Where are Indigenous peoples and their knowledge in the reforming of learning, curriculum and pedagogy?

Michael Michie
Consultant in science education
Darwin, Australia

Paper presented at the Fifth UNESCO-ACEID International Conference "Reforming Learning, Curriculum and Pedagogy: Innovative Visions for the New Century", Bangkok, Thailand, 13-16 December 1999.


Issues surrounding the education of Indigenous peoples are examined in terms of cultural diversity and equality, two themes in the Work plan of APEID and other UNESCO documents. Indigenous peoples have expressed concerns about the loss of identity and culture in the modern world. Their traditional ecological knowledge is being more highly valued by scientists and environmentalists, yet it is being lost through loss of identity and the links with the land. Indigenous ways of thinking are marginalised by the Western knowledge system, ownership structures are being devalued and some traditional ecological knowledge used by outsiders for economic gain.

Indigenous knowledge is holistic rather than diverse and inclusive of all aspects of life, yet many Indigenous peoples see the need for access to Western knowledge. For Indigenous peoples, education needs to balance culture and diversity with development. A number of educational initiatives from Western countries are examined to see how some of these issues are being addressed elsewhere.

For non-Indigenous students, looking at Indigenous knowledge can enhance their understanding of Indigenous peoples and ways of looking at the world, as well as valuing traditional ecological knowledge.

In Australia, when speaking publicly about my research into Indigenous knowledge, I have become accustomed to use a form of introduction which reflects on the role of Indigenous peoples, and I wish to include it here. In the spirit of Reconciliation, I want to acknowledge the assistance given to me by Indigenous peoples in Australia and elsewhere, and that this work was undertaken on the land of the Larrakia Nation around Darwin.

My own origins are not as an Indigenous person, but rather I trace my origins to Scotland and Ireland through my ancestors and their migrations to Australia. I have worked in the area of science curriculum and its impacts on Indigenous peoples, environmental education and gender equity, areas of social justice.


It is my intent in this paper to look at the position of Indigenous peoples and their knowledge, firstly as participants in the education reform, and secondly, as part of the reform of curriculum itself. In looking at Indigenous peoples as part of the reform, I'm going to look for justification through two UNESCO initiatives, the Work plan of APEID for the sixth planning cycle 1997-2001 (UNESCO-APEID, 1997) and the Science for the Twenty-First Century conference held in Budapest in the middle of 1999. From this conference came two statements that I will be referring to, the Declaration of science and the use of scientific knowledge (UNESCO, 1999a) and Science agenda: Framework for action (UNESCO, 1999b). Both of these latter documents include references to Indigenous peoples and their knowledge. I then intend to look at some of the attempts being made to include Indigenous knowledge and understanding of worldview in research and in curriculum in some countries, particularly with reference to science curriculum.

Indigenous peoples typically identify themselves as the first peoples of a region and are closely associated with the Land. Other terms which are used to identify them include First Nations and Aborigine, and often their names for themselves translate as "people". Their affinity to the Land is traditional; the theme "the Earth is our Mother" is common to many, if not all, Indigenous peoples. However they have often been deprived of their lands and marginalised through processes of invasion and colonisation. Many Indigenous peoples around the world have disappeared ­ annihilated or assimilated by the invaders or colonisers; others have lost much or all of their cultures and many of those remaining feel their cultures are threatened by the influences of Western society and technology.

In a number of Western countries, such as Australia, New Zealand/Aotearoa, Canada and the USA, Indigenous peoples have become more politically active and in some cases traditional lands have been returned to them. Their concern regarding the maintenance of culture ­ for Indigenous peoples there is always a very strong link between culture and the Land ­ has seen them look at options regarding their traditional cultural knowledge and Western knowledge. For many of them, their knowledge systems have also been marginalised by the Western knowledge system, particularly Western science.

