North America

Native American Star Lore

A - N

Andromeda

Cree

In the creation story of the Ininew Cree in today's Alberta, Canada, the first two people came down from the land above to the land where the Cree now live on a line lowered by Kokominakasis, Grandmother Spider. They did not heed the warnings that only one person may look down from the spider's line and when both looked, they fell into the great eagle-nest. They were rescued by a wolverine and a bear, the latter of whom taught the pair the ways of life on this new land.

Grandmother Spider
Native Skywatchers

Native Skywatchers identified the stars of Andromeda as the Ininew constellation Kokominakasis.

Source: Spoken Cree

Navajo

Tinl, the Gila Monster constellation is situated in the northern sky, in Andromeda, close to Cassiopeia.

In Navajo culture, the Gila Monster is a respected reptile. The Gila Monster constellation carries the same connotations and respect as the earthly Gila Monster.

Source: Navajo Skies

Tinl © Melvin Bainbridge

X Aries and Triangulum

Dakota and Lakota

The Dakota and Lakota combined Hamal and Sheratan (α and β Arietis) with the stars of Triangulum to Chanśśa ipsye, which translates literally to "Dried Willow" or "Red Willow."

It is seen as a wooden spoon used to pick up coal to light a pipe. When the sun is in this constellation, the people prepare for the pipe ceremony to celebrate the first day of spring.

The "Pipe Ceremony in the Stars" happens each year at sunrise on the Spring Equinox as the Sun, the Red Willow constellation and the Big Dipper line up along the eastern horizon.

Sources: Mark Hollabaugh: The Spirit and the Sky: Lakota Visions of the Cosmos, p. 66,
Astro by Mark, lakotajewelry.com, Dakota Constellation Guide, Pipe Ceremony in the Stars

Lighting a pipe
Source: One Spirit

Cancer

Navajo

Tsetah Dib, the Mountain Sheep constellation is considered a winter constellation, primarily because of its association with the Navajo winter Nightway ceremony. The constellation is thus visible in the winter months to the naked eye when it is very cold outside and when the moon is not too bright. The constellation will appear over the evening eastern sky in early winter and will be overhead at dawn.

Tsetah Dib © Melvin Bainbridge

It corresponds to the Beehive Cluster, in the Greek constellation Cancer.

During this time the winter nine-night ceremonies are being conducted and the sparkling constellation overhead is an indicator of dawn coming, signaling the completion of the night ceremonies.

Source: Navajo Skies

X Cancer and Leo
Ojibwe

To the Ojibwe in what is now Minnesota, the stars of Cancer and Leo formed Mishi Bizhiw, Curly Tail, Great Panther, a mountain lion that was once more abundant in Minnesota. The big spirit cat is lives at the bottom of lakes and can cause flooding or water danger.

Curly Tail is overhead in Spring. It rises in late winter. People knew that when the great cat was overhead the lakes would not be frozen and would be dangerous to cross. People knew it was time to move from winter camp to sugar bush camp.

Curly Tail Panther
Native Skywatchers

At sugar bush, feasts and prayers were offered for the water spirits (like Curly Tail) and to all those relatives that did not survive the winter.

Source: Ojibwe Constellation Guide


Canis Major

Inuit

To the Alaskan Inuit of the Bering Straits, Sirius is the "Moon Dog."

When the Moon comes near Sirius, high winds will follow.

Source: Jay B. Holberg: Sirius - Brightest Diamond in the Night Sky

Source: livescience.com

Tohono Oʼodham, Seri

To the Tohono O'odhham in the Sonoran Desert, Sirius is the dog that follows mountain sheep.

The Tohono O'odhham share this believe with the Seri in northern Mexico.

Source: Jay B. Holberg


Cherokee

To the Cherokee, Sirius (α CMa) and Antares (α Sco) are the dog stars that guard the end of the "Path of Souls", the Milky Way. Sirius in the winter sky guards the eastern end, while Antares in the summer sky guards the eastern end.

