Indigenous Science Network Bulletin
June 2004
(Volume 7, Number 3)
ISSN  1449-2091

Editor: Michael Michie

Tiwi designs by Jennifer Coombs, Munupi Arts & Crafts Association, Pirlangimpi, Melville Island, NT







NARST Report

There were a number of people from the Network at the annual meeting of the National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST) held in Vancouver at the beginning of April. Some of them were involved with presentations relating to culture in science education and there was one paper set on "Science education research in Indigenous communities". I'm going to use this section of the Bulletin to give an outline of some of these presentations, with links to the various presenters.

Science education research in Indigenous communities

There were four presenters in this paper set which was organised by Dawn Sutherland (University of Winnipeg). Glen Aikenhead (University of Saskatchewan) was the presider and Pauline Chinn (University of Hawaii) was the discussant.

Masakata Ogawa (Kobe University) Origin, structure, and nature of knowledge in everyday life world: Relationship between indigenous science and Seigyo (subsistence)
Liz McKinley (University of Waikato) Maori science education: Issues of knowledge, language and identity (download)
Michael Michie (University of Waikato) Teaching science to Indigenous students: Teacher as culture broker or is it something else? (download)
Dawn Sutherland (University of Winnipeg)
Natalie Tays (Nischawayasihk Neyo Ohtinwak)
Incorporating Indigenous culture into school science

Discussant comments by Pauline Chinn on papers presented by Masakata Ogawa, Dawn Sutherland & Natalie Tays, Elizabeth McKinley, Michael Michie

These papers on indigenous science education address profound local, national, and global issues of identity, power, language, and education.  They may be for analytical purposes located on a continuum anchored on one end by locally based, subsistence economies and on the other by global free markets based on principles of efficient use of factors of production, including people.  Subsistence economies may lack a written language, and knowledge and skills are passed down orally and through observation amd participation.  Here the ability to survive depends on praxis and deep, insider knowledge of place oriented to sustainability, not profit.  At the other end of this continuum, the mastering and applying universal, abstract science knowledge sets the stage for competition among nations and international corporations.

If subsistence cultures are those that acquire and/or produce all the means for survival in their locality, these conditions held true for most people until relatively recently when advances in transportation made trade between regions began to allow masses of consumers to enjoy goods from other regions, then to be considered an expert, one had to have insider knowledge, gained by being embedded in the culture.  In contrast, universal knowledge, characteristic of western modern science, may be learned in schools throughout the world and those who master this knowledge enter a realm where they may be judged by a global audience as experts.

I place Ogawa’s paper on the subsistence end because he argues for indigenous cultural practices to be included in Japanese education.  Since Japan’s economy is associated with WMS and global trade, Ogawa is worried about losing the insider, place-based knowledge that is associated with Japan’s indigenous cultural identity.  Liz McKinley’s paper provides the perspective of an indigenous person in a colonized country.  As a science educator with knowledge of WMS and indigenous knowledge, she is able to take both insider and outsider perspectives.  Her paper addresses a project to develop an education system for Maoris bridging the worlds of WMS and locally relevant, subsistence oriented indigenous science.  In this case, Maori science education, based on tribal culture and tribal lands is part of a larger educational effort for self determination and resource management in the context of a mainstream national curriculum.  Dawn, an insider to WMS and Natalie, an insider to indigenous culture and science provide a methodology that builds local, indigenous knowledge into a national science education framework. Their paper is a blueprint for an insider-outsider collaboration that includes members of the indigenous community as resources for learning.  Michael Michie’s paper is that of an outsider, a WMS teacher in an indigenous community who did not find a way to bridge the WMS curriculum with indigenous knowledge and practices.  His paper explores ways for an outsider to become an insider.

Ogawa’s paper addresses the need to develop cultural identity with every generation.  Coming from Japan, a relatively culturally homogeneous nation that chose to adopt western science and technology, his notion of Japanese indigenous culture is that of a “stratified, amalgamated” body with roots in prehistoric hunting and gathering and rice growing periods extending into a present shaped by Japan’s position as a leader in global science and technology. Ogawa notes that Japanese educated in WMS may still participate in activities characteristic of these earlier, necessary subsistence practices.  These practices are now pleasant past-times such as fishing and mushroom gathering.  He argues that young children need to engage in similar, culture and place based activities without the WMS interpretation but in a holistic way, learning the stories from elders that relate to place and practices. 

These papers share the similarities of valuing indigenous cultural knowledge gained from an insider perspective through praxis, place-based activities, cultural practices, protocols, and direct transmission of elder knowledge.  Each author argues that indigenous knowledge should not be marginalized and excluded from the curriculum.  But the authors also share the following tensions: 

1)      The challenge of maintaining cultural identity, knowledge, language and practices within the context of national curricula using the universal language of WMS.

