Indigenous - First People

Acknowledgement 

The Traditional Owners of the Conargo region are the Wamba Wamba and Perrepa Perrepa people. They have shared this landscape for over 65,000 years.

Wamba Wamba - Perrepa Perrepa are also spelt Wemba Wemba - Barapa Barapa. Aboriginal languages are an oral tradition. Historically they have been recorded in written form by non-Aboriginal people, including linguists. This has led to variations in translation and spelling. The process of sharing knowledge and understanding continues. 

Warakaty larnangurrak. You are walking on Country that has been walked for thousands of years.

Generation after generation has called this place home. European settlement brought dramatic changes and disruption to Traditional lifestyle & culture. While we feel still feel the effects of these changes, our connection to land, culture and Yemurraki remains strong. 

  • Warakaty larnangurrak = you are walking on our Country 

  • Yemurraki = dreamtime 


Central Murray  

In terms of occupation, the Central Murray area was one of the most intensely populated. Settlements generally start on river systems, not on the coast and this area was one of the richest.

Custodians – Stewards – Farmers 

  • The Wilcannia Lily (Calostemma purpureum) grows in the wetter, clay soil depressions, often at the base of sandhills. 

  • Each year families returned to this region and the Lilies were harvested for a short period after the Autumn rains, usually around March / April. They harvested the tubers and ground them into flour for cooking.   

  • Each year enough lilies were left for the following harvest, and so the cycle continued for thousands of years, generation after generation. 

  • For Traditional Owners, land management included both physical farming practices and cultural activities - songs, dances and ceremonies - to ensure the continued health of the natural environment. 

  • Aboriginal people used fire regimes to clear undergrowth in riverine forests. This allowed new growth, encouraged grazing and reproduction of fauna, as well as new germination. 

  • They distributed seeds for harvest in the next season. Weirs were constructed which allowed small fish to escape for future breeding. Fish caught in stone traps were selectively harvested to ensure viable populations remained. They also placed restrictions or taboos on the taking of threatened or diminished species, taking no more than was needed for the day.  

  • Wit panyalu = Autumn 

  • Mirrwan = yam (Wilcannia Lily is the local yam for this area) 


Not just a stone, a whole story 

  • Grinding stones were essential implements shaped from abrasive sandstones, coarse grained basalts or quartzite. These stones aren’t naturally found on the Riverina floodplains. They were valuable items exchanged and brought in under a complex system of trading arrangements, social connections and migration patterns. 

  • Grinding stones are heavy and difficult to move. They were carefully placed and left ready for the families to use when they returned the following year. 

  • Used to crush, grind or pound roots, tubers, bulbs, seeds, berries, insects, small animals and reptiles for food, medicine or ceremonial use. 

  • Kurranduk = grinding stone 


Homeland 

  • Oven mounds are large, raised areas built up layer after layer, formed by generation after generation, making their home in exactly the same place over thousands of years. 

  • As items were collected, harvested and hunted from the surrounding landscape, they were brought to the mound. The area gradually built up over time as the materials for preparing and cooking food, building shelters and lighting fires were brought in.   

  • Food was cooked in earth ovens by placing heated stones or burnt clay in pits. The food was placed on top and the pit filled in to cook. After the food was removed and eaten, all stone, clay and ash were swept out.  

  • Charcoal and bone fragments, burnt clay and stone pieces remained of each meal, gathering and seasonal harvest - until eventually the mounds were high enough to provide sanctuaries when flood waters swept over the otherwise flat, Riverina landscape. 

  • Oven mounds only occur on the Central Murray which is a delta area. The mounds allowed sustainable occupation on the floodplain. 

  • Knowledge and were hard work needed to source food and materials. Both are specific to place and continually built up over time. 

  • Integration of productive landscape with natural system to create a home which is  not just a shelter, but a sanctuary and a place that holds the memories and stories of generations over thousands of years. 

  • Lukal = oven / midden  

  • Pari = oven / coals / ashes / heat 

  • Kirritya = to cook on coals 

  • Pawa = to cook in ashes 

 

Disruption 

  • Multiple processes – both systematic and incidental 

  • Disruption occurred with the coming of the Europeans and was preceded by the introduction of diseases for which there was no local resistance. Then the massacres followed. 

  • Massacres occurred in this area up to the 1870’s. 

  • Government policies of segregation, protection and assimilation 

  • All have had an impact on today’s community. 

  • Effects of this were loss of kinship and knowledge.  

  • Drastic, but not complete.  

  • Yathunge jah = ‘the Fog that killed’ or ‘Poison Fog’ 

Resilience 

Aboriginal people have strong connections to each other and to Country. Communities have changed and are forging new identities. Families are rebuilding. Many people have found their way back home and are reigniting connections to Country and family.  


Rekindling
 

The items left in the landscape provide windows into the complex social and economic systems of previous generations. Much has been lost already. Knowing our history, sharing culture and rediscovering language are important in building a future together.  

If you find an artefact or wish to learn more, contact Yarkuwa Knowledge Centre www.yarkuwa.com.au