Midwest SOARRING Foundation (MSF) Logo

January 10, 2021

Twenty-Five Year Vision

MSF bison relocation to Cherokee Nation Oklahoma

Twenty-five years ago, I received word of a lone bison that was soon to be slaughtered. She was the last of a herd of thirteen located in Will County, Illinois. I immediately wanted to save her and contacted the farmer. Upon seeing her, I knew Midwest SOARRING Foundation would find a way to protect her life. Little did I know this would be the beginning of a twenty-five year mission to save many of these great herbivores.

The day arrived to move this lone bison to her new location. The truck backed up close to the corral to be near the make-shift loading ramp the farmer had constructed. Half way up the ramp, the bison became stuck between the rails. The farmer instructed me to climb to the top of the fence and handed me a broad board. He told me to give her a light tap. When I did, the bison expressed her unhappiness with a bellow and a kick, and bounded into the truck. Since one of her horns was broken in a fight with a male, I named her Broken Horn, Midwest SOARRING Foundation’s first bison. (I learned later that bison will regrow a new horn.)

Broken Horn’s destination was the Grand Village of the Kickapoo Nation in LeRoy, Illinois. Bill and Doris Emmett and their daughter Peggy were the owners of the property. Earlier, Midwest SOARRING Foundation had assisted them in saving the Native American historic site. The family welcomed Broken Horn to their land. In appreciation for the preservation of the site, and in honor of its importance to Native American culture, SOARRING sponsored the first Return of the Grand Village of the Kickapoo Nation Pow Wow to their village site. This was a moving and successful event for everyone, as the Kickapoo Nation had not gathered together as a tribal nation for many years.

Joseph and Grand Village of Kickapoo historical plaque

As the years went on, SOARRING acquired additional bison. Several were donated by individuals and four came from Lords Park in Elgin, Illinois–two sisters one year, two brothers the next.  In the spring our herd annually produced calves.  Bill and Doris also started their own herd, which banded and bred with ours, promoting a healthy genetic diversity.  Throughout the seasons, it was gratifying to see the bison prosper in the tall grass and the calves frolic with their mothers.  Sometimes there were several unexpected bison breakouts when the fencing had to be repaired from storm damage.

From the beginning our vision was to care for our herd as a spirit herd–they were not being raised for meat consumption. For thousands of years the bison on Turtle Island provided meat, hides, and tool implements for Native people’s survival.  In honor of all they had given us, I decided that a spirit herd would be a thank you to the Bison Nation. I also hoped to inspire reverence and respect for these noble creatures that once roamed throughout North America, and one day, to return them to the freedom of the open plains to share their strength with others of their kind.

Eventually Bill retired after his wife died and sold both his property and bison. The new owners, Bill and Misty Vermatt, and their son Ricky and daughter Jackie, were eager to assist us in our bison endeavor.  I must acknowledge Bill’s tremendous efforts over fourteen years to provide strong fencing, consistent water, hay and cracked corn to supplement their winter diet, as well as

Farmer Bill gifted blanket from MSF for his care of the bison

burying them when they passed.  Every year a Grand Village Kickapoo Pow Wow was held, complete with a bison viewing wagon ride, when thrilled visitors of all ages were deeply awed seeing real bison up close for the first time in their lives.  My late wife, Janet, always insisted on buying bags of apples so she could throw them to the bison during the bison rides.

This past year Bill and Misty decided to retire and sell their property which challenged us to find a new home for the herd with their eventual return to their ancestral homeland on the open plains.  In June of 2020, our search began in earnest. Dave Nordin, an associate board member and I worked tirelessly on this every day. We made many phone calls and contacts to find a suitable location, with the understanding that the bison would be maintained as a spirit herd. We reached out to many bison people, each with their own goals. Some wanted to take a portion of the herd for breeding purposes, but not the big bulls. In my mind it had to be all or nothing -we would not break up the herd and abandon the bulls to an uncertain fate.