Indigenous knowledge is starting to become more widely valued in the Western community, for a variety of purposes. David Suzuki explores Indigenous traditional ecological wisdom in his writings on environmental issues (Knudtson & Suzuki, 1992; Suzuki, 1997, 1998). Other scientists have considered similarities with quantum physics (e.g. Capra, 1992; Peat, 1994). Traditional ecological knowledge (already often abbreviated to TEK) is becoming an integral part of understanding the environment wherever such Indigenous knowledge still exists (Langton, 1998; Williams, 1999). For instance, in Darwin there exist a number of ecological research centres which include cooperative arrangements with peak Indigenous bodies, such as the Centre for Indigenous Natural and Cultural Resource Management (CINCRM) at the Northern Territory University.

However, not all arrangements are cooperative, and there are cases of companies using Indigenous knowledge for profit. Some pharmaceutical companies have used Indigenous knowledge to identify medicinal plants then extract the active ingredients and exploit them commercially, with little or no return to the owners of the knowledge (Anon, 1999; Maunsell, 1997). Other companies have exploited the genetic resources of plants cultivated by Indigenous peoples for genetic materials which they have then patented, with the farmers never likely to receive any financial benefit (Beder, 1993). According to Anil Agarwal

the high-sounding plea of common heritage of humankind is a rhetorical device to disguise continued exploitation. (in Beder, p. 224)

Knowledge in an Indigenous context is not divided up into subjects as in the Western knowledge system. Figure 1 shows an example of how law, culture, values and knowledge are integrated into a holistic perspective on life, based on the Land (Kawagley, 1995; Yunupingu, 1998).

Figure 1. Main elements in an Aboriginal worldview: the Yol\u are Indigenous Australians who live in the north-east of the Northern Territory of Australia, and the terms are in the language from around Milingimbi (after Kepert, 1991). FIGURE NOT REPRODUCED

The issue of ownership of knowledge is often very important in Indigenous cultures. Some knowledge is held by all members while some things may only be known by particular people (e.g. women's knowledge, men's knowledge, sacred knowledge only for the initiated). There are also questions about the acknowledgment of ownership, and the protocols by which the knowledge can be obtained and to whom it can be transmitted. The Sami anthropologist Marit Myrvall (an Indigenous Norwegian) asks

When researchers belonging to the Indigenous community begin to produce knowledge about their own culture and traditions, knowing that certain kind of knowledge is not supposed to be of access to all, how do we research on that? Where do we draw the line? Or do we? (Jane George, 1998)

This conflicts with the perceived Western notion, where we are told that knowledge is a common heritage (although people often may not have any access to it because of ownership of patents or intellectual property rights, or because of the language it is enshrined in or of the places where it is physically kept, such as university libraries, specialist journals and conferences). In some ways this is similar to Indigenous ways of accessing knowledge, except the rites of passage and discriminatory practices are less obvious. The legal aspects of the knowledge issue are being investigated by and for Indigenous peoples (e.g. Maunsell, 1997).

Worldview and Indigenous peoples

26. that traditional and local knowledge systems as dynamic expressions of perceiving and understanding the world, can make and historically have made, a valuable contribution to science and technology, and that there is a need to preserve, protect, research and promote this cultural heritage and empirical knowledge (UNESCO, 1999a)

Over the past ten years there has been substantial research in the field of science education which considers science as only one way of knowing the world. Peat (1996) compared the characteristics of Western science and Indigenous science (Figure 2), and it is generally accepted that Indigenous cultures take a more holistic approach towards knowledge (Fleer, 1999; Yunupingu, 1998).

