Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dark Skies in Westcliffe/Silvercliff

For many centuries, dark skies filled with billions of twinkling stars was taken as a matter of fact.  Shepherds, nomads, farmers and travelers used the sky to guide them and teach them.  The movements and cycles of the heavens were well-known and closely observed by all.  But, as populations have grown, first candle light and now electric lights have slowly started to block out the night sky with their light domes.
Until recently, there were only eight places in the world “certified” as “Dark Sky Communities” by the International Dark-Skies Association headquartered in Tucson, Arizona.  They are:
  • Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Borregos Springs, California
  • Isle of Sark, Channel Islands
  • Homer Glen, Illinois
  • Isle of Coll, Scotland
  • Dripping Springs, Texas
  • Beverly Shores, Indiana
  • Sedona, Arizona

Thursday, March 19, 2015

First American: New Discoveries

It seems that every year discoveries push back the date for the first Americans.  The January edition of the National Geographic magazine features an article on the discovery of a young teenaged girl who fell to her death into one of the many cenotes, or sink holes, in Central American Yucatan 12,000 to 13,000 years ago.  Although this date is roughly the date Clovis points were being manufactured in New Mexico and does not push back the date of first Americans,  of significance is its connection to the “Kennewick Man” discovered along the Columbia River in Washington.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Native American Skies: Lunar Standstill in Chaco Canyon

March 05, 2015
Earth-Moon declinations
In any given month, the rising moon swings between two extremes on the eastern horizon, similar to the oscillation of the rising sun during the year.  When the moon reaches its maximum northern or southern declination, it has a “standstill” similar to the sun at summer and winter solstices.  The standstills could be said to be the moon’s equivalence to the Solar Solstices.  [for details on lunar standstills, refer to Native American Skies: Lunar Standstills]

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Native American Skies: Lunar Standstill at Chimney Rock

During the month, the moon rises at different points across the eastern horizon.  When it reaches the farthest point north it pauses, or rises in the same spot for a couple of days, and then reverses course.  This pause is called a “Lunar Standstill”.  The same thing happens two weeks later at its farthest point south.   You may have noticed that the sun does the same thing, but it takes the sun a year to move from its farthest point north (Summer Solstice) to its farthest point south (Winter Solstice) and back again.  At each solstice, the sun pauses before reversing course and this is called a Solar Standstill. 

[refer to last week’s article: Native American Skies: Lunar Standstill]

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Native American Skies: Lunar Standstil

197px-Ecliptic_plane_3d_viewHave you noticed how fast the earth has been moving lately?  Probably not, but in fact the earth moves faster in the winter than in the summer.  The reason is because the earth moves around the sun in an elliptical orbit, not circular, so as the earth gets closer to the sun it speeds up and as it flies away from the sun it slows down.  In North America, the winter half of the year is approximately eight days shorter than the summer half.



Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Cherokee Valentine

Saturday is Valentines Day, a national holiday in the United States, but what does it mean to Native Americans?
For the Cherokee in ancient times, this time of the year was known as “Kagali”, or the “Bony
Moon”.  It has been said that the reason for the name stems from there being less food available so the people were chewing on the bones.  It was also a time for remembering the deceased, celebrated with fasting, a dance, and ritual observance led by the Uku or “Didanawiskawi” (medicine person).

Thursday, January 29, 2015

First Contact: The Soto Expedition, Part 5: Arrogant and Proud Barbarians

Garcilasco de la Vega, "The Inca"
In his account of the Soto expedition, “The Inca” [see Part 1] gives what I believe to be the most accurate and eloquent account of the attitudes of the Spaniards towards the Indians, and the Indians towards the Spaniards I have ever read.  So, this week, I want to simply quote his articulate description of those attitudes.  Note: the Inca’s reference to “Acuera” does not agree with other chroniclers.  However, it was most likely the chief of the “Timucua” Indians that Soto was trying to befriend.