In September 2020, we began to work with Megan Davenport, staff biologist of the Intertribal Buffalo Council (ITBC) in Rapid City, South Dakota, to explore a possible tribal relocation. ITBC is an organization which matches available bison with tribes seeking to promote healthy management and growth of herds under their care by adding greater genetic diversity, helping to ensure that the species will thrive.  After months of research, we found a suitable new home for our herd with the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.  Next, on the recommendation of State Senator Troy Heinert of South Dakota, a multi-talented member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe with experience in the unique logistics of bison relocation, we engaged Matt Noble and his crew, who were experienced large animal movers.

Joseph Standing Bear and Spirit Bison herd relocation to Oklahoma


At the bison pasture in LeRoy, Illinois on December 18, 2020 Matt and his crew installed the necessary corral, chute and squeezer apparatus which would allow the veterinarian we selected, Dr.  Tessa Marshall of the University of Illinois veterinary faculty and a bison expert with her assistant, to visually inspect and tag each animal for interstate transport.  They were then loaded on the two trucks which would carry them to their new home and destiny. The actual loading of the animals took five hours from start to finish. Matt and his crew worked like a well -oiled machine, and no animals or people were hurt.

Veterinarian Dr. Marshall

The first to be loaded was the biggest male and the last was the youngest male calf. This youngster proved to be the hardest to lead into the enclosure as he darted around the pasture and in between the thorn trees and was the last to enter the trailer–echoing the spirit of Broken Horn.  The vet, Dr. Marshall was prepared to use her tranquilizer gun, yet Bill was able to chase the calf into the enclosure. The trucks traveled non- stop to Oklahoma and reached the Cherokee reservation Friday evening, Dec. 18, 2020 at 11:30pm. Now, they reside on 1,000 acres with 150 other bison the Cherokee had recently acquired. This substantial gift from Midwest SOARRING Foundation to the Cherokee Nation completed our twenty-five year vision of returning the bison to the prairie. We very much appreciate Raven Fyreheart‘s photographic expertise documenting our story.

In closing, I humbly ask for your donations to help us pay for the expenses not covered by the ITBC, completing our mission to return the bison to their ancestral range and to preserve and share the record of their story.  We successfully negotiated for the Intertribal Buffalo Council to pay for the trucks, drivers, fuel and veterinarian fee, which left the remaining costs to Midwest SOARRING Foundation to cover. These will include the costs of renting, setting up and taking down of the extensive heavy duty equipment needed to load an entire herd of bison. It will also include the fees for a professional documentary film crew to record the Grand Village of the Kickapoo, the bison, and the loading process and the cost to edit the raw footage into documentary format.  There will be additional costs of creating, attending and recording the ceremony of acknowledgment and appreciation from the Cherokee Nation to Midwest SOARRING Foundation hopefully in the summer, depending on the COVID status.  We would like to raise $20,000. Your donations will cover all costs of the documentary production including editing, our travel expenses, and incidentals –costs not covered by ITBC. You can donate here.

I give thanks to the Creator for this opportunity and bless our bison nation for their continued care and well- being.


Joseph Standing Bear Schranz

January 2, 2021

SOARRING 2021 New Year’s Greeting

I would like to start by wishing Midwest SOARRING Foundation members, friends, and supporters a very happy New Year. I wish each of you a happy and healthy 2021 during these trying times.

We have witnessed in our world and in this country many challenges during this past year including every shortage–from toilet paper to common sense.  I was raised to believe that all life matters–all the winged ones above us, all that swims and floats in the great waters, and all that walks, crawls and burrows upon and within the earth. All life matters—not just one particular color or one type of life.

What I have been witnessing during this time are valuable life lessons. In many cases some have spent extra time with loved ones which have strengthened family values and the family unit. Sadly, others have experienced increased stress which has led to domestic violence, depression, and suicide.  We hope and pray that a positive solution is on the horizon for COVID.