2)      The challenge of local identity and knowledge potentially leading to provincialism, non-transferable knowledge and practices, and multiple tribal identities versus a unitary national identity.

3)      The challenge of preparing teachers to be knowledgeable insiders of indigenous cultures and communities while able to meet the requirements of national curricula.

4)      The challenge of multiple communities of belief and practice whose core values and ideologies may differ from those espoused by the dominant, national community. 

Where a nation’s history is largely the history of a people with a single language and long history of written literacy, as in Japan, incorporating indigenous cultural knowledge and practices in the schools is likely to lead to shared cultural identity, unity and appreciation of shared traditions.  Where an indigenous, aboriginal population understands itself to be unwillingly colonized, the same practices that lead to national identity may lead to an alternate identity seeking different aims.  These authors argue for including voices, knowledge, and practices of indigenous groups because they think indigenous students will find school science more meaningful, be more successful in science, enter science and technology careers, and bring indigenous perspectives to resource management.  These larger issues of language, identity, power, and knowledge form the backdrop against which the role of indigenous knowledge in schools is played out.

Other papers

Paul Bartram (Hui Malama o Mo'omomi, Hawai'i) Traditional knowledge of natural cycles and resource rhythms: Connecting teachers, students and the wisdom of elders
Carol Brandt (University of New Mexico) To walk in beauty: Navajo women performing science and gender in higher education (download abstract)
Jepkorir Chepyator-Thomson (University of Georgia) Kenya: Indigenous Keiyo women's informal learning of science knowledge on medicinal and food plants
Pauline Chinn (University of Hawaii) Developing a sense of place and an environmental ethic: A critical role for Hawaiian/Indigenous science in teacher education?
Richard Coll (University of Waikato) An investigation of cognitive dissonance between religious beliefs and scientific thinking
Ravinder Koul (Pennsylvania State University) Epistemological stances towards knowledge, school science and the cultural context of India
Eric Riggs (San Diego State University) Field-based learning and Indigenous knowledge in geoscience education for Native Americans
Gaugau Tavana (National Tropical Botanical Garden) Ethnobotany K-12 teacher training program

I will try to establish links for those not connected at this time.


Demise of ATSIC

At the time of writing this Bulletin, it seems that the Australian government is about to legislate to wind down ATSIC, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission. Set up about 15 years ago, ATSIC has been the peak Indigenous body in Australia and with funding from the Commonwealth government, has been responsible for indigenous development. In the recent budget the funding allocation for ATSIC was disbursed between the mainstream government departments.

For an Indigenous perspective, there are numerous sites or visit Message Stick.

Other news from Message Stick

Respecting Cultures a protocol guide launched in Tasmania Message Stick News(7April2004,AEST) 
The guide written by Jim Everett and funded by Arts Tasmania and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Board of the Australia Council is an initiative of Tasmania's Aboriginal advisory committee.

Education a key to improved well-being but Indigenous Australians remain locked out Message Stick News (6April2004,AEST) 
Today's announcement by the Government regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander education is extremely disappointing and will mean a cut in funding of around five per cent in real terms.

Tourists return rocks stolen from Uluru. Anne Barker, The World Today. (20/04/2004) 
If you've ever climbed Uluru or Ayers Rock, you may've been tempted to pilfer a piece as a souvenir. Park staff have no idea how many tourists steal rocks or stones from Uluru, but they're constantly amazed at the hundreds, if not thousands of tourists who send rocks back out of remorse.

Indigenous children urged to pursue medical careers (12:50:36AEST)  
A Mount Isa Centre for Rural and Remote Health medical educator says the lack of Indigenous doctors is the result of low self esteem in Aboriginal communities.

Indigenous people and scientists show riches of fish in the Fitzroy River, WA (11May2004,AEST) 
Scientists working with Aboriginal people and pastoralists have 'fish mapped' one of Australia's largest unregulated river systems to find the highest diversity of freshwater fish in Western Australia.

Cancer sufferers use gumbi gumbi [25/05/2004] 
It's no secret that the Australian bush offers a range of sources of food, sustenance and medicine. But on ABC radio, the plant everyone's talking about is the Gumbi Gumbi or Cumbi Cumbi plant.

An Indonesian colleague looking for some help

I had this message from Ely Djulia, an Indonesian colleague who is looking at people's various worldviews regarding photosynthesis. I believe he has contacted some other members of the Network already.

I'm searching some articles and research reports concerning about cross cultural study in science education, especially about empowering schooled science knowledge and traditional knowledge in comprehending biology concepts by senior high school students.

I am approaching my research question by focussing on some indigenous people who care of  traditional farming practices and forest conservation around them. In my country there are some people who live in rural area, unschooled people, but they really concern with indigenous habit in farming and conserving forest. How can they do that? How do they get knowledge about farming, conservation? How does unschooled science knowledge develop within them?

