Embedding Indigenous Knowings into Curricula - Part 2

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It is important and culturally appropriate that we acknowledge the spirits of the Ancestors, Elders, Traditional Owners and contemporary custodians from the Nations of Kulin, Melbourne, Wathaurung, Ballarat, Darug, Strathfield, Cammeraygal, North Sydney, Yagarra and Turbal Nations Brisbane, Kaurna in Adelaide and Ngunnawal, Canberra. We are doing this not as an act of political correctness but as one which connects us all to ourselves, to each other and to Country itself. We do this as a means through Story to connect us to an Australian history that is hundreds of thousands of years old.

If you think about embedding Indigenous Knowings  in your units and you focus on how this can nourish, add depth to what your unit story is it is a more comfortable focus. It is not deficit thinking.

Indigenous storying explains, explores and projects our being, our connections and relationships. Indigenous storying is different to western stories. It is a process, a form of communicating Indigenous Knowings. Indigenous storying engages different people telling bits of a story; they each speak what they have come to know through their relationships with Country, through their place within the web of relationships that exists in that place. Indigenous storying is not linear, it’s cyclic - and even spiral turning inward onto itself at different points. It is not about answering a question. Indigenous storying is about finding a ‘bundle of possibilities’.

Ask yourself what the course you are designing the curriculum for is about….

At the level of the REASON (rationale) of the course, you need to think about how the course engages with Indigenous Knowings and how these Knowings contribute to a more holistic vision of the knowledge, sense-making and skill development that graduates will NEED to be productive practitioners in the worlds in which they will ultimately participate. Then ask yourself how these Knowings are embedded in the course level learning outcomes.

Then, when looking at the units which comprise the course, ask yourself what is my unit about? WHY is it in the course? What are my intended outcomes? How can embedding Indigenous Knowings enhance and add depth to my unit? Brain bloom your responses.

Go online and see what information is available. There is quite a lot of information already there for educators like us. Find a story that relates to what you are doing; look at it holistically, look at the pattern. Then look at the bits, the threads in the pattern, the colours and shapes.

For example: I am teaching a unit in Law on Constitutional law or I am teaching a unit on accounting in Business or geometry in maths … I look for and find this story told by Sally Morgan. Sally was speaking to her grandfather about Captain James Cook. Her grandfather said to her : “that Captain Cook, that fella, he didn’t know how to read the signs”. You see when Cook arrived in Botany Bay and got off the ship the Endeavour, he walked up to a tree and carved his name, the ship’s name and the date on the tree. To Cook this was a mark claiming possession for the British Crown. It was a mark that sounded a warning to other colonising nations. To the Gweagal and Kameygal clans this act was a transgression of ancient laws. It was mutilation of the tree and all of the relationships connected to it, with it.

Reflect on how this story can be translated into units in the law, maths, business lessons identified earlier …

Don’t be afraid you fellas, be bold! As with anything we teach for the first time we need to check our sources … and remember in terms of Indigenous Knowings we are not searching for a right answer … we are storying a bundle of possibilities … what if? In the example above when we teach we can discuss the different clans : Gweagal and Kameygal, and how different maps, different people refer to different Aboriginal groups in this area. They spell the clan and Nation groups differently. Check with the local Aboriginal Land Council and see how they refer to the people in the area you are teaching about.  The issue from a western knowledge perspective is one of identifying boundaries, boundaries that surveyors developed and which exist on maps today informing storying, language, law (Native Title for example) and so on. Aboriginal people didn’t create the maps. Our views of the boundaries, even our concept of ‘boundaries’ are different. Views that are neither inferior or superior, just different.

It is important we teach our students how to be critically reflective and inclusive. This is a process as much as it is about content.

It’s also important to check that it is okay to make the information you share public by asking an appropriate Indigenous person. Start a dialogue with different people. We all have different experiences and understandings and … remember we are looking for a bundle of possibilities not one right answer to a question.

If you know Aboriginal people in your area or Aboriginal community organisations you can contact them for information. This has to be a two-way process it can’t be us just bleeding Aboriginal people of their intellectual property. Think about ways there can be reciprocity. Look online to see how to engage with correct cultural protocols when speaking to First Nations peoples.

Go online. There is a lot of information available for educators. Check out the LTC website for links to different sites and resources. If you have information share it through this portal. Put your ideas up and discuss with your colleagues through this space. This portal is organic. It like Country is alive and is dependent on nourishing the relationships and connections inspired by and for it.

I can hear you saying but this takes time, time I don’t have. All good curriculum takes time but the rewards of creative curriculum that embraces diverse storying is both powerful and empowering. Once you have developed the material you have it there as a foundation for ever. You can build on this for future classes in less time.

We all make mistakes and this is what we grow from. It is important in this context to acknowledge the mistake. I remember a colleague of mine telling me off for using and writing Aboriginal ‘lore’ in a document I was drafting for him. This comment made me realise that ‘lore’ is associated to ‘folk lore’; something that is old, possibly even ancient but it is not real, it is fictional. Whereas ‘law’ is associated with ‘fact’, with reality. These are vastly different concepts. I’ve never done it since and my depth of understanding grew astronomically from this point on.

Remember Aboriginal peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples have many different Nations. It is not surprising people have different ideas and different expressions of this. It is not surprising because Indigenous Knowings emanate from Country which we now know is organic, it is a place where everything lives in constant motion. There are for example many different Storys about the ‘seven sisters who became stars’. Every story is true within its own space.

How enriching is this diversity: diversity of understanding, storying amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples alike: the Dreaming Storys of the seven sisters as stars and Pleiades and the Orion belt?  Embedding and embodying such diversity is what being Australian is.

Congratulations! You have already begun the journey by asking this question. You are too deadly!

Storys/stories:

We have chosen to use the term Story/Storys to reflect and show respect for Indigenous diversity and Knowing of the concept of Story. The word is capitalised throughout to embrace its significance The spelling of the plural – Storys – rather than ‘stories’ reflects cultural distinctness of the concept.

Country/Countries:

Country/Countrys is the term we have chosen to use to describe Aboriginal Countrys, spaces and places. It is capitalised and pluralised to give respect to our diversity. The term Country embodies ecological systems so much a part of Indigenous Knowings; it is not just limited to geographical space and place. I have chosen to spell the plural differently to embrace distinctness of concept.