The Dominion Astrophysical Observatory, located within W̱SÁNEĆ territory and currently managed by the Federal Government, offers stunning views of both the stars and the surrounding mountains and valleys. As of now, all information at the observatory regarding the night sky and the surrounding land comes from a Western perspective.

Shown above from left to right are: J,SIṈTEN (John Elliott), nLauri Roche, Friends of the DAO staff, Tye Swallow, Joni Olsen, Justin Fritz, PENÁĆ (Dave Underwood), SX̱EDŦELISIYE (Renee Sampson), and SELILIYE (Belinda Claxton) during a recent trip to the Observatory. 

The WLC has partnered with the observatory to rectify this erasure of W̱SÁNEĆ culture and language by reclaiming SENĆOŦEN names and knowledge related to both the land and the night sky. Recently, WLC staff and the WLC language committee did an onsite visit to determine how to begin this project.

The first initiative the WLC is exploring is the creation of external signage in SENĆOŦEN with accompanying artwork to honour the name of this mountain: W̱SÁ,SENEĆ. This signage will be similar to that which was installed at the name reclaiming ceremony at SMONEĆTEN. These signs will ensure W̱SÁNEĆ history and culture are prominently and permanently displayed along the viewpoints as well as within the observatory itself. 

The second initiative the WLC is working on is to bring in W̱SÁNEĆ storytellers and artists to help create a permanent display at the observatory on W̱SÁNEĆ moons and stories of the night sky. 

“It’s going to be so great that our kids can go on a field trip to the observatory and see themselves and their language and culture represented; where they can see our stories about the creation of the solar system and the constellations,” shares Joni Olsen, the Policy/Negotiations Analyst for the WLC.

Shown above: The view from W̱SÁ,SENEĆ, the hill the observatory sits on, overlooking W̱SÁNEĆ territory. 

Shown above: the story of SȽEMEW̱ – the First W̱SÁNEĆ man from the sky

The third and final initiative at the observatory goes beyond signage and installations and focuses on education, job training, and economic opportunities for W̱SÁNEĆ people. The WLC is now working with the ȽÁU, WELṈEW̱ Tribal School,  the W̱SÁNEĆ Leadership Secondary school, and other organizations to follow to reinstate field trips, job shadowing, and access other educational opportunities at their tech and science facilities, ideally creating employment opportunities and training.

“There are a lot of in-depth, technical activities happening at the observatory. It will be beneficial to get our youth involved in job shadowing and training, so they can get increased exposure to careers in science and technology,” shared Gord Elliott, Director of Operations for the WLC.

While the observatory is now closed due to COVID-19, W̱SÁNEĆ school groups are on the list for visits to the facility. 

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