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Area Voices: Indigenous Astronomy

Michael Wassegijig Price and Katie Carter

This totally scrambled my brain. How could "giizhig" mean both sky, day and cedar tree?  And so I began to inquire. There was something here that I wasn't understanding.  And that was in 1988. And it wasn't until 10 years later in 1998 that I met an elder from from Winnipeg and I asked him... And he said Well, Michael...this name goes back to an old creation story that we don't tell anymore.  And it talks about how our ancient ancestors came down from the star world and they came through a bugonaygeshig - a hole in the sky and then they climbed down a giant cedar tree and then they populated the earth. 

So gijig/geshig/giizhig is what connects the earth with the star world which is both sky and the cedar tree. So in our Anishinaabe culture the cedar tree is our sacred tree. We use the boughs as medicines. We use it to smudge with. We use it to build canoes.  The cedar is very much a part of our being... So, after I learned that story ... I was just blown away.  I was starving for my ancestral knowledge that had somewhat been elusive, almost disappeared from the past. And so I began this journey to learn the language and also to learn about the stars.- Michael Wassegijig Price

On a search for the meaning of Wassegijig, his family name, Michael Wassegijig Price found himself in an inspiring world of Indigenous narratives that had been written in the stars.  His quest led him to a world of star knowledge and stories nearly forgotten due to colonialism forcing the loss of native culture and language for so many years.   Upon realizing the existence of this world of wisdom, his thirst for more information, more history, more language simply could not be quenched.  Today, the flow of new understandings rooted in old-world teachings continues to inspire Michael as he uncovers more and more stories from his own Anishinaabe culture as well as other Indigenous cultures across the globe.  

Michael Wassegijig Price visited the morning show recently and told us how his passion for star stories was ignited and how it has influenced him. He shared Indigenous star stories of common constellations from different Indigenous cultures that enlightened people in terms of creation stories, planting seasons and more.   

For more information about the work Michael is doing, check out his blog Revolving Sky where he'll be adding stories and understanding regularly.

Today when I walk out into a cedar bog and I think about that story, I feel nothing but reverence. - Michael Wassegijig Price

Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. Since 2016, she's produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota. She's our local host of NPR's All Things Considered and CBC's As It Happens every weekday from 4-7pm.