Tag Archive: land


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A take home message of any indigenous event such as ‘Land and Place: Indigenous Perspectives in the Era of Displacement‘ these days is that non-indigenous people need to do their own homework and help to educate their mob but it can be hard for individuals or churches to know where to start.  This is a synthesis of some suggestions that arose from the NAIITS launch sessions and yarning circles and some other resources that I’ve found useful along the way that resonated with what I was hearing…

  • Do undergrad or postgrad study in indigenous theology with indigenous teachers through Whitley at the University of Divinity!
  • Visit collections and exhibitions in national galleries and museums – like a First Peoples tour of the Bunjilaka Cultural Centre at the Melbourne Museum, a guided walking tour of Melbourne CBD through the Koori Heritage Trust, or visit Narana.
  • Folks go on pilgrimages such as the walking the Camino de Santiago, or Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem… what if we connected with the Creator Spirit right here in this place? Visit Uluru, an intentional community like Campfire in the Heart,  or just go camping in an area of native bush near you and experience the land around you… if you’re not sure where to go (ask permission and) join the mob sitting in at the Djab Wurrung Embassy protecting 800-year old birthing trees from a motorway extension that’ll save drivers merely 3 minutes.
  • Connect with the mob at Indigenous Hospitality House (IHH). The Indigenous Hospitality House is a Settler (non-Indigenous) household on Wurundjeri country in Melbourne, Australia. The residents open their home to provide short-term accommodation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who need to come to Melbourne for hospital business. They also make space for others to rethink their Settler identity and discipleship journey in light of Australia’s colonial history – they run bible study series, host regular Learning Circles,  and have published a book called Tales from the Table on their reflections and learnings from 15 years of hosting guests.
  • Explore and practice different rhythms of ritual and liturgy such as those of the Wilderness Way Community – put phones down to leave chronos time behind, take off shoes to connect with the earth, everyone is outside so you are hearing the Bible stories orally and acting them out. There are no mikes or screens or songsheets – a lot of the songs therefore are call and response or echo format…
    Everything I need is right in front of me (x2)
    Can we be manna, manna?
    Can we be manna for each other? (x2)
    See more suggestions for meditating in your watershed here.
  • Integrate daily, monthly, annual rhythms – in what you read, watch, who you follow on Facebook or on Instagram, what you do and where you go. Commit to knowing more than you did yesterday or last year. Learn significant dates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Australians and find ways to acknowledge and observe them as an individual, a family, a community, a church… as a nation. You will find art and activism, celebrations and song.

Just like Aunty Rev Patricia Courtenay said: ‘Know the past, change the future’

Land and Place: Indigenous Perspectives in an Era of Displacement  NAIITS

Uncle Dr Terry LeBlanc: ‘Native perspectives on Land and Place’

Uncle Dr Terry LeBlanc: ‘Native perspectives on Land and Place’

We are all related. Connected together. We touch one another with life lived on the land together. Interrelated and interdependent with the land.

NAIITS stands for North American Institute for Indigenous Theological Studies, partnering to become an indigenous learning community here at Whitley.

The land is not to be feared or conquered but is part of us. Adam (adamah – earth) red dust on the ground. We are dust. We are the same dust.

THEOLOGY OF LAND

The Great Divide

  • Dualism: dividing the spiritual from the material
  • The reformers also divide the spiritual from the material: spiritual and political are now separated. Political and land separated.

Invited to do a welcome to Christian and Muslim refugees in Canada and was able to say: As I’ve welcomed the 500 years of refugees represented behind me I also want to welcome you. I’m sorry you’ve had to flee violence, to lose connection to the land of your ancestors.

Place – security, growth, wonder, sights smells… experience what God has for us in this place.

Utilitarian View of Land

  • Commodification of land the breaking loose of land from people along with the loss of work – labour now becomes a commodity.
  • John Locke and the primacy of private ownership.
  • Nature is seen as an enemy to be subdued and dominated.

Colonisers saw indigenous people as godless heathen savages. We can do this to Muslims still – see them as godless people of a godless land but this isn’t truth.  This belies a faith that says God is everywhere and all are made in the image of God.