A departing sould must carry enough food to placate both dogs and pass beyond or spend eternity wandering the "Path of Souls".


Source: Jay B. Holberg

Cherokee Milky Way; Source: powersource.com


Skidi Pawnee

The Skidi Pawnee called Sirius the "White Star" (see "Four Directions" above).

According to Skidi cosmology, Sirius brought death into the world and would escort deceased tribal members along the "spirit pathway" (the Milky Way) to the place of the dead in the south.

Source: Jay B. Holberg



X X Canis Major, Columba and Puppis
Dakota

Native Skywatchers identified the stars of Columba and Puppis, together with the southern stars of Canis Major as the Dakota constellation Zuzeca, the Snake.

The snake is sometimes portrayed as swallowing an egg which represents protecting the culture.

On earth, the snake constellation may be represented by Serpent Mound in Ohio or other similar mounds (see Taurus for details).

Source: Dakota Constellation Guide

Zuzeca
Native Skywatchers


Navajo

The Navajo see a similar constellation. Tãish Tsoh, the Big Snake constellation is located in the southern sky made of parts of the Greek constellations Puppis and Canis Major.

Historically Navajos used this constellation to indicate the coming and going of winter. This constellation is thus visible when the snakes on earth are hibernating in the ground.

Source: Navajo Skies

Tãish Tsoh © Melvin Bainbridge


Canis Minor

Ojibwe

On the Ojibwe Star Map, Procyon (α CMi) together with Aldebaran (α Tau), and the stars of Orion, are called Biboonkeonini, the Winter Maker, as their presence in the night sky heralds winter.

Wintermaker is a strong Ojibwe canoe man and an important mythological figure in Ojibwe culture. His outstretched arms rule the winter sky. Wintermaker is seen overhead during the winter months.

Sources: St. Cloud State University Planetarium, sciencefriday.com

Biboonkeonini
Source: Native Skywatchers


Carina and Milky Way

Navajo

Maii or Coyote took part in the naming and placing of the star constellations during the Creation. He placed one star directly south, naming it after himself, Maii Bizò, the Coyote Star. This star is Canopus (α Car), which from Navajo land appears to be directly south on the horizon.

The visible path of Canopus is of very short duration because its position is due south. It comes out and goes down in a semicircular path, as observed from Navajo country. It can be seen from Navajo land in late December near the date of the winter solstice, around midnight.

Sources: Navajo Skies, grandcanyon.org

The trickster, Maii, or Coyote, is often credited with creating chaos, thus creating a larger order in the universe. One story goes this way:

Long ago the Holy Beings were creating precise constellation forms out of crystals, which were stars. Hashchshjhin, Black God, was carefully placing each star with a purpose and location in the Upper Darkness, which we call sky. He created Nhookòs Bikà and Nhookòs Bid and placed them in the Upper Darkness. He then placed Dilyh and tse Etsz, then others.

Pretty soon, Coyote came along and asked what they were doing. In many stories the Coyotes curiosity leads him into trouble. The Holy Beings replied that they were creat-ing order and light in the sky. Coyote was immediately enthusiastic and asked to help. He was allowed to participate and he began to take crystals off the buckskin and place them in the sky. He placed one star in the south and exclaimed, "that will be my star, the coyote star."

He placed a few other stars, claiming them for himself, including the red North Star, thus separating north and south. He soon grew impatient. When no one was looking, he grabbed the buckskin and tossed it high into the sky. All the remain-ing crystals flew out of the buckskin in all directions. There was no more precision in the placing and naming of the stars. This, Navajos say, is why there are so many stars without names or constellation forms.

Sources: Navajo Skies, Twin Rocks Trading Post

Maii Bizò © Melvin Bainbridge

Coyote SCatters the Stars
© Tyrell Descheney


Cassiopeia


Inuit

Greenlandic Inuit call the triangle formed by the three bright stars α, β and γ Cassiopeiae Pituaq, which is a lamp stand made of three stones (or wood or bones) on which a soapstone oil lamp is placed.

