History, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in: Aboriginal History 31 (2007): 183-87. Published by Australian Centre for Indigenous History, Research School of Social Science, The Australian National University, Canberra.


This intriguing and soft-spoken documentary brings together scholars of Indigenous history from both North America and Australia to meet with Indigenous communities and their locally-based historians in the Northern Territory. In these encounters, it becomes clear that scholarly, academic approaches to history often clash with the ways that Indigenous communities and their historians tell their histories. This is not news to most readers of Aboriginal History; however, the film goes beyond this observation. It aims to show the possibilities for dialogue and fruitful exchange, as well as productive debate, when historians trained in different traditions of knowledge production meet and discuss their common passions for history. Rather than making grand claims about cultural breakthroughs, the film is quieter and more subtle, suggesting that this is only the beginning of a long conversation that must continue over many years.

I want to discuss just two of the issues that the film raises: first, the stakes involved for Indigenous people versus academic historians in interpreting and conveying the history of colonialism, and second, the possibility of telling history in myriad ways. As many of the participants point out in the film, many Indigenous people use history to connect themselves to their land, and both land and history are crucial to creating their identities. For historians who work within their own Indigenous communities, the film suggests, the survival, healing, and recovery of their own people is their primary agenda.

Included in

History Commons