Uncle Rev Ray Minniecon: ‘Walking the Land’

Uncle Rev Ray Minniecon: ‘Walking the Land’

How as people and pastors can we operate to be authentically indigenous and authentically Christian? I ask myself these questions:

  1. Who am I?
  2. Where have I been?
  3. What do I do?

We are always in search of our people.  We meet and tell our stories. Sometimes our great, great, grandparents lived at the same mission.  Did they have other brothers and sisters? We don’t always know. People from a different family, from a different mob, from a different country might hold part of our story that hasn’t been heard.

I am confronted by racism everyday. I have learned how to have faith and to draw on the strength of the ancestors… ‘so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God’. (1 Cor 2:5). This includes church who continue to exclude us. I’m invited to speak about aboriginal issues but not to preach the gospel.  That is why I started a little congregation in community at St John’s Anglican in Glebe called ‘Scarred Tree Indigenous Ministries‘. We are grateful to work on land that has the last Scar Tree in Sydney CBD. It is a way for us to connect to our history and to the gospel. we have to confront Australia’s history as a church, neighbourhood and community. we would lose our minds, selves, souls if we don’t stand up.

TALKING CIRCLES
Someone in our group shared their story adding, “when you don’t know who you are, there are no reference points.”

Psalm 68:5-6  (NIV)
A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
    is God in his holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families,
    he leads out the prisoners with singing

God as Father gave me a sense of who I am. Knowing this, no one is a mistake. Then I had a moment on country in a park with sunlight… I knew I belonged to the land and felt known. Mother (Nature) – living and breathing.

 

Aunty Rev Patricia Courtenay: ‘Aboriginal spirituality in an era of displacement’

Aunty Rev Patricia Courtenay: ‘Aboriginal spirituality in an era of displacement’

IDENTITY

Where did I grow up? What country is that and what language is spoken there?

ASSIMILATION

  • Displacement
  • Denial of culture and spirituality
  • Disconnection

RESPONSES

Our language is not ‘lost’, our home is not ‘lost’,  we are disconnected from them.

Why would you want to identify as aboriginal?

I am supported, protected and reminded who I am by my ancestors and totem animals. My strength is in my spirituality.

How can you identify as Aboriginal and a Christian?

I can separate the faith of the missions from Christianity.  There is a spiritual basis for this – acceptance of all – Jew and Gentile… 1 Cor 7:17-20. Live the life that the Lord has assigned… obey the commands of God in all things. You were provided identity at birth. Who were you called to be? Dualistic enquiry – I can be Christian without denying or giving up my cultural identity or heritage. Who I am is rooted in belonging and connectedness.

CULTURALLY SPIRITUAL WAYS OF KNOWING AND BEING

  • sense of belonging: Aboriginal belonging comes from story and love of the land.  Aboriginal people know and keep these stories. Are able to use these in other contexts. Able to use these for survival. We have an embedded spiritualness and awareness of sacred space.
  • holistic worldview: spirituality and culture are invisible. Our mind and body’s wellbeing are interconnected with our spirituality. An attack on one affects the other areas.
  • spirits of place: we have an oral tradition and literacy.  We have a spiritual connection to the land and knowledge generation and re-generation. Supernatural and natural occupy the same place and time.  Not mystical but mundane and embedded in the landscape. Someone might stay at a place and dream there – we learn through dreams.  This is considered a geographic source of sacred knowledge. The revelation comes to the person in the right place at the right time.  This is about identity, kinship and relationship to the land… receiving wisdom.  This wisdom is omnipresent but non-visible for no-indigenous.  Not mythfolk, lore or legend speaking of the past but continue happening now.

Aboriginal Australia still exists. When we gather and tell our stories ‘the land is speaking’. As guardians of the the land ‘we are speaking for the land’. The Creator Spirit/God’s relationship with indigenous people does and will continue to exist.  Language, world views, etc. can be shared with those willing to listen.

CREATING AN AUSTRALIAN CHRISTIAN

  • how do indigenous Australians reconnect culturally and spiritually?
  • how do non-indigenous Australians relate to indigenous Christians culture and spirituality?

‘Know the past, change the future’

 

Aunty Rev Janet Turpie Johnstone: ‘Bunjil weaves past and future in the present’

Aunty Rev Janet Turpie Johnstone: ‘Bunjil weaves past and future in the present’

Wominjeka – ‘we have come together for good purpose’

When we have shared stories and place, that goes with us when we leave.

