In 2017, I got here throughout a rare doc in Sydney’s Mitchell Library: a handwritten listing of 178 Aboriginal place names for Dyarubbin, the Hawkesbury River, compiled in 1829 by a Presbyterian minister, the Reverend John McGarvie. I used to be shocked. I stared on the display, hardly believing my eyes.
After years of analysis, my very own and others, I believed many of the Aboriginal names for the river have been misplaced endlessly, destroyed within the aftermath of invasion and dispossession. But, all of the sudden, this cache of riches.
Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales
I might see McGarvie had taken lots of care with this listing, correcting spelling and including pronunciation marks. The names seem in geographic order, so in addition they file the place he and his Darug informant/s travelled alongside the riverbanks. Maybe most vital of all, McGarvie typically included locational clues, like settlers’ farms, creeks and lagoons.
A rare concept dawned on me: what if we might restore these names to their locations on the river? After which: what if these lovely, rolling phrases — like Bulyayorang and Marrengorra and Woollootottemba — got here again into widespread utilization?
Place names have monumental significance in Aboriginal society and tradition. As in all societies, they sign the meanings individuals connect to locations, they encode historical past and geography, they’re way-finding units and customary information. Place names are essential components of shared understandings of Nation, historical past, tradition, rights and duties.
Usually place names are elements of bigger naming methods — they title locations on Dreaming tracks reaching throughout Nation. Singular names can even embed the tales of vital occasions and landmarks involving Ancestral Beings in locations and reminiscence. Anthropologist and linguist Jim Wafer factors out their use in songs, that are reminiscence units, or “audible maps … travelling tune cycles that narrate legendary journeys”.
Dyarubbin, the Hawkesbury River, flows via the guts of an enormous arc of sandstone Nation encircling Sydney and the shale-soil Cumberland Plain on the east coast of New South Wales. The river has a deep human historical past, one of many longest identified in Australia.
The ancestors of Darug, Darkinyung and Gundungurra individuals have lived on this area for round 50,000 years. Their historical past, tradition and spirituality are inseparable from their river Nation. A mere two centuries in the past, ex-convict settlers took land on the river and started rising patches of wheat and corn within the tall forests. Darug women and men resisted the invasion fiercely and typically efficiently.
Between 1794 and 1816, Dyarubbin was the location of one of many longest frontier wars in Australian historical past. Invasion and colonisation kicked off a gradual and cumulative technique of violence, theft of Aboriginal youngsters, dispossession and the continuing annexation of the river lands.
But regardless of this sorry historical past, Dyarubbin’s individuals managed to stay on their Nation, and so they nonetheless stay on the river at the moment.
McGarvie’s listing contrasts strikingly with the fashionable landscapes of the Hawkesbury and Western Sydney. As soon as, each place on this river and its tributaries had an Aboriginal title. Now solely a handful survive on maps and in widespread utilization.
With some vital exceptions, the Conventional House owners, the Darug, not often see themselves represented in key heritage websites, or within the on a regular basis reminders and triggers of public reminiscence – like place names.
But Western Sydney is now residence to one of many largest populations of Darug and different Aboriginal individuals in Australia. May McGarvie’s listing be a approach to start to shift the form of our landscapes in direction of a recognition of Darug historical past and tradition?
Dwelling on Nation
This concept stayed with me, so I contacted Darug knowledge-holders, artists and educators Leanne Watson, Erin Wilkins, Jasmine Seymour and Rhiannon Wright: the response was on the spot and enthusiastic. We designed the challenge collectively and have been thrilled when it gained the NSW State Library’s Coral Thomas Fellowship
The challenge’s Darug researchers need most of all to analysis, file and get well environmental and cultural information and lift consciousness of Darug presence and historical past within the wider neighborhood.
As a result of the Darug historical past of Dyarubbin is steady, the challenge contains an oral historical past element, recording twentieth century Darug voices and tales of the river.
