Indigenous knowledge keepers teach others to look to the stars

Two TK keepers say looking at the stars in the night sky will help Indigenous people understand who they are.

“Our teachings, our lives are up there … all of our lodges are up there, all of our clan systems are up there. And when we get home, that’s where we come back,” said Douglas. Sinclair.

Sinclair is an Anishinaabe knowledge keeper of the Ojibways of Onigaming in Northwestern Ontario and has tried to learn as much as possible about constellations and astronomy from a First Nations perspective.

“This knowledge is so powerful and you… you just get a taste of it and you want more,” Sinclair said.

Recently, he traveled to Libau, Manitoba, about 50 kilometers north of Winnipeg, for a three-day event called Tipis and Telescopes, hosted by his friend Wilfred Buck, a Cree astronomer who is the author of two books on native star perspectives.

Wilfred Buck and Douglas Sinclair help assemble a telescope. (Lenard Monkman / CBC)

Buck said it was important for him to teach native youth about the stars in the night sky, as it not only helps people orient themselves, but also their identities.

“It’s a very basic understanding. If you understand this sky, you know exactly where you are, when you are and who you are, ”said Buck, of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba.

He said it’s important to combine western science with traditional knowledge and encourage people to come out of the classroom and come to earth when it comes to learning about heaven.

“The Anishinaabe, the Ininew, the Siksika, the Lakota, all these people, they’re immersed in their reality and they don’t separate from their reality,” Buck said.

In his teachings, Buck said that everything that happens in the world is interconnected, and that includes the stars in the sky.

“Everything is seen as a whole and that’s how everything is taken,” Buck said.

“We can’t just compartmentalize and look at a little star, and talk about that little star… because that little star affects everything else around it and it affects us. So it’s all connected,” Buck said.

Taylor Galvin, a fourth year environmental studies student at the University of Manitoba, has worked with Buck for 10 years.

“I’ve heard a lot of creation stories and a lot of them start in the star world,” Galvin said.

As a self-proclaimed “space geek,” she said that one of the important aspects of her own education was learning about the stars and constellations in the Cree and Anishinaabe languages.

Taylor Galvin is a self-proclaimed “space geek” who says scientists should learn more from Indigenous knowledge keepers. (Kevin Nepitabo / CBC)

“Technically, scientists should learn from us, not the other way around,” Galvin said.

“So I think our knowledge, which has been around much longer, should be welcoming to science, not science to traditional knowledge.”

Buck said he plans to hold similar astronomy events in First Nations across the country, starting in Alberta next year.

About Johnnie Gross

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