Bunjil patterns the past and future in the present.  We’re not Animist, we don’t worship animals but are related to them and to the river.

Can we live with the land and waters so that everything has a place to live?

  • colonial invasion
  • Bunjils narratives
  • work with local elders eg. Bunjil’s Nest Project.

Reconciliation:

  • multiculturalism
  • migration
  • recognise
  • silence – denial

 

Professor Mark Brett & Naomi Wolfe: ‘Traditional Land and the Responsibility to Protect Immigrants: A Dialogue between Aboriginal Tradition and the Hebrew Bible’

Professor Mark Brett & Naomi Wolfe: ‘Traditional Land and the Responsibility to Protect Immigrants: A Dialogue between Aboriginal Tradition and the Hebrew Bible’

“You shall love the immigrant, for you were immigrants in the land of Egypt” (Deut 10:19)

But what happens when Israel arrive sin Canaan?  The oppressed become oppressors?

Indigenous mob don’t need a qualification to be who they are.  But this partnership has arisen from an international journey and collaboration.

Strangers, immigrants, sojourners… it’s the story of people who took others’ land.  If you don’t take care of the widow, orphans, migrants… you will lose your country.

Indigenous: country knows them, calls them home.  There’s a kinship system and people are looked after. ‘no one should be left behind’

Jer 26: 8-9 and Jer 26:16-19 people hated what he had to say… except some elders. Not citing Deuteronomy but oral storytelling – there moral compass is somewhere else. In the Samaritan story, who do indigenous people see themselves as in the story? Where are the settlers in the story?

We’re all Gentiles.  Settlers brought the thinking, they are the new Israel. They have the right to take the country. That’s wrong. They think they’re superior and that God is on their side. There is a theological problem with this logic.  White people are not the new Israel.

There is an idea that our liberation is bound to native title, but that’s extinct in Tasmania. So what does freedom look like for those of use from there?

  • where are we?
  • what does that look like for our relationship with settlers
  • what does that call us to be?
  • how does it call us to live?

Reinterpreting our stories:

Every identity therefore is a construction… a composite of different histories, migrations, conquests, liberations and so on. We can deal with these either as worlds at war or as experiences to be reconciled. Edward Said.

What next?

  • go back to the text
  • what does that mean for me?
  • Who am I? What’s my cultural identity?
  • how do I engage gospel? … those around me?

Reading the Bible as Israel is toxic for Gentiles.  Colonised people are colonising.

Our beliefs are already here, we don’t need yours. Our sacred land is right here. Our text is the land – we hear it with our feet and our hearts. It is broader and more inclusive.

We can have/give/build what was denied to earlier generations if we’re strong in culture.

Wonderful animation…

Bunjil The Creator: Bunjil’s Flight to the Stars

 

 

Indigenous Land Struggle

MASIL land struggle

‘To those who say, “But I didn’t take your land” I reply, “Are we going to be honorable ancestors?”‘

MASIL is a historic exchange between Indigenous Mapuche activists in Chile/Argentina and Aboriginal activists in Australia.

The goals of the MASIL Project are:

  • To establish face to face contact and dialogue and build links between Indigenous communities protecting their lands.
  • To document all the work that is carried out and
  • To produce a documentary of approximately 60 minutes duration, for distribution in Australia and internationally.

 

Do you hear the bells ring?

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Do you hear the bells ring?

They are calling you to church.

They ring for Kiribati.

Do you hear the bells ring?

They are calling you to church.

They ring for Gaza.

Do you hear the bells ring?

They are calling you to church.

They ring for Sulawesi.

Do you hear the bells ring?

They are calling you to church.

They ring for land never ceded.

Do you hear the bells ring?

They are calling you to church.

They ring for Manus and Nauru.

Do you hear the bells ring?

They are calling you to church.

They ring for you.

Talitha Fraser

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Just in case you missed it – the Sovereignty exhibition at ACCA was stunning.

