Comparing Indigenous Cultures

Section 1

Part A: Pre-Contact

Pre-ContactThe Dreamtime:Human, physical and sacred worlds exist throughout all time; all things are connected physically, socially and spiritually (Aboriginal Art and Culture 2021).The Matauranga:
Intergenerational observations continuously extended: psychology, astronomy, philosophy, science, ecology and justice (Dell 2021).
Paganism:All things have a spiritual force; polytheistic: Father, Mother, Son, Daughter; endless cycle of rebirth (Wigington 2020).


Before contact, First Nations all exhibited a harmonious equilibrium with the cycles of nature. Aboriginal culture is extremely complex; Maori culture is thoroughly based in reality; Sami culture is both philosophical and practical: all accentuate inter-connection.

Part B: Colonisation

  • Governance destroyed and replaced by coloniser’s brutal treatment
  • Autonomy no longer functional: forced to be dependent upon the colonisers
  • Disadvantaged with no language, no home, no people, and often no family
ColonisationBritish Christians took possession of Australia at all costs: disease, massacre, dispossession, ecological destruction, poison, humiliation and annihilation of languages, identity and land (Dreamtime n.d.)British Christians made every effort to annihilate Maori languages and culture; focussed policy on subjugation and domination; diseases and guns decimated Maori population (Mikaere 2013).Scandinavian Christians made every effort to annihilate Sami including stealing Sami children, forced denial of language and traditional land ownership; 1900s wars destroyed lands and populations (Wigington 2020).

Colonisation is the acquisition of others’ lands resulting in more power for the coloniser and dependency for the colonised. The ability to protect that acquisition conveys sovereignty; the annihilation of previous owners ensures legitimacy. 


The loss of language and the enforced use of foreign languages ensured governance and even personal relationships could not function; dispossession and deportation ensured dependence upon the invaders for sustenance and the total loss of autonomy; destruction of nature ensured spiritual turmoil and destitution; Christianity and foreign law resulted in absolute disadvantage: native peoples rendered foreigners in their own homes. 

Part C: Decolonisation

  • Aboriginal peoples still have no treaty and are still subject to coloniser marginalisation
  • Maori peoples have the Treaty of Waitangi and continue toward autonomy
  • Sami peoples have an autonomous representative government giving a voice to protect their culture
DecolonialisationReasserting autonomy and removing white law from Aboriginal cultural practices and applications (Creative Spirits 2021). Reasserting Maori intellectual sovereignty with zero reference to coloniser cultural practices; rebuilding languages and know-how (Mikaere 2013).Regaining lands in pristine condition to reestablish traditional ways; regaining traditional languages; strengthening traditional beliefs (Wigington 2020).


The Maori and Sami have established legal and political presence in their occupied homelands via treaty and political representation. These have allowed for autonomous health and protection of traditional lifestyles. Australian Aboriginal peoples have neither and continue to experience marginalisation under coloniser health, education, religious and legal practices.

Decolonisation is the process by which First Nations obtain the legal and political mechanisms to protect their cultures against the marginalisation and disadvantage brought by the coloniser culture. 

Section 2: Reflection

I’m writing a reflection regarding the process of pre-contact, colonisation, and post-colonisation based on the Australian Aboriginal, Maori and Sami people’s experiences. Course readings focus on these cultural groups and I have drawn from contemporary examples. Decolonisation is a paradigm shift for Australian society; decolonisation is the affirmation of sovereignty for a nation; decolonisation is equalising human rights, removing disadvantage and marginalisation.

I discovered the following: New Holland was colonised under direct orders by the King of England (Thompson 2005) and Aboriginal peoples were subject to systematic genocide (Khamenei 2016); the Maori forced British Christians to sign the Treaty of Waitangi (New Zealand Government 2016); Sami shaman drums were burned to end core socio-cultural practices (Gusto n.d.). I learned that, although the details vary between these peoples, coloniser objectives were the same: the systematic disempowerment if not annihilation of First Nations peoples.

