Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize

Each year the Center for Great Plains Studies presents a prize for the previous year's best book on the Great Plains. The Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize carries a cash award of $10,000, generously supported by Jim and Cheryl Stubbendieck. Publishers or authors may make nominations; each publisher may submit up to five titles. Only first edition, full-length, nonfiction books copyrighted in 2023 are evaluated for this year's award, which is chosen by an independent committee.


Birding While Indian cover

Birding While Indian: A Mixed-Blood Memoir

The winner of the 2024 Stubbendieck Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize is “Birding While Indian: A Mixed-Blood Memoir” (The Ohio State University Press, 2023) by Thomas C. Gannon.

Gannon is an Associate Professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Associate Director of Ethnic Studies. This marks the first time the book prize has been awarded to a UNL faculty member and current Great Plains Fellow.

From the publisher: "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."

Other finalists: The Cost of Free Land: Jews, Lakota, and an American Inheritance by Rebecca Clarren (Viking) and American Burial Ground: A New History of the Overland Trail by Sarah Keyes (University of Pennsylvania Press)