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We need to keep leaning into the truth that colonisation isn’t a “once upon a time…” story of something that happened long ago and far away but is still happening here and now. On land that was never ceded – what does being “Australian” look like or mean? You see in the piece by Clinton Nain Water Bottle Bags something beautiful made of found objects: plastic bottles, emu eggs, emu feathers, electrical cable, wire, string… a mix of  what is natural and man-made, a mix of traditional and contemporary.  What does it mean that the contemporary is waste, or is it in the hands of the custodians? What does traditionally acquired knowledge – a different understanding of the world and how to engage it have to teach us? This exhibition provoked this reflection and many more. See more photos and read the (highly recommended!) Sovereignty publication on the ACCA website:

 

To be sovereign is in fact to act with love and
resistance simultaneously. Uncle Banjo Clarke, the
late Gunditjmara statesman, said we must ‘fight
hate with love.’2 If there is a thread that connects
all the artists across the wide diversity of practices
represented in Sovereignty it is this deep love for
family, for truth telling and for beauty.

– Paola Balla –


Sovereignty

ACCA is proud to present Sovereignty, an exhibition focusing upon contemporary art of First Nations peoples of South East Australia, alongside keynote historical works, to explore culturally and linguistically diverse narratives of self-determination, identity, sovereignty and resistance.

Taking the example of Ngurungaeta (Elder) and Wurundjeri leader William Barak (c.1824–1903) as a model – in particular Barak’s role as an artist, activist, leader, diplomat and translator – the exhibition presents the vibrant and diverse visual art and culture of the continuous and distinct nations, language groups and communities of Victoria’s sovereign, Indigenous peoples.

Bringing together new commissions, recent and historical works by over thirty artists, Sovereignty is structured around a set of practices and relationships in which art and society, community and family, history and politics are inextricably connected. A diverse range of discursive and thematic contexts are elaborated: the celebration and assertion of cultural identity and resistance; the significance and inter-connectedness of Country, people and place; the renewal and re-inscription of cultural languages and practices; the importance of matriarchal culture and wisdom; the dynamic relations between activism and aesthetics; and a playfulness with language and signs in contemporary society.

Sovereignty provides an opportunity to engage with critical historical and contemporary issues in Australian society. The exhibition takes place against a backdrop of cultural, political and historical debates related to questions of colonialism and de-colonisation, constitutional recognition, sovereignty and treaty.

Curators
Paola Balla and Max Delany

 

ArtistsIMG_4154

Brook Andrew
William Barak
Lisa Bellear
Jim Berg
Briggs
Trevor Turbo Brown
Amiel Courtin-Wilson / Uncle Jack Charles
Maree Clark
Vicky Couzens
Destiny Deacon & Virginia Fraser
Marlene Gilson
Korin Gamadji Institute
Brian Martin
Kent MorrisIMG_4420
Clinton Nain
Glenda Nicholls
Bill Onus
Steaphan Paton
Bronwyn Razem
Reko Rennie
Steven Rhall
Yhonnie Scarce
Warriors of the Aboriginal Resistance (WAR)
Peter Waples-Crowe
Lucy Williams-Connelly

On the weekend of 24-25 September Whitley College hosted a conference called Constitutions and Treaties: Law, Justice, Spirituality – these are notes from session 8 of 9. We acknowledge that this gathering, listening and learning occurred of the land of the Wurundjeri People of the Kulin Nations and offer our respects to their elders past and present, and all visiting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island visitors present.

Terrific to be part of the Minutes of Evidence project – collaborative performance sparking conversations about structural justice.

British colonisers ran a “Paper Empire” – numbers, counting surveillance… combined with counter-archives (other ways of knowing) can be used to create sources/proofs. Presumption of colonisation (denial of sovereignty) complicit and absolutely imbued in statutes and policies.

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“…powerfully committed to hunting grounds” the Committee couldn’t break or deny this connection to Country… this is why the regional system of Missions was put in place.  The testimony of these men changed the political “solution”/outcomes. Although 50 years later the missions were closed after all and people were centralised.

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On the subject of children being taken away, missionaries testified that:   Those on the Missions knew of all the children in their District when a white couple adopted a girl then no longer wanted her – they were going to send her to Sydney, the Aboriginal people on the Mission appealed to take her in. There is no such things as orphans… every child had two parents. 100s of letters written by Aboriginals exist speaking to self-determination, religious freedom and for rights.

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Political activism was happening pre-1920s.  Is it racial prejudice that dismisses testimony of “pining away” or “affection” for the land as irrational/emotional but this speaks to the depth of feeling of cultural belief/commitment, assertion of rights, sovereignty and justice.  Not able to recognise the implications of what you ‘see’ in front of you but providing testimony of it jsut the same.