Jane Johnston Schoolcraft was a writer who lived in the early nineteenth century. She was of Ojibwa and Scots-Irish ancestry, and her Ojibwe name was “Bamewawagezhikaquay”. Her writings were published by the University of Pennsylvania Press in 2007 in the book The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky: The Writings of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, edited by Robert Dale Parker.
That book title refers to Schoolcraft’s Ojibwe name. “Bamewawagezhikaquay” (alternate spellings being “Baamewaawaagizhigokwe”, “O-bah-bahm-wawa-ge-zhe-go-qua”, and “Obabaamwewe-giizhigokwe”) translates into “Woman of the Sound the Stars Make Rushing through the Sky”. According to Robert Dale Parker’s website that he designed to accompany the book (thesoundthestarsmake.com), Schoolcraft was
the first known American Indian literary writer, the first known Indian woman writer, the first known Indian poet, the first known poet to write poems in a Native American language, and the first known American Indian to write out traditional Indian stories…. Her stories became a key source for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s sensational bestseller The Song of Hiawatha.
Parker states that the spelling of Schoolcraft’s name varies, “because there was no standardized system for spelling Ojibwe, and even today there are multiple standardized systems.” Furthermore, he notes, “Margaret Noodin has noted that a more literal translation might run ‘a woman who moves, making sound in the heavens.’” But Parker says that “Woman of the Sound the Stars Make” is Schoolcraft’s translation and, he writes, “I see no reason to cast aside her own translation or her choice to translate her name into something that sounds lyrical in English.”
What Parker does not mention is that Schoolcraft’s own translation is also astronomically interesting. To imagine that stars make a sound because they are rushing through the sky requires understanding that the stars are far away. Imagine that the Earth is flat and the stars are just a mile overhead. Then a star at the equator, which rises in the due east and sets in the due west, would travel a semi-circular path of length π × 1 mile = 3.1 miles across the sky in 12 hours — for a speed of about ¼ of a mile per hour. That’s rather slow. No “rushing” there.
Indeed, even if the stars were 100 miles overhead, that would translate into a speed of merely 25 mph. Still not too fast. “Rushing” stars have to be up there quite a distance. To understand that implies some astronomical observation and calculations.
I do not know any details about Ojibwe cosmology, but it would logically have been geocentric. In the geocentric cosmology of Aristotle, air (or elemental fire) reached all the way to the moon. It would make perfect sense that the rapid motion of the heavens would produce some sort of rushing sound up there.
So “Woman of the Sound the Stars Make Rushing through the Sky” is not just lyrically astronomical, it is logically astronomical.