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For generations, Native Americans have marked cycles of the moon to signify certain times of the year. In August, we welcome the Sturgeon Moon – also known as the Green Corn Moon, the Red Moon, and the Grain Moon. The full Sturgeon Moon (occurring on Aug. 15 this year) marks the time for noted ease in catching fish in Great Lakes area. Ironically, this year’s Sturgeon Moon is in the sign of Pisces, which is often symbolized by two fish.

The legend of the moon varies across tribes; however, something all tribes seem to have in common is the use of a lunar calendar. Tribal winter counts were done by using the lunar calendar to record notable events throughout the year — and each moon signified something different for each tribe that named it.

One of the Lakota names for the moon is ‘Hanhepi Win’ (meaning Night Woman). And according to legend, ‘Nunda’ is the Cherokee name for both the sun and the moon. Some say the sun and moon are related as brother and sister; others say they are lovers forced to chase each other back and forth across the sky, while some still say they are simply balls thrown into the sky after a great game.

Traditional full-moon names can also signify the harvest time of various crops for indigenous people in America and around the world. August, for example, is seen as the time to harvest barley, corn, fruit, and other grains. 

The significance of a moon can also vary widely depending on geography and season, which may be confusing for those who did not name the moons and may even have contributed to the introduction of standardized timekeeping, such as the Gregorian calendar. Still, much of the history for these cultures around the world are marked based on the names of the moons by which they lived.


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