What If Your Job Was to Read the Stars?

by | Sep 27, 2016 | Behind the Scenes

Victor Douville has been studying his tribe’s star knowledge for decades.

His job is teaching Lakota Studies at South Dakota’s Sinte Gleska University, a post he’s held since 1971. An elder of the Sicangu Oyate Lakota nation, Douville’s teachings keep alive his people’s knowledge, including a deep understanding of astronomy.

Native Americans have long charted the stars as a way of recording time, historical events, and predicting animal migrations. The early Lakota were nomads that relied on these migrations for survival and developed a sophisticated knowledge of the celestial bodies to help orient themselves and accurately record distances traveled.

Western scientists are catching on to the parallels between this ancient wisdom and today’s science.

Check out the video below from a NASA-sponsored documentary produced by Journey Museum in Rapid City, SD, which provides insight into these connections.

Lakota Star Knowledge Trailer from Sanford Lab on Vimeo.

Douville is one of the last remaining Sioux astronomers.

Today, his people are mostly located at the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, where the Sicangu number a little over 14,000. An additional 160,000 Lakota Sioux are estimated to live throughout the United States based on recent Census data. For Douville, it’s the preservation of his culture and his peoples’ historical memory that keeps him at work as an educator and reader of the skies.

Click here to learn more about Lakota Astronomy through our partners at Global Press Institute.

Main image courtesy of the Global Press Journal, credit to Binesikwe Means, GPJ Tribal Nations, Rosebud Indian Reservation

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Suzanne Skees, author of the three-volume MY JOB series on real people in remarkable jobs, believes in the power of our jobs over our identity and wellbeing and, conversely, our ability to change our world with the work of our minds and hands. She lives by the Pacific Ocean and spends as much time as possible listening to the surf, and to silence.



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