Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
© Jukurrpa Artists
http://www.aboriginalaustralia.com/authors/ribnga_green/before_cook.cfm [Link updated 5/11/00]In the above work, notice the sense of expanding serenity and groundedness, the feeling of being held within multiple flowings of vast energy. The three women are seen from above, not as portraits (which in any event would be ephemeral since their essential home is in Dreamtime), but as integrated energy-fields composed of the same energies as the world around them. Such a restful sense of identity with earth is a rare experience for many, especially in the West.I've avoided doing a page on Australia's Aboriginal peoples for over a year now because I knew that although much of the data would be powerful, much would also be heartbreaking --- I have delayed doing pages on most of the Americas for the same reason. Yet Australian Aboriginal themes keep coming up for me lately so, despite my reluctance, it's time to begin this page. . . .
Christopher Columbus, James Cook, Hernando Cortes, Francisco Pizarro, Francisco Coronado, and so many others -- fine Christian gentlemen all -- followed a religion that deified two bachelors and a ghost. In their arrogance they believed that only their dualistic spirit/matter-split religion was the "true" one. They thought their faith gave them the right to judge as inferior those who experienced the sacred in the earth, and in earth's animals, trees, plants. What blindness possessed those Christian gentlemen that made them view peoples with differently-hued skins and values as demonic savages, unworthy of the simplest rights and dignity? (In the 1996 PBS documentary, Shtettl, a woman who survived the Nazi holocaust quietly calls this phenomenon "The dislike of the unlike.")
Looked at objectively, it is bizarre that a people who worshipped two bachelors and a ghost weighed in so much more heavily than those who worshipped the living earth. The former had superior weapons, not a superior religion. Although this particular webpage is on Australia, my comments apply to all the lands colonized and seeded with greed by those bachelor/ghost Europeans. I know that the causes are complex but complexity is no excuse for rampant inhumanity. Worldwide horrors were perpetrated by those colonizing gentlemen. The tragedy is that such horrors are still smugly, self-righteously being condoned and copycatted by too many of their descendants.
From One World Magazine
"Ribnga's Corner: Australia B.C. -- Before Cook" is a lucid, incisive, eloquent essay on Captain Cook:http://www.ciolek.com/WWWVLPages/AborigPages/General.html...If there is a problem I have with Captain Cook it’s the fact that he was the forerunner to a whole mob of people whose landing here was to have a devastating effect upon Aboriginal Australia. The social and governmental structures of Aboriginal peoples were never geared towards war. Here was a whole continent of people who never saw the need to establish standing armies for war against unfriendly neighbours. Yet our systems of government were to be gutted and we were treated no better than animals – worse in some cases.Ribnga's entire essay is well worth reading. Links at the bottom of his page go to other fine essays of his.
From the World-Wide Web Virtual Library, edited by Dr. T. Matthew Ciolek, comes this superb collection of well-annotated resources on general issues connected with the Aboriginal peoples of Australia.http://www.ciolek.com/WWWVLPages/AborigPages/History.html
Again from Ciolek's World-Wide Web Virtual Library is another great annotated collection, this time on Aboriginal history.http://www.ciolek.com/WWWVLPages/AborigPages/Art.html
Finally, this is Ciolek's World-Wide Web Virtual Library's great collection of annotated links to Aboriginal art and culture (the two links to Aboriginal spirituality are unfortunately broken).http://www.dnathan.com/VL/austLang.htm
This is a comprehensive site on Australia's Aboriginal languages from David Nathan and the World Wide Web Virtual Library. It includes dictionaries, texts, word-borrowings, vocabulary lists, sounds & songs, academic papers on Aboriginal linguistics, bibliographies, and much more.
Aboriginal women did most of the gathering and root-digging of the many plants used by their tribes. From the Australian National Botanic Gardens comes this lengthy and wonderful site on these plants. Descriptions of each plant and its uses are provided along with botanical sketches. From the "Introduction" by Beth Gott:http://www.sd.com.au/db/aborig1.htm [Dead link May 2000]The Aborigines have lived in Australia for at least 40,000 years, and in all those long generations the land provided them with everything they needed for a healthy life. They also learned to manage their country in such ways that its resources renewed themselves and were not used up. . . .
This is a May 1996 interview with Everret, an Aboriginal medicine man. He speaks insightfully about the differences between his ways and those of the whites where the "bush" is concerned. For the Aboriginal person, the bush is a part of him/herself. For whites, the bush is something to conquer and destroy:http://www.koori.usyd.edu.au/register.html. . . When you go out into the bush first, all the beings out there they see you coming. And I suppose they could say to themselves "Oh no! Not another one of these again". Because the bush, every part of the bush that you see has had some sort of confrontation with human beings. Most of it's all been bad. Quiet a lot of the bush is untouched still left untouched but believe me all the spiritual beings they know about human beings and there destructive spirit and ways they have. And they are all reaching out to human beings, whether we realise it, their all reaching out to us because we have the power of life and death over them. But they are reaching out to us for peace, for peace. But unfortunately they are not going to get it the way I see things. . . .Grammar and spelling are a bit erratic but Everret is great. [11 May 2000: this page may now be lost so I'm glad I quoted as much of it as I did.]