Lake Superior Winter

Lake Superior Winter

We have learned to depend on outside sources without a guaranteed right of supply for ourselves or our family. The situation we find ourselves in presents an opportunity to remember and restore some of our old lifestyles. I am overjoyed to see many returning to basic values, working with the land and with water. Across the country many are planting gardens and learning how to can their own produce. This is one way we can lessen our dependence on technology for our happiness and survival.

In 2021 Midwest SOARRING Foundation will be embarking on many new and fascinating ZOOM programs/events, depending on the course of COVID.  Zoom talks offer us the opportunity to access wisdom from teachers who care deeply for Mother Earth from other parts of the country. Please check our calendar page on our website to register for these programs.

We pray for all of those who have been affected by COVID. We pray for those who have passed on. We pray for their families and loved ones as they recover from their loss.

In reflecting on 2020, it reminds me of the story of a grandfather and his grandson who were walking in the deep woods. They spoke of many things, as they passed both new and old sites along their walk. The young boy had many questions. After a while they both sat down on large rocks to rest. The grandfather noticed the boy was deep in thought.

He asked the boy, “What’s troubling you?”
“Grandfather, there seems to be so much good and evil in the world. “said the boy.
“Yes, there is a struggle in each of us between good and evil,” said the grandfather.
“Well, which one wins?” asked his grandson.
“Whichever one you feed” said his grandfather.

Midwest SOARRING Foundation will be hosting many events and invite you to participate as you are able.  We invite you to join our organization, or if you are already a member, please renew your membership for 2021.

I personally give many thanks to my board members and all those who assist us in our mission.

High regards,

Joseph Standing Bear Schranz

March 26, 2020

Our Personal Responsibility with COVID-19

Midwest SOARRING members, supporters, friends and community,

I am writing this out of my concern for all of us. There may not be one easy answer to dealing with the COVID 19 virus. Certain precautions can be taken as individuals such as keeping a safe distance from others, using sanitary procedures, being mindful of surfaces that include door handles, knobs, gas pumps and shopping carts. Stay at home and don’t infect others.

Use face masks and respirator half masks if needed. Use common sense. Follow the recommended store limits on purchasing necessary items. Look in on your elderly neighbor or single parent who may be struggling, someone who is disabled, alone, or recovering from an illness. Stay clear if you are ill yourself. Have good respect for others. Never forget our spiritual core. We often forget gratitude, respect, love and genuine concern for the main commitment of life, our Mother Earth.

We are destroying the Earth by our sheer numbers and overpowering the natural resources the Creator gifted us with. We must pay major attention towards all our disrespectful actions and how this affects all other life forms or suffer the consequences.

I am asking all pipe carriers and people of different beliefs and faiths to unite on Sunday, March 29, 2020 at Noon, Eastern Daylight Time to share a global prayer from the heart. Wherever we happen to be at the moment, let us each pray in our own manner for one hour. Now it is time for a global shift and a time for action. We must protect the Red Bloods and the Green Bloods from further destruction and begin a healing towards all.

Joseph Standing Bear Schranz
President, Midwest SOARRING Foundation

December 5, 2019

SOARRING Fall 2019 News

2019 Harvest Pow Wow

Aztec dancers Ocelotl-Cihuacoati

The weekend of September 21 and 22, 2019 marked the 25th year that Midwest SOARRING’s annual Harvest Pow Wow has been offered to the public as a celebration of Native American culture. For the last fifteen years, the Harvest Pow Wow has been held in the western suburbs of Chicago.  At the event opening Saturday, Janet Standing Bear (who passed away in November 2018) was honored with a tribute by the Aztec dancers Ocelotl-Cihuacoati. Janet served as Vice President of Operations for Midwest SOARRING for many years. She was well known for her dedication to the foundation activities, to the organization’s mission, and respected for her desire to help all people.  Her spirit will live on in the hearts of all who knew her.  A special button was designed in her honor and passed out to many at the pow wow.  On Sunday, Joseph Standing Bear awarded three Janet Standing Bear scholarships (instead of the usual one) to three students pursuing their studies, commemorating her contribution to the native community.  


