Photograph by Ronja-Elina Kappl / Connected Archives
Words by Ruth H. Burns
That UAP sightings are breaking news is further proof that Indigenous erasure is real, writes Ruth H. Burns. After all, Native Nations around the globe have known of the existence of alien creatures for thousands of years.
For decades they were called UFOs—Unidentified Flying Objects. Today, they’re referred to as UAPs or Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena. While the federal government and military personnel claim that most UAPs are merely weather balloons, drones, wildlife or trash that’s gone airborne, others maintain that these objects are otherworldly aircraft manned by extraterrestrials with highly advanced technology.
UAPs were in the spotlight recently, when three veterans testified before Congress about an alleged government cover-up regarding aliens and their vessels. One even went so far as to assert that the United States government is reverse engineering recovered alien spaceships and is in possession of non-human “biologics” taken from an alien crash site. Retired Major David Grusch, who was on the Pentagon’s UAP Task Force, testified that he knows the exact locations of UAPs held by the federal government. The Pentagon itself denies these allegations, going so far as to say that they do not have “any verifiable information to substantiate claims that any programs regarding the possession or reverse-engineering of extraterrestrial materials have existed in the past or exist currently.”
Even so, retired Commander David Fravor and former Navy fighter pilot Ryan Graves discussed personal sightings they’ve had of remarkable UAPs, including one that appeared to be a dark gray or black cube inside of a clear sphere. It somehow managed to remain stationary despite hurricane-force winds. Another UAP looked like a white Tic-Tac, and had no visible means of propulsion. Both witnesses were impressed with the technology behind the crafts they saw, conceding that humanity possesses no such advanced tech, to their knowledge.
The men also made a point to say that UAP sightings are quite common, but are vastly underreported. Graves estimates that just 5% of UAP sightings are actually documented. The federal government has received more than 350 new reports of Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena since 2021.
According to members of Congress, the hearing was part of a push to recognize UAPs as a matter of national security. “UAPs may pose a serious threat to our military and our civilian aircraft, and that must be understood,” said Democratic Representative Robert Garcia of California. “The more we understand, the safer we will be.”
These extraterrestrials are acknowledged by many Indigenous groups as relatives or even ancestors.
The fact that the existence of UAPs, and potentially extraterrestrials, is breaking news, is more proof that Indigenous erasure is real. Why? Because Indigenous communities around the globe have been aware of the existence of UAPs for thousands of years, and kept records of these encounters through oral tradition and artwork. Even today, ancient petroglyphs remain that share experiences Indigenous peoples had with aircrafts of unknown origin, as well as non-human beings with unearthly histories.
Among various Native Nations, these beings were often called “Sky People,” or “Star People.” What’s more, these extraterrestrials, or perhaps ultraterrestrials, are acknowledged by many Indigenous groups as relatives or even ancestors. The Hopi say their first home was in the Pleiades constellation, which they refer to as Chuhukon. The Cree Nation has legends that say their ancestors arrived on earth as spirits from the stars. Traditionally, the Zuni also believed they were related to a kind of Star People.
The Lakota have star knowledge that we have passed down through the generations, beginning with the ancient ones. According to our belief system, each Lakota infant is born with a spirit from a star, our wanagi. When we die, our wanagi returns to the stars, traveling through Wicakiyuhapi, what westerners call The Big Dipper. It is upon the Wanagi Tacanku (Trail of Spirits), what westerners refer to as The Milky Way galaxy, where we are reunited with our ancestors.
But Indigenous ties to UAPs and otherworldly beings are not ancient history, either. Reports of UAP sightings and interactions with seemingly alien creatures persist in Native communities to this day. There are places on Reservations where sightings occur with such regularity that if you visit them at a certain time of day, you’re likely to see them for yourself. As an Oceti Sakowin (Dakota and Lakota) woman, I’ve heard many stories of UAP sightings and even encounters with alien beings, as well as cryptids, from other Native people I know personally. One of my daughter’s friends claims with all sincerity that she was given a ride by two such extraterrestrial beings, who appeared quite human—almost too perfect. She remarked that they were wholly polite, and honest for that matter, and asked her questions that seemed curiously mundane for more than an hour. While she wasn’t afraid, the high strangeness of the meeting is so eerie, her recounting leaves its listeners with the hair standing up on the back of their neck. Another acquaintance alleges that he met a being that was human, as well as alien, in a large Canadian metropolis.
Our belief in relatedness transcends humanity.
There are also stories of non-humans making appearances around ceremonial sites, too. In The Sacred Ways of a Lakota by Wallace Black Elk and William Lyon, Lakota holyman Black Elk relates that he saw a UAP while on Hanbleceya, a vision quest. The UAP was a concave, luminous disk, with another disk above it. According to his account, the UAP was operated by little people who were able to converse with him telepathically. They were searching for wisdom they had lost, so he welcomed them.
One aspect of encounters with extraterrestrials that seems to persist across Indigenous groups is that not all extraterrestrials are the same. They appear in a wide variety of shapes and forms, speak different languages (or no verbal language at all), possess varied technologies and histories, and have a diversity of intentions. Some appear benevolent while others are downright ominous. One should have a certain level of discernment in determining their level of involvement with these individuals.
As Lakota people, we believe in Mitakuye Oyasin, which translates to we are all related or we are all connected. On the surface, this phrase is usually taken to mean that all humans are related. We do mean that. However, the phrase is also Universal. Our belief in relatedness transcends humanity.
The western world investigates UAPs and extraterrestrials absent Indigenous perspectives at its peril. The colonial viewpoint is not universal. It is extremely shortsighted and fails to grasp the possibilities of non-human intelligences present. The colonial viewpoint is not the human experience and to exclude all non-colonial voices paints a very skewed, narrow, incomplete picture of our reality as earthlings.
I submit that most otherworldly beings are already quite knowledgeable about the toxicity of colonialism and are instead looking for what makes us human. We should believe our eyes, while also seeing with our spirits.