Indigenous legends about night sky are focus of Hamilton planetarium show


Published September 28, 2023 at 1:51 pm

Celestial Bear astronomy Ursa Major constellation McMaster Indigenous legends First Nations stories planetarium

A star is not just a star if you discover the rich Indigenous legends behind it.

Watching the mysterious night sky will evoke stories about Six Nation’s culture, history and modern-day astronomy at McMaster University’s planetarium until Sept. 30. The stories are based on the rotating patterns of the sky, which means the significance of the same stars will constantly evolve. 

McMaster University is hosting Celestial Bear: The Six Nations’ Night Sky at W.J. McCallion Planetarium at the Burke Science Building at  1280 Main St. W. in Hamilton. Tickets are $7 each.

Sept. 30 has two shows (tickets for tonight and tomorrow were not listed).  The earlier show runs from 1:45 to 2:45 p.m. The second show is 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

In recognition of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on Sept. 30, McMaster said all funds from ticket sales will go to a local Indigenous non-profit organization.

A live presentation will share the story of the bear and the brothers and how it is retold every year based on the rotating patterns in the night sky. A live presentation and pre-recorded excerpts in English, Mohawk and Cayuga will provide the narration and visuals.

The Indigenous-focused show was developed by members of the Six Nations, McMaster’s Indigenous Studies Department, and the McCallion Planetarium.

People are asked to purchase tickets online in advance of the show. It said tickets may be available at the door. Sales are final and those who are late won’t be admitted into the show.

McMaster said the show is not designed for kids and recommends younger audiences to check out its Introductory Astronomy for Kids options, usually on the first Wednesday or the third Saturday of each month.

The National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, or Orange Shirt Day, on Sept. 30 is marked as a time to reflect on the devastating intergenerational impacts of the residential school system, honour residential school survivors and support Truth and Reconciliation, which aims to advance Indigenous Peoples’ rights as well as foster respect and healing.

The day of reflection and remembrance was inspired by a six-year-old girl from the Stswecem’c Xgat’tem First Nation, or Canoe Creek Indian Band. Phyllis Webstad’s clothes, including the orange shirt her grandmother gave her, were taken from her after arriving at St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School. 

“It’s about honouring those who have been impacted by the residential school system, while recognizing the resilience of Indigenous peoples who are now reclaiming and revitalizing our traditional cultures, languages and heritage,” said Chrissy Doolittle, director of Indigenous Student Services at McMaster, in a press release.

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