Figure 2. Comparison of the characteristics of Western and Indigenous Science (from Peat, 1996)

Western Science Indigenous Science

Experimentation Instrumentation Spirituality Location Observation
Observation Prediction Initiation Cosmology Causality
Mathematics Representation Role of humanity Harmony Ceremony
Control Objectivity Elders Artefact Practice
Distancing Freedom of external social values Spirit Dreams Visions
Uniformity Models History Maps Symbols
Causality Technology Subjectivity Relatedness Understanding
Progress Fragmentation Sanction Transformation Path
Explanation Authority Sacred mathematics Sacred space Representation
Truth Transformation

A number of science educators have addressed the idea of worldviews, often in looking at the culture of Western science as a subculture of Western society (Cobern, 1996) or school science as a subculture of Western science (Aikenhead, 1996). Cobern (1996) describes a worldview as

the set of fundamental nonrational presuppositions on which conceptions of reality are groundedŠ antecedent to specific views that a person holds about natural phenomena whether one calls these views common-sense theories, alternative frameworks, misconceptions or valid science.(p. 585).

Examination of the divergent worldviews of Western and Indigenous science and their relevance in science education has been undertaken by a number of authors (Aikenhead, 1997; Pomeroy, 1994), as well as some who have had the direct experience of crossing the border between the two (e.g. Kawagley, 1995; Kawagley, Norris-Tull & Norris-Tull, 1998; Ogawa, 1995; Ogunniyi, Jegede, Ogawa, Yandila & Oladele, 1995). Problems have been experienced by students who have an Indigenous 'traditional' background and who attempt to learn a subject which is grounded in Western culture (Aikenhead, 1997), although there are instances where students demonstrate an ability to move between subcultures (Medvitz, 1985; Waldrip & Taylor, 1999).

The fear expressed by Indigenous peoples in the developed nations is of potential loss of identity through loss of culture, because of the clash of Western and Indigenous ways of thinking (McIvor, 1995). A major consideration is to what extent Indigenous students can learn Western ways without being assimilated by the Western culture - establishing the limits of two way learning (Harris, 1990). Although government policies in the Western countries mentioned earlier may no longer be assimilationist, curriculum development has certainly not followed suit. Pomeroy (1994) in her assessment of the agendas of science education for cultural diversity identified nine agendas which move science teaching from a static multicultural view to a more dynamic cross-cultural perspective with a need to access alternative views. Aikenhead (1997) considered that seven of these agendas lead "to the assimilation of students into Western science, whereas agendas 8 and 9 challenge us to conceive of alternatives to assimilation" (p. 224).

June George (1999) has proposed a scheme which categorises the relationship between cultural knowledge and conventional (Western) science:

Category 1: the cultural knowledge can be explained in Western science terms

Category 2: a conventional science explanation for the cultural knowledge seems likely but it is not yet available

Category 3: a conventional science link can be established but the underlying principles are different

Category 4: the cultural knowledge cannot be explained in conventional science terms.

The outcome is for teachers to develop strategies for teachers to contextualise their lessons through deliberately including students' cultural background knowledge as part of the teaching/learning process. However, such an approach has challenges for both students and teachers. Students have to make sense of conventional knowledge in the context of their own background learning. In the South Pacific, Western science is often perceived by students as a stepping stone to careers of importance, and they either reject or forget their cultural knowledge. Often they attend boarding schools away from their villages and do not complete their education in their cultural knowledge. In many cases they do not enter these careers and find themselves lost somewhere between the traditional culture of their villages and the new culture of development (Waldrip & Taylor, 1999).

For teachers, there are similar challenges (George, 1999). Some will have been successful in adopting the new culture themselves and will want to emphasise the need for their students to rid themselves of cultural background knowledge. Others will not have an understanding of the conventional science which underpins the cultural background knowledge of their students. Then they will need to devise appropriate teaching strategies to introduce the cultural background knowledge into the classroom and to help students to access the conventional science. Obviously, if difficulties such as these exist for Indigenous teachers (George's examples are of teachers in Trinidad and Tobago), then they will be compounded for expatriate teachers (e.g. Taylor, 1999).

