Government corruption ignites a 19th Century Cheyenne curse.
Author: Marcha's Two-Cents Worth
I'm a science fiction author of the Star Trails Tetralogy, retired after two decades working at NASA, defected from my physics training to become a professional astrologer, and various other acts of rebellion. More recently, I've teamed with Pete Risingsun in writing "The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits" which was released in July 2020 with more to come.
Today is Earth Day, reminding us to honor and appreciate our planet as well as treat her kindly. The concept of doing so only once a year is incomprehensible to Indigenous cultures. Native American reverence for all living things extends to the Earth herself. Taking what you need with respect and gratitude is expected; exploiting her resources for the sake of greed is abhorrent.
Every day was “Earth Day.”
For example, bison (erroneously called buffalo) were revered and respected. They killed only what was needed for food, then used the hide, horns, bones, and sinew for such things as clothing, tipis, and tools. Nothing was wasted. Killing for sport or simply for the animal’s hide (much less its tongue), was unheard of.
Then the white man came.
At the beginning of the 19th century 30 to 40 million bison were present on the Plains. By 1895 their numbers had been reduced to roughly 1,000. Upon completion of the Intercontinental Railroad, they were often shot from moving trains. Hide Hunters moved into Native hunting grounds and slaughtered bison, leaving their rotting carcasses behind.
In 1873, Army Lt. Col. Richard Irving Dodge stated, “Where there were myriads of buffalo the year before, there were now myriads of carcasses. The air was foul with a sickening stench, and the vast plain which only a short twelve months before teemed with animal life, was a dead, solitary putrid desert.”
Historian, Pekka Hämäläinen, noted the effect this had on Native Americans when she noted, “The buffalo was the foundation of their economy and the centerpiece of their cosmology, and the wholesale slaughter shook their existence at its core.”
Where might our country be today if it weren’t for such wanton destruction? But the real question is have we learned anything since?
Many indigenous people from various tribes have fought for their rights, whether on horseback or in the halls of Congress. Among them was a young woman named Bright Eyes, about whom plans are in work to make a feature-length movie.
It’s the true story of a shy, young woman of the Omaha Tribe whose love for her people and other Native Americans helped her overcome her fear. So, she spoke out against injustice and helped bring about the landmark court case of Chief Standing Bear vs. General George Crook where a Native American was first regarded as a “person” with legal rights!
Can you believe that it took until 1880 for Native Americans to be considered a “person?”
What’s wrong with this picture? Let’s take a look at the founding documents of the United States penned in 1776. How many times have you heard the following words from The Declaration of Independence ?
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
“All men?” Really? Obviously that didn’t apply to First Nation peoples.
Did you know that in the early 19th Century slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person for census purposes while indigenous people were not counted at all?
Then there’s the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified July 9, 1868, following the Civil War:
“All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; or shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Did this apply to indigenous people? Obviously not.
Instead they were considered savages for fighting for their rights to land on which they were the original occupants. A country that shoved them out of the way, yet states in the Second Amendment to its Constitution, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
And why the Second Amendment? To defend our country from a tyrannical government or foreign invaders!
Seems to me that’s what Native Americans were trying to do when all other negotiations with the U.S. Government failed.
If more people understood the true history of how indigenous people were treated it could make a huge difference. As I’ve discovered the truth through research I’ve done writing The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits and working with my Northern Cheyenne co-author, Pete Risingsun, I’ve been outraged by the hypocrisy and double standard.
The United States would be a wonderful country if only it followed its own declarations rather than the whims of greedy, powerful individuals who either warp or by-pass the law to their own benefit. And if you think things are improving currently, clearly you don’t understand what’s going on. Why are illegal aliens treated better than our nation’s first people? Everyone who belongs here is losing their rights at an unprecedented rate.
Perhaps it’s a case of “What goes around, comes around.”
I didn’t intend for this blog to turn into a rant, but it’s something I’ve come to feel very strongly about.
Back to Bright Eyes, this wonderful true story about an heroic Native American woman is being made into a feature film. I encourage you to watch the trailer here.
The producers are looking for crowd funding to make it happen. You can help bring this inspiring story to the big screen! Find out more on their website.
This short video captures the essence of the indigenous spirit. Some of the comments are worth reading as well. I stumbled upon it quite by accident and it touched me so deeply I wanted to share it with as many as possible.