In Nunavut, the constellation is called Nikurrautiit, also meaning lamp stand.

Another Greenlandic Inuit constellation, incorporating the five bright stars of the W-formation and κ Cassiopeiae is called Ursuutaatiaq, which is an oil or blubber container. Inuit elder Suzanne Niviattian Aqatsiaq explains, that the container is made of seal skin. When seal skin is laid out to dry, it is usually place on its side with the fore-flipper (κ Cas) sticking out.

Sources: John MacDonald: The Arctic Sky: Inuit Astronomy, Star Lore, and Legend, starlab.com

Quileute

The Quileute in what is now the north of the US state of Washington tell a story of five brothers on an elk hunt. Four of them get tricked by a prairie man with magical powers to trade in their arrows. Then, the prairie man turns into a mighty elk and kills all four of them.

The youngest brother, however, has stronger magic skills than the prairie man, does not fall for his tricks and kills the elk, firing four arrows - one for each of his brothers.

The youngest brother then skins the elk and drives five stakes into the skin to stretch it. In the end, the skin turned out to be larger than the prairie, so, he threw it up into the sky. The five bright stars of Cassiopeia represent the five holes he punched into the skin.

Source: Stewart, Williamson; They dance in the sky: Native American star myths, p. 97

© Edgar Stewart

Navajo

In Navajo astronomy, the stars of Cassiopeia form the constellation Nhookòs Bid, the Female Revolving One. This constellation is the female partner of Nhookòs Bikà. She is a woman who exemplifies motherhood and regeneration. She provides growth, stability in the home and the strength necessary for harmony.

Instead of a bow and arrow, her weapons are her grinding stone and stirring sticks, which ensure that she will always be able to feed her family.

Sources: Navajo Skies, grandcanyon.org, Navajo Constellations

Nhookòs Bid © Melvin Bainbridge


Cepheus
Cree

Sisikwun, the Rattle signals the arrival of Spring. This constellation encompasses Polaris and connects to Cepheus. The root word of Sisikwun is Sikwun...Spring.

Rattles were made of turtle shells. Thus, individually, Cepheus is seen as Makinak, the turtle.

Source: Atchakosuk

Sisikwun; Atchakosuk

Makinak; Atchakosuk



Corona Borealis
Cree

In the Cree version of the Great Bear Hunt the animals choose the seven best trackers and hunters to remove Mista Muskwa the bear that was tormenting them. It just so happened that the seven best trackers and hunters were birds:

Robin, Chickadee, Moose-bird, Saw-whet Owl, Horned Owl, Blue Jay and Pigeon went off to fight the bear.

As Tehpakoop Pinesisuk, the Seven Birds, they are immortalized in the skies.

Source: Atchakosuk

Tehpakoop Pinesisuk
Source: Atchakosuk

Pawnee

The Skidi Pawnee saw the stars of Corona Borealis as a Council of Chiefs. The Stars announce the cycle of rebirth and renewal when they passed the smoke hole in the Pawnee lodges at midnight.

Sources: The Star People,
Ralph N. Buckstaff: Stars and constellations of a Pawnee sky map,

Corona Borealis in the Pawnee Star Map
Source: Washington University in St. Louis



X Corona Borealis and Hercules
Ojibwe

To the Ojibwe in what is now Minnesota, the stars of Corona Borealis formed Madoodiswan, the Sweat Lodge, while the stars of Hercules were seen as Noondeshin Bemaadizid, the Exhausted Bather, a person who just participated in a sweat lodge ceremony.

The sweat lodge is a purification ceremony. It is returning to the womb and remembering/renewing our spirit. The person is exhausted after participating in the sweat. He/She is exhausted on the outside but full of life and strong on the inside.

Sweat Lodge
Native Skywatchers
The Sweat Lodge is seen overhead in late Spring and the Exhausted Bather is an early summer constellation.

