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“So The Land Is Actually Like A Big Book, You Know?” Geomythology, and the Value of a Bridge Between Conventional and Indigenous Science

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Global Land Outlook Working Paper
Michael Welland

The words of Alison Anderson, Papunya elder and recently retired Australian politician, resonate. They resonate with all indigenous peoples whose relationship with their land is often more profoundly intimate than that of Western or eurocentric societies, and they resonate with a geologist. For Aboriginal people and geologists, the land tells stories – in different ways, of course, but the land is itself is viewed as a book whose narratives must be not only deciphered, but recounted. Anderson’s view echoes that of John Wesley Powell, the extraordinary one-armed geologist, explorer, and cultural anthropologist, as he variously hurtled, drifted or clambered down the Grand Canyon in his epic expedition of 1869. In his diary and report he recorded that “All about me are interesting geologic records. The book is open and I can read as I run”.