The standing of Indigenous peoples' knowledge

A dichotomy arises in Science agenda: Framework for action (UNESCO, 1999b) in considering the value of Indigenous knowledge on one hand and the utilisation of this knowledge on the other. An example is provided in the following

32. Modern scientific knowledge and traditional knowledge should be brought closer together in interdisciplinary projects dealing with the links between culture, environment and development in such areas as the conservation of biological diversity, management of natural resources, understanding of natural hazards and mitigation of their impact. Š Individual scientists and the scientific community have the responsibility to communicate in popular language the scientific explanations of these issues and the ways in which science can play a key role in addressing them. (UNESCO, 1999b, my emphasis).

In such statements as this, Indigenous (traditional) knowledge is devalued as long as there is a call for the explanation to be verified by Western science.

The legal obligation to protect the intellectual property rights is addressed in paragraph 38 of the Declaration (UNESCO, 1999a).

There is also a need to further develop appropriate national legal frameworks to accommodate the specific requirements of developing countries and traditional knowledge, sources and products, to ensure their recognition and adequate protection on the basis of the informed consent of the customary or traditional owners of this knowledge.

The Science agenda (UNESCO, 1999b) focuses on actions in a series of statements which promote the utilitarian values of traditional ecological knowledge, rather than the worldview aspects of other systems of knowledge. Western science remains the hegemonic milestone by which other forms of knowledge are measured.

83. Governments are called upon to formulate national policies that allow a wider use of the applications of traditional forms of learning and knowledge, while at the same time ensuring that its commercialization is properly rewarded.

84. Enhanced support for activities at the national and international levels on traditional and local knowledge systems should be considered.

85. Countries should promote better understanding and use of traditional knowledge systems, instead of focusing only on extracting elements for their perceived utility to the S&T system. Knowledge should flow simultaneously to and from rural communities

86. Governmental and non-governmental organizations should sustain traditional knowledge systems through active support to the societies that are keepers and developers of this knowledge, their ways of life, their languages, their social organization and the environments in which they live, and fully recognize the contribution of women as repositories of a large part of traditional knowledge.

87. Governments should support cooperation between holders of traditional knowledge and scientists to explore the relationships between different knowledge systems and to foster inter-linkages of mutual benefit.

However, none of these actions looks at how to maintain the Indigenous knowledge, particularly in the modern era of globalisation. This is the issue which is driving Indigenous peoples in the developed world and for which they are seeking solutions. So what are the possibilities for learning, curriculum and pedagogy for Indigenous peoples?

Indigenous peoples as participants in educational reform

An historical perspective of education of Indigenous peoples in developed countries includes three main periods:

€ non-involvement: Most Indigenous children did not attend school
€ assimilationist: Indigenous peoples were included in public schooling to assimilate them into the hegemonic society. Culture and language were denied to learners, often by force or through separation from elders. In many cases they were trained to undertake domestic or labour tasks.
€ self-determination: Education provides opportunities for Indigenous peoples to work in a range of jobs similar to the mainstream society. Land rights have restored to Indigenous peoples at least some of their traditional lands, which they can manage themselves. Emphasis is on retaining or reviving their own culture and language, through bilingual and cultural programs.

In the Work plan of ACEID (UNESCO-ACEID, 1997) there is the continuing theme of 'Education for all', and within the theme the two ideas which are relevant to Indigenous peoples as participants are

€ diversity: "Each country has a unique culture (and within the national culture, many sub-cultures) which, if shared, may possibly benefit and enrich each other" (p. 6). Indigenous peoples make up some of these sub-cultures.

€ equality: "... there are also other population groups who, by virtue of language, ethnicity, geographical location, or economic status, are underserved by education systems" (p. 56). If these are disabilities, then Indigenous peoples (and particularly Indigenous girls and women) suffer from multiple disabilities and should be the focus of equity programs. The Declaration on science and the use of scientific knowledge (UNESCO, 1999a) also considers Indigenous peoples to be disadvantaged:

... there are barriers which have precluded the full participation of other groups, of both sexes, including disabled people, Indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities hereafter referred to as disadvantaged groups.