Indigenous people get a lot of bad press, mostly from history books written by their conquerors who knew little of their beautiful, compassionate culture. There is much to be learned from their wisdom. The world would be a better place if more people embraced their values of family first, hard work, connection with nature, independence, generosity and kindness.
I hope you enjoy this short (about 10 minutes) video and it brightens your day with hope as it did for me.
1. Many cultures in the past viewed Venus as the goddess of war when she’s the Morning Star and rises before the Sun as opposed to the goddess of love when she’s the Evening Star and sets after the Sun.
2. The dates you see for Zodiac Signs are approximations. When the Sun goes into a sign is based on the relationship between the Earth and Sun, not our flawed Gregorian calendar.
3. The Bible states the Sun, Moon, and Stars are for “times and for seasons.” Using them for calendars results in a far more accurate time-marking device than a calendar created on the whim of ego-maniacal emperors.
4. In esoteric Judaism the influence of the planets does not depend on their position in the sky, but on the hour of the day as discussed in several Talmud and Kabbalistic sources.
5. You natal chart is the template for your life based on the place and moment of your birth, but it changes with time. Known as your “progressed chart,” it adds another dimension to who and what you are, similar to if you move to another country, state, or cultural area.
6. You will experience different astrological effects in different locations. Some are better than others for love, career, friends, creativity, education, and so forth.
7. Companies and corporations have a natal chart, too. Financial astrologers who tend to call themselves “cycles analysts” use them to predict the behavior of the stock markets, gold, and silver.
8. There is no such thing as being born on a “cusp.” Your natal Sun will be in one sign or another. Any blending effects will often relate to the location of Venus and Mercury, who could be in a neighboring sign.
9. By the end of the 1500s physicians across Europe were required to learn astrology to help with diagnosing disease. Check the Old Farmer’s Almanac for astrology’s connection with the human body. In fact, the timing recommendations found in that publication are all based on astrology.
10. Asteroids can have a strong influence on a person’s identity, love life, and career, again proving size doesn’t matter in astrology.
11. Being familiar with the Greek gods and their stories as well as the concept of archetypes makes understanding astrology a piece of cake.
12. Predictions without sufficient context are difficult if not impossible. Each sign, house, and planet has multiple interpretations. Astrology is not deterministic, but recognizes free will. Yoda recognized this fact when he told Luke, “Always in motion the future is.”
There are many interpretations of the Medicine Wheel, perhaps as many as there are tribes. Nonetheless, there are distinct similarities, all seeking to help a person grow through self-knowledge. The one included here pertains to the principles taught by Sun Bear and Wabun Wind in their book about the Medicine Wheel, but subtitled “Earth Astrology,” which lines up nicely with the zodiac used in Western Astrology.
Not surprisingly, the interpretations for the different “Moons” are about the same as their corresponding zodiac sign.
Sun Bear, an Ojibwa, states that his interpretation of the Medicine Wheel was not derived from western astrology, but acquired through inspiration from the Great Spirit, suggesting that both systems originated with the same source. The purpose of their system is to help all people relate more closely to the Earth Mother and all of creation.
Here are Sun Bear and Wabun Wind’s Medicine Wheel equivalents to the zodiac with their totems.
ARIES – March 21 – April 19
Moon: Budding Trees
Animal: Red Hawk
Mineral: Fire Opal
TAURUS – April 20 – May 20
Moon: Frogs Return
Plant: Blue Camas
GEMINI – May 21 – June 20
Moon: Corn planting
Mineral: Moss Agate
Color: White and Green
CANCER – June 21 – July 22
Moon: Strong Sun
Plant: Wild Rose
Mineral: Carnelian Agate
LEO – Jul. 23 – Aug. 22
Moon: Ripe Berries
Mineral: Garnet and Iron
VIRGO – Aug. 23 – Sep. 22
Animal: Brown Bear
LIBRA – Sep. 23 – Oct. 23
Moon: Ducks Fly
SCORPIO – Oct. 24 – Nov. 21
Moon: Freeze Up
Mineral: Copper and Malachite
SAGITTARIUS – Nov. 22 – Dec. 21
Moon: Long Snows
Plant: Black Spruce
CAPRICORN – Dec. 22 – Jan. 19
Moon: Earth Renewal
Animal: Snow Goose
Plant: Birch Tree
AQUARIUS – Jan. 20 – Feb. 18
Moon: Rest & Cleansing
Plant: Quaking Aspen
PISCES – Feb. 19 – Mar. 20
Moon: Big Winds
Equivalents to the Elements in Western Astrology
Fire = Thunderbird
Earth = Turtle
Air = Butterfly
Water = Frog
The introduction to The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology states, “We have forgotten that we are connected to all of our relationships on the earth, not just our human family. We have forgotten that we have responsibilities to all these relations, just as we have them to our human families. We have imprisoned ourselves in tight little worlds of man-made creations.”
