Did you know Emma Big Bear?

Roger Halvorson poses with the grant award from Craig and LeAnn Watson, which the Emma Big Bear Foundation received through the Clayton County Foundation for the Future. Funds will go toward the creation of traveling kiosks that will feature recorded memories about Emma Big Bear.


By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor


Did you know Emma Big Bear? That’s the question Roger Halvorson, president of the Emma Big Bear Foundation, has posed to the public, in hopes that he and his daughter, Rogeta Halvorson, can collect  video recordings for a traveling kiosk.


The Emma Big Bear Foundation was established a year and a half ago to honor Emma Big Bear Holt of the Ho-Chunk Nation, who spent a lot of time in the area, living at 127 North St. in Marquette (currently Eagles Landing Winery) and along the McGregor riverfront before her death in 1968. She is especially well-known for weaving beautiful baskets.


Halvorson said the foundation recently received a $1,000 grant from Craig and LeAnn Watson, through the Clayton County Foundation for the Future. Alliant Energy also donated $500 and Freedom Bank $700 to the foundation. The funding will go toward creating the traveling kiosk.


“When people die, the whole story of Emma dies with them,” Halvorson said, explaining that he and Rogeta would like to bring in people with memories to give a five-minute recording of their remembrances.


Once completed, the mobile kiosk will be available for presentations or classes at places like the school, McGregor Historical Museum and the Driftless Area Wetlands Centre.


“It can move wherever it’s needed,” Halvorson said. “For the kids, it will be the textbook on Emma. It will continue to tell her story long after she’s been gone.”


Halvorson said he has set the foundation’s annual Emma Big Bear Day, held on her July 5 birthday, as the time for people to record their memories. People can also contact him to set up a different time if that date does not work.


“It’ll just be five minutes of their time,” he said. “That’s five minutes we’re going to lose some day. Some have already been lost.”


Soon, said Halvorson, the foundation will reach the point where is can be self-sustaining.


“We’re really making progress and starting to catch on,” he said, noting that people from outside Iowa have contacted him about contributing to the foundation. “We just need a push to get the message out.”


For those interested in sharing a story about Emma or contributing to or joining the Emma Big Bear Foundation, Halvorson can be reached at (563) 873-2509. To learn more,  visit emmabigbearfoundation.org.


Emma Big Bear Day will be held on July 5. Halvorson said this year’s event will feature jewelry and other Native American artifacts, like arrow heads and knives. 


This year, an Emma Big Bear display can also be seen at the McGregor Historical Museum.

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