Emma Big Bear Day set for June 30 in Marquette

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The Emma Big Bear Foundation will host a variety of speakers in Marquette to celebrate its annual Emma Big Bear and Winnebago History Day on Saturday, June 30. 

Emma, recognized as the last full-blooded Native American to live in Clayton County, was born in 1869. She took pride in the fact that she was a direct descendant of Winnebago Chief Waukon Decorah. Emma was uncomfortable with the idea of moving to a reservation, as she wished to stay close to the graves of her ancestors. The program coincides with her birthday—July 5.

Three speakers will be presenting information on Emma and Winnebago history. 

At 11 a.m., Luther College Professor David Faldet will be present on northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin’s forced Native American removals and returns from the 1840s through the 1870s. Faldet is the author of Oneota Flow: the Upper Iowa River and Its People.

At 12:30 p.m., Terry Landsgaard, an Emma Big Bear historian and expert basket collector, will present on Emma and the Turkey River, along with how to spot an authentic Big Bear basket, which were a famous hobby of Emma’s. 

Spencer Lone Tree, who is a singer, songwriter, author of the Night Sun books and a Ho-Chunk family member of Chief Winneshiek and Emma, will present at 1:30 p.m. He will speak about the Winnebago “Trail of Tears;” the northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin Villages of Decorah family chiefs; the history, family tales and songs loved by Emma and the Spirits of the Wildnerness third book of the five he expects to write.

A question and answer session will follow each of the presentations. The experts speaking are thrilled to help people learn more about the subject. Any Winnebago or Emma Big Bear baskets can be brought to be authenticated.

Five collections of Winnebago and Emma Big Bear baskets, photos, books and artifacts will be shown in an exhibit hall, open for free to the public. The hall will be open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

All events will take place in the air-conditioned Marquette Community Center, located at 102 North St. 

For the best parking options, arrive early. Street closures will be occurring throughout the day due to the city’s Independence Day celebrations. 

For more information, contact the Emma Big Bear Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, by calling (563) 880-9190, visiting their Facebook page, or going to EmmaBigBearFoundation.org. 

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