Appendix 3 - Focus of Indigenous Culture

Indigenous culture stresses these core principles:

i) everything is inter-related and connected (impacts on one area will affect others, ie we live in

"...instantly interconnected, self-organising, self-renewing systems..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019)

ii) there is no objectivity as you cannot divorce yourself from your reality, ie uncertainty principle. "Objectivity" is not possible or achievable or perhaps even desirable as the system is in a constant state of motion and adaptation. Therefore,

"...Any attempt to control the system from a fixed viewpoint outside is a misaligned intervention that will fail..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

It is impossible to consider real world problems in a closed system, like in a lab, test-tube, Petrie dish, etc as the real world is an open, interconnected system

"...selective application of different laws and theories is the reason for the crisis of civilisation that will be experienced on this planet..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

An example is a city

"...a city is dependent on the importation of resources from interconnect systems beyond its borders. The city places itself at the centre of these systems and strips them to feed its growth, disrupting cycles of time and land...... exchange between systems. The exchange is only going one way. Matter and energy are still neither created nor destroyed in this reaction; they are directed into static heaps rather than cycled back through her between systems. The destruction caused by a city's exponential growth of infrastructure and population. For this they misapplied laws, like supply and demand: in order for economic growth to occur, there must be more demand and supply......that means there must be more people needing basic goods and services than there are goods and services to meet their needs......there must be a lot of people missing out on what they need to survive in order for the economy to growth continues exponentially, so do the masses of people missing out..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

iii) communal property ownership (similar to that found in Asia, France and Germany where extended families own businesses collectively.

"...They work together with diverse portfolios and pool multiple income to ensure that their eggs are never all in one basket. They provide an internal welfare safety net for each other as protection against random incidents of austerity or upheaval..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019)

iv) custodial species, ie nothing is held, accumulated and/or stored.

"...respect must be facilitated by custodians, but there is no outside imposed authority, no 'boss', no 'dominion over'. While senior people ensure the processes and stages of coming to higher level knowledge are maintained with safety and cohesion..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019)

v) extended family works in 3 generations as the key to the social system, eg on the female side, every girl has sisters/cousins, mothers/aunties and grand-mothers. In the Indigenous system, great grandchildren become parents as they look after each other. When this works well, there is no need for aged care, etc facilities.

vi) cultural change

"...true cultural change doesn't happen unilaterally. Cultural innovation occurs in deep relationships between land, spirit and groups of people....the communal knowledge process that produces it is important......the most lasting cultural innovations......that evolve through the daily lives and interaction of people and place in an organic sequence of adaptation. When these processes are unimpeded by the arbitrary controls and designs of elevated individuals, they emerge in a way that mirrors the patterns of creation..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

"...sustainable systems cannot be manufactured by individuals or appointed committees, during times of intense transition and upheaval. For those seeking sustainable practices from Indigenous cultures it is important to focus on both ancient and contemporary knowledge of a demotic origin, rather than individual inventions or amendments..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

vii) heterarchical (composed of equal parts interacting together - there is no centralised control in an Indigenous community. It is not hierarchical, ie top-down control that is the most popular organisational structure in Non-Indigenous society. For example, the way a school of fish and a flock of birds moves cannot be programmed. It appears to be random with patterns emerging within the system organically, like the Internet. There is no centralised control and it operates autonomously under a few basic rules, ie self-organising within groups, spaces and data sets to perform complex learning communities. The patterns that emerge are through free movement of all agents and elements within a system.

"...the patterns and innovations emerging from these ecosystems of practice are startling, transformative and cannot be designed or maintained by a single manager or authority......these kinds of digital innovations......are built on the reality of complex, self-organising systems rather than the illusion of centralised control..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

Need to have the mindset of a custodian rather than that of an owner of lands, communities or knowledge.

viii) Indigenous induction process

    a) respect (aligning with values and protocols of introduction, setting rules and boundaries; linked with your spirit and gut)

    b) connect (establishing strong relationships and routines of exchange so that all are equally involved; all things only existing in relation to other things)

    c) reflect (thinking/talking as part of the group and collectively establishing a shared body of knowledge to inform what you will do)

    d) direct (acting on shared knowledge in ways that are negotiated by all)