Jaime Black Red Dress Project

Other pow wow highlights included a performance and talk by Laura Grizzlypaws, the only female Grizzlybear dancer in North America, and a special red dress procession led by Canadian artist Jaime Black. Jaime Black is known for her Red Dress Project which was featured as an outdoor installation at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C.  At the Harvest Pow Wow Jaime led a procession of dancers wearing or carrying red dresses symbolic of the missing and murdered indigenous women and children across North America. The dancers circled the arena once and exited the back gate, walking on the sidewalk of Aurora Ave, and re-entered the Naper Settlement entrance before proceeding back into the arena.  There the dancers acknowledged each other in their unity on this issue.  Both participants and pow wow attendees were emotionally moved by the heightened awareness of this topic. The purpose of the procession was to greater awareness to the general public.  Jaime Black has been one of the primary artists in North America to highlight these concerns.  

Despite the early closure on Sunday due to heavy rain, SOARRING was able to get most of the featured pow wow events completed. The turnout was amazingly good despite the weather. A special effort was made at the entry gates to learn where attendees came from, and the geographic diversity was impressive.

Film Showing: What Was Ours & Standing Rock Slide Presentation

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, on November 16, 2019 the Universalist Unitarian Church of Joliet and Midwest SOARRING Foundation collaborated to show the documentary film What Was Ours along with a short slideshow of SOARRING’s trip to Standing Rock, North Dakota. What Was Ours is a film that touches on the lives of three individuals from the Wind River Indian Reservation and their journey to The Field Museum in Chicago, Illinois. They each take this trip with hopes to bring home artifacts stored within the walls of the museum.

“Arapaho and Shoshone people have always wanted a museum on the reservation. When people hear that we ask to borrow our artifacts, they wonder why we have to ask. They’re ours.”

Standing Rock, North Dakota

— Jordan Dresser, Northern Arapaho Tribal Member

At the conclusion of the movie, Joseph Standing Bear described SOARRING’s trip to Standing Rock, North Dakota to deliver winter supplies and a heavy duty canvas tent complete with a wood burning stove.  Most people in the audience were unaware of the harsh treatment directed at the both Native Americans and their supporters at this historic event.  Joseph finished with a discussion on Native issues and their impacts on the indigenous community.

Annual 1,000 Tree Seed Planting Riverside Illinois

For the last number years SOARRING member and Riverside resident Tom Sisulak has held a 1,000 tree seed planting in Riverside, Illinois. This year the event was held at the Scout Cabin next to the Des Plaines River on November  23, 2019. Over eighty people were in attendance from a variety of different backgrounds.  Due to the large turnout over 3,000 seeds were planted this year, bringing the total planted to over 16,200 hardwood tree seeds of 25 different species in the last thirteen years.

Tom Sisulak began the program talking about the variety of seeds he had hand collected during the year. In so doing he ensures each seed is viable to produce a healthy tree.  Next, Joseph Standing Bear discussed the importance of the environment for all life on earth.  The Riverside tree arborist gave an overview of the Village of Riverside tree conservation plan and noted that Riverside is well noted for the variety of trees within the township.  Afterwards everyone gathered by the fireplace to share stories about the day’s effort.  The potluck was plentiful and delicious.  All are looking forward to repeating the tree seed planting next fall.

Interfaith Service

Joseph Standing Bear became a member of the Interfaith Committee in Lockport, IL, this fall motivated by his desire to create a better world for all people. This year an historic interfaith service was held on Nov.24, 2019 at the St. Denis Catholic Church.  Over six faith representatives were present.  Each spoke and led a prayer from their respective traditions, each echoing the sentiment that we must have respect for one another in order to create better understanding and develop a more harmonious world.  Near the end of the service, Joseph Standing Bear invited all to stand and form a circle within the church.  He led a Native American seven direction prayer, which was unknown to many.  In the days following the interfaith service, many positive testimonials about the benefits of the event continue to be received. Thus the powerful interfaith interaction continues and future events will likely occur.


Annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, Members Meeting and Holiday Party

Medicine Wheel Ornament on SOARRING Christmas Tree

Every holiday season Midwest SOARRING Foundation hosts a volunteer appreciation dinner, holiday party and annual members meeting at the Pilcher Nature Center in Joliet. This year the event is scheduled for December 14, 2019. The nature center is a perfect wooded setting to enjoy fellowship and community over a delicious meal. Activities include a candlelit walk through the forest, and sharing stories while the Christmas tree is decorated with participants handmade ornaments. The event is free and open to all current SOARRING members. Memberships may be renewed at the event.  For further details see the calendar.

August 12, 2019

SOARRING Summer 2019 News

The spring has been a flurry of activity as Midwest SOARRING Foundation prepares for it’s 25th Annual Harvest Pow Wow, September 21 & 22nd, 2019 at the Naper Settlement in Naperville, IL.  Early May ushered in the annual Comcast Cares Volunteer Work Day in which Comcast employees worked alongside SOARRING members to clean up and beautify the Heritage Village, Historic Lockport Train Station (where the Midwest SOARRING Cultural Center is housed), and a section of the I & M Canal.  As always it was a positive and community building event.

Other SOARRING activities included a Spring Equinox and Summer Soltice celebration, and a pipe ceremony for the well-being of our members and the general public. Plans for a monarch butterfly garden next to the Midwest SOARRING Cultural Center are planned for the fall.

25th Annual Harvest Pow Wow – September 21 & 22, 2019

In late September the 25th anniversary of the Midwest SOARRING Foundation Harvest Pow Wow will be celebrated. All our welcome at our popular, family friendly event to experience a weekend of Native American culture, complete with dancing and drumming. This year is particularly special to us. We invite everyone to help Midwest SOARRING Foundation celebrate 25 years of achievement sharing Native American environmental and cultural concerns. During these 25 years we have hosted over fifty pow wows which educate everyone about our rich Native heritage, many who may not have known about America’s First People any other way.

Through our annual Harvest Pow Wow, which has become one of the largest in Illinois, we have united many different communities and tribes over common issues. All Native Americans have been taught how to protect and conserve Mother Earth, and to have respect and reverence for all life. Our pow wows have provided an opportunity for new artists and their work, and a platform for environmental and cultural issues. During this quarter of a century, Midwest SOARRING Foundation has saved over 2,000 acres of Illinois sacred sites. We have become a beacon for what can be achieved with good hearts and spirits.

The Harvest Pow Wow includes Native American dancing and drumming, arts and crafts and food vendors along with children’s activities, and much more. Download the flyer and schedule.

In honor of our 25th anniversary we have invited Grizzlypaws from British Columbia to perform the sacred Bear Dance. Grizzlypaws is the only female Grizzlybear dancer in North America and is breathtaking to watch.  Our other special guests include Jaime Black with The Red Dress Project, and Art Schegonnee with Opening Prayers.  We encourage everyone to bring your friends, neighbors and family. Feel free to bring lawn chairs.

Learn more about the Harvest Pow Wow at www.harvestpowwow.com

Purchase discounted tickets online until September 15, 2019.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

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Aanii Boozhoo

Midwest SOARRING Foundation invites all people to gather into an ever-increasing wider circle that preserves Mother Earth, and the rich traditions of the ancestors. We invite you to learn about the many intertribal Native American lifeways that provide wisdom and direction in our contemporary world. In keeping with this path, Midwest SOARRING Foundation works to maintain the traditions of the ancestors and to conserve and restore to health the natural environment.

We invite you to join our circle. Dance at our pow wows. Attend our cultural events and support the bison herd-our nation's greatest herbivore and symbol of hope and survival for all people. As you listen, you will learn. Together we become the Spirit of the ancestors.

Joseph Standing Bear Schranz

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