These divergent issues can be addressed through education, particularly through

€ values education: "A conflict of values continues to take place between the need to preserve tradition and culture, and to modernise and industrialize partly by modeling the West" (UNESCO-ACEID, 1997, p. 6). As indicated below, curriculum developed with Indigenous peoples in Canada emphasises the values attributed to belonging to those groups.

€ peace education: "... the programme 'A Culture of Peace' covers schemes and activities for international understanding, peace, respect for human rights, democracy and tolerance" (UNESCO-ACEID, 1997, p. 13). These are also issues needing to be dealt within or across national boundaries, as Indigenous peoples do not necessarily distribute themselves conveniently away from international borders.

€ environmental education: " ... there is a growing concern in the region about environmental degradation as a consequence of rapid economic development and the uncontrollable exploitation of natural resources" (UNESCO-ACEID, 1997, p. 6). Critical pedagogy in education for the environment also includes a social justice agenda (Fien, 1993) which is highly significant for Indigenous peoples.

Recently, Hodson (1999) has suggested the need for politicising science education so that students have opportunities "to confront a wide range of socioeconomic issues that have a scientific, technological, or environmental dimension" (p. 787). This approach can be at four levels of sophistication (p. 788):

Level 1: Appreciating the social impact of scientific and technological change, and recognising that science and technology are, to some extent, culturally determined.

Level 2: Recognising that decisions about scientific and technological development are taken in pursuit of particular interests, and that benefits accruing to some may be at the expense of others. Recognising that scientific and technological development are inextricably linked with the distribution of wealth and power.

Level 3: Developing one's own views and establishing one's own underlying value positions. This has much in common with the goals of values education and peace education.

Level 4: Preparing for and taking action, which has much in common with the goals of education for the environment (Fien, 1993).

Maintaining Indigenous knowledge: some culturally appropriate curriculum development models

A number of models of curriculum and resource development have been examined (Michie & Linkson, 1999) which have potential for teaching Western science to Indigenous students, while retaining a high degree of cultural appropriateness:

€ an Indigenous curriculum

Inuuqatigiit (1998) is a curriculum developed by Inuit educators from the North West Territories of Canada, and it reflects the Inuit direction and perspective. Elders were first involved for their guidance and information, then later for continued validation of collected information. Its goals are a summary of what Inuit say is important for children now and in the future. The goals are to

- maintain, strengthen, recall and enhance Inuit language and culture in the community and the school
- enhance unity within Inuit groups
- create a link between the past and the present
- encourage the practice of Inuit values and beliefs
- encourage pride in Inuit identity to enhance personal identity (from Foreword).

A similar curriculum has been developed by the Dene people (Dene Kede, 1999), also in the North West Territories of Canada. In it, the learning expectations are categorised into four areas and relate to the students' relationships with the spiritual world, the land, other people and themselves. When these relationships become the focus of education within a classroom, the classroom takes on a Dene perspective or worldview. This is what is meant by Dene culture in this curriculum. Dene language competence is also an expectation and the curriculum includes language expectations for both first and second language teaching.

Inuuqatigiit and Dene Kede are not science curriculum but they promote culturally-appropriate experiences in a wide range of contexts. In this they share some of the features of culturally-sensitive resource materials, where there is the potential for articulating Western scientific ideas with Indigenous knowledge or technologies. These need to be scaffolded in a culturally-appropriate fashion, rather than as tenuous links between Indigenous and Western ideas; concept mapping is an extremely valuable exercise, to ensure a conceptual flow from one culture to the other, making for smooth border crossings.