There are a lot of things the aboriginal medicine men like - we sit on top of great hills or big mountain. We don't have great mountains like there is in America and Swissland and these beautiful countries, where there are mountains. Our hill is probably about two or three thousand feet high and that's it. But to us it affords the energy, the luxury to sit on top of a hill just crossing our legs closing our eyes getting in contact with nature. To let nature come to us because nature has been waiting for us to come, all the time. As we sit on the hill, nature is just reaching out to us and we can feel the breeze coming and we can feel nature talking to us. We start to communicate with nature by opening our ears opening our inner selves. We open our inner selves up, we start to breath the fresh air clean air, we let everything out of us. Once we let everything out of us that will let everything into us through our ears. We concentrate then and make communication with nature. As we do this it leads us to other things too, like spiritual travel. You must be at ease for spiritual travel. As we do these sort of things we become aware of what's out there. Then we have that feeling of being one with nature.
Women Travelling through the Tanami Desert
© Jukurrpa Artists
This is a "Resource Directory" from the Koori Center at the University of Sydney; it contains a large number of links to a wide range of Aboriginal categories.http://www.webnet.com.au/clients/koori/religion.html [Dead link May 2000 -- but see elsewhere on this page for other Dreamtime links.]
Although brief, this essay on Dreamtime and its deeper implications is thoughtful and rich. It begins:http://www.aboriginal-art.com/animation.htmlThe Dreaming or Dreamtime, has become a handy phrase used to describe what is in fact a sophisticated and interconnected mosaic of knowledge, beliefs and practices concerning the creativity of Ancestral Beings, and the continuity and values of Aboriginal life....
"Gallery Songlines" is a handsome site featuring images of Aboriginal art but there's also solid content on this art in general as well as on its origins in Dreamtime -- see, for example, the excellent essay by David Betz -- here's the direct link: http://www.aboriginal-art.com/directors_pages/dreamings.html [Dead link May 2000 so you'll have to search for the essay on your own]. As you explore the pages, you'll need to click on any hypertext you find in order to get to the good material. Don't ignore the "Director's Office" -- I expected a bio or mission statement and nearly skipped it but it turned out to be the way to gain access to David Betz's essay as well as other fine pages, including terrific photo essays on artists and Aboriginal life in general. The navigation could be clearer, but pages load rapidly and are a pleasure.http://www.webstories.co.nz/gallery/ozart/
From the internet magazine, One World, comes this interesting and attractive site on Aboriginal art. This opening page has a brief, concise definition of "Dreamtime" by John Carrick. Two illustrated links at the bottom of the page will take you to an exhibition of 14 paintings (with usually good commentary) and to a very nice little essay by Lauri Fiedler on the origins of the Aboriginals as well as their art.http://www.apc.net/rodbush/dreaming.htm
"The Dreaming" by M. M. Brandl is a fairly brief but informative essay on Aboriginal Dreamtime.
Rainbow Serpent (detail)
by Maureen Smith, Aboriginal Elder, poet, artist
This is a brief but interesting little page that looks at the meaning of Aboriginal "Songlines" -- The land was literally "sung" into existence. The site also includes links to paintings, didgeridoos (one of which I've adapted for the opening bars and link-bullets on this page), boomerangs, and other Aboriginal articles for sale.http://www.aboriginalart.com.au/didgeridoo/myths.html
This interesting page by Linda Barwick looks at "myths" concerning the didgeridoo instrument, especially the hype concerning the so-called taboo against women playing, or even touching it.http://www.aboriginalart.com.au/didgeridoo/use.html
This is an even more intriguing page on the history, possible etymologies, and uses of the didgeridoo.http://www.webnet.com.au/clients/koori/artpage1.html [Dead link May 2000]
This page is on Aboriginal (Koorie) art -- it's brief but good and concludes with this tribute to the Aboriginal creative spirit:...A recent Commonwealth Government review of the Aboriginal arts and crafts industry found that one in every seven Aboriginal adults in the Northern Territory is a productive artist who has sold some work. This is a testimony to the dynamism and durability of Aboriginal cultures as expressed through marketed art.
This page looks at Aboriginal history from prehistoric migrations to first contact with Europeans in the late 17th century.http://www.webnet.com.au/clients/koori/living.html [Dead link May 2000 -- I'm trying to see if there's a replacement URL-- in the meantime, you might explore the World-Wide Web Virtual Library's annotated history links from Dr. T. Matthew Ciolek near the top of my page.]
This page continues with first contact in the 17th century leading to eventual colonization.http://www.webnet.com.au/clients/koori/impact.html [Dead link May 2000 -- I'm trying to see if there's a replacement URL-- in the meantime, you might explore the World-Wide Web Virtual Library's annotated links from Dr. T. Matthew Ciolek near the top of my page.]
This is a troubling, poignant overview on the impact of Europeans upon Aboriginal peoples in Australia.http://www.aboriginalaustralia.com/discuss/faq9.html [Dead link May 2000 -- I'm trying to see if there's a replacement URL-- in the meantime, you might explore the World-Wide Web Virtual Library's annotated links from Dr. T. Matthew Ciolek near the top of my page.]
From "Aboriginal Australia" comes this brief page on power -- and the deliberate absence of rulers and chiefs among Aboriginal peoples.http://www.aboriginalaustralia.com/discuss/faq5.html [Dead link May 2000 -- I'm trying to see if there's a replacement URL-- in the meantime, you might explore the World-Wide Web Virtual Library's annotated links from Dr. T. Matthew Ciolek near the top of my page.]
This is another brief but informative little page from "Aboriginal Australia" -- this time it's on complex, sophisticated Aboriginal languages -- there were 260 when the Europeans arrived; today there are only 90.
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Copyright © 1999-2000 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
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Designed and written 21-23 September 1999
Put on-line 23 September 1999, 2am PDT
24 September 1999; 11 May 2000 (checked all links); 19 May 2000.