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Indigenous Moon

Tipiskawi Pisim (Moon)
By Wilfred Buck, Researcher and Knowledge Keeper
Opaskwayak Cree Nation, Manitoba

Every culture on the face of the Earth sees the Moon in a very unique way and each has stories about the Moon and its various faces, that it shows us throughout the month.

Throughout the Americas, the Moon and the Sun were very central to the people's lives. Both the Moon and the Sun held prominent places in the lives, beliefs, ceremonies and understandings of the people.

One aspect regarding the Moon was the passage of time. For most cultures in the Americas, the passage of time was noted with the cycle of the moons.

From the full Moon cycles, it was noted that certain things happened in the environment. The weather, plants, animals and temperature seemed to follow the cycles of the Moon. One of the patterns that became apparent was that there were 13 full moons that occurred before everything seemed to start all over again. Thus a 13 moon cycle was identified.

When Europeans made contact with the First Nations peoples of the Americas, it was evident that some Indigenous peoples followed a lunar calendar depicted on the back of a turtle's shell. Turtle shells have 28 smaller outer edge scutes, representing the number of days from one full Moon to the next, and 13 larger central scutes, representing the 13 moon cycles. The turtle (Mikinak Ministik) held a special place in the various cultures of Indigenous people. One of the origins of the term Turtle Island is the lunar calendar.

Did you know?

For some Indigenous peoples, Turtle Island refers to the continent of North America. The name comes from various Indigenous oral histories that tell stories of a turtle that holds the world on its back. For some Indigenous peoples, the turtle is therefore considered an icon of life, and the story of Turtle Island consequently speaks to various spiritual and cultural beliefs. (Credit: The Canadian Encyclopedia)

In a number of origin stories, Mikinak (the turtle) was chosen by Kitci Manito (the Creator) to use as a foundation for the island that was to be formed after the great flood.

The Tipiskawi Pisim (the Night Sun, the Moon) stories below are from an Ininew (Cree) perspective. Stories from other Indigenous communities will be added to this page.

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