Source: Ojibwe Star Map


X X X Corona Borealis, Orion, Pleiades, Polaris
Cree

In the Cree myth of the Great Bear Hunt, Corona Borealis represents Tehpakoop Pinesisuk, the seven bird hunters. In another, rather complex myth involving no less than four distinct star formations of the winter sky, Corona Borealis becomes Matootisan, the sweat lodge.

Wilfred Buck tells us, how the sweat lodge ceremony was brought to the people:

Once there was a young man named Tikoom the louse who had seven uncles and they lived at a time of scarcity and sickness. It came to be t hat food was needed for the community and the young mans seven uncles decided to go and find fresh meat.

Sweat Lodge (Corona Borealis)
Source: Atchakosuk

They were to return to the community in three days time. The young man waited impatiently, for he wanted to go with them, but they decided against this. After three days, Tikooms seven uncles had yet to return. The young man waited all the next day and still no one returned, after which he decided that he should go look for them.

He left that afternoon. Tikoom travelled all afternoon and into the late evening following their tracks. Eventually he came to the place where they had made camp. Here he found an empty shelter that contained nothing but seven rocks. The shelter offered protection from the cold wind and it was getting very cold and dark. He decided to spend the night there and continue on in the morning.

That night, as he slept, he had a dream. In the dream, his uncles came to him and told him what had happened to them. The young man was told that his uncles happened upon a mistapew (Giant). This mistapew traded in spirits and could capture spirits and transfer them from one spirit being to another. This amused the giant greatly because it caused mass confusion and fear and this is what this mistapew lived on.

Thus, when the giant saw the seven brothers, he felt that this was an opportunity to capture their spirits. The giant invited the weary hunters into his camp to spend the night and rest. In the morning he would tell them where to find fresh game. As the brothers slept the giant crept into their dreams and took their spirits. He did this because he wanted to eat their bodies but could not do so if they were still in possession of their spirits. The giant transferred the spirits of the seven brothers into seven rocks because he knew that the rock could hold spirits; these rocks were individu-ally regarded as either Nimoshoom Assini the grandfather rock, and Nookoom Assini the grandmother rock.
Mistapew (Orion)
Source: Atchakosuk
These assini rocks hold the spirits of the night when it is cold under the moon and the spirits of the light when it is warm under the heat of the sun. Only when the assini are heated until they are bright red are the grandfather and grandmother spirits released. This was how the giant got the spirits of the uncles.

The young man was told by his uncles how to release their spirits. They could not return to him in human form but would visit him if he performed a ceremony they would show him.

As instructed, he built a domed lodge using branches from a willow tree as the ribs and hides of deer, moose or buffalo to cover the branches. He placed the seven rocks he had seen in the abandoned camp into the base of the fire he was instructed to build outside of the dome. When this was done, he lit the fire and let it burn until the rocks became red-hot. He brought the red-hot rocks into the domed structure. Once inside the domed structure with the red-hot rocks in the centre, he was to close the door so the dome was completely dark and begin to sing and pray as he was instructed.

As he sang and prayed, he splashed water on the hot rocks which released their spirits. He saw the spirits of his uncles first as lights the uncles were born again from the domed lodge. The willow ribs of the domed lodge symbolize the womb of our mother and it was she who has the power to release and bring forth new life.

Sweatlodge Fire (Pleiades)
Source: Atchakosuk
This is what Tikoom did and released his uncles to the spirit world. For his determination, faith, and trust, the Creator gave to him a ceremony with which to heal and, by doing so, feed his people. He was also given a new name: Assini Awasis - Stone Child. He would forever be remembered as the boy who bought the sweat lodge to the people.

Today we see the sweat lodge in the night sky and at certain times of the night we can see the Sweat Lodge (Corona Borealis), the Altar (Polaris) and the Sweat Lodge Fire and rocks (Pleiades) all in the sky at once and be reminded of where to go for comfort, hope, spiritual sustenance, direction, and healing."

