The Rothney Astrophysical Observatory is located under the starry skies of the traditional territories of the peoples of Treaty 7, which include the Blackfoot Confederacy (comprised of the Siksika, the Piikani, and the Kainai First Nations), the Tsuut’ina First Nation, and the Stoney Nakoda (including Chiniki, Bearspaw, and Goodstoney First Nations). The City of Calgary is also home to the Métis Nation of Alberta (Districts 5 and 6).
For thousands of years, humans have looked to the skies to understand our place in the universe. To make sense of the stars, different cultures looked up and identified shapes of stars patterns. Over time, these patterns were given meaning in the form of cultural stories or symbols. These culturally important star patterns are called constellations.
Canada's Indigenous people looked to the sky for guidance in practical endeavours but also spiritual identity. They look to the sky as a map, clock and calendar for thousands of years. The movement of celestial objects were observed and followed using the stars as a compass, for orientation and direction. Circumpolar stars are visible throughout the year in Canada and the star Polaris points the way north. The shifting positions of the constellations in the southern skies changed with the seasons. These constellations were carefully studied and woven into mythologies and stories that passed from generation to generation. Their memorable tales had pragmatic purposes too, such as knowing when to move from one camp to another.