Is it time to rethink science?

The Canada Science and Technology Museum, in Ottawa, has a new space exhibit – and amongst the 100 year old telescope and displays about radio astronomy, they’ve enfolded something new. New to them. New to “science”, as we have been taught it. New to the way science is typically presented by our national official bodies. But actually,  it’s something ancient. It’s indigenous star stories.

star-maps (1)

(From top to bottom, left to right) star maps from Ojibway, Dakota/Lakota, and Ininew/Cree First Nations. Credit: Wilfred Buck © 2016, Annette S. Lee, William P. Wilson, Carl Gawboy, © 2012, Annette S. Lee & Jim Rock © 2012, and Annette Lee, William Wilson  

On the wall called ‘One Sky, Many Astronomies’ are different maps of the constellations, some in Ojibway, Dakota/Lakota, Cree. What the exhibit does is acknowledge that the Greek and Roman constellations that we have been taught were just one set of stories… This country we know as Canada was made up of many Nations, long before the provinces were franken-stitched together… and those Nations had their own ways of knowing the constellations… starting with a beautiful story about Skywoman, the first human, who fell from a hole in the Skyworld. In this world view, the stars are our ancestors.

“As much as there’s this idea that science is all rational, science is immune from culture, that’s simply not true. Science itself is not actually separate from culture. It came from a specific culture, and that’s Western European. Part of what the star knowledge brings is a sense of purpose, the sense of hope, this lifeline, that each person is connected. To the bigger whole, the universe, the stars. Those stars are more than just balls of gas. When we do indigenous science, those stars are our oldest relatives. This sense of connectedness is a unique part of indigenous science. In Western science, knowledge is often considered separate from the people who discover it, while indigenous cultures see knowledge as intricately connected to people. It’s not like we’re just outside observers watching this. The key thing is we’re a part of it.” ~Indigenous astronomer, and exhibit co-curator, Annette Lee

Take a peek at this wonderful article from Science Friday. It’s such a delicious invitation to come back into relationship with all things, acknowledge how much less-than we have made ourselves by attempting to quash indigenous culture, and honour the deep intelligence of indigenous science.


artwork by Molly Costello

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