History Center takes Cal Fremling for eagle tour

History Center takes Cal Fremling for eagle tour

Kellen Brandt, Features Reporter

The Winona History Center partnered with the National Eagle Center to present a “History of the River: Eagles on the Mississippi” aboard Winona State University’s Cal Fremling boat on Thursday, Sept. 19.

Ed Hahn, marketing manager of the National Eagle Center, said this is part of an educational series called “Eagles on the River” that the center is putting on.

“It is a big part of our outreach program to help us get out of the center and into some surrounding communities,” Hahn said.

The National Eagle Center brought one of their naturalists onto the Cal Fremling to teach about eagles, point out eagles during the tour and answer any questions participants had.

“We talk a lot about the history of the eagle and their cultural significance to the United States,” Hahn said. “It is the living national symbol of our country so it is important to share about eagles whenever we can.”   

Hahn said the National Eagle Center does a lot of outreach to try and inform as many people as possible about eagles and their importance. The National Eagle Center recognizes the Native American dimension of their society since the eagle is such a sacred animal. They also spend time with veterans who come to see the eagles and have a different connection to the Eagle Center.

“We have a lot of veterans come into the center and they see eagles in a much different way than your typical visitor does because when you serve this country the symbol of the nation becomes has an even bigger significance,” Hahn said. “Oftentimes when veterans come to the center, they have an emotional reaction to seeing the live eagles we have at the center.”

The Eagle Center does more than just share their personal passion for the importance of eagles, they also teach their significance culturally.

“It is important to have that better cultural understanding that eagles are not just important to us, but they are sacred to the first nations that were here and the native people,” Hahn said. “Eagles are such a big part of our cultural identity that I think a lot of people do not even realize it until they really stop and start to think about it so that is one of those things that we try to educate and awaken in people when they come to the center and when we outreach.”

Vicki Decker, interim boat manager at Winona State, talked about wanting to bring the community in to also use the Cal Fremling, because the river is a significant part of the community that brings us together.

“The river is the front door to our community,” Decker said.   

Decker talked about the outreach and expansion Winona State and the Cal Fremling have been trying to do to allow more opportunities for not just students but also the community to be able to see and experience the Cal Fremling in action.

“Last year the Cal Fremling went out on about 112 trips from classes to public events to private events,” Decker said. “We wanted to expand on who was able to use the Cal Fremling so it was offered to the community as well as university students. We really love to have the external community using it and teaching about the nature in Winona.”

The “History of the River: Eagles on the Mississippi” boat tour on Thursday was a sold-out event, Decker said it had been such a draw for the community it had sold out for weeks before the event.

While the Cal Fremling attracts many community members, it also attracts a lot of students. Decker said all Winona State students should take a tour on the Cal Fremling because it is unique to Winona State.

“I think it is just a shame if you’re a student here and you haven’t been on the Cal Fremling,” Decker said. “It is a really wonderful asset that not any other school in the state of Minnesota has; in the whole state university system or the private colleges, this is it and we have it in Winona.”

The Cal Fremling is a place of learning and exploration for the students and community of Winona placed in a location that allows a new perspective of the natural world in Winona.

“Winona is a very unique place in that we have so many natural resources right there for us to enjoy whether it is the river which the city sits on or the bluffs and the hiking trails there is just a lot of nature and a lot of opportunities for people to go out and learn about the natural world and gain an appreciation for it,” Hahn said.