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A solar eclipse is more than a spectacle — for some it honors tradition


For a few minutes tomorrow, the moon will line up between the Earth and sun and block out all but the sun's outer edge. In a path from Texas to Oregon, the blazing border that's left will create a ring of fire eclipse. It's a spectacle many Indigenous tribal members plan to skip, including some who live in the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah.

SEMIRA CRANK: There are over 10 tribes who call Bears Ears their ancestral homelands. Each tribe has their own different beliefs surrounding the eclipse.

MARTÍNEZ: Semira Crank is at the Bears Ears Partnership.

CRANK: I am Navajo, Dine. In our cultural teachings, the eclipse is considered a celestial phenomenon. I was taught to be respectful of the eclipse, meaning I was supposed to stay indoors. I couldn't eat or drink. There's no sleeping, and I'm not supposed to look at any kind of reflection or shadow of the eclipse just because that goes back to our cultural origin stories.

MARTÍNEZ: So some parklands and natural monuments related to tribal lands will close to visitors. For Crank, it's a time for practicing sensitivity toward Indigenous people.

CRANK: To be aware that there are tribes here who live here, who make this our home, they want to protect and preserve it.

MARTÍNEZ: Crank's colleague, Sarah Burak, also hopes visitors will respect tribal land.

SARAH BURAK: Make sure that you're viewing the eclipse from public lands, that you're not parking in people's yards, making sure that you're being respectful of their home and their right to experience the eclipse from their home.

MARTÍNEZ: And wherever viewers happen to be, Burak has some thoughts about solar eclipse courtesy.

BURAK: We really hope that when visitors come, they do enjoy themselves and they are respectful to the landscape, but also to each other, because we're expecting it to be very crowded. So if we exercise some patience, I think we can all have a very enjoyable experience.

MARTÍNEZ: Not bad advice, even when there's not a ring of fire in the sky.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRAY FOR SOUND'S "SKY") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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