Astrophysicist Laurie Rousseau-Nepton discusses Indigenous contributions to her field on CTV's The Social

November 2, 2023 by U of T News

Astrophysicist Laurie Rousseau-Nepton says her research on how stars form and influence each other over generations is an extension of the knowledge passed down to her by her Innu ancestors.

"In the Innu culture and many cultures in Canada, we come from the stars and we also return to the stars — and it's a cycle,” Rousseau-Nepton, an assistant professor at the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, told CTV’s The Social.

"For me, it makes sense that I'm doing this. It's something that I've actually learned all of my life: to study where we come from.”

The first Indigenous woman in Canada to earn a PhD in astrophysics, Rousseau-Nepton says the academic community is playing catchup to Indigenous knowledge that has been around for centuries.

“I like to think that if scientists maybe 400 years ago would have followed that path right away — 'Where are we coming from? are we linked to the stars?' — maybe we would have made those discoveries that are very real that we now know," she said.

Rousseau-Nepton appeared on the talk show to discuss the five-part documentary series North Star, which chronicles her journey as a resident astronomer at the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. The series can be streamed on the National Film Board of Canada website at no cost.