Society of Ethnobiology

To attend the 34th annual Society of Ethnobiology meeting of course. Regular readers would know that I’ve been using this meeting as an excuse – as if I needed one – to travel to the United States for a couple of weeks each year.

In the past these meetings have been held at such wonderful places as the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Tulane University in New Orleans, Fayetteville in Arkansas and Berkeley in San Francisco.

Believe me, Columbus Ohio – which I’m sure has its attractions – doesn’t come within a scrub bull’s roar of any of the above for local colour and locations…

I gave up attending conferences without presenting at them a long time ago and this year I’m giving two presentations tomorrow in a session dedicated to ethnoornithology and  titled “Birds in historical, cultural & archaeological context” where we will “examine birds and human culture in a variety of contexts, including birds, humans and fire, birds and archaeology and what happens when birds, birders and sacred and ancient grounds meet.”

My co-presenter will be Rob Fergus, whom I only met in person for the first time at the opening reception for the conference but have known through various email, chat lines and mutual acquaintances for years.

Rob’s presentation will look at “Birds among the Modern and Ancient Maya“, specifically his:

“Ongoing field work by the authors among seven Mayan linguistic communities in Mexico, Guatemala, and Belize reveal details about the important roles that birds play in the daily lives of modern Mayan hunting, farming, and urban communities. These discoveries shed additional light on birds as depicted in Mayan ethnohistorical accounts as well as Ancient Mayan texts and iconography. Individual birds play specific roles in Mayan mythology and social practices, while birds in general are frequently viewed as spirit messengers that play important roles in forecasting social, meteorological, and ecological events in the community.”

The first of my presentations will, in line with the conference’s theme of “Historical and Archaeological Perspectives in Ethnobiology” examine the “Stone Bird Hunting Hides of the Victoria River District of Australia’s Northern Territory”:

In the Victoria River district of the Northern Territory local Aboriginal groups have long constructed stone hides to hunt a variety of hawks and kites. In this presentation I will discuss the construction, use and distribution of these hunting hides and present material from several interviews with Bill Yidumduma Harney, an elder of the Wardaman language group.

Picture by Rohan Clarke, Wildlife

My other presentation will be based upon an article I wrote for the ABC’s The Drum late last year called “Trespass, Ticks and Twitchers: The Price of a Parrot.”

This article has morphed into: “The price of a parrot – birds, sacred ancient ground and twitchers”:

In early 2010 the Australian birding community was abuzz with news that large numbers of the Princess Parrot, Polyetis alexandrae, had moved from their traditional breeding and foraging grounds in the remote deserts of western Australia to an area within 4 hours drive of Alice Springs in central Australia. In this presentation I will examine the issues and conflicts that arose between local Aboriginal owners and custodians of the land, land managers and birdwatchers over access to the site where the birds were found, near to the oldest site of recorded human occupation in central Australia.

Anyway, I’ve still got to do some fine tuning before the off later this morning.

I’ll let you know how we go and of any other interesting presentations – of which I’m sure there will be many…