Little Hawk and the Lone Wolf: A Memoir

By Raymond C. Kaquatosh

Hardcover: $22.95

ISBN: 978-0-87020-650-4

200 pages, 5.5 x 8 E-Book Available

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"Little Hawk" was born Raymond Kaquatosh in 1924 on Wisconsin's Menominee Reservation. The son of a medicine woman, Ray spent his Depression-era boyhood immersed in the beauty of the natural world and the traditions of his tribe and his family.

After his father's death, eight-year-old Ray was sent to an Indian boarding school in Keshena. There he experienced isolation and despair, but also comfort and kindness. Upon his return home, Ray remained a lonely boy in a full house until he met and befriended a lone timber wolf. The unusual bond they formed would last through both their lifetimes. As Ray grew into a young man, he left the reservation more frequently. Yet whenever he returned--from school and work, from service in the Marines, and finally from postwar Wausau with his future wife--the wolf waited.

In this rare first-person narrative of a Menominee Indian's coming of age, Raymond Kaquatosh shares a story that is wise and irreverent, often funny, and in the end, deeply moving.

Raymond Claud Kaquatosh was born in 1924 in Neopit, Wis­consin. He spent his early years on the Menominee Indian Res­ervation and at the Menominee Boarding School at Keshena. Ray served in the US Marine Corps in World War II and the Korean War and later attended high schools in Keshena, Wausau, and Stevens Point; Milwaukee Area Technical College; the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee; and the University of Wisconsin Law School. In August 1947 he became one of the first Menominee Indians to earn a pilot’s certificate.

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Questions & Answers with “Little Hawk,” Raymond Kaquatosh
Author of
Little Hawk and the Lone Wolf: A Memoir
A Wisconsin Historical Society Press publication

Why did you write this book?

I had a strong desire to record the culture of my people as well as memories of interesting and vital parts of my childhood and adventures. On New Year’s Day of 1992, I woke up and started to write. It was like someone was guiding me as I wrote. I would write maybe 10 pages per day, and the memories just came back to life like a flash.

I am glad and proud to be a representative of my people, but I also want readers to learn from my book that all Menominee are not the same. This is what my family believed and practiced.

Do you speak the Menominee language?

Yes, some. I learned much of the Menominee language and spoke no other until the age of 5. At that time, my mother insisted I speak the king’s language [English] and refrain from Menominee. They have courses in Menominee today, and my knowledge of the language differs from that what is being taught today in some of the pronunciations. However, the meanings of older Menominee language will always be my way of speaking.

Another thing I say is that I am a Menominee Indian; I am an American Indian. I prefer this because anyone born in the United States is a “Native American.” In 1948, I married a beautiful girl. She was white, well educated, brilliant, and courageous. We had four children, and she walked away from her family to marry me. I have assimilated into the White Man’s world, but my beliefs and experiences still define who I am. I am a Menominee Indian.

Do the Menominee beliefs you grew up with continue for you, for the Menominee?

My interpretation of the culture and beliefs of the Menominee Nation should not be taken as fundamentally authentic in regard to all Menominee. It is the Kaquatosh way and my family’s way, which I experienced and still believe in.

However, I will say that many of the beliefs and rituals of the older Menominee are almost completely vanished. We no longer make offerings to the Great Spirit. These offerings will not be revealed because the White Man and some of my people will scoff at them. However, those memories of my offerings to the Great Spirit will always remain indelible. I believe wholeheartedly that I survived two wars because of the offerings and my meditation with the Great Spirit.

Tell me about the wolf you befriended as a boy.

My first glimpse of him is an indelible memory. It was winter time and there was a heavy snow, and I looked out the frosted windows of our home. Among the pines laden with snow, there sat my wolf looking toward my home. His magnificent coat was almost white. He sat staring at my home with one ear pointed at me and the other to the side listening for danger, and the position of his ear changed so he would be able to hear any noise, a protective mechanism. A wolf can hear miles away. He had radar perception and seemed to be able to read not only my mind but my intent.

