For London Vallery, what began as a law and policy course on the aerospace rights of Native American reservations sparked a passion project that she hopes will become the basis of her future career as a scholar and filmmaker.
“I knew celestial reading always played a large role in my community’s history,” the History of Science concentrator whose focus involves astrophysics says in the opening minutes of her first documentary film. “I knew for direction, weather, time, prayer, and keys to other realms, there was always power in the night sky. But as I was sitting in Boston, learning the intricacies of the observatory, I knew none of the native ways.”
The 19-minute short, titled “Dan Bon Lalinn,” follows Vallery’s father and two other Louisiana natives as they discuss the important role Indigenous astronomy has had in their lives, knowledge lost among younger generations. Vallery’s father, Terry, is a citizen of the Talimali band of the Apalachee tribe native to Louisiana. The Vallerys are one of at least four clans that make up the band, according to the group’s website.
“Dan Bon Lalinn,” which Terry Vallery translates from Creole as “when the moon is right,” began as research London did for Astronomy Department lecturer Alissa Haddaji’s course on Space Law, Policy, and Ethics. The course required writing a legal review on whether reservations have full access from the ground to the Karman line — or the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space.
As the coronavirus outbreak hit, Vallery was forced to take her research and studies back home. For many of her friends the evacuation from campus was disruptive. But for Vallery the move helped inspire a project that joined what she learned in her work with personal and cultural reflections.