Growth – Revision for Higher Biology or Different Ways of Knowing

The bud swelled

the spring flower

unfolded

a blinding blue

translucent star

Growth: The irreversible increase in dry matter

The baby smiled

at his mother

suckled on the

warm soft breast

taking sweet nourishment

Growth: The irreversible increase in dry matter

The new leaf

shone vivid green

against azure sky

where only just before

there was

nothing

Growth: The irreversible increase in dry matter

The seed swelled

enlarged

burst open

and a green flicker

of hope for the world

emerged

Growth: The incredible increase in what matters

A Sense of Place (Campfire Meditation)

credit: Cristina Mittermeier

We’re hearing so much about Indigenous knowledge lately Knowledge about the natural world We want to know that knowledge To understand what we’ve done wrong To make things better But knowledge alone won’t do that for us Stories we hear From indigenous mouths Are not stories of Knowledge of place alone They are stories of Sense of place… continue reading–>

Caring for Country: An Australian Approach to Indigenous Land Management

The Tanami track is a rough, corrugated ‘bush highway’ that cuts across the Central Australian desert from Alice Springs northwest to Halls Creek in the Kimberley. While an important artery serving Aboriginal communities and mining operations, this route traverses one of the more remote and unforgiving regions of the country, offering few amenities to the uninitiated traveler. From my home in Alice Springs it was a 650 km drive up the Tanami before reaching the turnoff to Lajamanu, the Warlpiri Aboriginal community where I worked, a further 230 km north.

Employed by the Central Land Council’s Land Management Unit last year, I gained a unique glimpse into life in the northwest Tanami desert and the land management issues its traditional Aboriginal custodians face in “caring for country”. My initiation into this field of work offered a steep learning curve and an experience rich in gems, thorns, opportunities and contradictions. I couldn’t have asked for a more challenging and engaging position.

Appointed as an “Indigenous Protected Area Development Officer”, my role was to consult with the Lajamanu community on a broad range of natural resource management issues and facilitate on the ground programs that encouraged greater community involvement in land management activities. Funded by Environment Australia, the position was created to assess the feasibility of Indigenous Protected Area (IPA) declaration in the northwest Tanami, a national initiative that seeks to promote biodiversity and cultural resource conservation on Aboriginal lands. As a liaison between community elders and government conservation agencies, I had to learn to walk between the worlds, acting as a bridge between traditional ways of caring for country and contemporary western land management principles.

Home to about 700 Warlpiri and Gurindji Aboriginal people, Lajamanu was established as Hooker Creek Reserve in 1948 by the Northern Territory government’s Native Affairs Department. At the time nearly 400 Warlpiri people were forcibly transferred from Yuendumu (a community about 500 km southeast) and the surrounding region to this new settlement on Gurindji land. While many people walked back hundreds of kilometers to their homelands, after repeated relocations some Warlpiri people adopted the community as their home. Issues continue to arise over the ownership and use of the Lajamanu area. However as the population today is primarily Warlpiri, many of the Dreaming stories and cultural responsibilities associated with the area have been passed on to them from Gurindji people.

Today Lajamanu is a dynamic community continue reading–>

Tales of Biocultural Diversity

Photo: Petul

Petul and I had just finished recording a Tzeltal Maya elder, Don Antonio, who was telling us some of the old stories about people, plants, places, and spirits. The man had been talking for hours, showing no sign of getting tired, in spite of his age. Petul and I, instead, were exhausted. As we sat back, taking a rest, I asked him—my invaluable collaborator through two years of doctoral fieldwork in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico, in the early 1990s: “Well, Petul, I guess this is what you folks normally do at night, sit around with the elders telling stories?” From the puzzled look on Petul’s face, I figured that something wasn’t exactly as I had imagined. “Huh—said Petul after a moment of reflection—actually, that was the way it used to be… But now, you see, the kids are going to school, and when they come back at the end of the day (if the school is close enough that they can come back daily at all), they have homework to do. So that’s what happens at night: they sit at the table under the light bulb and do the homework. Some of the people, also, now have TV, so they sit around and watch TV at night. We don’t spend that much time visiting one another and listening to stories anymore. The kids often think that the old stories are weird, anyway, because of what they learn at school, or see on TV…” continue reading–>

Maya Jiro Mithe

abbi2

A folk tale from the Great Andamanese tribe that explains why birds are conserved in the Andaman Islands. The last speaker of the Bo language, the late Boa Sr., who died in February 2010, was seen talking to birds, as she believed that birds of Andaman understood her language. This is a story of a boy who belonged to the Jero tribe and lived near the seashore. continue reading–>