Appendix 4 - Some more examples of potential ambiguity in translations and meanings in Indigenous/English words

Some words in the Indigenous languages have no direct translation or equivalent meaning in English. So great care needs to be exercised when attempting to describe in English something from Indigenous culture. Some examples are

i) dreaming (it is

"...supra-rational interdimensional ontology endogenous to custodial ritual complexes..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

It is a bit like Einstein's thought experiments, ie

"...'if this then this, then this,' creating simulations in a dreaming space to produce proofs and solutions of startingly complexity and accuracy..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

Before the word "dreamtime" was invented by the European settlers, the word "turnaround" was used to describe creation events and times.

"...creation is not an event in the distant past, but something that is continually unfolding and needs custodians......linking the two worlds together by metaphors in cultural practice. Story places or sacred sites are places that overlap between the two worlds......ceremony creates a similarly powerful overlap between the worlds. Ceremony and interaction with sites on country in this way keep creation in motion, causing increases in natural and social systems that are necessary for good health..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

"...dreaming space the abstract entities can be manipulated and reorganised to find solutions to real life problems......(eg) corroboree dances have been expressed as mathematical equations, and then the new equations have been formed and new dances created to express them......it was the dreaming action of translating a real-life event into a metaphor, and manipulating the metaphor to gain understanding, followed by innovation transferred back to the real world......dreaming process is the key......to Aboriginal knowledge, which, as always, lies in the processes rather than just the content..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

ii) "us-we" (dual first person that is common in Indigenous languages and is not present in English language, except for "I/me" and "we/us". Other examples are "us-two", "corner-country", "I-myself", "we-two", "we but not others", "man-woman pair", etc

"...There is a balance between self-definition and group identity. These two are not contradictory but entwined, and......for all of the roles you comply as an agent of complexity in Aboriginal society. You may perform these roles alone, in pairs, exclusive groups and in networked groups..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019)

iii) time and space (there are no separate words for time and space in Indigenous languages; things move in cycles, ie

"...kinship moves in cycles, the land moves in seasonal cycles, the sky moves in stellar cycles and time is so bound up in those things that it is not even a separate concept of space......sphere of existence, time does not go in a straight line..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019)

iv) aunts and uncles (they are titles given to respected Elders in the Indigenous community and not necessarily blood relatives, as in Non-Indigenous society)

v) no colour code ("black" and "white" are Non-Indigenous terms used to describe relationships between occupied and occupier by colonialists; there is no equivalent in Indigenous knowledge)

vi) chaos and anarchy (in the Non-Indigenous world, these words refer to "disorder" and "ruin"; while in the Indigenous world it is realised that chaos has a structure that produces innovation and anarchy simply means no bosses.

"...yet at the same time, each person is bound within complex patterns of relatedness and communal obligation. The Indigenous model of governance is based on respect of sociological, ecological and knowledge systems and their components......Complex kinship structures reflect the dynamic design of natural systems through totemic relationships..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

The totems can be plants, animals, systems (winds, lightning, etc), body parts, substances, etc

vii) knowledge systems (in Non-Indigenous societies, knowledge systems are centralised and concentrated with subject matter experts, ie knowledge is power. In Indigenous society, it is decentralised and communally owned; with each individual

"...is a single node in a cooperative network......you retain your autonomy while simultaneously being profoundly interdependent and connected..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019)

viii) look out (in Non-Indigenous society it is a warning while in Indigenous society it refers to a person's appropriate sphere of influence and accountability within their pairs, groups and wider networks)

ix) spirit (the Non-Indigenous society has many words for this, like ghost, revenant, haunt, force, soul, essence, image, bogeyman, etc.

An Indigenous smoking ceremony is used to handle bad spirits; this involves:

"...It is made by leaves: light from sky camp and nutrients from under the ground connecting the two worlds and moving between them, visible and intangible. You have to feel it going through you, through your body and particularly through the big spirit at the centre of your belly. The smoke is luminal - neither earth nor air but part of both - so it moves across the same spaces in between shadow spirits to send them on their way..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

There are 4 parts of Aboriginal spirit

a) your higher self (super ego that returns to the sky camp when one dies)

b) ancestral spirit (goes back to a place in the land and is born again from that place)

c) living spirit (a reflection of body and life and associated with the condition of the environment you live in, eg if the land is sick, your living spirit is sick as well)

d) shadow spirit (usually self-centred and thinks that it will live forever. It wants things you don't need; it makes you think you are better than other people, etc. The other 3 spirits are needed to control this one, ie making 1 to nurture reality)

"...part of a person that collects attachments to things, sensations, places and people..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

To handle this last spirit, Aboriginal cultures won't say the names of the deceased, or use words that sound like their names, and will cover or hide any photos and images of that person.

