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North America will witness a rare celestial event on Monday:  a total solar eclipse. As the moon positions itself between the sun and Earth, casting a shadow on our planet, millions will watch the sky darken like the onset of dawn or dusk. 

The event’s distinction lies in the totality of its path, spanning from Mexico to Canada, as well as its profound cultural significance, especially for Indigenous people.  

Thanks to technology like cameras and live streaming, even if you cannot view the solar eclipse in one of the optimal spots along the path, you can still experience the eclipse with others from all over the world. Eclipses have been important to cultures throughout history, so this gives a chance to connect with that history and appreciate the wonders of the universe together. 

While the prospect of witnessing such a rare event is exciting, it's also a moment to reflect on the cultural and historical significance that eclipses hold for different communities, particularly among Indigenous people.

Native American tribes have their own unique stories and traditions surrounding eclipses, passed down through generations. These stories often blend mythology with astronomical observation, providing insights into how ancient cultures interpreted celestial phenomena.

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For example, the Cherokee people tell a story about a frog swallowing the Sun, while the Chickasaw have a similar tale featuring a black squirrel. These tales aren't just stories; they're vital cultural symbols that uphold beliefs and traditions within Indigenous communities.

Map of track of 100% totality of the eclipse crossing the United States. Photo: Source - NASA Scientific Visualization Studio)

 

Erin Fehr (Yup’ik), Assistant Director and Archivist at the University of Arkansas Little Rock’s Sequoyah National Research Center, offers valuable insights into the mythology and beliefs surrounding eclipses among several Native American tribes.

Related: Native Bidaské with Erin Fehr on What Eclipses Mean to Various Tribes

             Centuries of Indigenous Knowledge Found Along the Path of the Total Solar Eclipse

"Each tribe has its own interpretations and rituals associated with eclipses," Fehr told Native News Online. "These beliefs reflect the deep connection between Indigenous peoples and the natural world."

Among the various tribes, the Navajo Nation has a particularly profound reverence for eclipses. For the Navajo, an eclipse is a sacred time for introspection and renewal. Traditionally, Navajo families remain indoors during an eclipse, refraining from eating or drinking as they engage in quiet reflection and meditation.

In addition to cultural significance, the April 8, 2024 eclipse holds practical importance for Indigenous communities along its path of totality. Several Tribal Nations, including the Navajo Nation, the Cherokee Nation, the Mohawk Nation, and the Cree Nation, will be directly in the eclipse's trajectory. For these communities, witnessing the eclipse is not just a celestial event; it's an opportunity to connect with their ancestral lands and traditions on a deeply spiritual level.

While the allure of witnessing an eclipse is undeniable, it's crucial to prioritize safety during this celestial event. Here are some essential tips to ensure a memorable and secure viewing experience:

  • Protective Eyewear: Never look directly at the sun without certified solar viewing glasses. Regular sunglasses are not sufficient to shield your eyes from harmful solar radiation.
  • Pinhole Projector: Create a simple pinhole projector to indirectly view the eclipse. This safe and inexpensive method projects the sun's image onto a surface, allowing you to observe the eclipse without risking eye damage.
  • Avoid Unprotected Cameras: Refrain from pointing cameras, telescopes, or binoculars directly at the sun without proper solar filters. Doing so can cause irreversible damage to your equipment and eyes.
  • Monitor Children and Pets: Keep a close watch on children and pets during the eclipse, ensuring they use protective eyewear or participate in safe viewing activities.
  • Be Mindful of Surroundings: Choose a safe viewing location away from hazards like traffic or uneven terrain. Stay aware of your surroundings to prevent accidents while immersed in the eclipse's splendor.

If you’re observing the solar eclipse on Monday, share your comments, photos, or videos on our social media channels, including Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, and Instagram.

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About The Author
Kaili Berg
Author: Kaili BergEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Staff Reporter
Kaili Berg (Aleut) is a member of the Alutiiq/Sugpiaq Nation, and a shareholder of Koniag, Inc. She is a staff reporter for Native News Online and Tribal Business News. Berg, who is based in Wisconsin, previously reported for the Ho-Chunk Nation newspaper, Hocak Worak. She went to school originally for nursing, but changed her major after finding her passion in communications at Western Technical College in Lacrosse, Wisconsin.