My first sight of him frightened me to the point that I thought I was going to kill him or try. I borrowed my cousin’s rifle and aimed at the wolf and squeezed the trigger and watched a puff of snow flare up beside him. My mother screamed at me – she yelled, “That wolf might have the spirit of your father!” as my wolf was born the same year my father died. It never dawned on me that I could have killed my own father.

We connected in many ways. I was a lone wolf myself. My mother would say, talk to him, he will understand every word you say to him. And, he did understand me.

When I named him “Kernel,” I thought of a seed, a kernel of corn. When you plant it, it produces nutrient for you. Like the bread to the White Man, the seed is the staff of life to the Indian as the wolf was to me – he was my Kernel, and I named him so because he would be my lifetime friend and companion and protector.

He lived up to all my expectations and still does. I dream about him. I learned from him all my life, even now. I learned from him how to live and how to die. When he was about to die he walked into the woods and never returned. I still remember that day because I had been using some discouraging words toward the wolf. I told him, “You’re an old man, Kernel, and one of these days I’m going to have to bury you.” My mother screamed at me, “Don’t ever talk to him like that. You’ll never see him again!” She was right. He walked way into the woods, and I never saw him again.

But, I truly believe that my wolf waits for me in the Happy Hunting Ground. We are here for only a little while, and we are gone forever. When that time comes, Mother Earth will welcome me back into her bosom, and I will roam the heavens with my wolf for all eternity.

However, I tell the story of my wolf with one of the most important instructions to readers that I can give you. All animals are different. Never try to befriend a feral animal. Wild animals want nothing to do with us. Wolves, coyotes, and raccoons, they will all run away. Parents teach children not to pet wild animals, but from the beginning my mom did not worry about my wolf. She saw its spirit too. The belief in the older culture of the Menominee and in my mother’s teachings is that all animals have a spirit. They understand us more than we understand them. If you kill an animal and use it, its spirit will not condemn you.

What does the natural world mean to you?

My mother was approached by some nuns, and they scolded her for not going to church. She merely pointed to the woods and said words to this effect: “My church is out there among the trees. The roof is Father Sky and the floor is Mother Earth. All around me are living things. Trees are like humans; they require water and nutrients from Mother Earth and rain from Father Sky. If they didn’t have these things they would die.”

When you live in close proximity to the cosmos, you become part of it. This reminds me that the pines were there long before me and will be there long after I am gone.

What was it like to go to boarding school?

It was an unbelievable environment, and I mean completely unbelievable because I had not experienced anything like it. It was the opposite of what I was accustomed to in every way. The illumination of my home at night was a kerosene lamp; the warmth was generated by a wood stove. Our plumbing was outside. When I first got to boarding school, I slipped a switch for illumination, the heat came from a radiator, and I turned on a faucet for water. I didn’t have to bring a bucket to the river. This did more than change the way I did these things, it forced me to change my way of life while at boarding school.

Tell me a bit about your service in the U.S. Marine Corps.

I was 17, and the war was just beginning. Lots of my friends volunteered for the Army, but I wanted to be a Marine. I forged my mother’s signature. The second time, for Korea, I volunteered. Now that I sit here I am happy to announce I was in World War II and Korea. I saw no action in Korea, but I made up for that in World War II.

That experience, the most important part, is that the White Man and the minorities are no different. They live and die. They fight bravely and die with respect. 500 died on Bloody Nose Ridge on Pelilu, and I buried many of them. I only thank them and hope that I live up to their expectations.

In my service there were many jobs I did because I was an Indian. I heard “let the Indian do it,” and we did, mess duty, grave details, latrine duty, exposure to snipers.

I was taught to never cry for a White Man because they only exploited us. My mother hated all White Men—except John Dillinger, who came to our house when I was a boy and shook my mother’s hand and talked to her with respect. He gave me Wrigley gum in a green wrapper and 50 cents.

When my best friend—a White Man [in the Marines]—was killed, I couldn’t hold back my tears. I asked the doctor, “Why is there rain on my face?” He blatantly told me, “Because you are human like the rest of us.” That’s when I learned I could show compassion for a White Man.

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