David Raasch was born in Shawano, Wisconsin to Margaret and Walter Raasch. His grandparents were Elmer and Eureka Davids and Gustav and Huldina Raasch. He has two sisters, Lillian Bailey, Karolyn Raasch and one brother Keith Raasch.
David said he was raised on the Stockbridge reservation, on River Road, a mile east of the Church of the Wilderness, in an old log house that has since been torn down. He said they lived on a small farm and there was always lots of hard work to do.
As a child he loved being in the woods, swimming in the ‘old swimming holes’ either in the park or by Besaw’s bridge.
David graduated from Bowler High School, in a class of 27 kids. He says he really loved school and there is really nothing he can say that he disliked about school.
School was a great place for him to be; he loved sports and, at that time, there were no organized sports on the reservation, so school gave him that opportunity. Although he played and enjoyed baseball, he says basketball was his love in school and he says he had some success at it.
David’s cousin, Dick Miller, was on the same varsity team as he was even though Dick was a year behind him in school. “We made a great combo with his quickness and my shooting ability; he stole the ball and let me score so many times that I ended up making all conference and finishing second in the conference scoring race averaging around 21 points a game. Thanks, Dick, for feeding me the ball all the time,” David commented.
After graduation David worked the summer at FWD in Clintonville, and then went off to college at what is now UW-Stevens Point. He said that during that year he met Kathy Huntington; she was a senior at Gresham High School and a cheerleader; “she didn’t really like me because we had knocked Gresham out of the basketball tournament my senior year and she thought I was the reason. Anyway, we overcame that, dated and got married in the summer,” David said.
Together he and Kathy had three children; Dean, David and Dona. Unfortunately, on her 29th birthday, he says they found out Kathy had terminal cancer and she passed away. At that time their children were 6, 8 and 10 years old. “So, I had my hands full, trying to make a living and raising three kids.”
David said he was sincerely lucky to have met a single school teacher named Carole DeAmicis. He said they met on a blind date, a relationship developed and after about two years, Carole agreed to marry me and the children. “She was a blessing for me and the kids,” David said.
He said now their children are grown and have families of their own. “We are the grandparents of five beautiful grandchildren; Kaeli, Kort, Olivia, Jacob and Garret. Kaeli and Kort live close by in DePere, Wisconsin, Olivia and Garret live in the Wausau area and Jacob lives way out in Redmond, Washington.
David said that over the years he has been given many great opportunities that have brought him to today. He said he started as a police officer with the Shawano County Sheriff’s Department. “Larry Jacobs and I were the two ‘Bridger’s on the department,” he commented.
He said after a couple of years he switched to the Shawano Police Department. He said that while he was on the Shawano Police Department, the Novitiate takeover occurred. “There were many tense moments during those times with a lot of tension between the Indian and non-Indian communities and it was difficult being called an “Apple”, but we had a job to do in keeping the peace and saving lives,” he said.
David left the police department and moved to Green Bay and began selling real estate. He said it was during this time that Kathy passed away and the interest rates went up over 20%, so real estate sales were very slow. He said he took a job as a part-time security officer in Green Bay and went back to college at UW-Green Bay part-time.
He said it was at this time that he met Carole, got married and applied for a job as the Senior Administrative Assistant to the Judge for the City of Green Bay. He was hired there and spent 20 years in that position. He retired from that job. Carole, who had taught for 34 years in the Green Bay School System, is also retired now.
In 1995 our tribal council created the tribal court system. David says he was fortunate enough to be selected as the first Chief Judge for our court. Judges Kim Vele and Bob Miller and Raasch started the court system. He said it was a tremendous learning experience for him, and that experience has led him to things he does today. He said that although he is no longer the Chief Judge and he’s retired from his city job, he still stays busy.
David said he now serves on the faculty of the National Judicial College in Reno, NV and teaches courses in tribal law. He also serves as the Vice President of the Tribal Law and Policy Institute in West Hollywood, California and is past president of the Wisconsin Tribal Judges Association.
He says that retiring young left him restless, so now he works part-time for Fox Valley Technical College Criminal Justice Center for Innovation. He said this center provides technical assistance to tribes throughout the country on a variety of topics. As part of this job he travels almost constantly to Indian reservations and communities throughout the United States and works with them to improve their tribal court systems, to assist them with strategic planning, building interagency agreements and looking to revive traditional concepts of peacemaking.
David says it is a job he loves. “Indian people are such beautiful, wonderful, caring and respectful people and it is an honor to work with them. Although I love them all, my favorite place to work is in Alaska,” David said. He said he has traveled there about 18 times now, and still goes up there two to four times a year. “It’s beautiful country to see, but the people that remain so close to their culture and to nature are a treasure for sure,” David commented.
He said there are many highlights in his life. One of them was meeting Walter Schirra, Jr., one of the original seven astronauts. “That kind of sticks out in my mind,” he commented. He said Carole will be mad at him for the next one, but carrying Barbara Mandrell from the bus to the stage at the Shawano County Fair when he was a police officer, is also memorable. He said being a bodyguard for actress Patricia Neal for a day, while she was making a movie in Shawano was also special. But he says there are other highlights too. Being the first Native American Judge in the history of the United States to speak at a swearing-in ceremony for a U.S. Federal judge is an honor. Also being the first Native American invited to speak at the Alaska Supreme Court was an honor, as well as meeting Chief Justice John Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court.
David said it’s hard to highlight everything, because there have been so many wonderful things in his life. He said he has been given so many opportunities to work with so many wonderful people and if he had to choose the things he’s proudest of, they would be: his family, heritage, and his sobriety.
The advice he would give to the youth of our community is the same as everyone else says, education. “But it’s not the formal college education that I’m talking about. That’s important but, more importantly, it’s educating yourself about who you are, identifying your ‘self’, finding the ‘self’ you are comfortable with and that you are proud of and then taking ‘self’ and running with it,” David explained.
He said inside each and every one of us is a ‘self’ that is sacred. “Learn that, and you will be proud of who you are. With that pride you can accomplish anything,” David said. He said his Aunt Dot taught him this. He said the educators are our elders; they are the makers of many trails.
David said the other advice he would give our youth is to just say ‘no’ to alcohol and drugs. He said when we need to alter our minds in search of peace and serenity, the answers are in the winds, in the woods, and in the spirits of our ancestors.