T e a c h e r  C r e a t e d  L e s s o n

Astronomy and Indigenous Cultures

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CHIN, Ottawa, Ontario

Introduction to Indiginous Accounts of the Cosmos
In this lesson, you and your students will explore the various astronomical accounts that have been told through the indiginous peoples of Australia and North America (in this case, the Anishinabe and Nitsitappi/Blackfoot peoples). These accounts bring rich and unique perspectives of nature, the cosmos, and humanity, perspectives that are often overshadowed by Western traditions. For this reason, this lesson provides students with a connection both to the histories of Canada's First Nations people and to a broader knowledge of the diversity of cultures found worldwide.


This lesson should cover 1 - 2 class periods and should be supported by any additional class references (textbooks, teacher notes, etc...). It can be used within a primary school setting or within a number of secondary school courses, such as Native Studies, Philosophy, Earth & Space Science, Canadian History, Anthropology/Sociology/Psychology, and Ancient Civilizations. Although this is a more historically and anthropologically focused lesson, it could easily act as a Nature of Science topic for many of the Sciences courses. Even the Languages could incorporate this lesson as part of a study on oral story traditions. No matter what the course, this lesson offers an engaging and culturally-relevant resource for your students.

Enjoy!
Glossary
For a useful list of terms and definitions, please visit
- http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/Exhibitions/Cosmos/english/glossary.html
- http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/Exhibitions/Cosmos/francais/glossary.html
The Anishinabe People
This first section describes the traditional stories of the cosmos as told by the Anishinabe people of central North America.
The Anishinabe of Central North America
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Star World of the Anishinabe and Cree Peoples
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Cosmic Quest: Ways of Looking
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
Grandfather Sun, Grandmother Moon, and Mother Earth
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Seven Daughters of the Moon and Sun - The Pleiades
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Seven Daughters of the Moon and the Sun
The seven daughters of the Moon and the Sun
The seven daughters of the Moon and the Sun.

The Manitoba Museum




© The Manitoba Museum
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Story of the Fisher Constellation
Animation of the Fisher story
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
Play the Flash File

Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
Snaring the Sun
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
View the complete media file

Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
Snaring the Sun
Snaring the Sun
A mass of bright threads were braided into a chord to make a snare to catch the sun.

The Manitoba Museum




© The Manitoba Museum
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
Auroras
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Cosmic Quest: Ways of Looking
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Nitsitappi/Blackfoot People
The following section describes the stories as told by the Nitsitappi (also known as the Blackfoot) peoples of the North American Plains.
The Blackfoot of The North American Plains
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Sky Beings (The Moon, Sun and Morning Star - The Planet Venus)
As told by Earl Old Person, (Amsskaapipikani) or by Three Bears (Duvall), Canadian Heritage Informat
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The North Star and Morning Star - The Planet Venus
As told by Mrs. Wolf Plume, Amsskaapipikani, Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Story of the Six Lost Boys
In this Blackfoot story from the North American Plains, six children felt neglected by their parents. They went up to the sky to become the Six Lost Boys, the Pleiades.
As told by Clifford Crane Bear, Siksika
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
Play the Video File

Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
Ihkitsikammiksi - The Big Dipper
As told by Brings Down the Sun, Apatohsipikani Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
Contemporary Views on Blackfoot Sky Stories
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Inside Astronomy Today
Learning Object: Sky Stories Today
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Australian Aborigines
The stories of the Australian Aborigines serve as a good comparison to the stories seen thus far. There are many interesting similarities and differences between the two regional cultures. In addition, the following information also serves as a means to broaden students' understanding and appreciation for other cultures around the world.
The Indigenous Australians
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
Untitled
Untitled
Indigenous Australian Sky Stories

Veronica Patlas




© Veronica Patlas
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Seven Sisters - Orion and the Pleiades
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Pleiades
The Pleiades
Sometimes, especially in the later stages of a star's infancy, a few remaining wisps of nebula reflect the light of their stellar offspring: These are known as reflection nebulae.

Robert Gendler




Robert Gendler © 2002
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Evening Star and the Morning Star - The Planet Venus
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Milky Way
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Sun
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Moon
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Southern Cross
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
The Southern Cross
The Southern Cross
The Southern Cross

Centre of the Universe (CU)




© Centre of the Universe (CU)
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Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
Contemporary Indigenous Australian Stories
Canadian Heritage Information Network
© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
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Learning Object Collection: Inside Astronomy Today
Learning Object: Sky Stories Today
Institution: RCIP-CHIN
Suggested Activities
As you can see, this lesson is both engaging and rich in information. There are many similarities and differences between each culture's accounts. One suggestion would be to have students form small groups and re-enact one of the accounts learned. For example, one group could perform a skit on the Aborigine's story of the sun. Afterwards, the entire class could discuss how each culture presented their understanding of the cosmos. A second suggestion would be for students to write their very own astronomical account. In 1 - 2 pages, students would have to choose a topic, such as the Milky Way, and create a story explaining its existence. The focus would be to create an imaginative piece, one that does not simply follow a Western pattern of explanation.

Here's an idea! Go to http://www.pixton.com/ca/schools/overview and www.bitstripsforschools.com to check out ways in which students can create their very own comic strips online! Have your students create their story and turn it into a comic that can be shared with the entire class. Another option is to create your own online Avatar and narrate your story through it. Go to www.voki.com to check out what options are available. Both choices offer fun ways to allow your students to present their work.

Learning Objectives

Students will:
- discover how the Australian Aborigine, North American Anishinabe, and North American Blackfoot peoples have explained astronomical phenomena within their cultural traditions
- compare the similarities and differences between these accounts across the three peoples
- produce an interpretation/re-enactment based on the characteristics/information discussed of these three indigenous astronomical stories
- relate how different people from different periods in history have pursued an understanding of the world around with modern scientific methods