The night sky has inspired speculation, discovery, and stories throughout time and from all the peoples of this planet. The information derived from observing the stars and moon has led to voyages on land, on sea, through space, and into the recesses of minds and hearts.
Currently, an ancient celestial practice, celebration of solstices and equinoxes seems to be gaining popularity and acceptance.
Indigenous Star Knowledge Symposia
On Monday, Sept. 21, 2020, the autumnal equinox, Ingenium (Canada’s umbrella organization for our three national science museums) and the Institute of Indigenous Research and Studies at the University of Ottawa are hosting the first of four symposia featuring talks and conversations about the night sky and Indigenous astronomy (from the Indigenous Star Knowledge Symposia: A series of local and international gatherings, on the land and online event page),
Indigenous Star Knowledge Symposia: A series of local and international gatherings, on the land and online
Organised by Ingenium in collaboration with the Institute of Indigenous Research and Studies at the University of Ottawa, and hosted on traditional Algonquin Anishnaabeg territory, this series of symposia (chosen on the dates of the Fall equinox, Winter solstice, Spring equinoxes and Summer solstice) will combine spiritual ceremony, presentations, activities and dialogue, both online and on the land. The symposia will feature gatherings of Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, Elders, educators and scholars to share and exchange towards reclaiming, preserving, and revitalizing Star Knowledge with Indigenous communities worldwide.
Our original plan was to have a symposium in September 2020, but due to Covid-19 we have reshaped the entire program to spread out the timeline while combining physical and digitally-inclusive experiences. This blended format greatly expands our original intent to offer a space for teaching and learning, while bringing hope and healing through the Indigenous Star Knowledge and our work.
Fall Equinox: Protocols before Knowledge, Seasonal and regional themes
September 21, 2020 (7 p.m. Est Ottawa, Canada); September 22, 2020 (9:00 a.m. Lismore, Australia)
For Indigenous people astronomy and cosmology are intricately intertwined. Star Knowledge, like everything else, is all about relationships and teaches us our place in the universe.
Shawn Wilson is Opaskwayak Cree from Manitoba. He works at Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples and is also an Adjunct Professor at Østfold University College in Norway. Shawn will discuss how understanding Indigenous Star Knowledge develops a deeper understanding of the very nature of reality. To gain this understanding requires us to develop deeper relationships with Sky Country.
Stuart Barlo is a Yuin man from the south coast of New South Wales, and is Dean of Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples. Stuart will talk about the journey of being able to speak about Sky Country. The journey requires learning how to prepare yourself and create a safe space to develop relationship with Sky Country.
Wilfred Buck, Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Center
*Postponed and adapted due to COVID* Coinciding with a ceremony at Kitigan Zibi, Quebec to launch the Algonquin Star Knowledge Project. Offering of Tobacco and Prayer on the land with Peter Decontie, Wilfred Buck, Anita Tenasco and members of the Algonquin community.
It looks like this is a free event.
One Sky, Many Astronomies
It gets a little confusing but I gather that the symposia are linked to a larger initiative, which has its roots in a 2017 exhibition (co-curated by Wilfred Buck and Annette S. Lee) at Canada’s Science and Technology Museum. ***Video link removed Dec. 8, 2020***
One Sky, Many Worlds; Indigenous Voices in Astronomy
I gather various parties have been working together to produce not only the symposia but a new traveling exhibition “One Sky, Many Worlds; Indigenous Voices in Astronomy.”
I was going to call this item a brochure but its URL includes the words “exhibition book.” Regardless, it’s where you can get more details about “One Sky, Many Worlds” and how it was developed. Do take a look at it, there are many beautiful images, including Margaret Nazon’s beadworks of art, one of which I featured at the beginning of this posting. There are many works of Indigenous astronomy-based art featured in the ‘brochure’. For some reason, the text is white against a dark background. Perhaps they were trying to evoke the stars against the night sky? Unfortunately, it makes the text less readable, which would seem to defeat the purpose of bothering with text in the first place. Also, it can lead to having to deal with cranky writers who worry their work won’t be read. (Just a thought)
Having started to think, it gets hard stop especially after noting this announcement (from an undated page on the ecsite.eu website),
New Partnership with Ingenium: Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation
Nomad are proud to be selected as Ingenium’s partner to develop and tour an exciting new international travelling exhibition ‘One Sky, Many Worlds: Indigenous Voices in Astronomy’. This ground-breaking new exhibition will illustrate in a spectacular immersive display environment how for tens of thousands of years Indigenous people have been building a relationship with the night sky.
