Presentation #103.02 in the session “Scientific and Cultural Engagement with Arizona Indigenous Communities”.
For over six decades, the Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO) has resided on the Tohono O’odham Nation (TON) upon the Quinlan Mountains also known as I’ilogam Du’ag (Manzanita Bush Mountain) to the O’odham. KPNO brings mixed feelings for the O’odham, some don’t mind the observatory while others wish it was somewhere else. As for the relationship between KPNO and TON, it appears to be nonexistent and if there ever was one, it left with the individuals who created them. Furthermore, the are not any known Tohono O’odham astronomers and there is a need especially since the perspective of the night sky from an O’odham can be very different from a non-O’odham scientist or astronomer. As American Indian scholar and activist, Vine Deloria Jr. (2001) stated, “The current tendency of younger Indian scholars is to find where the tangent points exist with Western science and to proclaim, quite rightly, that Indians arrived at the same conclusions using a much different epistemology or metaphysics. Recognizing these points where communication is possible is but halfway to the goal,” This leads us to several questions including what can astronomers learn from Tohono O’odham/other Native American communities? And what can astronomers do to establish relationships with Native American tribes? For example: If an observatory wanted to begin interacting or begin a relationship with a Native Nation or Tribe here are a few steps on how to do that. First step, learning and understanding how the tribal government operates along with other parts of the Nation/Tribe. Step two would be contacting the main office of the tribe’s President/Chairperson to arrange a meeting. If their calendars are booked for the next month, then ask if there are any other tribal officials, departments or programs you can contact in the meantime. This could be done by phone or email. Third step, if the tribe is hosting an event where the public is allowed, ask to have an information table at the event. This would allow visibility and interacting with tribal members. This is only scratching the surface and there are plenty more ideas to explore to begin relationship building.