Wanting again, it appears uncanny that McGarvie’s listing reappeared when it did — in any case, we’re within the midst of a rare interval of Aboriginal cultural renewal and language revitalisation.
The state of Australia’s Indigenous languages – and the way we might help individuals converse them extra typically
It was apparent that McGarvie’s phrases may very well be greater than a listing of names: it may very well be the important thing to a much bigger story in regards to the Dyarubbin, the Darug historical past that was misplaced, submerged beneath what historian Tom Griffiths calls “the white noise of historical past making”.
However to do that, we wanted to place the phrases of their wider context: we wanted to see the river entire. So, apart from reconnecting the listing to Conventional House owners, the challenge explores Dyarubbin’s historical past, ecology, geography, archaeology and languages.
Early maps exhibiting the previous river farms helped us work out the place the Darug place names belong and digitally map them. Additionally they file long-lost landscapes of swamps, lagoons and creeks — vital locations for Aboriginal people who have since been modified or disappeared altogether.
NSW State Archives and Information
The “Returns of Aboriginal Natives” are lists of Aboriginal individuals residing in New South Wales within the 1830s, together with the teams who lived on varied elements of Dyarubbin and its tributaries. Reverend McGarvie’s diaries present he knew many of those Darug individuals.
The letters and journals of Hawkesbury settlers are completely colonial-centred, but they include hints in regards to the methods Darug individuals continued to stay on their Nation all through the nineteenth century.
For instance, they befriended among the settlers, just like the Corridor household at Lilburndale, and cultivated these relationships over generations. The Corridor household papers within the Mitchell Library maintain some highly effective and poignant traces: retailer receipts for items Darug individuals have been buying from them, and lists of the work they did at Lilburndale.
The archaeological file for this area is astonishingly wealthy. Dyarubbin and its tributary Gunanday (the Macdonald River) are a part of a a lot bigger archaeological zone, reaching from the Blue Mountains and the Wollemi within the west, as much as the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie within the north. Lots of the main recorded archaeological websites have sacred, non secular and ceremonial significance, particularly these situated on excessive locations.
Nearer to the river, Paul Irish’s archaeological mapping has revealed how a lot Darug cultural panorama survives at the moment, throughout the “settler” panorama.
From Richmond within the south to Greater Macdonald within the north, the river corridors alone are lined with greater than 200 archaeological websites, together with engravings, grinding grooves and rock shelters, some with scores or lots of of photographs in ochre, white clay and charcaol.
Maybe an important side of the challenge are the sphere journeys — getting out on Nation, following within the footstep of McGarvie and his Darug buddies, to see how all of this comes collectively. For Aboriginal individuals particularly, visiting Nation is a non secular expertise: they sense previous and current converging, and the presence of their Ancestors.
Phrases for Nation
What in regards to the phrases on McGarvie’s listing? What can they inform us? Linguist Jim Wafer and I labored with the Darug workforce members on a glossary, scouring dictionaries of seven native and adjoining Aboriginal languages for glosses, or meanings.
Many of those stay tentative; some phrases have two doable glosses. This challenge is, in any case, solely the start of what is going to hopefully be a for much longer journey of discovery.
However, McGarvie’s listing has unlocked a wealth of knowledge in addition to intriguing and suggestive patterns — the place names open a marvellous word-window onto the Darug world of Dyarubbin in late 1820s.
They are often roughly grouped in 4 interrelated and infrequently overlapping classes: the pure world of vegetation and creatures, geography and landforms, stone and earth, salt and recent water; the social world of corroboree and contest grounds, camps and locations to supply supplies for instruments and implements; a metaphoric sample — utilizing phrases for elements of the physique (mouth, arm, finger, eyes) for locations on the river; and names with non secular meanings, signifying sacred locations.
Are there bigger patterns in McGarvie’s listing of place names? Right here once more, mapping the names, relocating them on Nation, revealed one thing about how Darug individuals considered Dyarubbin: as a sequence of zones, every which specific traits.
