Birding While Indian, A Mixed-Blood Memoir

Posted in Autobiography, Books, Media Archive, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, United States on 2023-06-09 17:24Z by Steven

Birding While Indian, A Mixed-Blood Memoir

Mad Creek Books (an imprint Ohio State University Press)
June 2023
246 pages
5.5 x 8.5 inches
6 Illustrations
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8142-5872-9
eBook (PDF): ISBN: 978-0-8142-8289-2

Thomas C. Gannon, Associate Professor of English and Ethnic Studies
University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Thomas C. Gannon’s Birding While Indian spans more than fifty years of childhood walks and adult road trips to deliver, via a compendium of birds recorded and revered, the author’s life as a part-Lakota inhabitant of the Great Plains. Great Horned Owl, Sandhill Crane, Dickcissel: such species form a kind of rosary, a corrective to the rosaries that evoke Gannon’s traumatic time in an Indian boarding school in South Dakota, his mother’s tears when coworkers called her “squaw,” and the violent erasure colonialism demanded of the Indigenous humans, animals, and land of the United States.

Birding has always been Gannon’s escape and solace. He later found similar solace in literature, particularly by Native authors. He draws on both throughout this expansive, hilarious, and humane memoir. An acerbic observer—of birds, of the aftershocks of history, and of human nature—Gannon navigates his obsession with the ostensibly objective avocation of birding and his own mixed-blood subjectivity, searching for that elusive Snowy Owl and his own identity. The result is a rich reflection not only on one man’s life but on the transformative power of building a deeper relationship with the natural world.

Table of Contents

  • PREFACE: The Lifelook
  • March 1965, Piss Hill: Great Horned Owl
  • July 1967, Piss Hill: Lewis’s Woodpecker
  • January 1968, Rapid Creek: Common Goldeneye
  • June 1969, I-90: Western Meadowlark
  • April 1970, Fort Pierre/Missouri River: Sandhill Crane
  • June 1970, a Fort Pierre slough: Wood Duck
  • August 1971, Saskatchewan: Western Grebe
  • May 1977, a Rapid City marsh: Red-winged Blackbird
  • June 1978, Spearfish Canyon: American Dipper
  • June 1979, a Pennington County dirt road: Common Nighthawk
  • August 1981, Old Faithful: Common Raven
  • June 1983, a Pennington County dirt road: Long-billed Curlew
  • June 1985, Skyline Drive: Field Sparrow
  • June 1985, Fort Morgan, CO: House Finch
  • September 1987, northern Black Hills: Mourning Dove
  • December 1987, Belle Fourche, SD: [Species Unknown]
  • January 1989, Rapid City, SD: European Starling
  • January 1991, Gavins Point Dam: Long-tailed Duck
  • April 2001, U of Iowa English-Philosophy Building: Common Grackle
  • February 2003, Kirk Funeral Home: Prairie Falcon
  • April 2003, U of Iowa English-Philosophy Building: Northern Cardinal
  • May 2003, Clay County Park: Bald Eagle
  • June 2004, Ardmore, OK: Northern Mockingbird
  • June 2005, Folsom Children’s Zoo: White Stork
  • June 2006, Crazy Horse Memorial: Turkey Vulture
  • July 2008, Kountze Lake: Snowy Egret
  • August 2008, Fontenelle Forest: House Wren
  • May 2009, the lake beside Lakeside, NE: Black-necked Stilt
  • May 2009, Devils Tower: American Goldfinch
  • May 2009, Little Bighorn Battlefield: Eurasian Collared-Dove
  • May 2009, Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge: Marbled Godwit
  • July 2009, Pioneers Park: Brown-headed Cowbird
  • June 2010, Idyllwild, CA: Steller’s Jay
  • June 2010, Spirit Mound: Dickcissel
  • May 2011, Wilderness Park: Veery
  • December 2011, Highway 385: Ferruginous Hawk
  • May 2012, Indian Cave State Park: Chuck-Will’s-Widow
  • June 2012, Custer State Park: Canyon Wren
  • June 2012, Millwood State Park: Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
  • July 2012, Newton Hills State Park: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • July 2012, Morrison Park: Lesser Goldfinch
  • May 2013, Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area: Bonaparte’s Gull
  • May 2014, El Segundo Beach: Brown Pelican
  • March 2015, Pawnee Lake State Recreation Area: American Robin
  • July 2016, Medicine Bow National Forest—Vedauwoo: Dusky Flycatcher
  • November 2017, Lewis and Clark Lake: Snowy Owl
  • March 2018, West Platte River Drive: Whooping Crane
  • May 2018, Little Bighorn Battlefield: Red-tailed Hawk
  • CODA: Birding While Indian
  • Works Cited and Sources Consulted
Tags: , , , , , ,

