Friday, December 28, 2007

Moon Phases

I added a moon phase calculator to the page today, and I think it looks great! As a calendar device, the moon is certainly cheap and easy enough to obtain. All you really need is a clear spot during the night and you can tell the time of the month. What? You mean there are still people in this enlightened age that don't know the moon is on a 28 day cycle? That indigenous peoples worldwide have been able to calculate eclipses of the sun and moon? If I said waxing gibbous, would you know what I was talking about? As a child I dreamed of going to the moon and stars, space travel was becoming a reality with the Gemini and Apollo US Space programs. But being a bit overweight always put those dreams out of reach. It started a lifelong interest in science, astronomy and astrology. I look to the stars on a clear night and make up my own constellations, using parts of others that mean little to me. The Hopi have the Planters, or perhaps you know them as the Subaru or Pleiades cluster. They use them as a guide for planting. When they drop below the horizon, it is planting time, and when they rise near fall, it is time to harvest. Also make a note of the Pot-rest Stars. You might know them as Orion's Belt. Lots of stars, lots of ways to make patterns in the sky.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Have you ever had the chance to look at snowflakes? I mean really look at them. Over the weekend they were falling on my denim coat as I waited outside. The flakes were 1/4 inch across, and the deadly looking six pointed stars fell on the dark blue backdrop. I watched (until I got too cold) them land, saw the hexagonal perfection with dendritic and bladed tines fall, only to melt and turn into the tiniest of drops with just the heat from my arm. With so many snowflakes falling, can they really all be different? Perhaps the same shapes fall every year, in just a different location on the globe. All the myriad ways... Snowflakes don't fall like this very often, usually I need a hand lens just to see them and the smaller ones melt even faster. And I find that breathing on them wrecks them at an unheard of rate.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Back Again from the break.

Well, Good to see anyone who has been even remotely taking interest in this blog. I just got back from yet another meeting, and was introduced to another indigenous marvel: the Blackfeet Calendar Stick. This tool is used to mark time in months, as well as keeping track of nights, (Very important if you have a lunar calendar as well) and wind direction. Basically you need 12 meter long sticks, each with a feather tied to the top, each stick has colored bands, (the sticks I have researched since then have 15 black bands on say a green based stick.) To use, you wait until the sun is at its highest point and mark the shadow length on a piece of rawhide or buckskin. You should have longer shadow length in the winter (Can you guess why?) and shorter shadows in the summer. 3 sticks by 29 nights (OK, 30 days as well) makes for a quarter year, so marking vernal and autumnal equinox and summer and winter solstice should be pretty easy. The Blackfeet also use wind direction as a marker for the time of year. The way the wind blows and the intensity also make up a component of what amounts to a portable weather station. Different weather comes on different winds in Blackfeet country. Probably most everywhere has this sort of weather. We here in the Mission valley don't have as much ground wind, but you can tell from which direction the storms come from how bad they are going to be. Until next time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Time off!

I have a few days off from work, so I'm going to enjoy time with my parents and siblings. It is important to regenerate those ties, we all need to know from whence we came. I'm the oldest of four, so I tend to do my own thing a bit more that the others. But I would miss any of my family at the holiday times, one less to argue with would be a shame. I wrote an essay in college once where I talked about "Situational English," describing differences in speech patterns I use depending on the situation. My father speaks fluent Salish, some Kootenai and Blackfeet, as well as English. He has forgotten all of the Latin he learned at the Ursuline School. When I talk to Dad, I use Salish interspersed with English, and he speaks back the same way. I use my best grammar and tone when teaching classes and with colleagues, and something different when at the bar. Do you use situational language as well?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Technology and Indigenous thought

While it may seem like a disconnect to blog indigenous thinking using the internet, I would say that is really isn't. This is really the 21st century version of the cave painting. This cave can be viewed anywhere in the world, and interpreted by almost anyone in their own language. Translation in and of itself does not convey meaning however. But I digress. Recently I acquired and iPod for use at work, and also a Micro Memo voice recorder. Now not only can I practice the oral tradition, I can broadcast it to anyone interested. My speech patterns can be burned to a CD or DVD for future generations. I also have video recording, so I can also tell the stories almost in person. Or make copies of both on the same media. I can be my great-great grand children's story teller. Not only will the story be preserved, but it will not suffer any degradation in the telling. This has caused some disturbance in many indigenous communities, because sometimes the story benefits from the teller's embellishment of facts and imagery. The story gets better with the telling, so to speak. This may be true, but to be a good storyteller, you need to be able to remember the story the way it was told before you can add or delete anything. The indigenous scientist first and foremost needs to be articulate and well spoken, or will be discounted simply on the basis of language. One of the key things I also try to do is use appropriate analogies to bring higher level ideas down to a level of the audience. This does two things, first it lets the audience know that whatever idea you are trying to get across may not be that complicated, and second, after applying the analogy, it raises the audience's appreciation of the concept. A poorly understood concept is the beginning of learning, and can be fleshed out and turned into a fully developed theorem with the right approach to the learner's understanding. She Hoy

