What winter solstice rituals tell us about indigenous people
Many Americans picturing winter solstice celebrations may immediately think of Stonehenge, but cultures have honored the solstice much closer to home. Many Native American communities have long held solstice ceremonies, explained University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign scholar Rosalyn LaPier, an Indigenous writer, ethnobotanist and environmental historian.
“For decades, scholars have studied the astronomical observations that ancient indigenous people made and sought to understand their meaning,” LaPier wrote. Some societies in North America expressed this knowledge through constructions at special sites, such as Cahokia in Illinois – temple pyramids and mounds, similar to those the Aztecs built, which align with the Sun on solstice days.
“Although some winter solstice traditions have changed over time, they are still a reminder of indigenous peoples’ understanding of the intricate workings of the solar system,” she wrote, and their “ancient understanding of the interconnectedness of the world.