Ever since being a young child, Annette Lee has looked at the stars wondering about the stories of the constellations of the night sky, and feeling a strong sense of being connected to those stars.
Lee, who is from the Ojibwe and Lakota communities, earned a Bachelor’s in Mathematics. She then focused her education on art, earning a Master’s degree in Painting from Yale, a decision inspired by her first vision quest. She then returned to studying in the sciences, eventually getting a PhD in Physics and Astronomy. Equipped with very different degrees, she created an opportunity not only to use both art and astronomy, but to honour her heritage, and preserve it for future generations, helping to reverse some of the loss of Indigenous culture brought on by colonization.
She founded Native Skywatchers (NSW), an initiative dedicated to remembering and revitalizing indigenous star and earth knowledge. She applies her skill as a visual artist to create illustrations of the constellations as a means of bridging art, science and culture. The program aims to benefit Indigenous communities by improving inequities in education for young people, inspiring increased cultural pride, and promoting community wellness. But those outcomes aren’t only limited to Indigenous communities – anyone can have a greater sense of awe and personal relationship with the cosmos.