Dorothy Betz, an Anishinabe woman, was born Dorothy Nepinak on 26 June 1929 at the Pine Creek Reserve in Manitoba to Charles and Bernadette Nepinak. Losing her parents at an early age, she attended the Pine Creek Residential School for 15 years, until she was 18. In 1948, she came to Winnipeg and met Elmer Betz, whom she married in 1950, and had six children with him, including Linda Keeper. He worked as a maintenance man for Kinew Housing, and was also involved with the Indian and Métis Tenants Association.
Betz spent her career and later life in service to Winnipeg’s Aboriginal community. She established the Native Court Communicators Program with the Province of Manitoba and worked there for several years, later being appointed to the National Parole Board. She was involved in a number of other legal and justice-oriented organizations and initiatives, including the Manitoba Society of Criminology, Native Clan Organization, Juvenile Review Board, Juvenile Corrections Child Welfare Government Board, Manitoba Association of Rights & Liberties, John Howard Society, the Aboriginal Advisory Committees of the Winnipeg Police Services and the RCMP, and Aboriginal Ganootamaage Justice Services (formerly Aboriginal Legal Services). In 1975, she was also part of the Canadian delegation to the Fifth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in Geneva, Switzerland, where she spoke about the difficulties Aboriginal people faced in the Canadian justice system.
Betz was also one of the founders of the Indian and Métis Friendship Centre (IMFC) of Winnipeg in 1959, the first IMFC in Canada, and of Kekinan Centre, an Aboriginal senior residence, in 1990. Outside of the criminology field, she was employed by, a board member of, or volunteered at a variety of other Aboriginal organizations, including Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre, Native Women’s Transition Centre, Aboriginal Centre of Winnipeg, Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre, Centre for Aboriginal Human Resources Development (formerly Native Employment Services), Native Alcoholism Council, Northwest Child and Family Services Agency, North Main Street Project, Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, Circle of Life Thunderbird House, and the Indigenous Women’s Collective of Manitoba. She was the recipient of several awards recognizing her contributions to improving the lives of Aboriginal people, including a Manitoba Good Citizen Award (1977), the Joe Zuken Citizen Activist Award (1989), a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for community development (1999), and a Keeping the Fires Burning award (2004), and was named to the Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt (1989) and the IMFC Aboriginal Wall of Fame (1999). She died in Winnipeg on 9 September 2007.