The stories of the Spomi-tapi-ksi (Sky Beings) have been passed down through Blackfoot oral tradition since ancient times. Simple versions of the stories are told to children at a young age. These stories continue to be extremely important for teaching behaviours and morals to younger generations. As people get older and gain more authority, the stories can become more complex, with additional important lessons.

Non-natives are now starting to understand how natives are protectors of the land. Rock, stars, nature, spirits-everything had a meaning. We are the original environmentalists. (Jerry Potts Jr., Apatohsipikani, 2000)

When we pray, we call upon the Sun, the Moon, the stars, the Milky Way , and last, but not least, the Earth and everything in it. We call upon all the elements. (Louise Crop Eared Wolf, Kainai Nation, Alberta, 2000)

Traditions change, they evolve with the rest of the environment, especially technology. What has not changed is our principles. (Andy Black Water, Kainai Nation, Alberta, 2000)

My name is Kent Ayoungman; I am from the Siksika Nation. I come from a big family and we are very closely knit. My grandparen Read More
The stories of the Spomi-tapi-ksi (Sky Beings) have been passed down through Blackfoot oral tradition since ancient times. Simple versions of the stories are told to children at a young age. These stories continue to be extremely important for teaching behaviours and morals to younger generations. As people get older and gain more authority, the stories can become more complex, with additional important lessons.

Non-natives are now starting to understand how natives are protectors of the land. Rock, stars, nature, spirits-everything had a meaning. We are the original environmentalists. (Jerry Potts Jr., Apatohsipikani, 2000)

When we pray, we call upon the Sun, the Moon, the stars, the Milky Way , and last, but not least, the Earth and everything in it. We call upon all the elements. (Louise Crop Eared Wolf, Kainai Nation, Alberta, 2000)

Traditions change, they evolve with the rest of the environment, especially technology. What has not changed is our principles. (Andy Black Water, Kainai Nation, Alberta, 2000)

My name is Kent Ayoungman; I am from the Siksika Nation. I come from a big family and we are very closely knit. My grandparents are my main source of our traditional customs and old stories. Stories taught to me are important and have very strong meanings. Stories that talk about the stars make me think about how we are so lucky to be here today and to respect other people. Stories are good to hear because they teach us morals and teachings for our life in the future and help us to be kind, gentle and loving people. (Kent Ayoungman, Siksika Nation, Alberta, 2003)

© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003

My Grandparents

My grandparents, the late Arthur and Nora Ayoungman, have told me many traditional stories, which have helped me to understand my Blackfoot culture. In this picture they are sitting in our tipi at Stampede. It is there teachings which have really made me strong in my culture.

Kent Ayoungman

© Kent Ayoungman


My niece, Hillary, at the Calgary Stampede

The children are always excited to participate in the Indian Village at the Stampede. They go in the parades, dancing, and get a chance to live in the tipis for the week. Each person has their own tipi design transferred to them. You can see the constellations painted onto the ear flaps of the tipis.

Kent Ayoungman

© Kent Ayoungman


Nephew in front of a Tipi

Old and new come together at the Stampede grounds each year. My young nephew, Marlin, sits on a modern chair in front of my grandparent's tipi, which is painted with an ancient design. Some people interpret the circles on the bottom of the tipi as fallen stars.

Kent Ayoungman

© Kent Ayoungman


Herman Yellow Old Woman's Tipi

My friend, Herman Yellow Old Woman (on the right), stands in front of his tipi with some friends at the Sundance in 1999. The design represents day (yellow) and night (red). The circle above the door is Morning Star and the circles at the top on the ear flaps are the Big Dipper and the Bunch Stars.

Kent Ayoungman

© Kent Ayoungman


Contemporary Sundance at Siksika

In the late spring, we gather together for our Sundance. The tipis are set up in a circle, just the way the wolves taught us in the Wolf Trail story. During the day, the sacred societies conduct their ceremonies. During the evenings, we sit and visit with friends and family, and hear the ancient stories. Many of our stories relate to the Spomi-tapi-ksi (Above Beings).

Kent Ayoungman

© Kent Ayoungman


Sky stories are important in three ways: They give the Aboriginal people a sense of confidence about the universe because it is predictable and obeys the same rules as they do. They cultivate respect for the whole environment, not just animals and plants, because all are part of the same whole and have a spiritual aspect related to the Ancestors of the Dreaming. They provide support for the customs, rituals and behaviour codes of the people since they see these being acted out in the sky. David Mowaljarli from the Kimberley region says that for him everything is written twice - on the ground and in the sky.

Sky stories are important in three ways:

  • They give the Aboriginal people a sense of confidence about the universe because it is predictable and obeys the same rules as they do.
  • They cultivate respect for the whole environment, not just animals and plants, because all are part of the same whole and have a spiritual aspect related to the Ancestors of the Dreaming.
  • They provide support for the customs, rituals and behaviour codes of the people since they see these being acted out in the sky. David Mowaljarli from the Kimberley region says that for him everything is written twice - on the ground and in the sky.

© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003

Aboriginal astronomy has some important differences from Western science, so it can make us think about things we usually just accept without questioning.

It encourages us to think about the fact that we are not separate from nature, but a part of it.

Aboriginal astronomy shows us that there is more than one way of thinking about nature and deciding which things are important. The Aboriginal peoples believe that, with the Ancestors, they have a responsibility for the whole of nature, helping to create and care for it.

In Western science the most important tool is mathematics, which is used to measure and define things. The Aboriginal peoples are not interested in measuring things like time and distance; they are much more interested in the ideas and values they can learn from nature.

Western science tries to understand things by breaking them down into smaller parts. The Aboriginal peoples do the opposite; they try to understand things by looking at how they fit together as parts of a bigger whole.

Using both ways of thinking gives us a better picture of nature and our fascinating universe
Aboriginal astronomy has some important differences from Western science, so it can make us think about things we usually just accept without questioning.

It encourages us to think about the fact that we are not separate from nature, but a part of it.

Aboriginal astronomy shows us that there is more than one way of thinking about nature and deciding which things are important. The Aboriginal peoples believe that, with the Ancestors, they have a responsibility for the whole of nature, helping to create and care for it.

In Western science the most important tool is mathematics, which is used to measure and define things. The Aboriginal peoples are not interested in measuring things like time and distance; they are much more interested in the ideas and values they can learn from nature.

Western science tries to understand things by breaking them down into smaller parts. The Aboriginal peoples do the opposite; they try to understand things by looking at how they fit together as parts of a bigger whole.

Using both ways of thinking gives us a better picture of nature and our fascinating universe

© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003

Learning Objectives

The learner will:

  • Describe some contemporary viewpoints regarding indigenous astronomy
  • Formulate an opinion about the importance of indigenous astronomy to the peoples who created the stories, and society at large
  • Compare and contrast traditional knowledge as a way of knowing and Western science as a way of knowing

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans