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Astronomie et cultures autochtones


CHIN, Ottawa, Ontario

The Milky Way

Nearly all Indigenous Australians thought of the Milky Way as a river in the sky. The big stars in it were fish and the small stars were lily bulbs (also good for food).

Learn about the tribal hero Priepriggie, famous for his songs and his hunting ability.

In Queensland the Aboriginal story about the Milky Way featured a tribal hero called Priepriggie. He was as famous for his songs and dances as for his hunting. When he sang, the people danced to the rhythm until they dropped with exhaustion and declared that if Priepriggie wished he could make even the stars dance. One morning Priepriggie got up very early, before anyone else was awake, to go hunting. Far away from the camp he found a tree full of flying foxes hanging down asleep from the branches. Although they are small, they make a tasty meal when there is nothing bigger, so he speared the largest one to take home. Unfortunately it was the leader and the rest of the flying foxes awoke and descended upon Priepriggie in great anger. As punishment, they carried him up to the sky.

Back at the camp, his people woke up but could not find Priepriggie. After searching everywhere in vain they decided to perform his dance in the hope that he would return and join them, but they found that without his singing they could not remember the rhythm or keep in time. When evening came they were still shuffling around, all out of step and despairing of ever remembering the traditional songs and dances. Suddenly they heard faint singing coming from the sky. As the song grew louder and the rhythm stronger, they began to get into step and remember the song. Then the stars, which had been scattered across the sky without any pattern or order, also began to twinkle and dance to Priepriggie's song. Gradually they arranged themselves in a wide, glittering ribbon across the sky - the Milky Way. So the Milky Way reminds them constantly that the tribal hero should be celebrated with the proper ceremonies and that they should never forget these traditional songs and dances.
Canadian Heritage Information Network

© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Learning Object: Indigenous Astronomy: The Australians
Institution: RCIP-CHIN