NB This can be described as a "spirit, heart, head & hands" approach

ix) child-rearing (in Indigenous cultures, babies have many carers in extended families while in Non-Indigenous cultures a child may have only one or two primary carers

"...the latter are often subject to clock-based schedules for these activities. They are also restricted by inhibiting clothing and quiet, controlled environments with low sensory motor stimulation and limited adult social interaction.....children......are exposed from day one to reasoning based on conceptual cues and structures determined by an unknown authority controlling time and space in their reality. This is later reinforced by print-based reasoning in institutions from the age of four or five onwards..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

This is in stark contrast to the socially-dense and unrestricted environment of Indigenous communities' child-rearing practices. Consequently, when Indigenous children

"...encounter schooling for the first time they are like a fish out of water. They arrived with adaptive, collective, complex and intensively situated logic patterns. They operate within constantly negotiated feedback loops in the reciprocal dialogue with the people and environment around them. They are intensely serious and highly active and disrupt orderly classrooms.....They tend to sequence things from East to West in alignment with solar movements, as distinct from the left-right secrecy of their classmates..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019)

x) hybridisation (a force that influences the pattern of creation; it happens with plants, animals, cultures, languages and law

"...When this hybridisation is occurring organically, through the interaction of a multiple of agents' sustainable system, the emergent identity is usually productive. Abominations occur when hybridisation is forced unilaterally by an outside agent..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

The hybridisation of ideas between different knowledge systems has the potential to develop more effective solutions)

xi) negotiations (in Non-Indigenous society, negotiations usually get things done by having all parties involved agree. In contrast, that priority in Indigenous society's negotiations is to maintain social unity, order and balance.

It is one of the most important processes in Indigenous society, ie

"...Negotiations is fundamental to Aboriginal learning. Negotiations is so important because of the extremely high value placed on unity and social harmony. So the ideas of balancing all the demands of kinship obligations, all the obligations and rights to land, all the demands of Aboriginal personal independence weighed against loyalty to relations, and so on, are really important......negotiations is.....integrated......ownership of land and knowing about land, clan designs......ceremonies, songs, stories, loyalties to different types of relations, marriage rules, how humans complement other features of the environment...... are all integrated. One of these elements cannot be talked about without talking about the others......negotiation being central to their learning process......knowledge rights or viewpoint rights and information in this integrated way, kept in balance by negotiation, is how knowledge is seen as alive and built up by people. Knowledge is both inherited and built (constructed) at the same time. Even in relation to timeless truths such as the great creation stories, there is an element of situated or constructive knowledge to those particular people at particular ownership rights to the stories, and in particular bits of land are related to stories in link ways, all of which affect the telling of the story.
Another way to talk about negotiation...... refused to separate the medium from the message. Truth or knowledge has to be negotiated because is not objective - not stable under all conditions. Westerners allow negotiations of the medium, but claim that the message remains objective, or the same..... Even message is influenced by the situation. 'Subjective' is not quite the Aboriginal opposite to 'objective'. 'Situated knowledge' would be a better term. The message is rebuilt in each new situation like each new group of people or new carrier..."

Stephen Harris 1992

"Negotiations" suggests that the participants are of equal power. "Consultation" implies unequal power dynamics and that participants can have some influence on decisions, ie "have a say")

xii) learning has a community focus (for Indigenous students, the learning processes are very different from the Non-Indigenous, existing classroom preferred option, ie

"...the unbending structure of the timetable, the relentless forward planning of the curriculum, the learning always taken out of context, the teachers do not belong to the group..."

Michael Christie as quoted by Stephen Harris 1992

Indigenous learning involves all generations of the community, not just a group of same age children with one adult teacher. This people aspect of education operates at least 4 levels, ie loyalty, adding value, working in groups and a different perception of what constitutes a good teacher.

"...much of knowledge/truth/reality/meaning are dependent on the situation..."

Stephen Harris 1992

How do you define a good teacher, especially in different cultures?

"...people are important to the learning process in that the value of knowledge is sometimes related to the value of the person giving it......the learning process is greatly enhanced when the person giving the knowledge or skills has value. Value often comes from the person doing the teaching and not so much from the accuracy of the information..."

