April 08, 2009

Asteroids given Luiseño names

Observatory names three asteroids for tribal wordsThe Palomar Observatory is honoring the area's native people by using Luiseño words to name three asteroids discovered by one of its scientists.

The asteroids, rocky objects less than a mile across that orbit the sun and sometimes cross the Earth's path, will be named after the words from creation stories from the Luiseño Indians, who live in the areas surrounding Palomar Mountain.

The asteroids, discovered about 20 years ago, were recently named Tukmit, which means Father Sky, Tomaiyowit, which means Earth Mother, and Kwiila, or black oak, one of the First People descended from Father Sky and Earth Mother.

In the creation story, the First People became all the people, animals, plants and inanimate objects of the earth.

The asteroids were named with the help of the Pauma band, Luiseño Indians who began working with the observatory about two years ago as it was planning a casino expansion. Observatory staff members struck up a relationship with the tribe's education department.
REGION:  Asteroids named in Luiseno language

Discoverer says she wanted to honor local tribesBy giving three asteroids American Indian names, astronomers at the Palomar Observatory and tribal leaders said Tuesday they hope to spark new interest in an ancient local culture.

The three asteroids discovered with the 200-inch telescope atop Palomar Mountain were named after figures in the Luiseno tribe's story of creation: Tukmit, Tomaiyowit and Kwiila.

"As we try to teach our culture to our kids, this is very significant to us," said Chris Devers, chairman of the Pauma Band of Mission Indians, whose reservation is a few miles down the mountain in Pauma Valley.

Devers said the Luisenos, the original inhabitants of Palomar Mountain and Pauma Valley, believed that Tukmit, or Father Sky, was made from nothingness and together with Tomaiyowit, Earth Mother, bore the first people.

Kwiila, or black oak, was one of the first people in their creation story, he said.

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