For instance, on the west facet of the river between Sackville and Wilberforce are 16 named lagoons or phrases that means lagoons, together with 4 completely different phrases which seem to suggest various kinds of lagoons: Warretya, Warang, Warradé, Warrakia.
It was Warretya (lagoon) Nation. Wealthy in birdlife, fish, turtles, eggs and edible vegetation, lagoons have been essential locations for Darug individuals, particularly ladies, who harvested the edible roots and shoots of water vegetation corresponding to cumbungi, water ribbon and customary nardoo.
Aunty Edna Watson
There have been lagoons on the alternative facet of the river, too, however right here the sequence of place names round Cattai Creek inform us that this was Dugga (thick brush/rainforest) Nation.
Large Riverflat forest as soon as lined all of Dyarubbin’s alluvial reaches; in sheltered gullies this forest graded into rainforest. Different place names on this space counsel the tree species which grew in these forests: Boolo, coachwood, Tamangoa, place of Port Jackson figs, Karowerry, native plum tree, Booldoorra, tender corkwood. And there are locations named for implements, like golf equipment (Kanogilba, Berambo), and fish spears (Mating), which can have been original from the wonderful, arduous timbers of a few of these bushes.
These Dugga place names counsel one thing vital about Dyarubbin’s human and ecological historical past, too. The settler invasion is commonly assumed to have utterly destroyed earlier landscapes, changing the bush to cleared, farmed fields. However these tree and forest names counsel that elements of the good forests survived for over three a long time, and that Darug individuals went on utilizing them.
Maybe most important and evocative are the place names which sign sacred zones on Dyarubbin. There are two completely different phrases that means “rainbow”: Dorumbolooa and Gunanday.
The nice Eel Being
Each are situated in locations with dramatic cliffs and sharp river bends. These phrases are in all probability linked with Gurangatty, the good Eel Being, who’s related to rainbows, and who created the river and its valley within the Dreaming, leaving superior chasms and sinuous bends in his wake. McGarvie’s listing reconnects us with the sacred river.
Such phrases remind us of one thing apparent, and profound. If Aboriginal persons are to be on the centre of their very own tales, we have to look past European historical past and landscapes, past European information and methods of pondering, and in direction of an Aboriginal sense of Nation — the idea that folks, animals, Legislation and Nation are inseparable, that the land is animate and inspirited, that it’s a historic actor.
Leanne Watson’s portray Waterholes, impressed by the challenge, expresses this sense of Nation. Her portray represents the attractive lagoons round Ebenezer close to Wilberforce and all of the nourishment and supplies they provided individuals. Now we are able to title a few of these lagoons: Boollangay, Marrumboollo, Kallangang.
What now? Two exhibitions are deliberate for 2021: one on the State Library of NSW, and the opposite at Hawkesbury Regional Gallery. Workers at NSW Spatial Providers/the NSW Geographic Names Board have generously provided their expertise and time to create a digital Story Map, which is able to enable readers to just about discover Darug Dyarubbin.
A sequence of illustrated essays, or “story cycle”, to be printed on the net Dictionary of Sydney on the State Library of New South Wales, will current extra in-depth narratives. Finally, we plan to launch twin naming initiatives, which is able to restore these names to Dyarubbin Nation.
These are truth-telling initiatives: they’ll inform the story of invasion, dispossession and frontier struggle. However they may even discover Darug historical past, tradition, locations and names, and the best way Dyarubbin and its surrounding excessive lands nonetheless throb with non secular that means and energy, and the “historic sovereignty” of Aboriginal individuals.
Grace Karskens obtained funding from the Coral Thomas Fellowship administered by the State Library of New South Wales.
Erin Wilkins, Jasmine Seymour, Leanne Watson, and Rhiannon Wright don’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that might profit from this text, and have disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.