Erica Thunder has always been a “voice of the people.” As a Native American, Thunder dedicated her life and career to being an advocate for fellow indigenous people not only in her state, but all over the United States in an effort to make sure voices and stories are heard.
This love of the people, equality and justice has earned Thunder the honor of being named the North Dakota honoree of USA TODAY’s Women of the Year for the state of North Dakota.
In pursuing her mission of equality and advocacy, she serves her state as North Dakota’s Commissioner of Labor and Human Rights since June 3, 2019. As commissioner, Thunder leads the North Dakota Department of Labor and Human Rights, responsible for enforcing the state’s labor and human rights laws and for educating the public about them.
Before her current role, she served as judicial systems administrator for the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, working to improve relationships with state, tribal and federal agencies. She also served as a staff attorney for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation in western North Dakota as well as the Ho-Chunk Nation in Wisconsin, where she also served as project facilitator for its Department of Social Services.
Most recently, she served as the Interim Executive Director of ND Indian Affairs Commission, in addition to her role as commissioner. Thunder has also been appointed to serve as one of three at-large Commissioners to the Indian Affairs Commission.
A native of North Dakota, Thunder grew up in the Turtle Mountains but attended school in Bottineau, which she considers to be her home. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2011 from the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and a law degree and Indian law certificate in 2014 from the UND School of Law, where she was vice president of the Criminal Law Association and secretary of the Student Bar Association.
Thunder is an enrolled member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation. Her tribal and spiritual name is “Te Hinuk,” which translates to “Lady of the Lake.”