Dr. Virginia J. Sutter, enrolled Northern Arapaho elder, scholar, author, activist, and Mother moved into the spirit world with grace on October 5, 2020 at the age of 97.
Virginia was from the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming and lived an adventurous life filled with travel. After raising her children, she returned to school, receiving 4 degrees (Associates Degree from Central Wyoming College in Riverton, WY; Bachelor’s Degree
from Univ. of Colorado, Boulder, CO; and a Master’s Degree and PhD from the Univ. of
Oklahoma, Norman, OK). She instilled an inspiration to use educational opportunity for the
betterment of Indian people into her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren that will continue to live on.
Noted projects/publications/research that advocated for her people included co-authoring
Indian Child Welfare Resources and References (Univ. of Oklahoma, Dept. of Social Work,
1983), Survey of Indian Child Welfare Act & Section 428 of the Adoption Assistance and Indian Child Welfare Act of 1980 (CSR Inc., Washington, DC), Will Work for Food Dignity: A workshop on making research serve food justice. Panel and workshop at Yale Food Systems Symposium, October 18-19, 2013. Yale University, New Haven, CT. Tapping the Roots: Radically democratic organizing for food dignity. Community Food Security Coalition, 2011. Oakland, CA.
Virginia was an accomplished writer who shared her experiences growing up and her perspective as an Arapaho woman. Prominent works include her biography, autobiography and historical account, Tell Me, Grandmother: Traditions, Stories, And Cultures of Arapaho People, Sutter, VJ, University Press of Colorado: 2005 and Todays Strength from Yesterday’s Tradition- The Continuity of American Indian Women, Frontiers, Vol VI,3.
Dr. Sutter returned to her home reservation and actively worked in local government as the 2nd woman in history to be elected as Chairperson to the Northern Arapaho Business Council (1991,1993). In addition, Dr. Sutter spent a number of years working with Indian Health Service and numerous tribes throughout the United States to support and increase the services offered to tribal members. Dr. Sutter also served on a variety of non-profit boards and committees supporting Native Americans and women.
Virginia spent her final years at Morningstar Care Center in Fort Washakie, WY, well cared for and among her people. Her family is pleased that she was able to rest in peace close to her Great Grandfather, Chief Sharp Nose at Sharp Nose Cemetery in Fremont County, and proud of her for her lifetime of dedication to helping Arapaho people.
Virginia is survived by her sister Caroline, brother Rex, sons Jim and Dennis, her daughter Vicki Smolke and son-in-law John, her eight grandchildren Jaimie, Jon, Jeff, Keli, Michael, Ryan, Matthew, Ben, and her cousin Betty Jean. She was blessed with six great grandchildren as well. She had one adopted granddaughter, Alyssa, and two adopted sons, David and Hank that were very significant to her heart. Virginia was very close to her nephew, Gordon Yellowman of our large Cheyenne/Arapaho family, who illustrated her biography and followed in her footsteps by becoming a Univ. of Oklahoma alumni.
She was preceded in death by her great grandson Jacob, sister Margaret Ruis, brother Bill Amos, and father Arlo Amos, mother Gertrude Ayers, uncle Lester Ayers and aunt Jean Murdoch, grandfather Rex Amos, grandmother Caroline Amos, grandfather James Eugene Ayers, grandmother Anna Ayers, great grandfather Chief Sharp Nose and great grandmother Goes in Lodge.