June 21st is National Indigenous Peoples Day! On this day, we celebrate the culture and contributions of Canada’s First Nations, Métis, and Inuit.
Not-so-coincidentally, it’s also the summer solstice, also known as the longest day of the year. Many Canadian Indigenous peoples have celebrated on June 21st since 1945.
For thousands of years, Indigenous peoples across Canada have been using the stars and the sky as a means of navigation, measuring time, and tracking seasons. Much of this knowledge is translated and shared through stories.
The Anishinaabek, the Indigenous people native to the Greater Sudbury area, make connections between constellations and seasonal changes, told in sky stories. Sky stories may tell of animal migrations that occur during the season where a particular constellation is overhead. Others are about the summer harvests or seasonal changes.
The pattern of the stars as the Earth revolves have been observed for millennia but documented and preserved through story and ceremony.
The summer solstice marks the end of a long winter and renewed life. It’s the time when flowers blossom, crops flourish, the days are long, and the Sun is bright.
Have you wondered why daylight is so long in the summer and short in the winter? This phenomenon is due to the tilt of the Earth. In June, the North Pole is tilted most directly toward the Sun, giving those in the northern hemisphere longer day light hours.
Indigenous traditional knowledge and western science are often seen as separate. However, they are truly just different ways of understanding and communicating natural phenomena.
In fact, modern science communication is shifting towards using storytelling as a way to engage more people in science topics, a practice that has been borrowed from Indigenous traditions.
Happy National Indigenous Peoples Day from SNOLAB!