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whaledreamers (ATOM Study Guide)

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How does an ancient whale tribe come back from the edge of extinction? How will we come back from the edge of extinction ourselves?

whaledreamers (Kim Kindersley, 2008) is an 83-minute documentary film that addresses these two questions.

With the current concerns over global warming and the future of humanity seemingly hanging in the balance, whaledreamers is the story of how an ancient whale dreaming Aboriginal tribe from Southern Australia comes back from the edge of extinction. It is a story of hope, awakening and reconciliation.

Over ?fteen years in the making, across ?ve continents and oceans, the ?lm is a personal odyssey for British ?lmmaker Kim Kindersley in his quest to ?nd his spiritual roots, while experiencing and documenting the extraordinary connection, both ancient and modern, between humanity and the cetaceans.

Kindersley spoke to Amazonian Indians, Paci?c Islanders, North American Indians, African people and Australian native tribes, particularly the Mirning people from South Australia.

The ?lm is also a journey that parallels two odysseys – the journey of the Mirning people and the equally long journey of the whales, not only to survive the slaughter by man but to engage the human race into waking up in time.

With breathtaking cinematography, the documentary follows the Mirning people on a powerful journey. The Mirning people were the traditional owners of what is now called the Head of the Bight, a whale nursery area and where the Mirning had carried out whale dreaming for centuries. They lost ownership of their land in the 1950s, when the Australian government sanctioned nuclear testing at Maralinga, a rural outpost of South Australia. Incredibly in 1956, with a simple stroke of a pen, the government declared the Mirning people extinct. It gave a 99-year lease of their traditional land to the Anangu people, who were forced from the Maralinga area and relocated to the traditional lands and coastal whale sites of the Mirning – who were now transferred to an inland mission at Kooniba in South Australia. This most sacred place of the Mirning is now managed by the Anangu people.

This activity resulted in both language groups being displaced and separated from their 'dreaming' lands, and has become a source of conflict between the two tribes.

Assisted by eighty-?ve indigenous elders from around the globe, the Mirning participated in an historical gathering in 1998 called to bear witness to their reconnection with their past and their spirit animal totem – the Southern Right Whale.

Curriculum Applicabilitywhaledreamers is a resource that can be used in middle and senior secondary classrooms looking at Aboriginal Studies or Religious Studies, or the issues of whaling and/or environmentalism.

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