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Next US Total Solar Eclipse (Apr 8, 2024)
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Navajo Knowledge of the Cosmos

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope's infrared image of the distant universe
Navajo Knowledge of the Cosmos

 

 

hands of a woman wearing turquoise touching a Navajo basket
Ts’aa — Navajo Basket

For generations, Navajo (Diné) people have studied the sky and passed down its stories. 

"Navajo star knowledge is based on a world view and cosmology significantly different from western academic astronomy. Navajo astronomy can best be understood within a much larger context of Navajo philosophy.  The Navajo world view includes a holistic and ordered universe where everything is interrelated and all the pieces of the universe are enfolded within the whole. At the same time every piece contains the entire universe, creating a network of relationships and processes in constant flux. Unlike western astronomy, traditional Navajo astronomy is highly spiritual in accordance with a world view where everything is considered living and sacred. "

 - Nancy C. Maryboy, Ph.D.,Indigenous Education Institute (IEI)

In Navajo (Diné) tradition, the eclipse marks a sacred time. 

Solar eclipses are compelling astronomical events that connect us to the Sun and the Moon in powerful ways. Annular or total solar eclipses, and even partial ones, can leave lasting memories of the phenomenon as well as the people and places where we experience the celestial alignment. The 2023 annular solar eclipse passed through Indigenous lands in the United States "four corners" region. In collaboration with Navajo (Diné) astronomers of the Indigenous Education Institute, the Exploratorium created resources that feature solar eclipses from the Navajo worldview. Learn about the cultural significance and scientific understandings of eclipses as told by Navajo educators, astronomers, and elders.

Navajo Solar Eclipse Baskets
Credit: Elsie Holiday
A Time for Renewal - Navajo (Diné) Knowledge of Eclipses
A Time for Renewal - Navajo (Diné) Knowledge of Eclipses
traditional navajo structure made of mud and tree bark

Traditional Navajo (Diné) knowledge teaches us that eclipses have always been a part of the human experience.

"When an eclipse begins, Navajo elders strongly instruct their community to go inside the hogan (their  traditional dwelling) to ensure they don’t look up at the Sun. It is considered a time of interaction between the Sun and the moon. They sit quietly and in contemplation, or recount traditional teachings about the origins of the Sun and moon. These practices are grounded in their deeply held respect for the cosmic order."

- Nancy C. Maryboy, Ph.D. and David Begay, Ph.D., Indigenous Education Institute (IEI)

 

"Annular Solar Eclipse" - poster

This poster was developed in collaboration with the Indigenous Education Institute. This educational "Annular Solar Eclipse" poster gives voice to Navajo knowledge of solar eclipses and features the Diné language and descriptions of eclipses from the Navajo worldview.

We invite you to download this beautiful poster!

illustrations of Navajo Sun and moon