You do not need to be familiar with western astrology to enjoy and understand this approach. If you are, then it will enhance and deepen your perceptions with another layer of insights into yourself and others. The books below, available on Amazon, provide the details and earthly beauty of the system for relating to Mother Earth.
[NOTE:–These books are among the many I’ve read as research material while writing The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits. Co-author, Pete Risingsun, provided the details of Charlie’s journey in the book, but material such as this helped me learn more about Native American culture and prepared me for our collaboration.]
The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology by Sun Bear and Wabun Wind
Dancing with the Wheel: The Medicine Wheel Workbook by Sun Bear, Wabun Wind, and Crysalis Mulligan
It’s Native American Heritage Month as well as Veterans’ Day, the perfect time to show appreciation for the many astouding contributions Native Americans have made to the U.S. Military. Their participation rate is higher, 19% having served in the armed forces versus 14% of other ethnic groups. Furthermore, even though they were exempt from the draft, many enlisted.
The “warrior tradition” of Native American tribes was mostly squashed once they were exiled to reservations, yet their love for their country and willingness to defend it remained. They already dealt with the consequences of one “foreign invader” stealing their land. The prospect of things getting even worse with another one was not an acceptable option.
It’s ironic that in the late 19th and early 20th centuries Native Americans were forced by the U.S. Government to leave their traditions behind, including their languages. Fortunately, however, their many dialects survived, a fact that was a major factor in U.S. victory during World Wars I and II.
During that time their unique, unwritten languages were perfect candidates for development into code. If you’re unfamiliar with the “Code Talkers,” here’s a brief summary, courtesy of Wikipedia:
“…there were approximately 400 to 500 Native Americans in the United States Marine Corps whose primary job was to transmit secret tactical messages. Code talkers transmitted messages over military telephone or radio communications nets using formally or informally developed codes built upon their native languages. The code talkers improved the speed of encryption and decryption of communications in front line operations during World War II.
“There were two code types used during World War II. Type one codes were formally developed based on the languages of the several tribes, including the Lakota, Crow, Comanche, Hopi, Meskwaki, Seminole, and Navajo peoples. They used words from their languages for each letter of the English alphabet. Messages could be encoded and decoded by using a simple substitution cipher where the ciphertext was the native language word. Type two code was informal and directly translated from English into the native language. If there was no word in the native language to describe a military word, code talkers used descriptive words. For example, the Navajo did not have a word for submarine so they translated it to iron fish.”
Several tribes were represented during the course of various wars and campaigns, including the Navajo, Comanche, Hopi, Meskwaki, Cherokee, Choctaw, Cree, Mohawk, Muscogee (Seminole and Creek), and Tlingit. Military and government honors have been bestowed on them for their contribution, in some cases years later because it couldn’t occur until the program was declassified.
If you’re a history buff, especially as it relates to intelligence encryption, you’ll want to check this out further. Wikipedia has a comprehensive article at here and Military Times published an outstanding piece which includes interviews with former Code Talkers here.
Clearly this honorable tradition is continuing today for both Native men and women. The first Northern Cheyenne to graduate from West Point was Micah Highwalking. As of her 2010 graduation date, she was one of only five Native Americans to accomplish that honor. You can read more about her on Facebook here.
On this special day all former and current members of our military deserve our respect and gratitude, but especially the many Native Americans from all tribes who willingly fought beside those who had previously been their foe. It’s notable that on Veterans’ Day 2020 the Smithsonian Institute dedicated the National Native American Veterans’ Memorial. You can learn more about it here and watch their virtual message in the following video (17:25 min).
The Navajo Codetalkers
Video Introduction to the book (3 min)
Wyoming PBS Special on Native American Veterans (27 min)
Help Native American Veterans
If you’d like to show your appreciation for their service by helping Native American veterans, Native American Veterans’ Assistance (NAVA) does exactly that. Their website is here and their donation page is here.
Q: How did you meet Marcha Fox? You live in Montana and she lives in Texas.
