Science, Math

LAKOTA STAR KNOWLEDGE: STUDIES IN LAKOTA STELLAR THEOLOGY, Ronald Goodman, Sinte Gleshka University Press, P.O. Box 490, Rosebud, SD, 57570-0490, 605-856-2368. 2nd edition, 1992, paper, oversize, 64 pages. Black and white star drawings, $15. Highschool-college.

All that AISES has to say about this book is it's a "fascinating research model for others to follow.". It forms the first half of my Aboriginal Astronomy unit here -- I have added many star maps and connections between what the elders said and today's astronomical knowledge, as well as teacher resources. In a way it's a good research model -- listen to elders, ask -- in another way not.

Some of the Sinte Gleshka people who worked on the project really didn't know enough astronomy to mediate or understand some of the things they were told, for one thing, and for another -- the book is awfully low-key about the critically important role played by the cache of astronomy papers left by Fr. Buechtel. He was a priest with a hobby of astronomy who was stationed on the rez many years, talked knowledgeably with many elders, and left papers with interview notes, star names, sky sketches and much else, to be found 50 years later. This is not a "model" anyone else can follow, unless they discover a similar cache of old astronomy notes kept by someone. You can find out more about what's in the book from my big aboriginal astronomy section section here, if interested.

In that section, there's info on how to buy the book direct from the source, Sinte Gleshka Bookstore. Maybe you should do that, rather than get it from AISES, because they'd like to get money together to reprint and update it (with better illustrations and diagrams).

I made a small original discovery which, if Lakota elders know, it is not recorded in the book. This is that the Lakota sacred circle of stars stands at the zenith at winter solstice, and at no other time; only then are all the sacred constellations visible. Spring equinoctian ceremonials, leading to Summer solstice (Sun Dance time) is discussed in the book, but winter solstice is ignored. But that -- December 20-21 -- must have been the time when those who knew taught younger people about the skies on windless nights, bundled against the cold, on a high hilltop far from the people's campfires.

This note isn't exactly a review, I've done extensive work with this book (the products of which are reflected on the Astronomy unit's web pages here) and I'll just say there's nothing else remotely like it for Native North American astronomy -- it's all stories about bears chasing girls up into the sky, and such. If you have any interest in astronomy, or in Native science, buy this book and study it carefully. If you are Lakota, this book gives you the sacred Black Hills of home (whatever their real estate status), glittering above in the night skies, wherever you are. No land cessions, no settlements, no Docket 74A, nothing can take these away from you -- if you know! Paula Giese

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 23, 1996 - 7:16:06 AM