Emma Big Bear was born of Winnebago (Ho-Chunk) descent on July 5, 1869, in Tomah, Wis., and lived in the area between southwest Wisconsin and northeast Iowa most of her life. She was the last full-blooded Native American to live by the traditional tribal means in Clayton County, Iowa, and likely all of northeast Iowa.
Emma lived near her people’s ancient burial grounds around Paint Rock north of Waukon Junction, on the Mississippi River shore at McGregor, and in her home now connected to Eagles Landing Winery on North Street in Marquette. Emma Big Bear was an instantly-recognizable figure and a familiar character, hawking her hand-made baskets, beaded trinkets, and ginseng root. Emma Big Bear died on Aug. 21, 1968, just shy of her 100th birthday.