Indigenous Stories and Sky Science

an ASU Roden Crater Field Lab Exhibition April 29, 2019

The purpose of our class is to bring awareness to the Indigenous context of Roden Crater, a project created by light and space artist James Turrell. While focusing on Turrell’s artwork through the lens of Indigeneity and nation building, we learned that it is situated in the ancestral homelands of Fort Mojave, Fort McDowell Yavapai, Hopi, Havasupai, Hualapai, Navajo, Pueblo of Zuni, and Yavapai Apache tribes, and possibly others.

To become aware of the regional traditions and understand the continued practice of Indigenous sky science in the southwest, we went on a five-day journey through Navajo and Hopi lands and visited significant sites. We also engaged in Indigenous sky observation techniques and concepts of holistic interconnectedness.

“The Navajo worldview includes an ordered Universe where everything is interrelated and all the pieces of the Universe are enfolded within the whole. At the same time, every piece contains the entire Universe, somewhat like a hologram, thus creating a network of relationships and processes in constant motion.” -Nancy C. Maryboy & David Begay, Sharing the Skies



Indigenous Lands:

More than 1.5 billion acres of Indigenous lands were seized by the U.S. government from 1776 to 1887. Today there are 22 federally recognized tribes located in the state of Arizona. Roden Crater is situated in the territorial homelands of at least eight tribes. The land holds sacred stories and histories of these people.


Holistic Interconnectedness:

The Holistic Interconnectedness diagram is inspired by a lecture given by Dr. Henry Fowler, a mathematician from Navajo Technical University. The diagram represents the Navajo Universe Philosophy of the holistic interconnectedness between the cosmos, people, animals, places, and Indigenous spiritual beliefs - the tangible and intangible.


Four (4) Knowledges:

Contemporary- gained through experience, education and problem solving.

Empirical- gained through careful observation and practice over time.

Traditional- handed down, based on stories and experiences of a people through time.

Revealed- gained through vision, ritual and ceremony.




Indigenous Planning, Architecture and Construction (DSC, CON, AIS 494 and 598)

Wanda Dalla Costa (Saddle Lake Cree Nation), Institute Professor, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

BriAnn Laban (Hopi Tribe), Intern Architect, Urban Rural Design Studio
Jacob Meders (Mechoopda Indian Tribe) Assistant Professor, School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies

Special thanks to the following people for offering dialogue in support of this process...

Jerome Clark (Navajo Nation), PhD Graduate Student
Dexter Farley (Navajo Nation), Film Graduate, ASU
Dr. Henry Fowler (Navajo Nation), Faculty, Navajo Technical University
Dr. Steven Semken, Professor, School Of Earth and Space Exploration
Austin Qootsyamptewa (Hopi Tribe), Hopi Guide
Trevor Reed (Hopi Tribe), Associate Professor, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
April Sewequaptewa (Hopi Tribe), Archeologist
Brie Smith, Lecturer, Interior Design, ASU