Diversifying astronomy: Introducing Indigenous astronomy and sky lore into the astronomy classroom

Diversifying Astronomy: Introducing Indigenous astronomy and sky lore into the astronomy classroom


This program aims to collaborate with members of the Centre for Indigenous Studies to develop a methodology to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into astronomy courses while honoring Indigenous cultures and peoples. This will occur through the development of new teaching modules and learning experiences that can be used in courses across the astronomy and astrophysics program at the University of Toronto.


Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Faculty of Arts and Science.

Project lead(s)

Primary Investigator: Professor Hilding Neilson

Co-Investigators: Raymond Carlberg, Bryan Gaensler

Year LEAF Granted


Funding Stream


LEAF Priority Area(s)

Curriculum Design


Impact of the Project on Students

In Fall 2017 and Winter 2018, PMU199 courses around the topic of Indigenous Astronomy and Indigenous learning were taught. They had a student population of 24 first-year students.

Material that can be applied to larger courses such as Astronomy 101/201 is being developed for the students.

Impact of the Project on Faculty

Resources Developed from the Project

Template planetarium material for classroom usage has been developed. This work includes incorporating Indigenous constellations into planetarium software that can be used in teaching. This template is a proof-of-concept and I will be working with Elders to develop material that can be applied to this template.

Future Plans

For the remainder of the current one-year project, we will purse the following five goals.

  • The first step is to continue to revise and publish protocol for usage in collaborating with Indigenous scholars, Elders, and knowledge keepers to ensure that we are using the best practices for interactions and benefit to Indigenous communities.
  • I will visit Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to discuss with Elders Mi’kmaw astronomy and usage of education material. This trip will include building connections with the Mi’kmaw Kina’matnewey. From this work, we hope to obtain permission to use Mi’kmaw knowledge in for teaching and to create content in English and Mi’kmaq.
  • I will hire a 70 hr research assistant to develop connections and to interview local Indigenous Elders and scholars to learn Indigenous Cree, Haudenosaunee, and Ojibwe stories that can be used in educational material. This position will be funded by the LEAF grant (this is the only item with cost currently funded by the current LEAF grant.)
  • We are scheduled to have visit by Professor Annette Lee in the spring of 2018 to shared Indigenous astronomy knowledge.
  • I will develop a first module based on the Mi’kmaw story of Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters during the Spring/Summer 2018