Reading Boddo’s Body: Crossing the Borders of Race and Sexuality in Whitman’s “Half-Breed”

Posted in Articles, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, United States on 2012-03-10 02:17Z by Steven

Reading Boddo’s Body: Crossing the Borders of Race and Sexuality in Whitman’s “Half-Breed”

Walt Whitman Quarterly Review
Volume 22, Number 2 (Fall 2004)
pages 87-107

Thomas C. Gannon, Associate Professor of English
University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Offers an extended cultural reading of Whitman’s early story “The Half-Breed,” focusing on psychosexual and post-colonial implications of the story in the context of Whitman’s career, and examining Whitman’s half-breed character Boddo as a racial and sexual “border figure.”

He was deformed in body-his back being mounted with a mighty hunch, and his long neck bent forward, in a peculiar and disagreeable manner …. His face was the index to many bad passions-which were only limited in the degree of their evil, because his intellect itself was not very bright …. Among the most powerful of his bad points was a malignant peevishness, dwelling on every feature of his countenance …. The gazer would have been at some doubt whether to class this strange and hideous creature with the race of Red Men or White—for he was a half-breed, his mother an Indian squaw, and his father some unknown member of the race of the settlers.

—Walt Whitman, “The Half-Breed: A Tale of the Western Frontier”

[T]he question of the abject is very closely tied to the question of being aboriginal. …

—Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak

The “Noble Savage” and the “Monstrous Abortion”

“They showed the child of the Indian girl—my son!—I almost shrieked with horror at the monstrous abortion! The mother herself had died in giving it birth. No wonder.” (“The Half-Breed” [EPF 272])

WHITMAN’S EARLY TALE, “The Half-Breed” (1846), with its contrived plot, sometimes ludicrous melodrama, and blatant appeal to an audience primed for frontier exoticism, would hardly be included on many people’s “A” lists of required Whitman readings. And yet the relatively scant critical attention it has received from scholars is still rather surprising, given the current interest in cultural studies of race and ethnicity. Indeed, the title character’s sheer physical status as a mixed-blood stuck between the worlds of “White” and “Red” seems to beg for an analysis of the work in terms of recent ideas of racial and cultural “hybridity.” William J. Scheick would read Boddo as simply “the passionate, revengeful hunchback half-blood,” whose deformity and moral degeneracy portray the “unnaturalness” -in Whitman’s view-of interracial union. But might not the title character’s racial ambiguity allow for a consequent ambiguity of meaning, and his mixed-race “body” thus serve as a heterogeneous, contestatory site of competing discourses, perhaps even producing its own “discourse of rebellion,” in Michael Moon’s phrase (80)? The half-breed Boddo would thus not only serve as the “immediate instrument of the friction between the races” (Scheick 37), but also as the liminal site or border upon which the encounter of discordant cultural discourses is negotiated.

Some of the discussions of “The Half-Breed” that do exist seem to get the story only half-right, as it were. It may be symptomatic of a continuing Euro-American uncomfortableness with racial mixing that David S. Reynolds finds the novella’s plot “too tangled to be summarized”—as, in the story, Boddo’s own “blood” is too “mixed up” to be culturally viable? Reynolds should have stopped there, for his own summary is so “tangled” that he goes on to identify one of the tale’s fullblood Natives, Arrow-Tip, as the “wrongly accused half-breed” who “is tragically hanged. ” (In point of fact, Boddo is the half-breed, whose lago-like machinations of revenge lead to the hanging of Arrow-Tip.) Scheick rather muddles the whitelNative American issue in another way, by discussing Boddo as, above all, an emblem of Southern fears of white-black miscegenation (36-38), in line with various readings of Whitman’s early or intermittent sympathy for the South. As for Native Americans, Whitman’s view is characterized as follows: since “racial separation” is an “unalterable natural law,” and the results of racial inter-marriage are so “grotesque” and “unnatural,” Native Americans are doomed to extinction (37). But at last, while Scheick’s move to Southern racist attitudes yields an interesting cultural reading, it also sidesteps the real white-Indian interaction of Whitman’s plot…

Read the entire article here.

Tags: , , ,