"The Moon is Our Night Clock." Traditional Knowledge about the moon, stars, northern lights from our Fort Smith Elders: with Archie Smith (Chipewyan), Rosalie Bourke, Dorothy "Dot" Desjarlais...

A collection of traditional knowledge about watching the sky with Archie Smith (Chipewyan), Rosalie Bourke, Dorothy "Dot" Desjarlais, Mary Cardianal (Cree), Fred Bealieu
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A collection of traditional knowledge about watching the sky with Archie Smith (Chipewyan), Fred Bealieu, Rosalie Bourke, Dorothy "Dot" Desjarlais and Mary Cardinal (Cree):

The Moon is Our Night Clock by Archie Smith

Ring around the moon means a storm is coming--usually a snow storm.

If the moon is standing up and down, it’s going to be warm. Little bit of snow.

If the moon is lying down in the first quarter, that means cold weather and no snow until the full moon.

If the moon is upside down in the first quarter, cold weather is coming. There will be no snow until the full moon.

Moon in Chipewyan is “Kalaza. Night Clock.” Or you can say, “Saw.”

“Tun” is ‘stars’ in Chip.

“Atun” means ‘caribou.’


Fred Beaulieu on watching the sky:

“Long time ago, they don’t care about the stars. They watched the moon.”  -- Fred Beaulieu

Clouds create the winds.

A little bit of clouds and sundogs it’s going to be windy:

Sundogs without clouds, it will be cold.

Clouds on both side of the sun, it’s going to be windy.

Cold on the full moon? It will be cold until the last quarter.

Sunset. Pink clouds at sunset and sunrise? It’s going to be warm.

This is the traditional way of telling the weather.


Rosalie Bourke shared this with us:

Stars are “Ah-cha-ku-sak” in Bush Cree.

Or you can say, “Ah-cha-kos.”


Dot Desjarlais:

For Orion and Polaris, Big Dipper, we say it like how it’s said in English: “Big Dipper”, but we say, “Dipper Star.

And Orion: “Three Kings.”

“The Milky Way” is “The Good Path” or “miyo-meskanaw”, or “mahihkan-meskanaw” for “Wolf-Path.”

And the west, I got another one for the setting sun, for the west. When the sun’s setting and there’s a pink and a purplish—all that comes together—it’s such a beautiful colour when it’s all mixed. In Cree, my mom used to tell us stories about a lady who was so beautiful she can get anyone she wants.

And when she liked a man and didn’t want him to leave or anything, she’d put on a beautiful dress and she combed her hair and the wind would come up, and the lake would be just full of waves. Nobody could travel on the lake and nobody could travel anywhere and she’d have her man. And that’s the west. It’s called, “[Dot speaks Cree.] A Jezebel’s Dress.”  The sunset.  --Jan 27. 2015


Mary Cardinal on Jan. 27, 2015 on the stars:

“The stars, bright stars, if you see a real shining bright star, that means those are the people who have left this world recently; the stars that are faded, those are the ancestors or the people that passed on a long time ago.

“Northern Lights are really spirits dancing.  That’s why they call them, “Cipiyak nimehitowak,” or, “the spirits are dancing.”  Dancing ghosts.

“You have to respect all things like that, you know. I was taught that way.

“When Northern Lights come down real real low, right above your head, that means you’re not going to live long, too. If you light a match, the northern lights are coming down—you throw it up--they will go higher. I know that because that’s what we used to do when we played outside when we were kids. Northern Lights used to come down and we just threw a match and they’d go up. “


Personal Stories, Traditional Knowledge, Teachings / Stories