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Scales and Tales: The Importance of Reptiles in Native American Cultures of the Southeast

When it comes to reptiles and amphibians, the southeastern United States is the most biodiverse region in North America – Georgia alone is home to over 160 species! For thousands of years the Native Americans of this region, like the Cherokee, have not only lived alongside their many scaly neighbors, but also incorporated them into their culture. Evidence of the prominent role of reptiles in the traditions of southeastern indigenous people can be found in their artwork, in their legends, and in their traditional knowledge. During this presentation, attendees will explore some of these aspects of southeastern Native American culture and meet some of the real-life animals that inspired them.

This lecture is free for BHM members. $7 for not yet members.

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Get to Know the Speaker

Erin Zaballa holding a black snake

Erin Zaballa is a history and environmental educator who has always been fascinated by how  landscapes and ecosystems of the natural world have influenced human history. She graduated from Kennesaw State University with a BA in American History with minor in Native American Studies and a BS in Environmental Studies. She also holds a native species education/exhibition permit from the GA Department of Natural Resources and has a certification in venomous snake handling/relocation from The Rattlesnake Conservancy. Erin has worked in museums and nature preserves for almost 20 years, and currently works as a museum educator at the Booth Museum and serves as the vice president of the GA Reptile Society (a nonprofit education, conservation, and pet reptile rescue organization). As part of GRS, she and her Animal Ambassadors provide meaningful education via in-person reptile interactions to thousands of people each year. Erin lives in Cartersville, GA with her husband, 4 snakes, 3 lizards, a tortoise, a frog, a cat, and usually a few scaly foster animals.


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