I also learned that once First Nations regain self-governance, even with severely limited resources, community health improves and cross-cultural interactions begin to harmonise. The natural environment seems to recover by default and all peoples in the community and a dialogue between peoples begins but this process is not uniform: Aboriginal peoples still seem far from autonomy (Graham & Brigg 2020); Maori have started discussions for reparations (Chaumeau 2021), and Sami won land rights (Cultural Survival 2020). These insights reveal that any effort dedicated toward autonomy depends upon the peoples involved.

Campbell (p. 410 2009) defines two elements of agency: the first is the personal ability to act and the second is the effectiveness of that action in and on society. Below are three examples of self-governance:

  • Arnhem land hybrid economy reinforces diversity and enhances livelihoods (Altman 26 October 2005)
  • Maori response to COVID-19 demonstrate the advantages of autonomy on health (Te One & Clifford 2021)
  • Sami lobbying within coloniser political systems protects native rights via policy (Hobbs 8 February 2021)

It is apparent to me that self-governance is of paramount importance for the identity of any nation, and even when children are stolen from their families the link of the individual to their people is tangible and, perhaps, indestructible. Before colonisers arrived, First Nations evinced unique societies yet all functioned in harmony with the local environment. Becoming aware of how belligerent coloniser cultures destroy and harm others is deeply disturbing. Also, knowing that Christianity was a core driver in the colonisation process of the three First Nations detailed above, I must conclude that this religion bears a significant responsibility in assisting First Nations efforts in reacquiring autonomy. 

This essay evaluates the relationship between colonialism and First Nations cultures. The extreme disadvantage that Indigenous peoples still experience is a consequence of colonial policies consciously aimed at the acquisition of land and the extermination of any other claims to that land. Despite differences in beliefs and social structures, First Nations peoples share a large variety of common negative experiences in the past but are diverging in the present. Post-colonialism is the conscious and healthy removal of the colonial worldview from First Nations’ lives, and the regaining of languages, lands, ways of doing, being and thinking. I conclude that autonomy is key to healthy, multi-cultural, societies.


Aboriginal Art and Culture 2021, Dreamtime Chart, Aboriginal Art website viewed 17 September 2021, <>.

Altman, J 26 October 2005, The indigenous hybrid economy, Australian Fabians website viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Campbell, C 1 December 2009, Distinguishing the power of agency from agentic power: a note on Weber and the “black box” of personal agency, Sociological Theory, American Sociological Association, University of New York, USQ reading materials viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Chaumeau, C 28 June 2021, New Zealand leads the way on reparations for Indigenous people, Justiceinfo website viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Creative Spirits 5 September 2021, Decolonisation: what does it mean for me? Creative Spirits website viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Cultural Survival 14 February 2020, Historic court ruling upholds Sami rights in Sweden, Cultural Survival website viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Dell, K 27 July 2021, Just what is Matauranga Maori?, Maori Knowledge, Matauranga Maori website, viewed 17 September 2021, <>.

Dreamtime n.d., The history of Australian Aborigines, Dreamtime website viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Graham, M & Brigg, M 9 November 2020, Why we need Aboriginal political philosophy now, more than ever, Australian Broadcasting Corporation website viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Gusto (Emerson, K Jr) n.d. Sami drums — then and now, Sami Culture website viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Hobbs, H 8 February 2021, The Sami’s voice, Inside Story website viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Khamenei 12 December 2016, Australia’s ‘sanitized’ genocide against Aboriginies in the 21st century, Khamenei IR website viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Mikaere, A 2013, He Manawa Whenbua Indigenous Research Conference 2013, YouTube video viewed 12 August 2021, <>.

New Zealand Government 19 September 2016, Waitangi Tribunal, section 3: the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, New Zealand Government website viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Te One, A and Clifford, C 3 February 2021, Tino Rangatiratanga and well-being: Maori self determinatino in the face of covid-19, Frontiers in sociology vol. 6 613340, viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Thompson, S 2005, 1768 James Cook’s secret instructions, Objects through time at Migration Heritage Centre website viewed 18 September 2021, <>.

Wigington, P 8 February 2020, Sami people: religion, beliefs, and deities, Learn Religions website viewed 17 September 2021, <>.