‘Spirits Dancing’ and the Cook Co. Dark Sky Festival
The Cook County Dark Sky Festival returns Dec. 7-9, and Native Skywatchers has joined the lineup this year.
Travis Novitsky, a local photographer, has been involved with the festival since its inception. His book, “Spirits Dancing: The Night Sky, Indigenous Knowledge, and Living Connections to the Cosmos,” came out Nov. 7.
“It covers not only the Western science perspective but also through the eyes of various indigenous peoples,” Novitsky said.
The book includes 20 years worth of his night sky photography. This year, his role in the Dark Sky Festival will revolve around “Spirits Dancing.” He’ll give a presentation and sign books at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Grand Portage National Monument Heritage Center.
He says Cook County is one of the best places in Minnesota to view the night sky.
“The number of lights, artificial lights, that we have doesn’t get any less. It just keeps getting more,” Novitsky said. “And so the 80 percent or something of people in the United States that live in places that they can’t see the Milky Way, that number isn’t getting any smaller. It’s only getting bigger. So we have to do what we can to protect these places that still exist.”
The title of his book comes from an Ojibwe term for the Northern Lights, jiibayag niimi`idiwag, which translates to “spirits dancing.”
He says humans have always had a connection to the sky.
“For the Ojibwe people, which is the largest part of my heritage, the night sky meant a lot of things. The Milky Way, for example, as I learned from Carl Gawboy, an elder from the Bois Forte reservation – and Carl is quoted in the book as well – that the Milky Way is referred to by the Ojibwe as the River of Souls,” Novitsky said, “because it is thought of as this pathway or this river that when people pass on, their spirits or their souls travel on this river to the afterlife.”