A: I wrote a detailed article about sweet grass, a sacred medicine plant the Cheyenne use in all of our spiritual ceremonies. Marcha read the article in the Soaring Eagle Newsletter, then wrote me a letter and we eventually talked on the phone. She liked the way I wrote the article.
Q: What happened next?
A: We did an interview on the phone. My questions were:
Why are you writing a book about Native Americans?
What made you decide on a Cheyenne character?
How do you want this book written?
Will I be paid for my work?
She called back the next day and said, “I want the book written accurately so when another Cheyenne reads the book they will not be offended.”
After that, she received an A for the first three questions and an A+ for the fourth question.
I told her I had to read her book first to determine if I could help her. She assured me it would be easy.
I read her draft of The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon. I told myself, “Wow. If you decide to help Marcha you are going to change Charlie Littlewolf into a traditional Cheyenne. You will make him a Cheyenne medicine man and warrior and the grandson of an honored and respected medicine man.” I pondered it for a week, thinking it could help my grandson’s college fund.
Q: What convinced you to coauthor with Marcha?
A. Well, I felt confident that I could help. My question was how we would accomplish telling the story.
I began to understand she needed a Cheyenne medicine man to be a main character in the story. Still I had no answer on how. Then I knew: Ask the grandfather spirits for guidance.
I went to the sweat lodge alone and entered. I called the spirits and waited a long time before they came. The grandfather spirits spoke the truth to me. “You help this woman, she wants to do good things for our Cheyenne people. Tell her your story, only in the spirit of truth. You cannot do this for money, you will fail. Grandson, you have been chosen by Maheo to speak for your people.”
I then had a purpose to tell my story for my people. I went home feeling happy. I thanked the grandfather spirits for their guidance with wisdom and became the coauthor.
Q. You are from two entirely different cultures. Did you experience any challenges because of the cultural differences?
A. The greatest challenge was communicating the details of our Cheyenne spiritual ceremonies. The ceremonial sweat lodge requires detail and protocol. Ceremonial sweat lodge keepers have completed their vows for many ceremonies to earn their right to be a lodge keeper. So therefore they have high expectations of individuals who enter to focus on the purpose and protocol for the ceremonial sweat.
The Sacred Mountain fasting ceremony requires four days and nights on a buffalo robe with a sacred red pipe and the guidance of a painter who earned their right to guide you to complete your vow to fast at the sacred mountain.
The fasting ceremony requires a year of preparation with family support to set up camp and be there when your painter brings you down. Your vow is a commitment to fast without water and food for four days and nights for a purpose.
I came to understand and realize that I had not explained to Marcha who, what, why and how a medicine man became who he is. A medicine man inherits his medicine from his grandfather from a lifetime of teachings. A medicine man has great spirit powers with Cheyenne medicine to heal and clean people of their wounds, illnesses, curses, and call back lost spirits.
I realized how important it was for me to explain and continue to clarify my communications when the main character in the story was to become a medicine man.
We then were able to begin transforming Littlewolf into the grandson of Eaglefeathers, a true medicine man with great spirit powers.
Q. What agreement did you and Marcha have as authors of “The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon?”
A. We did not agree on a plan, we just did it. Marcha offered to hire me as a subject matter expert and sent a payment in good faith. We did the hourly rate arrangement for a short time. I then offered the Cheyenne way. I told her, “I will help you write your story and when we are done you can give me a gift of your choice, to show what my work meant to you.”
Cheyennes gift a nice comfortable blanket. So we decided to do this, since Marcha felt this was fair. My grandfather spirits said for me to tell my story in the spirit of truth for my people and not for money. We became a team of good faith to tell a great story.
Progress requires change. As new truths become evident, old ones fade away. Sometimes it’s a good thing; others, not so much.
Consider the period in history known as The Enlightenment.
It’s hard to miss the irony of what “being enlightened” meant in the 17th Century versus what it means now.
When it was proven conclusively that the solar system was heliocentric, not geocentric, it unlocked new doors of scientific knowledge. Ecclesiastical authorities trembled, called out for professing a truth that simply wasn’t. Placing Galileo under house arrest did not change the facts, only made the powers-that-be ultimately look like fools, their credibility and power decimated.
Was this progress?
In some respects, yes.
In others, not so much.
Slammed by this undeniable revelation, the faithful stumbled over the rubble left behind. Sadly, this placed the realm of the spirit under scrutiny as well. It was undetectable and thus unable to be proven in the lab. Besides, it was part of the domain of those who’d erroneously insisted upon a geocentric universe. Astrology, which is based on an Earth-centered view of the heavens, was tossed aside as well.
