Feb. 16 Olson Seminar examines 'Avians and Indians'

Thomas C. Gannon
Thomas C. Gannon

Birds and their relationships to humans is the topic of the Feb. 16 Paul A. Olson Seminar in Great Plains Studies at UNL.

Thomas C. Gannon, associate professor of English and ethnic studies at UNL, will speak from 3:30 to 5 p.m. at the Great Plains Art Museum. The seminar and a 3 p.m. reception at the museum are free and open to the public.

Gannon's talk will explore the idea that various bird species of the Great Plains and their co-evolving human Lakota cohabitants have been "birds of a feather," for both positive indigenous and negative western-colonialist reasons. Apart from the Euro-colonizing ideology and iconography that easily merge the "Indian" and the bird, an unquestionable close interspecies kinship can be discerned, epitomized in the Lakota's traditional relationship with the "spotted eagle" (the being closest to "Wakan Tanka" or creator), the crow (harbinger of the Ghost Dance revival), and the meadowlark ("the bird that speaks Lakota"). The stark contrast between Native and colonialist attitudes towards birds is found in the tragic tale of the passenger pigeon, which will also receive a plains/Nebraskan focus.

Gannon, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe (Mnikoju Lakota), is the author of "Skylark Meets Meadowlark: Reimagining the Bird in British Romantic and Contemporary Native American Literature," published by University of Nebraska Press (2009). He received the College Distinguished Teaching Award from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2007.

Olson seminars are presented by the Center for Great Plains Studies at UNL. For more information, go to http://www.unl.edu/plains or call (402) 472-3082.

- Linda Ratcliffe, Center for Great Plains Studies