Dorothy "Dot" Davids

Dorothy “ Dot” Davids was born on the banks of Big Lake. Dorothy’s parents are Elmer and Eureka (Jourdan) Davids. She is the 3rd child of nine. She was raised on the banks of Big Lake in Red Springs Wisconsin where she enjoyed working in the garden and picked berries both farmed and wild. The family farmed at that time and her Dad did a lot of experimental farming. She remembers walking completely around the lake back before it got cluttered with people and dwellings. It was then that the water became “holy” water to her and remains so in her heart to this day. When she was in the eighth grade she remembers asking her Dad repeatedly to teach her to milk the cows as her 2 older siblings did. She got what she asked for and thereafter had to milk the cow each morning and evening until it died. During the Depression the bank foreclosed on their farm.

She began boarding at the Lutheran Indian Mission School, which she attended until it closed four years later. From there she attended Lake Side School which was one and a half miles from home but she found if she cut through several farms she could shave off the half mile. She still has a scar on her back from crawling through barbed wire fencing.

During eighth grade she fell madly in love with her teacher Mr. Roger Schmidt. She remembers one time during a ball game when he was running and ran right into her and knocked her on the ground. She was so thrilled she could hardly get back up again. He later left teaching and became a mortician. Many years later she had occasion to visit the funeral home where he was. Upon seeing him again after so many years she says a poem by Dorothy Parker popped into her head. This is the poem: I saw my love again today, beside a garden wall and this is all I have to say, “I thought that he was tall”.

While attending Shawano High School Dorothy lived in an attic for a while and cooked on an old kerosene stove. She was quite fortunate when her sister Margaret’s sister in law took pity on her and invited her to live in her home. From here she was on to Bowler High School where her first day of school there is permanently etched in her memories because upon entering the school a non-Indian male student said, “Here comes another squaw”. When Dorothy made honor roll that year she felt vindicated. She graduated from Bowler High School. Of the 23 students to graduate that year 17 are still around and going on 80 years of age.

Dorothy states her parents strongly believed in education. Her father was a lifelong student. Her Mother graduated the eighth grade from the Lutheran Indian Mission School and after just 3 days of high school she was offered and accepted a job teaching Ho Chunk children English. Dorothy always felt a strong encouragement from her parents to attend school and go on to college. She remembers being mentored by a teacher from Bowler High who stayed after school to help her with her college entrance exams. Then on to UW Stevens Point where not knowing she needed to register first stood in lines to get sent to another office to register. She was admitted on condition. She feels this is when she learned she really does not like to fail and when she was admitted on condition it spurred her to work very hard and not fail.

When she graduated there was a teacher shortage but she had to apply for 14 different positions before she was offered a job in St. Croix Falls where her employment was conditional on whether the community could accept a Native American teacher. Once again her unwillingness to fail spurred her to success. She taught there for 2 years and with 39 students.

Dorothy, feeling somewhat burned out left and moved to Denver where she took a break from teaching and worked in a department store. She soon missed the children and contacted a teacher placement service where she was told they would only send her to the best positions because of the high recommendation from St. Croix Falls. One day while in the bean patch a man in a fancy suit walked up and asked her if she would like to come teach in Ashland. Her thoughts were if this man in a fancy suit could come to her bean patch why not? So on to Ashland where she taught 5th grade overflow from 3 schools. She advanced to the sixth grade with these 22 boys and 7 girls. She stayed in touch with many of these children throughout her life and remains in touch with two of the boys. They are now men in there 60’s.

Dorothy was involved in the first American Indian Chicago Conference in the early 60’s. She has worked as a lobbyist for the National Congress of American Indians. She feels fortunate to have met so many people from all different tribes that summer. Then time to go back to the classroom where she felt the walls were closing in on her. Dorothy went back to school and received her Masters degree from UW Milwaukee.

She has been involved in so many things in her life she is an inspiration. If I mangle the sequence of her life I sincerely apologize. She received a fellowship to the University of Chicago, she was a counselor at the University of Colorado, she has been a trouble shooter for the American Indian Center in Chicago,  she was invited to work with the Upward Bound program, she worked for the University of Wisconsin-Extension helping to train Vista workers and working with Community Action programs and others for 19 years. Dorothy also spent the bicentennial summer as a video taper throughout the country. Some of her work is in the archives in Sante Fe New Mexico. She also spent a year in New York as Director for the YWCA Center for Racial Justice. Although she enjoyed the position and learned a lot she gave up that position to go back to more familiar surroundings at the University of Wisconsin. 

Dorothy officially retired. She and Ruth Gudinas now reside in a retreat house where they have held at least one hundred retreats. They call themselves Full Circle. She also is the Chair for the Historical Committee, is Chair for the Reparation Committee, she is on the Editorial Board, is a member of the Inter-tribal Reparation Committee, is a board member of the Indigenous Women’s Network headquartered in Austin Texas, and has been writing a column for this newspaper for 4 years. She sometimes thinks she should retire from retirement. 

Dorothy has 5 cats; their names are Phiva, Chaach, Teno, Baker, and Dozen. So far she has had a total of 16 cats. When asked if she has ever had children or grand children she said about 300 or 500 I consider you all my children (nieces and nephews). One of the things that Dorothy is proud of is that so many people call her Aunt Dot. 

Dorothy is a Lutheran, Catholic, and Traditionalist. And has learned many things from being such an open-minded, loving person. She has had many jobs throughout her life, many not so easy jobs. “I am proud of my 35 years as an educator,” said Dorothy. She is also a staunch advocate for students.