€ restructuring a Western curriculum

McKinley (1996) has discussed the development of a Maori curriculum in Aotearoa New Zealand which offers a precedent for similar curriculum development elsewhere. In writing the Maori science curriculum, the curriculum was reconstructed to match up with Maori understandings of the world, "much of the Planet Earth and Beyond strand, in the Maori version, has gone into the Biological World strand, which was renamed Š Mataora. What is important for Maori it that this represents the joining of Papatuanuku (earth) with the rest of living things (as defined through science)." (p. 164). An important consideration is that the process the participation of the Maori people throughout.

However, there are a number of conditions imposed which limited the accessibility of students to the curriculum. Firstly, the document is written in Maori, for students who are learning through the medium of Maori. Secondly, there were issues regarding language at two levels. At one level there were differences which are apparent with the syntax construction between native speakers and second language learners of Maori. Then there were issues of a 'standardised' Maori language in a country made up of various tribal groups with differing dialects.

€ writing resource materials based on a Western curriculum

This is probably the main approach which has been taken to provide Indigenous students with culturally-sensitive materials. The following examples are some familiar ones.

In the Northern Territory of Australia, the Implementing the Common Curriculum in Aboriginal Schools project (ICCAS) curriculum resource materials were developed centrally and primarily interpret the curriculum from a Western, rather than Indigenous science perspective (Linkson, 1999; Michie & Linkson, 1999). The materials generally start by negotiating Indigenous knowledge of a concept, then move to Western scientific investigations of the same concept. The curriculum was designed to be inclusive of Indigenous people (Michie, 1998) and the ICCAS materials have been supported by preparation of a teachers' handbook relating to teaching in Indigenous schools (NT Board of Studies, 1999).

In Alaska, the Alaskan Native Knowledge Network curriculum focuses on the Alaskan/US standards complemented by cultural standards they have developed (ANKN, 1998). Resource materials focus on culturally-appropriate contexts (e.g. moose, snowshoes, plants of the tundra, animal classification) for learning science and on the Alaskan standards. Village Science (Dick, 1997) develops physical science concepts through Inuit 'village' contexts.

Materials from Nunavut, Canada (Baffin DBE, nd), examine the science behind some Indigenous technologies and the weather, and are written to the Pan-Canadian science curriculum standards. In another Canadian project, Cross-Cultural Science & Technology Units for Northern Saskatchewan Schools (CCSTU), an objective is to produce some teaching strategies and materials that exemplify culturally sensitive science teaching for Aboriginal schools, as well as developing a prototype process for producing resources within any particular community (CCSTU, 1999).

Developing curriculum relationships between Indigenous knowledge and Western science

Local curriculum development within a single Indigenous group may be an appropriate way of working with Indigenous peoples. Often the mistake is made that the cultures and needs of Indigenous peoples are the same, and this is not the case. As an example, I worked with a group of Indigenous Australians, the Tiwi from the Tiwi Islands north of Darwin (Michie and others, in prep.). Language maintenance is important and the school operates a bilingual program, with initial instruction in the Tiwi language moving to teaching in English in the upper primary years. A significant part of the school program is the cultural program which runs in the school with the support of the school and the parents. As with other Indigenous groups, Tiwi learning focuses on a holistic approach and it is obvious that much of the learning which could be labelled 'science' takes place in their cultural program. It would be valuable to map the cultural program against the curriculum: one of the benefits of mapping their cultural program is that the Tiwi would be able to see where learning is taking place in more relevant and culturally appropriate contexts. This step was taken by the Inuit in the Northwest Territories when preparing Inuuqatigiit (Foreword, Inuuqatigiit, 1999).

A challenge in developing curriculum relationships between Indigenous knowledge and Western science is the difficulty in finding points of convergence. For example, Figure 3 outlines the different approaches taken by the two knowledge systems to the origin and acquisition of the concept of landforms, which formed the basis of the ICCAS unit, Landforms (NT Board of Studies, 1998). They appear almost completely incompatible. Indigenous knowledge is generally holistic, making no artificial boundaries between types of information. Western knowledge is dissected into subject areas (in this case, science) and the NT curriculum dissects it even further into the four strands. The organisation of knowledge into subjects is a Western artefact rather than an Indigenous one. As noted above, in the case of the Maori curriculum there was reconstruction of the Western science curriculum to take into account the Maori belief system of the Earth as a living organism (McKinley, 1996).

