Unpacking First Nations knowledge of the sky

Supernovas, auroral sounds and hungry seas: opening the First Nations vision to the sky

Available: Allen & Unwin Publishers

Duane Hamacher’s “The First Astronomers” seeks the deep and living astronomical knowledge of First Nations from around the world – and opposes the notion that indigenous knowledge is unscientific.

This amazing book is the latest in a series of growing works that reflect Indigenous knowledge of the natural world.

It joins other popular texts, including Bill Gammage’s The Biggest Estate on Earth (2011), Bruce Pascoe’s highly controversial and critically acclaimed Dark Emu (2014), Australia’s First Naturalists (2019) by Penny Olsen and Lynette Russell, and the first series edited by Margo Neale.

Astrophysicist Hamacher was led by Ghillar veterans and scientists Michael Anderson, Segar Passi, John Barsa, David Bosun, Ron Day and Alo Tapim.

This book was created in collaboration with Torres Strait Islander scientist Professor Martin Nakata, a leading authority on the integration of Indigenous and Western perspectives.

It’s amazing in scope, interesting in detail and can be found in style. For readers with no knowledge of astronomy (like me), the terms are clearly defined.

Most importantly, Hamacher will reflect on what he is learning around, showing his willingness to listen and learn. Her look reminded me to think about my feelings about different types of knowledge.

The scientific knowledge of the West

First Nations are looking at the sky for the millennium. This book emphasizes that both Indigenous and Western cultures can work together. Indigenous peoples frequently challenged Western scientific knowledge, encouraging new scientific research.

For example, auroras have long been known by First Nations, at high latitudes near the Arctic and low latitudes in New Zealand and Australia. The First Nations described the auroras as “rustling grass, or a man walking on snow.” Sámi – indigenous people of the northernmost regions of Sweden, Finland and Norway – about the aurora guovssahaswhich means “audible light.”

The Western scientific community has dismissed these “auroral voices.” But in 2016 a group of Finnish scientists, led by Sámi and Inuit traditions, confirmed they were there.

The movement of the stars and the brightness of the stars

Another idea first understood by the First Nations was that the stars move closely, with a retrograde motion, when the earth is seen to move backwards into space due to its relative position. to the Earth.

Winifred Buck, an Ininew Elder from Manitoba, Canada, explained that it was called retrograde. random mooswa or “moose spirit,” because the moose rotates backwards when it starts, just as Mars sees it rotate backwards during retrograde movement.

In an interesting chapter, Hamacher describes how the scintillation of the stars – a source of frustration in Western astrophysics – was used by the First Nations to understand the nature of in the air.

For example, for the people of Mabuyag on the Torres River, lightning signals indicate strong winds, changes in temperature and approaching rain. The Wardaman of the North uses this flash to predict the coming of the flood.

Translation of the colonial library

The different stars were not explained – stars that change in brightness as a phenomenon by Western astronomers until 1836. However, as Hamacher points out, we already knew the people of the First Nations to them.






65,000 years – the great history of Australian Aboriginal Astronomy. Yes: Kirsten Banks, TEDxYouth @ Sydney.

Daisy Bates, an Irish anthropologist, spent about two years on Kokatha Island in the Ooldea Mission in the Great Victoria Desert, where she recorded local oral traditions, including astronomical stories, published. in the 1920s. Bates recorded the story of Nyeeruna (Orion), a man in the stars who chased after Yugarilya’s young sisters.

He struggled to explain the stars that shone and disappeared in the story, accusing them of “releasing from nebulae.” Unbeknownst to Bates, he retains the traditional knowledge of the evolution of Betelgeuse and Aldebaran.

This raises an important issue. Where the unique knowledge of First Nations is captured by Western observers such as Bates, early ethnographies need to be re -examined and re -evaluated by people with relevant knowledge. This is a place that has been raised before, in books like Dark Emu.

Similarly, traditional knowledge also identifies novas, supernovas and supernova decoys. In 1847, William Stanbridge recorded Boorong’s view of what (like Hamacher) may have been the Great Volcano of Eta Carinae, incorporated into past oral traditions as a your wife.

The strength of oral traditions

Through the many examples in the book, Hamacher describes the capture and transmission of oral traditions to Indigenous knowledge.

The members of the First Nations have a complex knowledge of state astronomy, which is used to navigate the land and sea. They knew how to tell cardinal numbers from the stars. In Torres Bay, the gills of a group of sharks called Beizam (the Big Dipper on the right) are used to use the right.

Long journeys are marked by the stars, and the landscapes are remembered. Travelers “sing to the land,” to add to the memory of the trip. Hamacher points out that there were many roads and trails paved by European colonists covering the Songlines and existing roads: for example, the Western Highway through the Blue Mountains.

In his last chapter, “The Falling Stars,” Hamacher explores culture and memories about shooting stars and meteorite impacts. For many First Nations people, shooting stars are considered to symbolize the departure of a soul.

The remarkable intergenerational memory of the founding of what is known today in the Arrernte language of Tatyeye Kepmwere (the Henbury Craters, on the border of the Arrernte and Luritja lands in the Northern Territory) has also specific.

Aboriginal people have long known that craters were created by meteorite impact.

In 1921, Prospector James Mitchell asked an Aboriginal man to go with him to the site and the man refused, explaining in Luritja language where “a fiery devil ran from the Sun and made his home to the Earth. ” In 1931, geologists established volcanoes as meteorite landing sites. Radiometric dating has confirmed the pair is 4,200 years old.

Understanding Indigenous knowledge

Hamacher concludes his book by noting that an increasing number of Indigenous people are working in astronomy. Another was Dr. Stacy Mader, a Gidja man who works for the CSIRO at Parkes Observatory in New South Wales. Another was Kirsten Banks, a Wiradjuri woman, Ph.D. Candidate in astrophysics at UNSW, and TEDx lecture.

Karlie Noon and Krystal Di Napoli, women from Gomeroi who are exploring and mastering astrophysics, also wrote Sky Country (2022), a book on the first science series.

As a result of a 2016 project, more than one hundred star names from Indigenous languages ​​were awarded to stars recognized by the International Astronomical Union (IAU). In 2017, the company approved the name Wardaman, Ginanto the five-brightest star in the Southern Cross (Epsilon Crucis).

Hamacher also recognized the importance of incorporating indigenous approaches to knowledge into school curriculum, including Professor Marcia Langton’s educational modules for high schools in the areas of fire, water and with astronomy.

Three important notes to First Astronomers. First, the First Nations had long known much of what was called Western science, which specifically played into the language of other popular texts. Second, early ethnographies on First Nations technical knowledge should be translated by people with relevant knowledge of the subject. Finally, the complex, scientific and far -reaching knowledge held by the First People through the power of oral traditions is solidified.

And as Hamacher puts it, “there’s so much more we can learn if we just listen.”


Aboriginal culture reflects the difficult movements of the stars, the ‘wandering stars’ of the sky


Presented by The Conversation

This article is republished under The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.The Conversation

Directions: Supernovas, auroral sounds and starving seas: Explaining the vision of the sky (2022, March 29) Retrieved March 29, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-03- supernovas-auroral-hungry-tides-nations .html

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