Skeptics rail against prayer and any connection to things of the spirit, their mien no different than that of the bishops, cardinals, and popes who once proclaimed the Earth orbited the Sun.
The Enlightenment is largely responsible for where we are today as a planet, for good or ill. Maybe it’s time to take a step back and rediscover what was lost when telescopes and space probes replaced the wonder and beauty of the night sky. Likewise, our connection to each other as well as every plant, animal, and mineral that comprises our Earth Mother. Beyond that, hasn’t science itself told us we are all made of “star stuff,” comprised of elements produced in the stars?
The place from which we came and where we’ll eventually return has yet to be detected by scientific instruments. One of the things I love about quantum theory is that it’s the most likely place where all these strange and wonderful unexplainable things could easily reside and thus reconcile the argument between science and religion once and for all. What exactly is the role of consciousness? Do thoughts become things? Does it interact with matter?
Isn’t that what our spirit and body do? Every single day?
Science has yet to provide an answer.
Those in tune with a higher realm are familiar with other ways of knowing.
Fortunately, the flawed concept that the only world that officially exists is the physical one didn’t reach indigenous people. Now they have the opportunity to teach us those things that they wisely retained, in spite of “modern civilization” trying to beat it out of them. After centuries of bad press, the wisdom of ancient ways and beliefs is finally being recognized, honored, and revered.
At long last a select few are embracing the untarnished wisdom of those who have always known the answers before modern man became smart enough to even know the questions. Only when this wisdom is incorporated into mankind’s heart and soul will we be able to handle today’s technology in a constructive way.
And therein lies the irony, that absorbing this spiritual knowledge and perceiving this magnificent unseen realm is called–
A somehow tragic illustration of the Circle of Life.
Picture credits: Pixabay (Ancient key: Konstantin Krasinkov; Jupiter: Randy Cardoso Garcia; Crazy Horse Memorial: Rudi Nockewel; Heavenly Light: Gerd Altmann)
a. A circle divided into four parts, each of a different color representing Earth’s four races.
b. A large circular structure oriented with the four cardinal directions defined by stones that was used anciently as a calendar.
c. A complex philosophy that promotes self-reflection, personal growth, and spiritual progression.
d. All of the above.
2. Where can you find ancient medicine wheels?
a. Lovell, Wyoming
b. South Dakota and Wyoming
c. Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.
d. All of the above
3. How old is the medicine wheel?
a. 20,000 years
b. 7,000 years
c. 300 – 800 years
4. What are medicine wheels used for?
a. A calendar.
b. Institute peace and understanding.
c. Personal introspection, meditation, and personal growth.
d. All of the above.
1. What is the medicine wheel?
Answer: d – All of the above.
a. Many tribes define it as a circle equally divided into four sections of different colors, i.e. black, white, yellow, and red, which represent the four races of man.
b. Pictured above, the most famous physical medicine wheel and type site for such configurations in North America is at an elevation of 9,642 feet in the Bighorn Mountains in Lovell, Wyoming. It’s 75 feet in diameter and comprises a roughly circular alignment of rocks and cairns. Within the primary circle lie 28 rows of stones that extend out radially from a central cairn.
c. The medicine wheel is both an archaeo-astronomical entity with ancient roots supported by archeological evidence and a philosophical one for personal growth and spirituality intended to strengthen a community, one individual at a time.
2. Where can you find ancient medicine wheels?
Answer: d – All of the above.
Between 70 – 150 ancient medicine wheels have been identified in South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.
3. How old is the Medicine Wheel?
Answer: d – Unknown
Some sources indicate that the Lovell Medicine Wheel is part of a much larger complex of archeological sites and traditional use areas that indicate 7000 years of Native American occupation. Others estimate it was built between 300 – 800 years ago.
The modern medicine wheel philosophy proclaimed by Sun Bear and Wabun Wind (see references below) originated in the early 1970s.
4. What is the Medicine Wheel used for?
Answer: d – All of the above.
There are 28 “spokes” in the Medicine Wheel, which coincide with the Moon’s cycle of approximately 28 days. Some stones align with the Sun’s rising and setting on the equinoxes and solstices, marking the seasons.
At different times in the 20th Century archaeoastronomer, Jack Eddy and astronomer, Jack Robinson, independently determined that some of the stones aligned with the heliacal rise of certain stars. These served to divide the seasons into months.
