Thursday, January 26, 2012

Invasion Day 2012

"From humble beginnings, we have spread across this vast continent to become the vibrant, diverse and free nation that we are today. In populating this 'continent for a nation', we have joined the world's oldest continuing culture with other cultures from all over the globe. This population continues to grow, and with a proper concern for the natural environment, our economy remains prosperous." (Editorial: Celebrating our Australia Day, The Australian)

"The first Maliangapa stronghold to fall was the watered swampland of Torowoto. It became the property of Edward Henry of Victoria, a holding that also took in the long, deep waterhole on Yancannia Creek some 30 kms east of Torowoto. The white men built a log hut beside the waterhole as headquarters for the station that took its name from the creek. The owner did not come to live there himself, but left it to manager Hazlewood to superintend the stocking of the Maliangapa grasslands with sheep. The dark people disliked having to share the waterhole with the station men and the tribal land with the sheep. They had frequently in the past extended courtesies to white travellers journeying through their territory, but they raised serious objection to the takeover of their lands. They resented the discourtesy of this uninvited invasion of their privacy, and the arbitrary demands made upon them by their guests. When it became clear that the 'visitors' had every intention of making an indefinite stay, they rebelled. In fact they rebelled repeatedly, and angry spears flew, the Europeans fighting back through the chinks in the walls of their hut. There had already been some tribal unrest when W.H. Tietkens called at Yancannia in 1865, and met a young warrior decked out in paint and feathers, armed with spear, shield, and boomerang. Previously worsted in at least one engagement, he had accepted the name of 'Monkey' bestowed by the mocking whites, and learned to ride their horses and smoke their tobacco. Yet it required further chastisement to bring the Maliangapa to a proper state of submission. Some time after Tietkens had left the station, where an uneasy peace reigned, the warrior Monkey lost his life in another forlorn bid to burn down the log hut and kill its immovable occupants." (Lament for the Barkindji, Bobbie Hardy, 1976, pp 117-118)

"Neither the magic of the mekigar nor the potions of the white men could avert the moment when the Barkindji peoples were outnumbered on their own land, for as their numbers diminished so did those of the conquerors increase. That time came more quickly for some than for others. Probably until the gold rush to Mount Browne in 1881 the Maliangapa were not overwhelmed numerically, and could still cherish an illusion of themselves as an entity. But by the end of the 1860s there was no part of the frontages that was not entirely overrun with whites, not only on the stations that lined the riverbanks all the way from Wentworth to Fort Bourke, but in the spate of hotels and small port towns that came in the wake of the river steamers. In them the Barkindji of the Darling first experienced the joys of urban living, and the taste of grog that dulled the ache of despair." (ibid, p 141)

"It was the second generation of the subjugated who felt the all-engulfing silence, for their fathers of the pastoral era had not been similarly deprived. True, the quietly breathing hills of the Maliangapa had long been overrun with the sheep of Mount Poole Station, and the people been forced to bend, not without some coercion and contesting of rights, to the will of the white man, before that day in 1880 when a predatory prospector first had an inkling of the gold that was in them... Regardless of the dry remoteness of the supposed El Dorado, the white men flocked there in hundreds when the news leaked out. Many perished by the way, or in the typhoid-ridden shanties of Mount Browne. The survivors fanned out over the Maliangapa hills, and north and west beyond their borders. Most of the gold they found was a nine days' wonder, like the ephemeral settlements that sprang up and as quickly died, leaving the ravished hills to nurse their scars in solitude but for the omnipresent bleating of the sheep that not even the magic of the mekigar could dispel." (ibid, p 150)

"Wave after wave of subdivision of the land had thrown out the survivors of the Barkindji peoples on to the scrap-heap of white society. The Maliangapa at Tibooburra were the last communal group of any size to be dislocated, and this final coercive blow virtually completed the process. During the days of the station blacks the dark people had been working towards a compromise between the tribal condition of their fathers and the demands of their white conquerors. Even after the era of paternalistic squatters had ended, many were able to continue their forward drive as nomadic workers and stockmen on the remaining large holdings. But the story had been one of continuing displacement and disruption, and there had been no stability to nurture their adaptation. It was impossible for them to make the difficult transition from tribalism to Westernisation when the white man's hunger for land was so intense. They needed time and help to adjust to a system of economic values and techniques, to say nothing of social values and ideals vastly different from those of their own tradition. Instead, they were progressively squeezed out from the land that gave them continuity and contentment. Even though for many it was it was an adopted land and often defaced almost beyond recognition by pastoralism, they still drew strength from association with it, and from their own ability to live self-respecting Aboriginal lives within its borders, while working European-fashion to support themselves.

"Those who were transferred to the reserves faced artificial and cramped living, and were subjected to tension-producing coercions and unhealthy European influences. The education designed for their acclimatisation was neither palatable nor stimulating, and while the old people clung to a Dreamtime that was strictly yesterday's, the young aped the brittle modes that they saw on the surface of the new white 20th century. They could see no deeper, for the white man, despising them, kept them apart and separate from his own society. And with their continued but hardly surprising failure to conform to his standards, he despised them the more.

"Almost all trace of the tribal imprint on the land was obliterated. The Darling, the tribal Barka, was taken over now by white fishermen who wrote angry letters to the paper when outsiders came there to poach on their preserve. A local cleric attributed the sterling character of his outback parishioners to their British ancestry. The dust storms rose as the tribal land was ravaged. In 1938 the white Australians celebrated their 150th anniversary in occupation of the black man's land. There was a 'back to Wilcannia week' in which its first people, the Aborigines, took their place in the procession that wended its way down the main street. It was quite an occasion, and the Governor of New South Wales paid a visit to the town. At the local school he was presented with a carved Aboriginal shield. A less publicised item of news was that the local Parents' & Citizens' Association was currently up in arms regarding the presence of the shield-maker's descendants at the school.

"Celebrations were also held in Sydney that year. It was deemed appropriate that a corroboree should be staged on this gala occasion, and a combined party from the Brewarrina and Menindee missions was invited to give the performance. Their conduct throughout the tour was exemplary, a gratified Board was able to report, and the little troupe played a prominent part in the landing ceremony at Farm Cove and the subsequent pageant that traversed the city streets. These dancers who performed so courteously on a white man's holiday were the only Aborigines left in New South Wales who had even a glimmering of the old corroboree steps, for their subjection had come long after the Cammeraygal and other tribes around Sydney were destroyed. Yet in their own homeland much water had already flowed down the Barka since its name was changed to Darling. Some day perhaps the survivors of the Barkindji would win through to enrich the values of a more mature and less arrogant Australia. Their children are still waiting for this to happen." (ibid, pp 221-222)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"No one has the right to remove us from our traditional lands and to do what they did to us. We were once proud custodians of our land and now our way of life became controlled by insensitive people who knew knew nothing about us but thought they knew everything."

"Auntie Rita", Rita Huggins and Jackie Huggins.
Aboriginal Studies Press, 1996

"The removal of Aboriginal people from their lands has gone on since the arrival of the whiteman,
and it still goes on. Alienation
from traditional lands has just taken different forms at different times"


Sounds familiar.