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Students hear stories of the night sky

Constellation stories inspire a night of cultural appreciation

<p>The Native American Student Union partnered with the Astronomy Department to host the first Native American Stories of the Night Sky event at McCormick Observatory.</p>

The Native American Student Union partnered with the Astronomy Department to host the first Native American Stories of the Night Sky event at McCormick Observatory.

The Native American Student Union and Astronomy professor Ed Murphy came together this past Wednesday to put on the first Native American Stories of Night Sky at the McCormick Observatory.

Murphy, who collects cultural stories, said people should become acquainted with stories of the night sky.

“It’s important because it's part our of heritage,” Murphy said. “Some of these stories have been passed orally and it’s a wonderful tradition. I would like to see it continue but it hasn’t the last few decades.”

Roughly 70 attendees learned the basics of star maps inside the observatory, which proved critical to understanding the narratives they inspired. Once outside, Professor Murphy told the Native American stories and pointed out their corresponding constellations.

Murphy also underscored the constellation stories’ significance to students at the University.

“[The stories] deal with classic human emotions like love and lust and quest for love,” Murphy said. “[Without them,] we lose a part of our heritage. Each of us comes from a unique background and we lose this.”

Second-year College student Evelyn Immonen, vice president of outreach and treasurer for NASU, said this learning opportunity was important.

“Native American history, heritage and experience are not something that can be learned in a class. Everything I have learned is from talking to people,” Immonen said.

The event also educated attendees on how constellations played an integral role in lives of people within certain time periods. For example, Murphy explained how seasonal stories about constellations have historically provided farmers blueprints of when to plant, and informed survival strategies.

Second-year Engineering student and NASU President Benaiah Walters explained how the event fits within a larger framework to foster a supportive network of Native Americans on Grounds.

“I would love to see attendance, membership and, more broadly, cross-cultural understanding rise steadily as people begin to realize that we as Native peoples have not been wiped out, that we are still here and and will continue to be a major factor in the development of our University and our country,” Walters said. “I want NASU to show our youth that there is hope and there is a future and that they can be the ones that decide what that future will be.”


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