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Indigenous Studies Seminar: A Review of Salish Astronomical Knowledge

3:30 p.m. EDT

Register here.

November 6, 2020

3:30–5:00 p.m. EDT

Night and Day Diagram

The first Indigenous Studies Seminar of the 2020-2021 year will be held on Friday, November 6, 2020 at 3:30 pm on Zoom. The speaker will be Dr. Shandin Pete, affiliated faculty at the University of Montana’s Department of Mathematical Science, talking about “A Review of Salish Astronomical Knowledge." A description of the paper and a form through which to register are below. The APS Library & Museum's Indigenous Studies Seminar Series serves scholars and researchers working on projects in or aligned with Native American and Indigenous Studies.

A Review of Salish Astronomical Knowledge

Across North America, Indigenous people are seeking to reclaim traditional knowledge. In the last three centuries, industrialization, colonial religions, and social pressure have initiated an adaptation of Indigenous people’s economies, social structures, and conceptualization of time. Within the last fifty years, the Salish community of Western Montana has made substantial efforts to reclaim some traditions in the areas of language, arts, and science. Largely absent from these efforts are a reclamation of traditional concepts of time and subsequently, its association with astronomical knowledge.

Salish astronomical understandings permeated throughout much of Salish life, traditions and beliefs prior to the arrival of European influence. Knowledge of the Sun, Moon, and stars, comprising much of the traditional calendrical systems and was an integral part of practices pertaining to ceremonialism, subsistence, and social cooperation. Through the work of early ethnographers attempting to record this knowledge, a somewhat superficial level of understanding had been preserved. Existing knowledge held by living members of the Salish community is sparse yet provide deeper context that situates astronomical knowledge within a Tribal worldview.

This paper highlights current research being conducted on Salish astronomy. The paper relies on archival documents and ethnographic interviews to develop a review of Salish astronomical knowledge to provide a greater understanding of traditional perceptions of this information and how it was operationalized historically to shape temporal thought in economic, social, and spiritual activities. This builds on the authors work toward constructing an Indigenous methodological framework for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) research. This paper aids in advancing an understanding and establish the importance of an Indigenous worldview for STEM research while conjoining an Indigenous research structure from within a Tribal community.