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Giving Back: Osage and the Stars

For Osages wanting to give back or share their expertise or knowledge with the Wahzhazhe people or to get more involved, Córdova Rosado offers a good model.

In early May, I joined sixth and seventh graders at Daposka Ahnkodapi for an online seminar on Einstein’s theory of relativity. The class entitled “‘𐓈𐒰𐓈𐒰͘ 𐒻𐓄𐒰𐒹𐓂͘𐒻𐓊𐒷’ What we know and how we know it,” was one in a series that Osage astrophysicist Rodrigo Córdova Rosado, a PhD candidate at Princeton University, has given over the past two years. The talk is rigorous, and includes German as well as Osage, for example, but Cordova Rósada is personable, noting he passes Einstein’s house at Princeton every few days.

“We know 𐓀𐒰͘𐓓𐒰͘, the earth, and 𐓀𐒻͘𐓂͘𐓄𐒰, the moon. We know the earth and moon pull on each other. We think about the hundreds of thousands of miles that separate the earth and the sun, the millions of miles that separate the earth and the sun,” Córdova Rosado began, making concepts of relativity accessible.

Córdova Rosado used Osage words like 𐓏𐒰𐓏𐒷𐓄𐒰𐒹𐓂͘ “knowledge” for science as the school does. He labeled points on a diagram with 𐒰, 𐒷, and 𐒻. Córdova Rosado walked students though one of Einstein’s renowned thought experiments, Gedankenexperiment in German, his 𐓂𐓍𐒻𐓈𐒰 𐒼’𐒰𐓆𐒰𐒼𐒻 𐒷𐒼𐒻𐓍𐒷 in Osage, “consider a train” imagining that led to the concept of relativity.

Córdova Rosado described the situation simply with a diagram before moving to equations.

“If two people are looking at a train on a straight track from different angles, and one is closer to the front of the train than the other, and a light between them turns on, who will see the light first?”  he asked.

“The one nearer will see it first, then the second, because distance is a little longer and because of the direction the train was moving.” The class considered the speed of light and its implications, moving all the way to the density of 𐒼’𐓂 𐓆𐒰𐓄𐒷 K’o sape, or black holes, an area of Córdova Rosado’s research.

During the discussion, Córdova Rosado asked, “Do you believe me? You can not believe me. It’s only fair to not believe me when it comes to science.” He encourages students to think and conduct research themselves.

He’s passionate about increasing scientific literacy among Osages, as well as in students in Puerto Rico. He lectures at Princeton on Indigenous astronomical knowledge, working to counter the denigration Natives experience.

Córdova Rosado observes that people have no trouble believing that the Romans built the Colosseum, but find it impossible that Indigenous people could construct Mayan temples, Cahokia, or Chaco Canyon. Though he hasn’t been to Cahokia yet, he looks forward, meanwhile, his younger brother Diego Córdova Rosado is doing undergraduate fieldwork in archeology at ancillary sites to Cahokia in Missouri.

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Córdova Rosado graduated from high school there in 2015.  His grandmother, Loreta Córdova née Phelps met his Puerto Rican grandfather when they were both law students at the University of Tulsa. The couple returned to live in Puerto Rico, but his grandmother always reminded him he was Osage too.

He became involved with Natives at Harvard as an undergraduate where he studied astronomy and physics. At Cambridge, his Master’s study focused on Indigenous astronomy and the archeology of Indigenous astronomy.

When Córdova Rosado finished his Masters he thought he “finally knew enough to pay it forward.” He called the Osage Nation’s Education Department, which offered a one-year internship, which would have taken him away from his PhD program for too long. They suggested Daposka Ahnkodapi and his involvement with the Osage people began.

School superintendent Dr. Patrick Martin hosted Córdova Rosado during a visit to the Inlonshka in 2023. Then, Córdova Rosado and a Native graduate student association invited Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear to the campus at Princeton.

Relativity, things we know and how we know them from the experience and position of where we are, is a concept that also relates to how we Osages see each other. I met Córdova Rosado last September in Master Teacher Mogri Lookout’s Osage language classes where Osages across the country gather. Each of our situations is different, given the many factors that make us who we are, birth order, tribal nations, where we and our parents were born.

For Osages wanting to give back or share their expertise or knowledge with the Wahzhazhe people or to get more involved, Córdova Rosado offers a good model.

Author

  • Ruby Hansen Murray

    Title: Culture Columnist

    Twitter: @osagewriter

    Topic Expertise: Columnist, Literary Arts, Community

    Email: Rubyhansenmurray@gmail.com

    Languages spoken: English, Osage language learner

    Ruby Hansen Murray is a freelance journalist and a columnist for the Osage News.  She’s the winner of The Iowa Review and Montana Nonfiction Prizes awarded fellowships at MacDowell, Ragdale, Hedgebrook and Fishtrap. She has been nominated for Push Cart prizes and Best of the Net. Her work is forthcoming in Cascadia: A Field Guide (Tupelo Press) and appears in Shapes of Native Nonfiction (University of Washington Press) and Allotment Stories (University of Minnesota Press). It may be found in Ecotone, Pleiades, High Desert Journal, Moss, Arkansas International, River Mouth Review, Under the Sun, the Massachusetts Review, The Rumpus, Colorlines, and South Florida Poetry Journal. She has an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and has written for regional and daily papers across the Northwest and received multiple awards from the Native American Journalist Association and the Oklahoma Pro Chapter of Professional Journalists. She’s a citizen of the Osage Nation with West Indian roots, living in the lower Columbia River estuary.

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Ruby Hansen Murray
Ruby Hansen Murrayhttp://www.rubyhansenmurray.com/

Title: Culture Columnist

Twitter: @osagewriter

Topic Expertise: Columnist, Literary Arts, Community

Email: Rubyhansenmurray@gmail.com

Languages spoken: English, Osage language learner

Ruby Hansen Murray is a freelance journalist and a columnist for the Osage News.  She’s the winner of The Iowa Review and Montana Nonfiction Prizes awarded fellowships at MacDowell, Ragdale, Hedgebrook and Fishtrap. She has been nominated for Push Cart prizes and Best of the Net. Her work is forthcoming in Cascadia: A Field Guide (Tupelo Press) and appears in Shapes of Native Nonfiction (University of Washington Press) and Allotment Stories (University of Minnesota Press). It may be found in Ecotone, Pleiades, High Desert Journal, Moss, Arkansas International, River Mouth Review, Under the Sun, the Massachusetts Review, The Rumpus, Colorlines, and South Florida Poetry Journal. She has an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and has written for regional and daily papers across the Northwest and received multiple awards from the Native American Journalist Association and the Oklahoma Pro Chapter of Professional Journalists. She’s a citizen of the Osage Nation with West Indian roots, living in the lower Columbia River estuary.

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