A few weeks back I was in Colorado looking up at the night sky. Far away from the light pollution of big cities the stars were strong and bright and there were so very many of them. I’d been chatting with the new acquaintances I’d made on my trip, but eventually we quieted and just looked up. One of our number was Navajo and he told us about how the Navajo view the sky. Where Cassiopeia sits, they they see a woman lying down. Across from her, in the area of the big dipper, a man lies down. Between them is the north star, which is part of a constellation called Northern Fire, and which depicts the hearth around which the two figures lay. Together they represent a family; the mother and the father of the home. As the year goes by the figures move around the hearth, circling it.
I don’t generally stargaze, so I’ve never thought about the different stories the sky might tell to different cultures. There are, of course, many Native American tribes with many different stories and world views, but there do seem to be similarities that run through many of them. I won’t claim authority, but my understanding is that it is a far less linear narrative than the western view. The lines between spaces – such as ceremonial or domestic, spiritual or secular, or earth or sky – are less defined. Time does not go in a line with the past behind and the future ahead. Instead it is circular so that everything cycles back – like the mother and father in the sky.
This perspective makes its way into many aspect of native cultures including storytelling. In my constant quest to widen my reading to include cultures, experiences and voices different from my own, I have put a bunch of native authors on my list. November is Native American Heritage Month, so it’s a great time to try out a new author with a new perspective. Google “native american authors” and you’ll find lists and more lists of book recommendations and author bios to choose from. Here’s three lists that offer a wide range of stories and styles.
20 Native American Authors You Need to Read
Decolonize Your Bookshelf With These Books by Native American Writers
Love this, well said. In Western New York there’s a local amateur historian named Mason Winfield who has written a lot of books related to local supernatural lore but he is not a charlatan; he does excellent historical research. I’ve bought his books for friends and a historian who have no interest ion the supernatural, and they found them well-grounded and well-researched.In any event, Winfield has several long-standing friendships on local Seneca reservations and collaborated to write a book on the Iroquois supernatural realm — how they saw the supernatural world and how it (in their eyes) interacted with the “natural” world. (https://www.amazon.com/Iroquois-Supernatural-Talking-Animals-Medicine-ebook/dp/B005IQ697O/ref=sr_1_6?keywords=iroquois&qid=1572914781&s=books&sr=1-6). I’ve picked up another book but haven’t had the chance to get to it yet, but in the early 20th century Lakota woman, Zitkala-Sa, who was seriously talented and scary smart — in a world that completely did not appreciate women with brains. She was one of those people who excelled at everything she touched. Well, luckily she (among other things) liked to write, and wrote a couple books. The one I have is the most popular, “Old Indian Legends,” but there are others out there. Tell us what you read and what you think of it!