By Santee Ross, University of Montana
As far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated with stars. I was a little one who couldn’t last long in the sweat lodge, so I would wait for my mother outside.
I’d lie on the cold dirt that soothed my burning skin, staring at the night sky. I’d lie there listening to the songs from inside the sweat lodge and try to count the stars – I gave up after about eight, realizing I couldn’t count that high.
As I got older I carried with me the fascination with stars and invested in a telescope. I went all out and got a star chart, even stayed up late so I could find the perfect setting to see mars. Those were exciting nights but also very cold.
While my eyes and hands were busy with star gazing my mother told me about the ancient ties the Lakota and Hopi have with the stars.
She said the Hopi elders based most of their ceremonies on the stars and moon phases, even to this day. Knowing when to hold certain ceremonies based on the traditions of stargazing is admirable, especially in a digital age.
My favorite story though was when she told me the Lakota people come from the Milky Way. She said we are spiritual beings who lived in the stars but came to Earth to live in a physical body.
This would always tickle the back of my neck. I was gazing at the origins of who I am, right now, in this moment. I would fall in love with stars over and over again, every time I’d hear that story.
Fast-forward about a decade and scientists have recently found evidence that is surprisingly like the story my mother shared with me.
A NASA spacecraft called Interstellar Boundary Explorer has detected atoms from outside the solar system called “interstellar material,” or “alien atoms.”
These “alien atoms,” are basically what form the stars, planets and even us human beings. They come from what remains of long-ago supernovae.
The ancient story my mother shared did in fact have reason to send shivers through my body. We are literally made from what stars are made of. We are the products of stardust found in the Milky Way.
Our ancestors long ago knew what science is today proving.
Do you hear that? That is the sound of your mind being blown.
Santee Ross (Hopi/Lakota) is from Lander, Wyo.