“Killing our totems”: Indigenous children’s multimodal messages of connection to Country

Year: 2016

Author: Mills, Kathy

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Language and literacy practices are deeply interconnected with the epistemologies and ontologies of cultures (Mills, 2015; Mills et al 2016). Language and how it is used and taught is not value neutral; rather, it is integral to one’s view of knowledge, identity and beliefs (Mills, 2016; Mills & Park, 20015). Yet many white educators are not familiar with the cultural funds of knowledge that Indigenous young people bring to their textual practices. This presentation explores Indigenous children’s multimodal messages of belonging, identity, and ecological connections to Country. It draws on qualitative data from participatory research with an Indigenous Australian school community conducted over three years to develop ways to multimodal and digital literacy that embed vital historically and culturally valued knowledge and beliefs. This multimodal analysis of micro-documentaries focuses on the Indigenous students’ ecological connections to place, specifically, belonging to Country and beliefs about totem animals (Click link to view example film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gBL0GUvjuLg). The short documentaries were directed, scripted, performed, and filmed by Indigenous primary school students from Years One and Five. The film created by the year one class demonstrates Indigenous historical, cultural, and sacred connections to Moogerah Dam in South East Queensland. In the year five films, students explain how the negligent disposal of ghost nets or discarded fishing nets disrupt Indigenous spiritual connection to sea turtles – totem animals – that are meaninglessly captured and killed. Together, these multimodal movies created by children at school provide a springboard for understanding the epistemologies of Indigenous Australians and the multifaceted entanglement with place, identity, spirit,kinship and the natural world.ReferencesMills, KA. (2016) Literacy Theories for the Digital Age: Social, Critical, Multimodal, Spatial, Material and Sensory Lenses. New Perspectives in Language andEducation. Multilingual Matters: Bristol, UK.Mills, KA., Davis-Warra, J., Sewell, M., & Anderson, M. (2016) Indigenous ways with literacies: Transgenerational, multimodal, placed, and collective. Language andEducation, 30(1), 1-21Mills, KA. & Dreamson, N. (2015) Race, the senses, and the materials of writingpractices. In Turbill, J., Brock, C., & Barton, G. (Eds.) Teaching Writing in Today's Classrooms: Looking Back to Look Forward (pp.298-312). Australian Literacy Educators' Association: Norwood, SA.