We’ve all looked up at the stars and wondered what life might be hiding beyond what our eyes can see. What endless possibilities are yet to be discovered in the vast expanse of space?
In “Children of the Stars: Indigenous Science Education in a Reservation Classroom” written by Ed Galindo with Lori Lambert, high school students from the Fort Hall Reservation in Idaho had the opportunity to explore this wonder.
Galindo, a lifelong educator and Yaqui Indian, shares the inspiring story of his students from the Shoshone-Bannock tribe who won a spot in a competitive NASA program in the 1990s where they conducted an experiment that NASA astronauts they would pilot it into space.
The first hurdle the students had to face was what knowledge teenagers from a small reservation could contribute to NASA, a world-renowned agency known for hosting the best and brightest minds in science and exploration. of space.
Galindo was certain that to inspire his students and keep them engaged, he needed to explain science in culturally relevant ways.
This means that his students’ experiment must be based on practices that privilege land and nature, paying respect to the land and ocean that they respect and value.
After much brainstorming, they settled on research questions inspired by sustainable agriculture: Can liquid fertilizer be produced in space? And if so, could this space fertilizer be used to grow food?
With guidance from Galindo, several mentors from the Shoshone-Bannock tribe and the scientific community, the students developed an experiment that would hold a mixture of phosphate and water to create a fertilizer that could be used in space. They called this experiment Baby.
The baby was born 2 to 3 meters wide and weighed just under 8 kilograms. It was equipped with water lines, collection bags and an on-board computer, all of which were designed and built on a reservation by an all-American Indian scientific team.
On June 2, 1998, at 6:15 p.m., after years of flight tests, seemingly insurmountable challenges, and endless patience, the Shoshone-Bannock Nation officially entered the space race with Baby aboard STS-91 Discovery.
There has long been a divide between Western science and indigenous knowledge. After all, what do sacred practices and reverence for land and ocean have to do with science?
The answer is everything.
“Star Children” reminds us that American Indians have always been scientists. They discovered that some plants grow better when planted together. They observe the world around them, maintain their harmony with their environment through sustainable practices and create medicines from natural sources.
Now more than ever, our earth urgently needs these values and practices that see the earth as a resource we can all use and give back, not something to abuse or curse. This is a practice shared by all indigenous peoples, including those on our island.
August 9 is celebrated as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples.
While “Star Children” honors American Indians, particularly the Shoshone-Bannock tribe, it is also a grim reminder of the troubled history of American Indian communities and the erasure of their sacred practices in the name of Western science.
Galindo neither denies nor attempts to hide the presence of poverty, addiction, and mental health crises in American Indian communities emerging from a violent history.
However, through its honest portrayal of life on the reserve, it highlights and highlights the successes, courage and resilience that continue to prevail in the shadows of a horrific past.
“Star Children” is filled with humor, poignant lessons of hope and loss, and most importantly, love for one’s tribe and one’s self.
Some of Galindo’s students went on to higher education. Many returned to the school to mentor future generations of scientists. Some, unfortunately, joined the stars.
But they all achieved far more than the odds and statistics said they were unable to achieve.
Their work, courage and determination remind us all of what is possible when young people are supported by their schools, community and systems that believe in and invest in them.
They won’t just aim for the stars. They will descend upon them.
Via Justine De Fant is a Filipino writer and poet raised in
Find it at