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Cree storyteller shares legends and sky lore at open house

Rothney Astrophysical Observatory hosts Wilfred Buck on Nov. 5
November 2, 2016
Atima Atchakosuk (The Dog Stars), popularly known as Ursa Minor, reminds us how the domestic dog came into being. Artwork by Edwin Bighetty of Mathias Colomb First Nation, Manitoba

Atima Atchakosuk (The Dog Stars), popularly known as Ursa Minor, reminds us how the domestic dog came into being. Artwork by Edwin Bighetty of Mathias Colomb First Nation, Manitoba

Cree storyteller Wilfred Buck will be the guest speaker at the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory’s Nov. 5 Open House.

Cree storyteller Wilfred Buck will be the guest speaker at the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory’s Nov. 5 Open House.    

There is a rich tradition of storytelling within Indigenous Peoples. On Nov. 5, the Rothney Astrophysical Observatory (RAO) welcomes Cree storyteller Wilfred Buck at its evening open house.

Buck is from the Opaskwayak Cree Nation. A science specialist with the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre, his job has him travelling throughout Manitoba to rural and urban schools with a portable planetarium to teach students about the night sky from a First Nations perspective.

“Most people are familiar with the Greek or Roman names and stories of the constellations,” says Jennifer Howse, the observatory’s education specialist. “We’re very fortunate to have Wilfred join us this Saturday evening to share some Cree legends and sky lore with us.”

“Representatives from the University of Calgary Native Centre will also be singing and drumming to welcome Wilfred to the RAO,” she adds.

RAO website updated with First Nation Skies resources

Over the past year, Howse has been working on a project to include indigenous astronomy resources on the RAO website. The end result is a collection of information, mythologies and resources related to First Nations Sky Lore.

Steven Vamosi is the Faculty of Science associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion. “A large part of the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s report are calls to action for the government and institutions to share the history of Aboriginal peoples — their culture, language and perspectives.”

“By hosting speakers such as Mr. Buck at its open house and sharing First Nations sky lore resources through its website, the RAO is a great example of how this can be accomplished,” adds Vamosi. 

Dark Night StarLight

Excessive or misdirected artificial light competes with starlight in the night sky. The theme of the Nov. 5 open house is Dark Night — Starlight. In addition to Wilfred Buck’s presentation, RAO director Phil Langill will be discussing the real threat of light pollution to astronomical research and how a few simple changes to lighting design can have a positive impact.

Members of the Calgary chapter of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada will also give the talk, The Solar System and its Place in the Universe: Astronomy’s Journey of Discovery. And visitors will have the opportunity to look through the RAO’s array of telescopes if the weather permits.

The RAO is located south of Calgary and is a principal teaching and research facility operated by the Department of Physics and Astronomy in the Faculty of Science.

The open house runs from 8 to 11 p.m. The entrance fee is $20 per car or $10 person with all proceeds going toward RAO educational programs.

Learn more about the RAO or follow on Twitter @RAOastronomy.