El­ders help un­cover Pil­bara past

Pilbara News - - News - Tom Zaun­mayr

■ While many city slick­ers won­der how we live in the Pil­bara in the mod­ern age, one UWA PhD can­di­date is in the re­gion re­search­ing how peo­ple lived here prior to Euro­pean set­tle­ment.

An­drew Cooper has been in the Pil­bara for the past few months gain­ing in­sight and as­sis­tance from the Yind­jibarndi Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion into mo­bil­ity and land­scape use by in­dige­nous peo­ple dur­ing the late Holocene pe­riod.

“When I be­gan this pro­ject I came to re­alise that there was ac­tu­ally very lit­tle writ­ten about things like the sea­sonal changes in the Pil­bara,” he said.

“I be­gan by ask­ing the el­ders about how the sea­sons worked in Yind­jibarndi cul­ture.

“They told me that there are two sea­sons in Yind­jibarndi lan­guage — Muhlu and Gar­rwarn (cold time and hot time), with the hot time gen­er­ally last­ing from about Septem­ber through to late April.”

This in­sight into Abo­rig­i­nal sea­sons was of par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est to Mr Cooper.

“Sea­sons in Abo­rig­i­nal Aus­tralia are de­fined by the cy­cles and rhythms of the nat­u­ral world and ev­ery­thing is in­ter­con­nected,” he said.

“For ex­am­ple the flow­er­ing of the Gura (Caus­tic bush) in early Gar­rwarn (about late Au­gust early Septem­ber) co­in­cides with the ea­gles be­gin­ning to nest.

“When the flow­ers turn white, the ea­gle’s eggs will be hatch­ing and then when the flow­ers go yel­low the young ea­gles will be fledg­ing. Fi­nally when the seed pods ap­pear the young ea­gles will be ready to fly.”

Dur­ing his time Mr Cooper said el­ders had given him a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing into the “long and ar­du­ous process” be­hind mak­ing some of their hunt­ing and gath­er­ing tools which con­trib­uted to their high value as ob­jects.

“I have also been doc­u­ment­ing the ways that peo­ple in the past man­aged the coun­try through the use of fire and other con­ser­va­tion mea­sures, such as avoid­ing some ar­eas to give the coun­try time to rein­vig­o­rate,” he said. “There were also many laws that peo­ple had to fol­low with re­gards to what could and couldn’t be eaten and when.

“It has been an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for me and I am so grate­ful to the Yind­jibarndi Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion and all of the el­ders and peo­ple that I have had such a priv­i­lege of work­ing with.”

Mr Cooper said it was through the work of or­gan­i­sa­tions like YAC and Ju­luwarlu Abo­rig­i­nal Cor­po­ra­tion that cul­ture would con­tinue to stay strong into the fu­ture.

Pic­ture: Tom Zaun­mayr

UWA PhD can­di­date An­drew Cooper with some of the arte­facts Yind­jibarndi el­ders taught him how to make.

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