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Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Intercultural Collaborations in Astronomy, Space Science, and Earth Science

Presentation #336.06 in the session “Collaboration with Integrity: Partnerships with Indigenous Communities in the Americas and Polynesia”.

Published onJan 11, 2021
Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Intercultural Collaborations in Astronomy, Space Science, and Earth Science

In 2005, NASA funded a professional development workshop for education and public outreach professionals to engage with Indigenous scholars and leaders. One goal of this workshop was to learn more about how astronomy and space science methodologies and actions can create conflict with Indigenous ways of knowing and living. This workshop seeded several NASA- and NSF-funded intercultural collaborative initiatives. Some of these initiatives provided professional development opportunities for staff working at science centers, tribal museums, and cultural museums to learn from one another about western astronomy, space science, earth science, and Indigenous ways of knowing. These efforts resulted in new collaborations, appreciation for scientific practices and astronomical knowledge by Indigenous professionals, and Indigenous perspectives and content in museum exhibits and programs. Having been involved in such work over the past 15 years, I have learned several lessons, some of which follow. The questions we ask determine the ultimate answers. Observing the night sky from a sense of place on Earth for thousands of years yields different questions than studying space from a space-based platform. Respectful intercultural collaboration can be a methodology for building common visions for mountain tops, space, and astronomical telescopes. The health and well-being of our species is dependent on the strength of our relationships with our local ecosystems, including the night sky. Effective intercultural learning requires an open mind: a suspension of one’s identity and strongly-held beliefs.


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