The Red Day Star, the Women’s Star and Venus: D(L/N)akota, Ojibwe and Other Indigenous Star Knowledge

By Annette S. Lee, Jim Rock, William Wilson and Carl Gawboy.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In Ojibwe the Morning Star is called I’kwe Anung, which means the Women’s Star. In D(L/N)akota the same planet Venus is called Aåpetu D/Luta Wiçaå®pi the Red Day Star. Both cultures have rich and interesting understandings of Venus that relate to other Indigenous cultures throughout the world. Venus is so often related to the feminine because native peoples carefully watched the movement of the ‘star’ and saw it in the east at sunrise for nine months and then in the west at sunset for the following nine months. Nine months is exactly the time for human gestation. Yet, tragically, the native star knowledge is disappearing as elders pass. The Native Skywatchers project focuses on understanding the Ojibwe and D(L/N)akota importance of this and other celestial connections. MN State Science Standards K-12 requires “Understanding that men and women throughout the history of all cultures, including Minnesota American Indian tribes and communities, have been involved in engineering design and scientific inquiry….For example Ojibwe and Dakota knowledge and use of patterns in the stars to predict and plan.” And yet there is a complete lack of materials. Working closely with a team of culture teachers and language experts we are building community around the native star knowledge.

Keywords: Ojibwe Astronomy, Lakota Astronomy, Archaeoastronmy, Indigenous Astronomy, Astronomy and Native Culture, Science and Culture Curriculum, Science Education, Astronomy Education, Venus, Venus and the Feminine

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp.153-166. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.462MB).

Prof. Annette S. Lee

Assistant Professor of Astronomy and Physics, and Planetarium Director, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota, USA

Annette Lee (mixed-race Dakota-Sioux) is an assistant Professor of Astronomy and Physics and Director of the Planetarium at St. Cloud State University in central Minnesota. The crisis my work addresses is preventing the loss of Ojibwe and Dakota/Lakota star knowledge. Elders are passing. Otherwise knowledgeable native elders tell me that they “…just weren’t listening when the star stories were being told.” Others talk of new generations of ‘star readers’ and how the star medicine will be brought back by the younger generation. Interwoven in the star knowledge is the language, which holds keen insight and observation far beyond what people practice today. My goal is to help preserve indigenous astronomy and pass it on to present and future generations. The Native Skywatchers Program is about creating sustainable change by building community around the native star knowledge. Having graduate degrees in Astrophysics (Washington Univ. 2009) and Painting (Yale 2000) and a UC-Berkeley alumni in Applied Mathematics (1992) the Native Skywatchers project bridges many worlds—learning from elders; relating Native star knowledge to Western knowledge; inspiring youth in science; engaging audiences through culture, art and science.

Jim Rock

Augsburg College, USA

Jim Rock (Dakota) has a Master’s degree in education and has taught astronomy, chemistry and physics for thirty years for thousands of students in universities and high schools from urban, suburban and reservation communities. He currently teaches a Native Skywatchers course at Augsburg College offering indigenous cosmology lessons to teachers throughout Minnesota in collaboration with Annette Lee at St. Cloud State University and Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College. Jim is currently a consultant with both NASA and NOAA using satellite visualization and storytelling, and he had an experiment on the last space shuttle STS-135. His Sisseton Dakota grandmother was a Red Day.

William Wilson

St. Cloud State University, Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College, USA

William Wilson (Lake Nipigon-Ojibwe) is from Ontario, Canada near Lake Nipigon (Animbigon Zaaga’igan-All You See Is Water). He was born and raised at his grandparent’s house, speaking Ojibwe every day and living in a traditional way. Winter camp, snowshoeing, trapping, fishing, moose hunting and blueberry picking were a part of everyday life. William is a member of the Native Skywatchers team, a culture and language teacher, ceremonial/spiritual leader and a professional visual artist.

Carl Gawboy

St. Cloud State University, Fond du Lac Tribal & Community College, USA

Carl Gawboy (Boise Forte-Ojibwe) is from Ely, Minnesota, and is a prizewinning watercolorist. Recently, he has been a co-author with Ron Morton on the books, Talking Rocks and Ancient Earth. He retired from the College of St. Scholastica, where he taught in the Indian Studies Department.