Identity mapping

Your Identity Map

(Adapted from )

 What is your cultural standpoint? It’s not about exotic food, skin tone, dances and clothing. It runs deeper, influencing the way we think, the way we do things, the way we live and relate, and the way we value things. Dr Karen Martin, an Aboriginal academic and Noonuccal woman, defines these as “ways of knowing, ways of doing, ways of being and ways of valuing”. Western disciplines refer to these as epistemology, methodology, ontology and axiology.

The questionnaire below will help you clarify your cultural standpoint. This questionnaire is developed from a lesson on identity in Rhonda Ashby’s Aboriginal Studies class at Lightning Ridge, and inspired by the work of Dr Karen Martin.

Work through the questionnaire in pairs. Discuss your answers as you go.


The Questionnaire:

Here are some questions for reflection on your own unique cultural standpoint, no matter where you are from in this world.

Ways of being.

Where do you belong? Who do you belong to?

How do you know that something is real?

List some categories of the things you know are real in this world.

From the following sets, select the land orientations you feel most comfortable with:

Saltwater / freshwater
High ground / low ground
Hills / plains / mountains / coast
Open country / forest
Wet / dry
Warm / cool
Fur / feathers / scales / fins
Wood / rock / earth / wind / fire

Where are your ancestors from and how do you connect with them?

How are you maintain relationships with ancestors, people and the environment? (What are your personal consequences for damaging these relationships?)

How will the knowledge you have learned in this life be passed on, and to whom?

What things in your life-world must change, and what things must always stay the same?

2. Ways of knowing.

How did you know the answers to the questions so far – how did you learn these things?

Sketch a diagram of the way you solve problems. What shape does this take for you?

When you access knowledge from memory, what form does that take in your head? (e.g. images, sounds, print, language, shapes)

What are the stories that have had the biggest impact on how you relate to the world around you? (Might be books, films, oral histories, fables etc.)

What symbols are most meaningful for you? (e.g. crucifix, tag, icon, flag)

How do these symbols influence your life and work?

What sorts of things do you know implicitly, without having to be taught?

Do the answers to any of these questions make you want to change any of your answers back in section 1? (Because our ways of knowing shape our ways of being.)

3. Ways of doing.

Do you learn new knowledge best with others, for others, alone, or for yourself?

Do you internalise new knowledge through dialogue, reflection or both?

Do you achieve learning outcomes at the end of a process, or during the process?

What are the signs you look for to know if what you are doing is right?

What does it usually take for you to change your mind about something?

What tools do you use for teaching and learning?

What are your main cultural practices, your ways of expressing your culture (e.g. singing, sport, events, rituals)? How do these cultural practices impact on the way you do your work?

4. Ways of valuing.

What is truth?

What would be your top three rules for living? Top three for learning?

What is the most important thing in the world to you?

How did you learn your values? Where did they come from?


Now, track back through your responses and find the points that relate to:

  1. Stories and histories
  2. Knowledge pathways/processes
  3. Unspoken/instinctive/ancestral knowledge
  4. Metaphors and symbols
  5. Land and place
  6. Non-linear/contradictory/irrational/creative ideas
  7. Wholes vs parts / Macro vs micro / Communal vs independent
  8. Family, community, cultural base

Relate your identity map to what you have learnt about indigenous people´s world view. What similarities are there?