Figure 3: Comparison of the origin and acquisition of Australian Indigenous knowledge with Western scientific knowledge about landforms (Michie & Linkson, 1999).

Concept: Landforms Australian Indigenous knowledge Western scientific knowledge
Explanation Results from the effects of religious events in the Dreamtime. For example, the actions of the Rainbow Serpent travelling across the land. Results from the effects of erosion. For example, the effects of wind, the movement of water in rain and rivers and heating from the sun.
Evidence Comes from stories, songs and dance. Comes from observations, theories, predictions and experimental confirmation.
Available to Particular people who are related to that land and own the knowledge. Others can be aware but will not claim the knowledge publically. Anyone who is able to access it and has some background science knowledge.
Can be accessed by Participation in ceremonies; oral transmission; art; singing; dancing. Manipulation of media containing Indigenous knowledge: print, video, audio, CD-ROM, internet. Participation in science education. Manipulation of media containing Western scientific knowledge: print, video, audio, CD-ROM, internet.

Another consideration relates to the knowledge which would be part of the curriculum. The knowledge base of Australian Indigenous peoples varies, with cases recorded of neighbouring groups having different knowledges about the same animals and plants. There are also questions about the ownership of knowledge, acknowledgment of ownership, and the protocols by which the knowledge can be obtained and to whom it can be transmitted.

In the early childhood years students develop an understanding of their personal environment, placing emphasis on an integrated approach, and science is an effective area on which to focus students' learning. As students progress through the primary years into secondary school, there is a divergence in their worldviews. This has been documented within Western culture (e.g. school science, Aikenhead, 1996; religion and science, Fysh & Lucas, 1998) and between cultures (e.g. Ogawa, 1995; Ogunniyi et al, 1995). Although there appears to be no overlap between the two approaches, common ground is slowly being established and understood. For some Western scientists it has been a process of valuing Indigenous knowledge through the experience of talking and working with Indigenous people. This has happened more in the ecological sciences rather than the pure sciences through the integration of traditional ecological knowledge

Enhancing the world view of non-Indigenous students

Accessing Indigenous knowledge and developing the ideas of different world views have the potential to citizens with a broader understanding of their world. It is important that this happen at the policy and curriculum levels (Michie, 1998) and is not trivialised by ensuring that appropriate resource materials are made available to teachers and learners (Michie, Anlezark & Uibo, 1998).


Reflecting on Indigenous peoples and their knowledge may not seem to be a "innovative vision for the new century", yet there is much we can learn from such reflection.

€ It leads us to understand that knowledge is a social construct and what is valued and by whom it is valued may lead to maintenance of inappropriate and unsustainable divisions in society.

€ To suggest that all learners have the potential to make use of Western knowledge is to promote inequity and disharmony, resulting in the potential for people to be lost in a "no-man's-land" between their own and Western culture.

€ An Indigenous perspective on knowledge is based on values and a holistic approach, and encourages participation of people at all levels of the education process.

€ For non-Indigenous learners, accessing through appropriate materials both Indigenous knowledge and understanding that different world views exist, leads them to a better understanding of their world and the worlds of Indigenous peoples.

It is important to realise in this time of globalisation, that issues of diversity and equity need to be addressed, rather than the embracing of a hegemonic monoculture. To be able to do this, we need to become more fully aware of what culture means, not merely as song, dance and food (what a colleague of mine calls the 'spaghetti and polka' syndrome), by developing a real understanding of the basis of culture.


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Acknowledgments. The author wishes to thank Mark Linkson, Jane Anlezark and Didamain Uibo for their comments during preparation of this paper.