Trying to Get It Back: Indigenous Women, Education, and Culture

Trying to Get It Back: Indigenous Women, Education, and Culture

Trying to Get It Back: Indigenous Women, Education, and Culture

Trying to Get It Back: Indigenous Women, Education, and Culture


Trying to Get It Back: Indigenous Women, Education and Culture examines aspects of the lives of six women from three generations of two indigenous families. Their combined memories, experiences and aspirations cover the entire twentieth century.

The first family, Pearl McKenzie, Pauline Coulthard and Charlene Tree are a mother, daughter and granddaughter of the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders Range in South Australia. The second family consists of Bernie Sound, her neice Valerie Bourne and Valerie's daughter, Brandi McLeod - Sechelt women from British Columbia, Canada.

They talk to Gillian Weiss about their memories of childhood, informal learning and schooling, their experience and changing aspirations in raising their own children and educating them in both their traditional and the dominant cultures. They also talk to each other via video conferencing, sharing their personal experience and those of their peoples as colonized nations, and they discuss their current positions as they fight to reclaim, regain and revitalize their traditional cultures. The education of their own peoples as well as the dominant societies is something they see as crucial for their futures; it is a path that they feel has already acheived some success. They document the difficulties, the pain, but also the triumphs of growing up in Western societies.

The narratives are in their own words, speaking directly to the reader and allowing analysis and interpretation at multiple levels. They are prefaced by a brief history of the two peoples and set between a methodological Foreword and a summative Afterword by Gillian Weiss.


This study developed from a larger project, "A Comparative Study of the Effects of Colonisation on the Art of Selected Groups of Australian and Canadian Aboriginal Peoples, ” undertaken by my husband, Tony Rogers, of the University of South Australia and Rita Irwin of the University of British Columbia. the Adnyamathanha and Sechelt Peoples were chosen as the major focus of the research for a number of reasons, including their traditional views on and practices of "art, ” the geographic position of their traditional lands at a distance from large urban sites, the relative lack of political and personal dissension within their ranks with regards to maintenance and revival of traditional practices and the interest of individuals in both groups in being part of an oral history project.

My involvement began with some of the initial interviewing of Adnyamathanha men and women in 1992, which included a session in which Pearl McKenzie talked with Tony Rogers. I was interested in some comments Pearl made about her early life in this interview, and as the topics of interviews were very open at this stage I decided to follow them up in a further taped discussion with Pearl later that same day. Shortly af terwards I met Pauline Coulthard, Pearl's daughter, who was acting as a coordinator for the project by identifying individuals who wished to be involved and arranging introductions to and meetings with members of the research team. We got to chatting about her own childhood and comparing it with that of Pauline's mother and daughters, and when I made a com-

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