I am trying to relate this with biology classroom about photosynthesis and respiration in plant to investigate the relationship between indigenous knowledge and traditional values of these farming and forest conservation and development of school science about that topic.

By considering ecocultural paradigm in learning science, I am searching the explanation pattern about how do people combine school science knowledge and unschool science knowledge to construct their understanding about photosynthesis and respiration in plant.

Could you tell me the helpful websites about that? 

Ely Djulia, Graduate Student of Science Education, Indonesia University of Education


Melbourne University School of Development Studies

The fourteenth of our Working Papers has recently been posted to the Melbourne University Private website and is available to download if you wish. The title of Working Paper 14 is 'Involuntary Resettlement as an Opportunity for Development:  The Application of "Resettlement with Development" in the People's Republic of China'.  The authors are Duan Yuefang and Brooke McDonald.  The paper can be accessed by clicking on the following link:
School of International Development - Working Paper 14

European Network for Indigenous Australian Rights (ENIAR)

News update · May 2004

Welcome to the European Network for Indigenous Australian Rights (ENIAR) Newsletter with the lastest highlights, events and information from Our website will be changed over the next few months to a new, more user-friendly system. One aim is to encourage input from readers, particularly content contributions and events updates. WE WELCOME YOUR IDEAS. To contribute your thoughts email

Message Club News

What is Message Club?

An ABC initiative for Indigenous children, Message Club, is an online interactive gateway, the deadliest place for 6 - 14 year olds to hang around, learn stuff and play games online. The site will grow over time but we're launching with these sections:

NEW works in our Fireplace Gallery!  Currently showing the paintings of Lewis and Rosanna's photographs.  Email your children's artwork in now.

New Children's Book Reviews:

Warnayarra the Rainbow Snake (7 April)  Told by the Senior Boys Class, Lajamanu School, Illustrated by Pamela Lofts adapted from illustrations of Aboriginal the Senior Boys Class at Lajamanu School and copyright of Pamela Lofts.  Reviewed by David (11 yrs)

The Echidna and the Shade Tree (7 April)  Told by Mona Green, Illustrated by Pamela Lofts adapted from illustrations by Aboriginal children .  Reviewed by Maria (13 years)

Aboriginal Astronomy by John South.  Aboriginal people across Australia, since the beginning of the dreaming, have been developing a complex mapping of the heavenly bodies.  A special invitation awaits you to take a tour to Arnhem Land to navigate by the stars with Danaja of the Burarra people.

The Torres Strait Islander Headdress by Rhianna Patrick.  The Headdress is universally recognised as belonging to Torres Strait Islanders. It takes central place their flag and has become a symbol of identification for Torres Strait Islanders everywhere.

Another book review

Nana's Land by Anita Heiss, (02/04/2004) Aimed at primary aged children, the very colourfully illustrated storybook follows the journey of three Yindiji children Warabul (the young hunter), his sister Kutabah and baby brother Bidu to find their Nana Garna's country in Queensland's Atherton Tablelands.


National Association for Research in Science Teaching (

Annual Meetings:
2005: Dallas, 4-7 April
2006: San Francisco, 8-12 April
2007: New Orleans, 14-17 April

American Educational Research Association (

2005: Montreal, 11-15 April
2006: San Francisco, 8-12 April


This is mostly a summary of upcoming conferences. More details may have been given above, in previous bulletins or circulated by e-mail. A web-based contact is usually included.

June 2004

25-28 June: Science and IT Education Joint Conference, Rockhampton, QLD. 

July 2004

5-9 July: "Educating For A World View: Focus On Globalizing Curriculum and Instruction" World Council for Curriculum and Instruction (WCCI) 11th Triennial World Conference, Novotel Northbeach Hotel, Wollongong, NSW

7-10 July: Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA), 35th Annual Conference, University of New England, Armidale NSW

August 2004

6-9 August: GARMA 2004 - Indigenous Livelihoods and Leadership.

September 2004

26-30 September: CONASTA 53 - Australian Science Teachers Association (ASTA) National Conference, Canberra ACT. Theme: Excellence in Teaching and Science

28 September - 2 October: Creating Ethical Communities Now: Footprints, Pathways, Possibilities. Adelaide, South Australia. Australian Association for Environmental Education (AAEE) together with the Asia-Pacific Network for International Education and Values Education (APNIEVE), the South Australian Global Education Centre (GEC), and Urban Ecology Australia (UEA).

April 2005

4-7 April: National Association for Research in Science Teaching, Dallas (

11-15 April: American Educational Research Association, Montreal (

July 2005

Australasian Science Education Research Association (ASERA), 36th Annual Conference, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Sometime 2005 - World Indigenous Peoples Conference on Education, Aotearoa New Zealand

A list of conferences is also maintained by the University of South Australia's Indigenous Online Network, at

Last updated: 1 June 2004

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