Bronze statue of Emma Big Bear with basket weaving materials at the Mississippi River Sculpture Park, Prairie Du Chien, Wis. National Park Service photo.
Bronze statue of Emma Big Bear with basket weaving materials at the Mississippi River Sculpture Park, Prairie Du Chien, Wis. National Park Service photo.
Decorah Public Library will host a talk about Emma Big Bear presented by David Faldet Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 6:30 p.m.

Faldet’s presentation is called “Emma Big Bear: Reversing Winnebago/Ho-Chunk Removal.”

Big Bear (1869-1968) was the last member of the Winnebago/Ho-Chunk tribe to live a traditional lifestyle in Northeast Iowa. Faldet’s illustrated talk will look at her life in the context of the removal period (1825-1875).

The event is free and open to the public.

The Winnebago were forcibly moved to Iowa in one of 10 relocations that took place as settlers and the United States federal government cleared desirable lands for westward expansion by European Americans.

The move to Iowa away from the traditional homeland in Wisconsin was a particularly painful one because it was based on dishonesty on the part of the government and created the initial division between the treaty-abiding Winnebago tribe of Nebraska, and what is today the Ho-Chunk nation of Wisconsin.

Emma Big Bear, who lived in Wisconsin as well as Nebraska, was part of a healthy resistance to colonization and assimilation when, halfway through her long life, she, her husband, and daughter moved to Allamakee County to live a life of hunting, fishing, gathering, traditional handicraft and trade. The many removals of the tribe can be put up against the efforts of Emma Big Bear and other Ho-Chunk people to stay in Wisconsin or to return to the region after being displaced elsewhere.

Emma Big Bear is also known for the handcrafted baskets she created and sold. Her baskets are considered collector items and are widely viewed as the creations of an American Indian artisan.

For more information, call the Decorah Public Library at 382-3717.