- claims to innocence (fresh)
- superior knowledge (stale)
- reams of data (bulk buy)
- extractivism (pure)
- capitalism (unadulterated)
- expert knowledge (single source – blind bake until nothing can penetrate)
- white fragility (bulk buy, always combine with expert knowledge)
- compliant browns and blacks (steeped in mediocrity)
- reparations (frozen, do not thaw)
- Stick to the western canon – ignore any questioning of outdated modes of knowledge production. Deride and negate non-European/non-western ways of seeing, doing, knowing, being, and relating. For example, insist that (western) science is not, in any way, influenced by the baggage (i.e., white supremacy) of the culture within which it was rigidly designed and developed. Insist (western) science is innocent, a magically curated collection of pristine, unadulterated hard facts. Most especially, discard knowledge that has been handed down over thousands of generations, emanating from peoples who have continuously interacted with their Country (Mother) in a non-extractive relationship generating reciprocal abundance.
- Do not record, respect or acknowledge the careful observation and scientific practice of the other, at every opportunity assert it is not science. If you do record it, re-name it and claim it as your own, suck your informant(s) dry, erase them and kick them to the curb.
- 200-years-plus after your people invade lands, continue to myopically view Indigenous peoples and communities as a mining opportunity. Take their resources, take everything you can, it’s much better in your hands than theirs. Remember – you’re saving their knowledge and putting it to good use, you’re helping them, they’re useless. If they don’t want to be a part of your incredible collaborative project (that you thought of all on your own using your brilliant superior knowledge) it’s because they’re dysfunctional and disorganised, and you tried. Never consider that your idea offers zero benefits to their collective aspirations. Never truly consider reciprocity. Above all else, be the great white explorer, go boldly into the wilderness, that mythical and intoxicating landscape untouched by humans. Declare yourself the discoverer.
- Lament the dysfunction of the indigenes, explain to potential research partners and especially to potentially respectful (woke) types how hopeless, and how difficult they are to deal with. Add a pinch of sour assertions questioning their authenticity as indigenes. Avoid the inconvenient mess of doing anything respectfully and culturally grounded with communities. Find one Indigenous person to sign off on everything, an oracle of sorts, perhaps with their own consulting company on the side, a triple dipper. They’ll deal with anyone in the cheap seats who speaks up, who isn’t happy with the scraps being thrown. No one knows better how to eradicate their own than a native policeman (especially one with a penchant for Mercedes Benz).
- Sprinkle tiny novelty bits of easily digestible Indigenous knowledge onto your superior knowledge as a lovely little garnish that adds a pop of colour, a fun hint of spice, but will never distract from the main course.
- Find something buried deep from within the ‘archive’, the glorious product of maniacal collective hoarding – the treasure trove of disastrously poorly provenanced shit, stripped of its cultural knowledge and belonging, classified into obscurity, sterilised through solitary confinement, blocked from the communities who can breathe life and meaning back into it. Take a lovely pic of you handing the useless archive something to brown and black people. Encourage them to look interested and grateful, even though you’ve handed them the equivalent of a shit sandwich, and most often directed them to eat it too.
Control the narrative. Make a Reconciliation Action Plan, elevate it, and wave it about threateningly if the natives become restless. Flip it on a 45 record (or a streaming audio site for the younger folks) so you can dance to it and forget how you benefit from genocide.
Ensure that self-determination stays well out of reach. Maintain the status quo to honour the legacy of your recent ancestors, those people you came from who did all these bad things that have nothing to do with you or the daily violence and disenfranchisement happening right now. Do not acknowledge or dissect your own systemic advantages or ask who has paid the price so that you can enjoy them, carefree. Never consider you are part of the problem. Never consider you are part of the solution.
Above all else never, ever hand over any real power, or land.
Zena Cumpston is a Barkandji woman who has ancestral and family connection to Wilcannia, Broken Hill and Menindee. She is also of Afghan, Irish and English heritage. Zena mostly works as a writer, researcher, storyteller and curator. She has focussed for several years on Indigenous plant use and the deep knowledges embedded in cultural landscapes. Most recently she curated the Emu Sky exhibition for the Ian Potter Museum of Art, bringing together more than 30 Aboriginal community members to share artworks, research, knowledge and ideas. She worked as co-author on several chapters for the Federal Government’s State of the Environment report 2021. In 2022 her book ‘Plants; past, present and future’ (co-written with Professors Lesley Head and Michael-Shawn Fletcher) was released as part of the First Knowledges series. In 2022 her co-authored book Plants; past, present future was published by Thames and Hudson as part of the First Knowledges series. Zena recently began exploring translating her research work into visual art and her linocut/collage prints and weaving are featured in the exhibition ngaratya (together), beginning in Melbourne in May 2023 and touring nationally. Her artwork and writing will also feature as part of the Soils exhibition at the TarraWarra Museum of Art in 2023.