Sahtú Dene and Yellowknives Dene Astronomy and Sky-Related Knowledge

Regions: Sahtu Settlement Area, North Slave Region

Tags: social sciences, traditional knowledge, astronomy

Principal Investigator: Holton, Gary (3)
Licence Number: 16280
Organization: University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
Licenced Year(s): 2018
Issued: Apr 04, 2018
Project Team: Chris Cannon (primary researcher, University of Alaska, Fairbanks), Michael Neyelle (co-researcher, Sahtu´ Renewable Resources Board), Leon Andrew (co-researcher, Sahtu´ Renewable Resources Board), Deborah Simmons (co-researcher, Sahtu´ Renewable Resources Board), Walter Bezha (co-researcher, independent researcher), Dr. Alex Jaker (Dene linguistics consultant, University of Toronto), Dr. Gary Holton (project investigator, University of Hawai'i at Manoa/ UNiversity of Alaska, Fairbanks)

Objective(s): To document Sahtú Dene and Yellowknives Dene astronomy and sky-related knowledge as well as other supporting linguistic and cultural knowledge.

Project Description: The research objective is to document Sahtú Dene and Yellowknives Dene astronomy and sky-related knowledge as well as other supporting linguistic and cultural knowledge that may help contextualize the study. Results will appear in the researcher’s Ph.D. dissertation on Northern Dene astronomy and may be published in a book on the same topic at a later date. The research team will also produce educational materials for participating communities such as a bilingual star chart, lists of sky-related terminology, and/or bilingual texts/stories.

The researcher will primarily utilize informal interviews and participant observation methods. The research team anticipate working with just a few traditional knowledge experts in Déline, Tulit’a, and Dettah. Interviews and participant observation will be ongoing throughout the duration of the fieldwork, which is expected to span about nine days (five days in Déline, two days in Tulit’a, and two days in Dettah). Interviews will be open-ended by design to allow the consultants to communicate their knowledge of the sky in a manner that suits their teaching styles. The research team will also attempt to make direct observations of the night sky during the evenings at a location away from street and house lights. The Sahtú Renewable Resource Board has generously agreed to assist with participant recruitment in Déline and Tulit’a, whereas our Yellowknives Dene consultants have already worked with the team during past research in November 2015. In addition, several members of the Sahtú Renewable Resource Board (listed as members of research team) are participating in this project as co-researchers. All interviews will be recorder on a digital solid state recorder in WAV format. The researcher will also record handwritten fieldnotes and take photographs with the consent of the consultants.

This project is focused on working with traditional knowledge experts in Déline, Tulita, and Dettah. In addition, the research team will include local youth to come out with the team at night and learn about the stars, or sit in and listen to interviews. The team have also volunteered to give a presentation about the research that will involve anyone within the communities who wishes to attend this public event(s).

Copies of all materials recorded and collected during the fieldwork will be given to the Sahtú Dene and the Yellowknives Dene First Nations prior to leaving the field site. Additional materials, such as bilingual star charts and wordlists will be edited and produced for Déline, Tulit’a, and Dettah within 6-8 months of the fieldwork. Digital copies of all scientific papers and reports produced as a result of this research will be sent to the appropriate community repositories in Déline, Tulit’a, and Dettah, respectively.

The fieldwork for this study will be conducted from April 4, 2018 to April 30, 2018.