Hupa Sunrise Watching—The Solar Year

Religious leaders called World Walkers or Cosmic Net Weavers watch the position of sunrise along the eastern horizon to establish the beginning of the year. This renews harmony between the Moon cycles and the Sun cycle.

Let’s travel with the World Walker up to the mountains on the border of the Hupa homeland.

DIGITAL EFFECT: Sunrise Watching
Crossfade scene to approximately one hour before sunrise on the winter solstice (December 21). Turn cardinal directions and planetarium clock on. Use winter 2012—or adjust the commands accordingly for the current year.
DIGITAL EFFECT: Mountain Panorama
Project mountain range skyline panorama around horizon. The Eastern Horizon Mountain Ridge should have two high peaks, Mount Lassen and Mount Shasta. Align Mount Lassen so that the Sun rises over its peak in December. Align Mount Shasta so that the Sun rises over its peak in May.

Note: The monthly positions of sunrise are not equally spaced along the horizon. It changes slowly near the solstices (December and June) and rapidly near the equinoxes (March and September).

Turn on music.

After a long hike, we are standing in a special place in the Trinity Alps, near Hoopa Valley. A high mountain is a doorway to the world of “Sky Above,” which helps us to understand life on earth. To the northeast is Mt. Shasta and to the southeast is Mt. Lassen, an active volcano in northern California (point them out).

It is now late December. We can see our first marker for the late November sunrise.

Run diurnal motion to sunrise on December 21st, such that the winter solstice Sun sits just above the peak of Mt. Lassen in southeast.

May I have a volunteer to mark the position of sunrise today?

[Have a student mark the December 21 sunrise.]

What seems special to you about this sunrise?  

[The Sun rose over the peak of Mt. Lassen.]

Let’s watch where the Sun sets as well.

As the Sun crosses the sky today, please raise your hands (vote) to tell me where you think the Sun will set today.

[Use pointer to indicate southwest, west, and northwest.]

Fast forward so the Sun’s disc is just above the horizon at sunset, to show the North-South symmetry between sunrise and sunset positions.

May I have a volunteer to mark the position of sunset today?

Have all students stand up. (This is a good time to stretch.) Hand out monthly markers for January through October. Hand them out in order to make it easier for students to know who will be marking next. Save the extra June marker for the Medicine Wheel segment
DIGITAL EFFECT: January 21st
Crossfade scene instantly to sunrise above the mountain panorama on 2013/01/21.

Please mark where the Sun rises on this day in January. 
Is anyone surprised?

In the month before and the month after December, the sunrise position is farther north. On a special day in December, the Sun rises further south than it does the whole rest of the year. That special day is also the shortest day of the year. It marks the beginning of the Hupa year. After the World Walker observes the Sun rise over Mt. Lassen, she proclaims to the people that the next “first Moon” is the first Moon cycle of the new year.

We have a special name for that day when the sunrise is farthest south, which is also the shortest day of the year.

Does anyone know our name for that day? [Winter solstice.]

Assign two students per marker. One guesses where the Sun will rise, and the other adjusts the marker after the Sun appears.
Continue to have students mark sunrise at monthly intervals, around the 21st of each month. For each month, it can speed things along if you ask the student who has the marker for the next month to “get ready.” To save time, you may omit February and April, but be sure to mark March, the equinox, for later discussion.
DIGITAL EFFECT: February 21st
Go to sunrise above the mountain panorama on 2013/02/21 in 5 seconds, with the effect of the Sun seeming to migrate to position.
Note:: The following effects are similar to the February 21 effect:

Run time forward to 2013/03/21.

Run time forward to 2013/04/21.

Run time forward to 2013/05/21. Note the Sun’s position atop Mt. Shasta.

Just before June, ask:

What has been happening to the position of sunrise along the horizon?

  [It moves further north each month.]

In May, the Sun rises over Mt. Shasta. That is when the Hupa social season begins, an important time of year.

Run time forward to 2013/06/21.

After marking June sunrise: 

Run time forward to 2013/07/21. Note the Sun’s position atop Mt. Shasta again.

Where do you think the Sun will rise in July?

 [Take predictions.] 

Is anyone surprised? 

As in May, the Sun rises over Mt. Shasta again. The June sunrise marks the “longest day of the year.” It is another special day. It has the most northerly sunrise of the year. 

Does anyone know our name for that day?  [Summer solstice.]

Run time forward to 2013/08/21.

DIGITAL EFFECT: September 21st
Run time forward to 2013/09/21.
Have a student mark September sunrise. To save time, you may omit marking August and October. You will still have the solstices and equinoxes marked. The pattern for the year will be apparent. November and December were previously marked.
DIGITAL EFFECT: October 21st
Run time forward to 2013/10/21.

DIGITAL EFFECT: November 21st
Run time forward to 2013/11/21.

The pattern of changes in sunrises (and sunsets) is the same each year. There is a northern extreme sunrise (and sunset) in June at the summer solstice. There is a southern extreme sunrise (and sunset) in December at the winter solstice. Halfway in between the solstices, in March and September, are equinoxes. On the equinoxes, length of day and night are equal. 

As a solstice approaches, the sunrise (or sunset) position changes more and more slowly. The Sun appears to rise and set in nearly the same position for many days in a row. The word solstice means “Sun stop.” The Hupa say “the Sun stands still.”

Together, the lunar calendar on the stones and the sunrise observations over the mountain ridges are the basis of the annual calendar for the Hupa. Like many people, the Hupa follow the motions of the Sun along the horizon, and the Moon across the sky to be in accord with the annual cycles of Mother Earth.

If we marked a sunset calendar along the western horizon throughout a year, what would it look like? 

[A mirror image of the sunrise calendar.]
Fade off the clock, mountain panorama, Sun, and atmosphere to make it look like night time.

Four cardinal direction color lights on. Darken sky, turn on stars. 

Play music for 15-20 seconds as a transition.