicole (Laverdure) Azure, Shyoosh Laverdure, Nick Counts, Dara McDougall, Marcus Laverdure, Animikig Laverdure, Maya Laverdure, William Cross; Her great-granchildren Arion, Lilliana, Ronnie Jr., Dominque Jr., Ozaawaa, Kinew, Negonee, Ben, Gabe, Asher, Leander, Adrienne; friend and sister: Ann Brummel.
Preceded in death by her parents Albert & Elizabeth Wilke, Step father: John B. Davis and all of his children, siblings: Mary Wilke Belgarde, Pat Wilke, John “Garceau” Wilke, Lucy Wilke Joussaint, Arthur Wilke, Veronica “she sheep” Wilke Jerome, Joe Allard, George Wilke, Phillip Wilke, Michael Wilke, Rita Wilke, Albert Wilke, a child: Stephen Laverdure; three grandchildren: Harry Beauchamp Jr., Dennis Beauchamp and Kimowan.
Douglas Gourneau Dominique Gourneau
Ronnie Laverdure Animikig Laverdure
Marcus Laverdure Kyle Hill
Arion Poitra Nicholas Counts
White Wolf Cemetery
Belcourt, North Dakota