Source: Wilfred Buck: Ininewuk Stories of the Stars


X Corvus and Hydra

Navajo

Hastiin Sikai means "Man with a Firm Stance with Legs Ajar", or, more simple "Squatting Man."

The constellation is representative of solidarity, strength and the continuity of cycles. At the same time it stands for the parting of the seasons between summer and winter.

The constellation emerges in early October as Ghaaj, the parting of seasons between hot and cold, and is fully manifest in November. It is an indicator that the major winter ceremonies can begin.

This constellation includes the Greek constellation Corvus, but in Navajo cosmology it is much larger, containing a total of 32 stars, including stars from the constellation Hydra, and the star Spica in the constellation Virgo.

Sources: Navajo Skies, grandcanyon.org, Navajo Astronomy

Hastiin Sikai © Melvin Bainbridge



Cygnus

Cree

The Cree see a Goose, called Niska in the constellation Cygnus.

The main axis, formed by Deneb (α Cyg), Sadr (γ Cyg) and Albireo (β Cyg)
marks the direction of the path of migratory birds.
Source: Atchakosuk

Niska
Native Skywatchers
Dakota

In Dakota astronomy, the stars of Cygnus form the constellation Agleka, the Salamander.

When a baby boy is born the umbilical cord is cut from the mother and placed in a beaded leather pouch in the shape of the salamander. It is said that when the physical connection with the mother is severed, the connection to the stars is renewed. The salamander has characteristics of recovering from injury, agility and speed.

Sources: Dakota Constellation Guide, Astro by Mark

Agleka
Native Skywatchers
Ojibwe

In Ojibwe astronomy, the stars of Cygnus form the constellation Ajiijaak, the crane.

The crane is one of the leaders in the Ojibwe clan system. Crane and loon lead the people to stay strong. This constellation is overhead a few hours after sunset in the summertime.

Another word for the constellation is Ineshi Okanin, the skeleton bird.

Source: Ojibwe Constellation Guide

Ajiijaak
Native Skywatchers

Draco

Dakota

In Dakota astronomy, the stars of the head of Draco, together with some stars of Ursa Minor form Wakiŋyaŋ, the Thunder Bird.

The Thunderbird is a bird whose voice is thunder and blink is lightening. The smaller thunderclaps following a big one are the Thunderbirds children.

Source: Dakota Constellation Guide, Astro by Mark

Wakiŋyaŋ
Native Skywatchers


Gemini

Dakota

The Dakota name for the butte known as Devils Tower in North America's Black Hills is Mațo Tipila, the Bear's Lodge.

In Dakote astronomy, the Bear's Lodge is represented by the stars of Gemini

In addition, Castor (α Gem) and Pollux (β Gem) are part of the Sacred Hoop.

Sources: Dakota Constellation Guide, Astro by Mark.

Devils Tower
Source: National Park Services


X Lacerta and Pegasus

Ojibwe

Native Skywatchers identified the constellation Mooz, the Moose, consisting of the stars of Lacerta and Pegasus, as part of Ojibwe astronomy.

This constellation is another animal of the Ojibwe clan system. The moose provides food, clothing, shelter for the people, much like deer or caribou.

Source: Ojibwe Constellation Guide

Moose
Native Skywatchers

X Leo and Pegasus

Navajo

Iini, the Thunder constellation is considered a spring and summer constellation. It will first appear with the heliacal rise in the pre-dawn hours of early spring. This occurs about the same time that the First Thunder of spring sounds on earth signifying the coming of spring.

The emergence of the First Thunder and the appearance of the Thunder constellation in the sky awake the life processes and emergence of spring and moreover signals the rejuvenation of seasonal life cycles on earth.

The Thunder constellation manifests the intricate interconnection of all life in the universe, animals, plants, humans, thunder and lightning.

