Each November, Native American Heritage Month is recognized with the goal of affirming and celebrating the identities of individuals who are often erased from history. Dr. Billie Follensbee, museum studies program coordinator in the art and design department at Missouri State University, has had a lifelong fascination with Native American history, art and archaeology.
Follensbee studies sculpture, remnants and artwork to illuminate more about the unwritten history of Native American culture.
Her most recent published studies have revolved around a set of artifacts deemed the Rogan plates, which depict a bird human. The sex of the bird human on these two plates has long been assumed to be male because of the warrior-like clothing worn by the bird human. Follensbee points to the fact that the original plates have female bodies, though. She says reproductions of the plates seem to highlight the bird human clothing and flatten the chest and stomach to reinforce these images as male warriors.
In her work, Follensbee is correcting misrepresented history. She is shining a light on the obscured record of women in leadership roles, as well as the gender fluidity in native cultures.