May 26, 2010

National Sorry Day – Australia
This Australian event is held each year to express regret for the historical mistreatment of Australia's indigenous peoples.

On this day in 1997, a report was formally given to the Australian government about the horrible practice of taking children away from indigenous families. (The children who were taken from their families and made wards of the state are now called the Stolen Generations.)

In Australia, there are concerts, barbecues, lunches, teas, and other gatherings, media statements and speeches, flag-raising and candle-lighting ceremonies, reconciliation walks, and so forth. People sign “sorry books” as a way of showing their commitment towards reconciliation, and local indigenous Australian elders are invited to speak to students. There are even essay competitions for school children.

It's a good day for non-Australians to learn about the indigenous peoples of Australia.

The two main groups of indigenous Australians are Aboriginal people and Torres Strait Islanders. Nowadays t
he word aboriginals is less common, because each group prefers to be called by its own specific name.

People came to Australia at least 40,000 years ago—perhaps as far back as 125,000 years ago!—and they spread over the mainland, nearby islands, and Tanzania.

There is a mix of languages, cultures, and customs among the indigenous groups, and there was even more diversity existed before European settlers started coming. (For example, there were between 250 and 300 languages when Europeans first “discovered” Australia. Today there are about 200 of these languages still in use—but all but 20 are classified as “endangered,” because most aboriginal people use English.)
  • This is a wonderful website with lots of animated Dreaming Stories (“Aboriginal Dreaming Stories Online”). Be sure to try out the games, too!
The Australian Museum website has a similar rich and interesting website chock full of Stories of the Dreaming.
  • Some groups of indigenous Australians use sticks or echidna quills to paint “dreamtime stories” with traditional symbols such as fish, turtles, crocodiles, snakes, kangaroos, and other creatures. Because of the materials they used to paint, they would create pictures with dots.
Study some of the examples of Australian dot art here and here, and of the symbols used in this art here (scroll down). Then create your own pieces using the brush part of a paintbrush for large areas, and the wooden tip of the “wrong” side of the brush for the dots. Be sure to use earth tone colors!
Danielle's Place suggests painting a smooth stone. DLTK directs younger kids to make dot art with Q-tips on paper. And Free Kids' Crafts suggests making masks decorated with dots.
Anything can be decorated in this cool style!
  • Free Kids Crafts also has an interesting video about making an Aboriginal style drawing with a white pen or pencil on colored paper. One of the keys is to represent the spinal chord and inner organs within the outline of the animals, and another is to repeat symbols in a border or space-filling decorations.
One last website--another wonderful source for dot painting!

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