When you look up at the night’s sky, what do you see?
Some of us have grown up with the knowledge of our star stories. We may look up at the night sky and think of a story we learned from our relative or a friend. Others of us may look up at the sky and see The Big Dipper and Corona Borealis, knowing little of our own star stories.
Stories, like The Great Bear and the Seven Birds (Cree), may relate to how one’s people traditionally approach the world. Our ancestral stories and teachings often teach us important life lessons about our community’s practices, traditional ways of thinking and living, and our ancestors’ morals and values. These lessons can also help us understand who we are as people, where we come from, and help us determine our path forward.
Without knowing our star and other traditional stories, it is as though we are looking at the world with one eye closed. “Two-Eyed Seeing” is to see (and appreciate the world) with both Indigenous and Western ways of knowing. Through this view, we can strengthen our connection to our ancestors, traditions, and the natural world, including the stars.
Some Indigenous scientists are advocates for the power of Indigenous knowledge when thinking about and studying the natural world. One of these people is Annette Lee, a D/Lakota and Ojibwe artist and astrophysicist, who founded Native Skywatchers. Annette started Native Skywatchers to preserve knowledge and educate others about Indigenous star stories. Her organization regularly hosts workshops and trainings with Indigenous experts who share their stories. Hilding Neilson, a Mi’Kmaw person and professor of Astronomy at the University of Toronto, is fighting for Canadian astronomy to be more inclusive of Indigenous stories. Wilfred Buck is a Cree knowledge keeper and author of Tipiskawi Kisik: Night Sky Star Stories, who has become known as the “Star Guy,” because of his expertise on First Nation star stories.
If you didn’t grow up knowing the star stories of your people, there may be knowledge keepers within your community who are waiting to share their wisdom. Consider connecting with someone in your cultural affairs department. Also, consider, connecting with your own or other’s star stories using the resources below. All of us have inherited ancestral wisdom passed down in our DNA. It may take time and patience learning to understand the greater sacred meaning of the stories we learn, but it can have big payoffs. Happy star gazing!