Iini © Melvin Bainbridge

The essence of the Thunder constellation is depicted as a feather containing six stars. Each star represents a month and can be identified with the morning heliacal rise of the first bright star in the East, following the new crescent moon, for each of the six months. Unlike most Navajo constellations, the Thunder constellation covers a major portion of the sky and appears over many months. The first indication of its feather comes in the early morning hours in September/October (Denebola in Leo) and is completed in February/March (tip of Pegasus). The body takes an additional three months to completely appear, March, April and May, and remains visible during the rest of the summer.

Source: Navajo Skies

Milky Way

Apache

In Volume 1 of his epic 20-volume work The North American Indian, US-American ethnologist Edward S. Curtis describes the association of the Apache people with the Milky Way.

The Milky Way symbolizes the road to the afterworld; a trail made by departing spirits. All souls have to path Yolkai Nalin, the most feared and venerated deity in Apache mythology. Then, the souls of the dead follow the path of the Milky Way for four days until they arrive in a land of peace and plenty, where there is no disease or death.

Source: native-science.net

Native American and Milky Way
John R. Foster / Science Source

Cherokee

The Cherokee have a story about How The Milky Way Came To Be.

Here is the story, retold by Barbara Shining Woman Warren:

Long ago when the world was young, there were not many stars in the sky.

In those days the Cherokee People depended on corn for their food. After gathering the corn from the fields, some of that corn was dried. Dried corn could be made into corn meal by placing the corn inside a large hollowed stump and pounding it with a long wooden pestle. Then the cornmeal was stored in large baskets. During the cold winter, the ground meal would be made into bread and mush.

One morning an elder man and his wife went to their storage basket for some cornmeal. They discovered that someone or something had gotten into the cornmeal during the night! This upset them very much for no one in a Cherokee village stole from someone else.

The Origin of the Milky Way Source: kobo.com
Then they noticed that the cornmeal was scattered over the ground. In the middle of the spilled meal were giant dog prints! These dog prints were so large that they knew this was no ordinary dog.

The elderly couple immediately alerted the people of the village. The village held council. It was decided that this must be a spirit dog from another world! The people did not want the spirit dog coming to their village, so they decided to get rid of the dog by frightening it so bad it would never return. They gathered their drums and turtle shell rattles and later that night they hid around the area where the cornmeal was kept.

Late into the night, they heard a whirring sound like many bird wings. They looked up to see the form of a giant dog swooping down from the sky. It landed near the basket and then began to eat great mouthfuls of cornmeal.
Suddenly the people jumped up beating and shaking their noise makers. The noise was so loud it sounded like thunder! The giant dog turned and began to run down the path. The people chased after him making the loudest noises they could. That dog ran to the top of a hill and leaped into the sky, the cornmeal spilling out the sides of its mouth.

The giant dog ran across the black night sky until it disappeared from sight...but the cornmeal that had spilled from its mouth made a pathway across the sky. Each grain of cornmeal became a star.

The Cherokees call that pattern of stars, gi li' ut sun stan un' yi, "the place where the dog ran."

And that is how the Milky Way came to be.

Source: powersource.com
Spirit Dog Source: amazon.com

Chumash

For the Chumash at the southern California coast, the common name of the milky was was "Journey of the Piñon Gatheres." Both the Milky Way and the inside of the piñon nut are white. In late fall and early winter, the Milky Way symbolized the northward journey the Chumash made to gather ripe piñon nuts. Near the constellation Cygnus, the Milky Way seemingly splits and appears to follow two paths, which in winter are just visible on the western horizon after sunset.

The Milky Way was also seen as the pathway of the spirits of the dead. The Chumash believed that at a cape at the coast of Southern California, now called Pt. Conception, peoples spirits would rise to the upper world after death to become part of the Suyapoosh, the Pinon Gatherers who travel the road of the Milky Way to Similaqsa, the land of the Dead.

Sources: Stewart, Williamson; They dance in the sky: Native American star myths, p. 52,
San Francisco State University

Piñon Pine Nuts
Source: gardeningknowhow.com

Pt. Conception; edhat.com

Lakota

In his book Sioux Life & Customs Of A Warrior Society, Royal B. Hassrick describes how the Lakota, a major subgroup of the Sioux, interpreted the Milky Way.

