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.
For a useful list of terms and definitions, please visit
The Anishinabe People
This first section describes the traditional stories of the cosmos as told by the Anishinabe people of central North America.
Dans cette légende des Pieds-Noirs des Prairies de l'Amérique du Nord, six enfants se sentaient abandonnés par leurs parents. Ils s'élevèrent dans le ciel pour devenir les Six Garçons perdus, le groupe d'étoiles des Pléiades.
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.
Quelquefois, plus particulièrement vers la fin de l'enfance des étoiles, quelques traces de filaments de nébuleuse réfléchissent la lumière de leur descendance stellaire : on les appelle les nébuleuses à réflexion.
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.
- 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