Art of the American West
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after Karl Bodmer (Swiss, 1809–1893),
Johann Hürlimann, engraver (Swiss, 1793–1850), Lucas Weber, engraver (Swiss, 1811–1860), Snags (Sunken Trees) on the Missouri , c. 1841
hand-colored aquatint, 14 1/4 x 17 3/16 in.
Gift of the Enron Art Foundation, 1986.49.542.6
Through exhibitions, permanent collection acquisitions, and programming, Joslyn is working to elevate and amplify perspectives that historically have been underrepresented in the galleries. The Museum recognizes the potential of interpretation to highlight the diverse histories, beliefs, and practices embodied in works of art. With OMAHA SPEAKS, we look to broaden the conventional interpretation of objects in our permanent collection by introducing commentary from leaders in our community.

Erin Poor, arts worker and clinical mental health counseling student. Citizen of Cherokee Nation

A colonial perspective insists that the steamboat is the focal point of this print. The sunken trees in the river are inert objects, obstructing the path toward American progress. The steamboat churns on, a symbol of advancing technology and coming change.

Tsalagi (Cherokee) ways tell us to consider the trees, birds, water, and air. Tsalagi stories remind us that trees and animals have agency. We recall long ago when plants, animals, and humans talked to and understood each other. Everyone lived in harmony until humans’ ingratitude and reckless killings disrupted the balance. Fed up, the animals held councils and decided to unleash diseases on humans who did not express gratitude or beg pardon to the animal whose life they took. The plants overheard the animals and could not allow the humans to die from new diseases, so they created medicine. For every disease an animal created, a tree, grass, bush, leaf, root or moss held the medicine.

Those were extraordinary actions taken by plants. If trees acted in this way before, why not in 1832 during the Bodmer-Maximilian Expedition, when the artist traveled along the Missouri River to document landscapes and Indigenous Peoples? Riverboats like this one carried military troops, businessmen, and supplies. They also carried deadly diseases and prejudices.

Look at the trees in the river, evenly dispersed, strategically arranged. What if these trees aren’t just snags? What if they are protectors? Guardians against the coming tide of capitalism, white-Christian supremacy, and environmental destruction. What if the trees are engaged in an act of resistance?


Erin Poor (Citizen of Cherokee Nation) is an independent art historian, curator, organizer, and public educator based in Lincoln, Nebraska. She has held positions in museums, performing arts organizations, and cultural heritage institutions across Turtle Island. Much of Erin’s work focuses on dialogue facilitation in classrooms, galleries, studios, theaters, and virtual spaces. Before the pandemic, she cohosted queer-centered dance parties in Lincoln as DJ Riche Niche. Erin is a clinical mental health counselor in training, hoping to be of service to her communities.

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