Like many other Native American cultures, the Lakota pictured the Milky Way as a spirit trail. Once the spirit of a Lakota left the body, it would travel on the spirit trail to the Land of Many Lodges, where all the ancestors had pitched their tipis and where buffalo roamed in unending abundance.

Along the trail, the spirits had to pass an old woman who each spirit for the proper tattoo marks on wrist, forehead or chin.

Lakota Tipi and Milky Way; imagefinder.co
William K. Powers, in his book Oglala Religion, adds a facette to the story, focussing on the Oglala, one of the seven sub-tribes of the Lakota.

Powers describes that the Oglala spirits too had to pass the old woman, but adds, that the woman would judges the spirit's life on earth and would either sends it on or would send it back to earth where it had to exist as a shade.

The Oglala called the Milky Way Wanagi Tacanku, the Spirit Road and believed that the light of the Milky Way originated from the campfires of the traveling spirits.

Source: native-science.net

Navajo

Yiksdh, That Which Awaits the Dawn, is related to the annual Milky Way process. The emergence of pre-dawn is determined by the position of the Milky Way that changes with the nights, months and seasons.

Yiksdh can be experienced by the full cyclical emergence of the Milky Way in the early pre-dawn hours of mid January. It is during this time the full circle of the Milky Way aligns with the horizon. Thus, a person can observe the full Milky Way in every direction, as it lays on the horizon in a circle.

The Milky Way is depicted in Navajo sandpaintings as a crosshatched line, indicating the changes of its position in the night sky, from one side to another.

Yiksdh is the last of the eight main constellations and signifies completeness and wholeness.

Sources: Navajo Skies, grandcanyon.org

Yiksdh © Melvin Bainbridge

Milky Way in a Navajo Sandpainting © Joe Ben


Ojibwe

The Ojibwe people called the MilkyWay Jiibay Ziibi, the River of Souls.

Souls, it was said, would find a waiting canoe to paddle to the great beyond along the shining flow of the Milky Way.

Source: Ojibwe Cosmos

River of Souls
© Carl Gawboy

Pawnee

The Skidi Pawnee saw the Milky Way as the path the spirits of the dead take as they are blown along from north to south by the north wind. Because most people linger in sickness before they die, their spirit path is long and corresponds to the long trail of the milky way. The spirits of people whose death came suddenly in battle travel a shorter path.

Source: Stewart, Williamson; They dance in the sky: Native American star myths, p. 52,

Seminole

When a Seminole soul dies, the Milky Way shines brighter to
give him a clear path to the spirit world.

Source: Richard Hook

Seminole on the path
to the spirit world
Richard Hook

Shoshone

In Volume 15 of his 20-volume work The North American Indian, US-American ethnologist Edward S. Curtis describes the Shoshone, who live in what is now Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and Nevada.

In Shoshone mythology, the spirits of the dead rise straight through the air to Kasipo, the Milky Way and travel southward to the end of the trail. In the south, at the end of the Milky Way there is a lake with a conical rock in the middle. When the spirits pass down through a hole in the rock, they are reborn and emerge as living bodies in Pugwainumu muguwa bitighan, the Place Where The Spirit Goes.

Curtis also mentions the creators, Numu-naa, People-Father, and Numu-biya, People-Mother. After the creation of the people, they had to head southward and leave the earth. People-Mother didn't want to leave her children but People-Father consoled her. He said that the people were mortal and when their children had grown and multiplied the elders would die and their spirits would then come to live with them again.

Numu-naa and Numu-biya walked to the ocean where the clouds rose up like a great door in the sky. This is where they now reside and the spirit of anybody who died goes the same way along the Milky Way, to this place. People-Father then places the spirit in a box and after a time it the spirit is reborn as a living person in the Place Where The Spirit Goes.

Source: native-science.net


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