Monday, November 19, 2007

Back Home

Finally back in Montana where I feel I belong. Started snowing last night and hasn't stopped. It's a heavy, wet sort of snow, just right for snowballs or igloos or snow forts. I know a bit about igloos because I spent my early years in Alaska, at Nunaka Valley Elementary School. My western teachers were Mrs. Wolstenholm and Mrs. Childs for first and second grade. My friends were Audrey and Arthur, and eskimo and a redhead with freckles, respectively. I say eskimo because I don't know anything else at this point, that was a few years ago and only freshly remembered. In those days we didn't much discuss tribes and things, we just concentrated on being friends. I had one other good friend in AK, Rene Lopez. I met him again in San Bernadino, CA later on. First through fourth grades, what a time, when kids could be left outside to play because you could count on neighbors to watch them and keep them safe. Fast forward 35 years and things are muchly different. You even have to watch your neighbors. And their children. It would be tough to be a kid nowadays, I think. Tough enough being a parent. Important to have a sense of community for indigenous people, because if you don't belong, you want to go home and be with people who give you that sense of place. Pretty bad if you don't have a place to call home. Never happened in the tipi days, unless you were kicked out of the community for doing something society deemed a punishable offense. See you all later, Take care.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Ginkgo Biloba

I found this ginkgo leaf on my way to the conference this morning, what a shock that was. I didn't think they grew this far north. I guess I am used to looking at my own space, and being out of it adds to the wonder of the natural world. I asked a colleague about them, and he told me that they plant them in cities because they are pollution resistant. Think about it. Trees from an ancient species, from the time of the dinosaurs is able to handle greater pollution without dieing better than other kinds. It just blows my mind when I think about it too hard. I'm collecting some leaves to take home, show the people at home the fossil-tree leaves. I think it is pretty cool.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Field Trip

This week I'm on a field trip to a city, Milwaukee, WI to be exact. Cities are wonderful, smelly noisy places with an abundance of people and cars. I have found eight different ages of sidewalk between my hotel and the convention center. There are about 20 trees of three or four varieties along the streets. The noise is constant, and is keeping me awake while I try to sleep. Along the street smells of restaurants, sewers, the unwashed masses, the cologne of the upper classes, and the aroma of exhaust paint a picture of urban life. It makes me thankful that I live where I do, in rural Montana. It is a different kind of habitation for people there. Far many fewer of them, to start with. How is it where you live? Is your environment one that makes you happy? Healthy? Just a few thoughts from a traveling indigenist.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Hi there!

Hi there, this is my new blog on indigenous science. What's that, you don't know what it is? Well, it is a place and activity based science that really defines who we are. I'm a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation. Which makes me, by federal description, an indian. Yep, a wagonburner. The reason I say that I'm an indian is that the federal government doesn't have a Federal Native American Policy, or a First American Policy, they only have Federal INDIAN Policy. I'm proud to be a citizen of this great county, and of a small minority that have a pedigree. In order to be a member of a tribe, you have to have blood quantum. Say a full blood marries a nonmember. The offspring would be half bloods. if the halfs married a full, the kids would be three fourths, and so on. That makes me indigenous, at least part of my blood is. also, I'm indigenous to Montana, because that's where I live. I know the area where I live pretty well, considering I've lived there the better part of 33 years. I like to study things and find out what I can. this usually takes a long time, because to know something, you have to really spend some quality time with it. I fish, and I'm sure some of you do to. Let's do some western science on your indigenousness. How many of you like to fish in streams or rivers? How many like to fish in Lakes or ponds? Of those that fish, probably half like each style. Or at least that's what I've found out. Another category? Who uses bait, and who uses lures? Who like to fish from the bank, or in a boat? Half of each again. now let's find out really specific and telling information, What kind of bait or color of lure is the best? Almost every one is different. Why, you might ask? Because the way you fish is dependent on how you learned to do it. this is where the scientists in the room really start deep meaningful discussions. How did you learn to fish, on your own, or did someone (a family member or friend) teach you how to go about it? Do you fish on cloudy or sunny days. Winter, spring, summer or fall? How do you go about deciding on what to use on a given day? You use your indigenous knowledge to do that. Today you might want to use a piece of cut bait, or your favorite blue and white stickbait. Something you have had luck before with, and have some confidence in. I'll let this digest before I go on. See you in a day or three.