Stephen Harris 1992

"...this people dimension has to do with the students' personal relationship or personal history with the teacher and the teachers' personal characteristics such as whether they have a sense of humour, are people orientated themselves, and in many other ways held in respect......the Western observers for example, saw the top Western teachers as highly competent, organised and efficient. The Aboriginal adults saw the same teachers as too cold and attached and said they would make the Aboriginal kids afraid..."

Stephen Harris 1992

Group activity in self-selected groups was found to be very productive in Aboriginal learning (Stephen Harris 1992).

xiii) task versus people orientation (Indigenous learning is more people-orientated than task-orientated while Non-Indigenous systems tend to be the reverse of this)

xiv) context versus content (to Non-Indigenous society, content validates learning by explaining what needs to be learnt. For Indigenous society, context validates learning and gives in its value and reality, ie

" Westerners, contextual information is a means to the end of comprehension. Once comprehension is gained the skill of understanding is portable..."

Stephen Harris 1992

However, for Indigenous groups

"...portability is not the aim in learning as much of the knowledge they value cannot, or at least should not, be separated from the context in which it is married..."

Stephen Harris 1992

Some examples

"...creation story (which non-Aboriginal people generally perceived as being timeless, unalterable, objective fact in Aboriginal eyes) cannot have its full meaning......if told away from its context, or if told by people other than the appropriate ones to tell the story......another example......about Aboriginal learning context-specific skills rather than context-free principles (that is, portable principles) Aboriginal spear man who used a "woomera" to double the length of his arm to increase the power behind the spear knew all about trajectory, leverage, fulcroms, that force-equals-mass-times-acceleration and so on, but that he didn't theorise about it, or summarise that knowledge into the principles of physics which could apply to any situation......reject the notion of objectivity and opt for an internal consistent and logical situational knowledge..."

Stephen Harris 1992

In curriculum development, it has been shown

"...records of these curriculum development workshops (about, for example, land ownership, how all the clans are related together, preparing and cooking various foods, etc) do not edit out who was there, where it happened, when it happened, who told what and why it was told, who interjected, and so on. Aboriginal writers don't seem to want to objectify, decontextualise and personalise all their curriculum writing..."

Stephen Harris 1992

xv) Song Lines

Songlines are an Australian Indigenous system that is a way of retaining and transmitting knowledge.

"...they can be visualised as corridors or pathways of knowledge, like dreaming tracks..."
Margot Neale, 2021

They are often associated with

- animals, like dingoes
- natural elements, like water dreaming
- contemporary events, like cyclones
- major ancestral beings, like seven sisters, etc

Some song lines can be confined to local areas, like yam dreaming, while others travel the entire continent, like Marlu the kangaroo.
" a set of complex material connections, the song lines comprise an organic network of lines criss-crossing continents along distributed nodes of concentrated knowledge, often referred to as sites of significance (places) and also known as story places......these sites contain stories in which knowledge is embedded..."
Margot Neale, 2021

It is similar to libraries. However, there are differences, ie
"...some of the stories are open to all, but many are not: rather, there are many layers of the same story each with varying levels of access. Stories are called 'open' or 'closed'.......the deeper layers of a closed story will only ever be known by a select few. At one level, access to knowledge is age-graded...... further access to deeper knowledge is not democratic but gendered, age-graded and continually negotiated. A person's bona fides as an archivist are strictly based on family lineage, where the traditional owner, with custodial responsibilities to a place or site, becomes simultaneously carer or keeper, archivist, reader and contributor......In the indigenous system, not all people can know all knowledge, And because it is non-text-based system, you can only be told by the right people, at the right time, in the right place. Because you gain access through family linage, it inherently becomes a subjective system and the custodians of knowledge have a strong responsibility to keep it alive..."
Margot Neale, 2021

xvi) place is important in Indigenous learning

"...The right place can turn a fairly quiet Aboriginal person into articulated teacher or storyteller. It was as if a particular place gives a person ownership, status, identity, confidence, inspiration and authority..."

Stephen Harris 1992

 Linked with place are the importance of land ownership, how the clans are related, social activities like preparing foods, who was there, where it happened, when it happened, who told what and why it was told, who interjected, etc

(sources: Tyson Yunkaporta 2019; James Fernyhough 2019; Stephen Harris, 1992; Jennie Teasdale et al, 1992)


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