Shop Windows to the Universe

Hands On Mineral Identification helps you to identify over 14,500 minerals! By M. Darby Dyar, Ph.D. See our DVD collection.
This map shows the general area where Native American tribes lived. Please note that this is not a comprehensive map of all Native American tribes, but it does show the location of those tribes that will be discussed in fuller detail.
Click on image for full size
Windows Original

Native American Astronomy

People from Asia crossed the Bering Strait into North America. These people were first in this new land and so they are known as Native Americans.

Over time, these people broke into tribes (as seen on the map). A lot of the tribes held similar thoughts about the sky and the heavens.

One thing that most of the tribes of North America held sacred was the four cardinal directions: north, east, south and west. Many tribes based their building architecture or city layout on these four cardinal directions.

Another common trend among Na tive American tribes was the fact that people weren't interested in time for the sake of time itself. There were no clocks or calendars. And so time was told by the ebb and flow of tides, by the ripening of the strawberries, by the Sun's position in the sky, by watching stars rise and fall, or by knowing when the bears wake from hibernation. Native Americans did track and name the lunar cycles (say from one ne w moon to the next). In fact, the first signs of skywatching among the Native Americans are rocks and bones that have scratches that corresponded with the lunar cycle. Lunar cycles were named after what was happening at the time. For instance, one tribe named one lunar cycle "laying geese" and another cycle "coming caribou".

These are just some common threads between the tribes of North America. Let's look at some specific tribes and regions to get a fuller picture. The Skidi Band of the Pawnee tribe are often seen as the most sophisticated starwat chers. The stars for the Chumash of California were gods who interacted in the life of people on Earth. The Zuni of the Southwest were avid trackers of the movement of the Sun. And the area of Chaco Canyon is filled with evidence of sophisticated astro nomical activity.

Last modified September 8, 2000 by Jennifer Bergman.

Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!

The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

Windows to the Universe Community

News

Opportunities

You might also be interested in:

Traveling Nitrogen Classroom Activity Kit

Check out our online store - minerals, fossils, books, activities, jewelry, and household items!...more

Tidal Forces

The force of gravity caused by an object gets weaker as you move farther away from that object. In this picture, the Earth is pulling on the Moon, and the Moon is pulling on the Earth. The Moon pulls more...more

Native American Astronomy

People from Asia crossed the Bering Strait into North America. These people were first in this new land and so they are known as Native Americans. Over time, these people broke into tribes (as seen on...more

Archeoastronomy

"The movements of the heavenly bodies are an admirable thing, well known and manifest to all peoples. There are no people, no matter how barbaric and primitive, that do not raise up their eyes, take note,...more

The Stones of Carnac

The stones of Carnac, France, are probably the most famous stones markings outside of those found at Stonehenge in England. There are many, many stones at Carnac. And these stones are very old too, the...more

The Cairns of Clava

Not too far from Loch Ness, there lies three giant tombs made of stones. They are called the Balnuaran of Clava. The Balnuaran of Clava, giant tombs encased in stone, can be found close to Inverness in...more

Cuzco

Cuzco is located in Southern Peru. It is the ancient capital of the Inca Empire. It is the oldest, continuously occupied city in the Americas. In ancient times, Cuzco was the ceremonial capital and hub...more

The Stones of Fossa

The stone structures of England and France are very famous. In Italy, you'll also find standing stones, stone rings, and stone tombs. An example of these stone structures is in Fossa, Abruzzo, in Italy....more

Windows to the Universe, a project of the National Earth Science Teachers Association, is sponsored in part by the National Science Foundation and NASA, our Founding Partners (the American Geophysical Union and American Geosciences Institute) as well as through Institutional, Contributing, and Affiliate Partners, individual memberships and generous donors. Thank you for your support! NASA AGU AGI NSF