The dawn or heliacal rising of a specific star pinpoints a date exactly. This is the day a star is first seen, just before its extinguished by dawn, after it has been hidden by the Sun’s light for an entire season. If you’re familiar with astronomy, you know that certain stars are only visible specific times of the years. Others never set, such as Polaris, a.k.a. the North Star, and the constellations such as Ursa Major and Minor which include the Big and Little Dipper, that surround it. They are always visible, but they rotate around Polaris and thus change positions during the year.
b. Institute peace and understanding.
The estimate of the medicine wheels’ age of between 300 – 800 years old coincides with the 15th Century AD when Native American nations were in a state of constant war with each other.
At that time a great Iroquois Chief later known as Hiawatha urged the tribes to cease killing their brothers and formed a great alliance known as the Confederation of Nations, which proclaimed Indian peoples were more alike than different, in spite of speaking different dialects. Their basic belief systems and traditions were similar.
The Medicine Wheel became part of this commonality and was decorated in special symbols, colors, and stones, to let people entering the tribe know about its tribal members. The wheel instructed individuals on their strengths and weaknesses as well as what they needed to learn and share with others. Each was expected to work on themselves, or leave the tribe. Within a few generations, people lost the concept of blame and anger which resulted in the longest peace in modern history of 150 – 200 years.
c. Personal introspection, meditation, and personal growth.
The medicine wheel has interpretations that are similar to those espoused by Western Astrology. Sun Bear (Ojibwa), whose visions revitalized the medicine wheel for this purpose, claimed, “We attribute any similarities between the Medicine Wheel and astrology or any other way of self-knowledge to the fact that all truths come from the same source.” (The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology, p. xix).
Similar to an astrological natal chart, a person’s birth date determines their location within the medicine wheel. That placement is associated with a special moon, power animal, healing plant, color and mineral. As a person progresses through life and experiences challenges, answers and inspiration can come from “visiting” other locations on the wheel and meditating upon the qualities they need to learn and grow.
The Navajo (Diné) have a rich tradition of starlore that maintains everything is connected. The stars above, the Earth below, and every plant, animal, and human. All are an integral part of nature and the Creator’s greater whole.
To Diné, the night sky is a sacred place. One does not speak of sacred things casually. Talk of the stars only takes place between October and February in Winter Stories, told when bears, insects, and plant life are resting. The only exception is limited discussion around the summer solstice
Starlore has been passed on through oral tradition and differs slightly from region to region. Such knowledge is mostly held my elders and medicine men. Certain parts of the sky relate to healing and societal messages, such as the importance of family. Many parts of the sky are too sacred for discussion among the uninitiated.
The Big Dipper, Casseopeia and Polaris are known to the Diné as one constellation known as Náhookǫs. It is perceived as a male warrior (Big Dipper) facing his female companion (Cassopeia) with the central fire (Polaris) between them. These circumpolar stars remain in the sky all year and represent the eternal nature of the family. During the course of the year, the Big Dipper portion changes orientation as it revolves around Polaris, its position indicative of the seasons.
The Pleiades are known as Dilyéhé, which translates as “seed-like sparkles.” Their appearance in early May on the western horizon indicates the time to plant crops. When they disappear later in June, it’s considering too late to plant and still harvest before the first frost. Orion is known as Átsé Ets’ózí, a young, strong warrior responsible for protecting his family and people.
His association with Átsé Etsoh (Scorpio) has an amusing story behind it. These two constellations are never seen in the night sky at the same time. Their story declares the wise admonition that a mother-in-law and son-in-law should not see one another in daily life. A traditional Navajo mother-in-law might even wear a bell to warn that she is in the area. How much easier would life be if that were the case in all cultures?
Predawn is an important time that’s considered the beginning of a new day, not midnight as it is for western cultures. The Navajo month begins with the first sliver of a crescent moon. The young moon, combined with the first star or constellation seen in the eastern predawn light in the days following, indicate the beginning of a new month.
More delightful information accompanied by beautiful illustrations can be found in “Sharing the Skies: Navajo Astronomy” by Nancy C. Maryboy, PhD and David Begay, PhD available from the Southwest Indian Foundation here as well as on their website www.sharingtheskies.com.
As a side note, astronomy plays an important role in “The Curse of Dead Horse Canyon: Cheyenne Spirits.” It was something Charlie and Bryan shared as teens and helps solve the mystery.