The exhibition will showcase artifacts representing global collections, whilst numerous mechanical and digital interactive elements will enhance visitors’ learning and understanding in an engaging, active way that reminds every human being that we come from the stars.
Led by Indigenous knowledge keepers, One Sky, Many Worlds: Indigenous Voices in Astronomy, is an 8,000 sq ft traveling exhibition that explores Indigenous Star Knowledge from locations around the globe. Featuring content from North America, South Africa, Australia, Mexico, South America, Asia, Hawaii, and New Zealand, One Sky asks questions, and shares experiences that will resonate with all people who look up and wonder about the night sky. The exhibition is available for tour internationally from summer 2021. [emphasis mine]
Nomad Exhibitions are innovative creators of international museum quality touring exhibitions.
Nomad offers a unique portfolio of high quality touring exhibitions combining curatorial excellence, state of the art design and seamless turnkey production. Our exhibitions are designed to facilitate exceptional international collaborations between cultural institutions on major exhibition projects, providing museum professionals with a tailored exhibition hosting experience.
Nomad Exhibitions is located in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.
Travelling exhibition and an oddity
Should you be interested in booking the exhibition. you can go to Nomad’s “One Sky, Many Worlds” exhibition web page, where I was intrigued to find this (I’ve emphasized the portion in question),
One Sky, Many Worlds is a collaborative exhibition led by Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, both young and old, from around the world. The exhibition explores the enduring relationship and connection that Indigenous people have with the night sky and how it has provided –and continues to provide – a practical, cultural, and spiritual guidebook for life.
One Sky, Many Worlds is, at its core, experiential. A strong emphasis on exceptional objects and intriguing ideas will be carefully complemented by a variety of interactive elements and spaces designed to engage visitors in active participation.
Each exhibition section will feature an immersive experience, audio visual content, and a selection of digital interactives, many of which will be touch free. For example, visitors will be transported from the Mississippi through the Milky Way on to the Pacific Ocean via a beautiful, [emphasis mine] immersive projection experience; visitors will be engaged in stories as told by Indigenous Elders in their own language; and visitors will also have the opportunity to participate in dynamic activities that show the links between earth and sky and allow them to see the constellations in a whole new way.
The example is a bit puzzling since ‘the Mississippi’ could mean either the ‘state of Mississippi’ or the ‘Mississippi River’ neither of which have any connection to the Pacific Ocean. But, perhaps astronomy buffs would understand this better than I do.
As to why either the state or the river would be the starting point for transportation via the Milky Way, that is a mystery. Especially after taking a look at Sharmila Kuthunu’s July 1, 2019 article, “How to See the Milky Way in 5 Easy Steps” for Space Tourism Guide,
Home to 400 billion stars, our galaxy is a barred spiral that spans 100,000 light years in diameter. While that might seem huge, the Milky Way is only clearly visible from April through October in the northern hemisphere and is hidden below the horizon for half the year.
It rises in the southeast, crosses over the horizon and sets in the southwest. Since it rises and sets in the southern hemisphere, those living in the south can see it directly overhead. The largest view of the galaxy can be seen from southern hemisphere destinations like South Africa, Chile, and Australia [emphasis mine].
Given that there was a global collaboration and the Milky Way is visible from any number of starting points, the choice of whichever Mississippi the writer intended to highlight seems odd. (See geography of Mississippi River; geography of Mississippi state [be sure to follow the red arrow to the green rectangle bordering the Gulf of Mexico])
Most likely, it’s my ignorance showing.
Plus, when I saw Nomad was offering an example, I was hoping there’d be a description or a story representing Indigenous astronomy. If you look at the brochure/exhibition book you’ll see they had a broad range of Indigenous societies represented on the team. The nomad description seems like a lost opportunity.
Regardless of my nitpicking, both the symposia and the travelling exhibition are exciting and I hope they get the attention they deserve.
If you’re as ignorant about astronomy as I am, you might find this piece about the Milky Way on the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) website helpful.
Should you be interested in more about Margaret Nazon’s work, there’s this article (How One Artist Captures the Night Sky in Beads; The otherworldly beadwork of Margaret Nazon) by Pamela Young, first published on April 3, 2020 and updated Sept. 10, 2020 for The Walrus.
In trying to find a more comprehensive history of practices revolving around solstices and exquinoxes, I found this August 2017 article about the Summer Solstice on the History Channel website.