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Academic & Professional Books  Ornithology  Birds: General

Birds through Indigenous Eyes Native American Understanding of Birds of the Eastern Woodlands

Out of Print
By: Dennis Gaffin(Author), Michael Bastine(Contributor), John Volpe(Contributor)
176 pages, 9 b/w illustrations
Birds through Indigenous Eyes
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  • Birds through Indigenous Eyes ISBN: 9780691250847 Hardback Jun 2024 Out of Print #262195
About this book Biography Related titles

About this book

An intimate and personal account of the profound role birds play in Native American life and spirituality

For many hours over a period of years, anthropologist Dennis Gaffin recorded his conversations with two Native American friends, Michael Bastine and John Volpe, about a shared passion: the birds of upstate New York and southern Ontario. In these lively, informal talks, Bastine, an Algonquin and Ojibwe healer and naturalist, and Volpe, an Ojibwe naturalist and animal rehabilitator, shared their experiences of, and beliefs about, birds, describing the profound spiritual, psychological, and social roles and meanings of birds in the lives of some Native Americans. Birds through Indigenous Eyes presents highlights of these conversations, placing them in context and showing how Native understandings of birds contrast with conventional Western views.

Bastine and Volpe bring to life Algonquin, Ojibwe, and Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) beliefs about birds. They reveal how specific birds and bird species are seamlessly integrated into spirituality and everyday thought and action, how birds bring important messages to individual people, how a bird species can become associated with a person, and how birds provide warnings about our endangered environment. In these conversations, birds – including the house sparrow, Eastern phoebe, Northern flicker, belted kingfisher, gray catbird, cedar waxwing, and black-capped chickadee – emerge as spiritual and practical helpers that can teach humans how to live well.

An original work of ethno-ornithology that offers a rare close-up look at Native American views on birds, Birds through Indigenous Eyes opens rich new perspectives on the deep connections between birds and humans.

Customer Reviews


Dennis Gaffin is professor emeritus of anthropology at SUNY Buffalo State University and the Great Lakes Center for Environmental Research and Education. Michael Bastine is a healer and naturalist of Algonquin and Ojibwe descent and a member of the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nation of Ontario. John Volpe is a naturalist and animal rehabilitator of Ojibwe descent and a member of the Nipissing First Nation of Ontario.

Out of Print
By: Dennis Gaffin(Author), Michael Bastine(Contributor), John Volpe(Contributor)
176 pages, 9 b/w illustrations
Media reviews

"Birds through Indigenous Eyes offers a unique lens on birds and their significance in Native American cultures. Michael Bastine and John Volpe's passion for birds shines through their relational storytelling, weaving together the spiritual and modern realms. The timeless wisdom they share adds depth to the book's exploration of birds' roles and responsibilities. The book encourages us to recognize the value of Indigenous knowledge and ways of knowing and fosters a greater understanding and stewardship of the natural world."
– Dawn Martin-Hill, author of The Lubicon Lake Nation: Indigenous Knowledge and Power

"Birds through Indigenous Eyes represents a new, more humble and just methodology that truly elevates Indigenous knowledge systems. The polyvocal nature of the book invites us into the conversation to ponder and explore perennial questions of humanity's purpose and relationship with the natural world."
– Melissa Nelson, Arizona State University

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