Native America and Astronomy

Last Updated: 27 Jan 2021
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To a great degree, the reading point to an aspect of the study of astronomy that many people might not be entirely familiar. That aspect is, of course, the contributions of the Navajo to the study of astronomy. This contribution has been largely ignored by many in the established scientific community in large part due to the fact that the concept of Navajo astronomy is more based on interrelation of what is discovered as opposed to a categorizing approach that does not integrate the discovered with the discoverer. Consider the following:

The concept of a dynamic integrated whole is important in Navajo cosmology and astronomy. The pattern of relationship is far more important than the identification, location and Greek or Arabic name of any individual star. The individual stars contribute to the significance of the whole. (Begay/Maryboy Navajo Astronomy)

In other words, there is a concept of harmony and balance present in the concept of Navajo astronomy. The earth, stars, moon, etc are interwoven as parts of a whole known as the universe. In traditional approaches to astronomy, there is an almost centrist position that the earth is the center of the universe and that the moon and stars are dependent upon the earth. While this may sound like an odd ideology of exceptionalism, the reality is that this WAS the exact belief of astronomers at one point in history.

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Now, this does not mean that the barren moon is on equal parity of the earth, but it does acknowledge that the mere concept of earth centrist ideology can lead to a belief in pillaging the environment because there is limited acknowledgment that the other components of the universe help keep the earth in harmony.

This is why it becomes important to read the more extensive work “Sharing the Skies” because it allows a more in depth look at the subject. Considering the complexity of the subject, a lengthier work is required in order to develop a much more clear understanding.

One of the more interesting aspects of “Sharing the Skies” is essentially the fact that the work points out that when one realizes that most astronomy is centered on a Western Civilization origin, one realizes that the concepts and definitions of astronomy lead directly to one culture. When one looks at different cultural explanations of astronomy, then an individual can gain an insight into the cultures of other peoples and nations.

In Williamson’s “Native American Astronomy,” the reader discovers a bit more depth to the origins of Native American cosmology. It is important to present and define Native Astronomy in the manner that Williamson presents it because he re-establishes the fact that Native astronomy is a sphere of science and not the weird, New Age quasi-religion that it has become thanks to a number of hack writers who have flooded bookstores with dubious works.

“Application to Astrology” ties much of the philosophy of Native Astronomy and earth studies into the component that conventional sciences ignore: the spiritual component. Again, this stresses the idea of interrelation between various parts of a whole. Since the spiritual can not be removed from the person and the person can not be removed from the earth, then it goes without saying that there is an interrelation between the human spirit and the earth. Both halves of the same idea compliment each other and compliment each other quite effectively.


Begay, David and Maryboy, Nancy C.Finding the Thunderbird in Navajo Astronomy.

Bluff: Indigenous Education Institute, 2004.

Begay, David and Maryboy, Nancy C. Sharing the Skies Bluff: Indigenous Education

Institute, Date Unknown

Cite this Page

Native America and Astronomy. (2017, May 11). Retrieved from

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