Hebrew U Researcher Looks For Gwich'in ‘Boy In Moon' In Mackenzie Delta

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CBC News header - "Boy in Moon"
Can you see the boy in the moon?

A professor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is in the Mackenzie Delta again this winter, looking skyward.

Wayne Horowitz has been visiting the region since 2012 as part of his research comparing Gwich'in oral traditions to the night sky.

"I think people all over the world like the night sky and like to look at the stars, and it's something that I think is part of our shared humanity no matter when and where you live," he says.

'Bits and pieces of puzzles'

Horowitz's background is in Babylonian anthropology, but since there are no living Babylonians left in Iraq or elsewhere, he wanted to examine the connections between a living culture and its oral traditions related to the sky.

He chose the Gwich'in and is working with the Gwich'in Social and Cultural Institute (GSCI) to connect with elders and hear their stories.

Horowitz says their work entails compiling "bits and pieces of puzzles," since many of the oral traditions have been lost over the generations. He thinks the sky would have been very important to the Gwich'in when they were living on the land full time.

"I think some of that importance is lost now that people are living in towns and have television and other entertainments."

Horowitz says elders told him that before there was TV, they used to sit around campfires at night and tell stories about what they saw in the sky.

Horowitz says some of these traditions are still alive and hopes that his work with the GSCI will help keep them going.

Is the 'boy' on the right or left side?

Horowitz is particularly interested in "the boy in the moon," a story about a boy who teaches his community what it means to be generous by showing them where to find caribou during a difficult year.

Horowitz says he see the "boy" on the moon, but says everyone has different perspectives.

"There's lots of different features in the moon, and what we've come to learn is that although a majority of people sort of see the boy in the right half of the moon, there is still a tradition of seeing the boy in the left half of the moon," said Horowitz. "And then his puppy is in the right half."

As long as the weather co-operates and the clouds stay away, Horowitz should have many hours available for star gazing. In Inuvik this week, the sun is rising at about noon and setting by about 3 p.m.

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