Constellation chart and illustration by Alexander Jamieson.

Ursa Minor and Indigenous Skylore

Ursa Minor is a circumpolar constellation which helps to point the way to the North Star or Polaris which is 434 light years away from earth. The tilt of the earth's axis places Polaris as the star that points true north and remains in a steady point in the sky. Kocab is 130 light years away from earth and is 40 times larger than our star the sun. Epsilon Ursae Minoris is a three star binary system, which is 303 light years away. The Ursa Minor Dwarf is a dwarf elliptical galaxy composed mostly of older stars, with little to no star formation happening in this galaxy. The Ursa Minor Dwarf is a satellite galaxy to our own, Milky Way galaxy. The Little Dipper is an asterism within the Ursa Minor constellation. An asterism is subset of stars that have been identified as a shape.

Atima Atchakosuk

In Cree tradition, the dog stars are found in the northern sky. Follow the arch and the end star is the going home star or Keewatin. If a Cree traveller kept Keewatin on their right shoulder while moving over land at night, they knew they were travelling towards the west. The Plains Cree called Polaris the standing still star, Ekakatchet Atchakos. The Ininwuk word for star is Ahchakosak which can be translated as a being which recognizes that a star is a dynamic and changing part of the universe.

Ursa Minor star chart.

Long ago people didn’t have dogs. There was no one to befriend lonely children, help the old or hunt with the women. Marauders or animals could enter their camp and terrorize or take from the people because they had no warning system. The wolf, coyote and fox saw these struggles and were concerned. The wolf held council and it was decided that two of them would go and live amongst the people. The foxes and the coyotes also held council and they also decided two of their bands would go join the people. Two puppies from each the foxes, coyotes and the wolves were sent. The animals adapted and changed to suit their lives with humans. All the dogs that live today are from these puppies given as gifts. These dogs guard our homes, children and food. The star Polaris is the anchor for the dog leash. As the night progresses, the dog walks around this anchor and protects the camp. Polaris is a dog, yeldun or delta is the coyote, and the fox is epsilon. The bowl of the dipper represents the puppies that were sent to the four directions of humankind.