Indigenous cultures throughout the world have similar rites, like death-wails, songs, smoke, sequences, etc to assist the spirit to dissipate and fade.

Using haptic cognition, cultural objects can

"...have special significance in Aboriginal societies as knowledge is encoded into them in creation time that is sacred. This is how the traditional message sticks work. This kind of haptic knowledge is also encoded in relationships, which is why kinship systems are so central to our culture..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

x) gut instinct (your gut has its own independent nervous system that can operate independently. In Indigenous cultures, it is the part of the big spirit, the higher intelligence.

"...in all cultures it grounds a person in the living world and connects us to all things. In the Aboriginal world, the energy of the gut must be kept clean and constantly moving through mental, spiritual and physical cultural activities, or will become stagnant and make a person sick..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

xi) knowledge (Indigenous Knowledge is holistic and looks at multiple-related variables. By contrast Non-Indigenous knowledge is based on analytical reasoning processes and reductionism; investigating minimal variables.

"...Aboriginal Knowledge - a spirit of genius that shows the difference between yarning and conversations, story and narrative, ritual and routine, civility and connectedness, information and knowledge......highlights the massive divide between engagement and compliance. Most of us today are living in a state of compliance with imposed roles and tasks rather than a heightened state of engagement. We are slaves to work ethic that is unnatural and unnecessary......jobs are not what we want. We want shelter, food, strong relationships, a little habitat, stimulating learning activities and time to perform the valued tasks at which we excel..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

"...the only sustainable way to store data long-term is within relationships - deep connections between generations of people in custodial relation to a sentient landscape, all grounded in a vibrant oral tradition..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

For most Indigenous groups

"...The present is continually rolling back into the past, while the past continues to live on in the present..."

Jenny Teasdale et al 1992

xii) jobs (there is no word for "work" in the Aboriginal language)

xiii) romance (in Indigenous society, all are equal partners in a game of love as long as they don't get involved with anybody from the wrong kinship group. The missionaries mistranslated the Indigenous word for "romance" as "adultery")

xiv) gender roles (there is a Non-Indigenous held misconception about the role of hunters and gatherers in Indigenous society, ie men were the sole hunters and women are sole gatherers; the roles are interchangeable. Generally women were in control of the nutritional  needs of the community, ie

"...they directed most of the harvesting, production and distribution of food, giving them considerable authority, in addition to controlling the creation and nurturing of life. The role of men was to bring in things that women and the rest of the community needed..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019)

xv) digging sticks (this is a mistranslation as they were used for many more activities than digging for food like hunting, fighting, etc; men use boomerangs to dig)

xvi) safety or risk (there are no equivalent Indigenous words

"...safety provided by an invisible hierarchy is a complete anathema to our way of being. There is no agency in safety, which places a person in a passive role, at the mercy of authorities who may or may not intervene when needed..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019)

On the other hand, there are many Indigenous works for protection

"...protection has two protocols. The first is to look at out for yourself. The second is to look out for the people around you..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019)

xvii) some English words and gestures that were introduced by Non-Indigenous contact with Indigenous society include Hello, Good-bye, Welcome (started as "whichway", ie where are you going?), Pick-up (initially referred to landline phones; currently it is a way to get somebody's attention) and gestures, like hand-shakes, etc

xviii) culture (there is no Indigenous word for culture; the closest is a phrase "being like our place". Through the eyes of the Non-Indigenous community, culture is what happens on special occasions and includes expressions such as oratory, stories, knowledge about seasons, carving, singing, dancing, etc.. This approach to culture is very superficial and does not look at the way people do things and the reasons they do them)

NB Over time, concepts get renamed, eg

"...'Racial inferiority' became 'cultural difference'. 'Racial integration' was called 'reconciliation'......'assimilation' was relaunched as 'closing the gap'..."

Tyson Yunkaporta 2019

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

 

Search For Answers

designed by: bluetinweb

We use cookies to provide you with a better service.
By continuing to use our site, you are agreeing to the use of cookies as set in our policy. I understand