Q & A with Diane Holliday
Wisconsin Historical Society Press: What motivated you to write about Mountain Wolf Woman?
Diane Holliday: I've always been fascinated with how other people live their lives. I think it is good for kids to realize that our current way of life is just one of many - that there have been many others in the past, there are many others right now, and who knows how people will be living in the future. It's good to get different perspectives; I'm reminded of a moment many years ago as a backpacking gringa in Central America. I had been away from U.S. culture for many weeks, but then I strayed into the U.S. Canal zone - exactly like a US suburb and I was fascinated to see a bake sale. It seemed so "foreign," I almost took a photo!
WHS Press: What did you know about Mountain Wolf Woman before you started this project?
DH: Before starting I only knew that Mountain Wolf Woman was a Ho-Chunk woman.
WHS Press: How did you go about doing your research?
DH: I read! I studied Nancy Lurie's Mountain Wolf Woman biography, and I also read the biography of Mountain Wolf Woman's brother, Crashing Thunder, Paul Radin's The Winnebago Tribe, Carol Mason's "Wisconsin Indians" and Patty Loew's "Indian Nations of Wisconsin" - those are the main ones. I was also helped immeasurably by Lurie's written comments and discussion on the phone.
WHS Press: What did you find the most surprising about Mountain Wolf Woman?
DH: What surprised me was her great openness about her life and strength.
WHS Press: What did you enjoy most about writing this book? What did you find most challenging?
DH: I greatly enjoyed working with the Wisconsin Historical Society's Office of School Services Director Bobbie Malone, and also trying to pass on to kids how another person has lived. The challenge was to hit the right level — not too easy and not too hard. It would have been nice to include more on the medicine dance, feasts, etc. but it can be difficult to explain religion and spirituality simply.
WHS Press: What aspects of Mountain Wolf Woman's life did you find most interesting to relate to young readers?
DH: I thought the importance of roles in family relationships was interesting. I also thought kids would find the "seasonal rounds" of life interesting — following the earth's resources as they become available through the different seasons.
WHS Press: Why is Mountain Wolf Woman's story an important one to share with readers?
DH: Mountain Wolf Woman is an important story because it is a rare personal account of an Indian woman living at the turn-of-the-20th century. There is not much other data out there.
WHS Press: How does Mountain Wolf Woman's story help us understand more about Wisconsin's Indian communities?
DH: Her story helps us understand the old ways — the day-to-day way of life — and to appreciate the Ho-Chunk connection to the land we now call Wisconsin. I guess she also help us appreciate the accommodations the Ho-Chunk have had to make with arrival of European farms and towns.