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An Approach to Aboriginal Cultural Landscapes


ABORIGINAL WORLD VIEWS

Is the Aboriginal view of the world fundamentally different from that of Western tradition?

Indigenous peoples in many parts of the world regard landscape in ways common to their own experience, and different from the Western perspective of land and landscape. The relationship between people and place is conceived fundamentally in spiritual terms, rather than primarily in material terms.

Many Aboriginal peoples consider all the earth to be sacred and regard themselves as an integral part of this holistic and living landscape. They belong to the land and are at one in it with animals, plants, and ancestors whose spirits inhabit it.

River rapids with shore line vegetation.
Mersey River at Kejimkujik National Park/National Historic Site, Nova Scotia
© Parks Canada / W. Barrett / 03.31.01.12(101), 1995

For many, places in their landscape are also sacred, as places of power, of journeys related to spirit beings, of entities that must be appeased. Aboriginal cosmologies relate earth and sky, the elements, the directions, the seasons, and mythic transformers to lands that they have occupied since ancient times. Guided by these cosmological relationships, many have creation stories related to their homelands, and they date their presence in these places to times when spirit beings traversed the world, transformed themselves at will between human and animal form, created their ancestors, and contoured the landscape. Laws and gifts from these spirit beings and culture heroes shaped their cultures and their day to day activities.

Aboriginal peoples' intimate knowledge of the natural resources and ecosystems of their areas, developed through long and sustained contact, and their respect for the spirits which inhabit these places, moulded their life on the land.

Traditional knowledge, in the form of narratives, place names, and ecological lore, bequeathed through oral tradition from generation to generation, embodies and preserves their relationship to the land. Landscapes "house" these stories, and protection of these places is key to the long-term survival of these stories in Aboriginal culture.

 

Last Updated: 2008-10-17 To the top
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