Sydney is the territory of the Eora people. The word comes from the local word meaning ‘from here’. The people were describing themselves to the colonial visitors. It is also Cadigal land. The Cadigal people lived along the coast of the area where Sydney now is. They suffered great decimation at the hands of the colonial land lust. There are places in Sydney where the aboriginal people cannot go because of the atrocities carried out there. Women left to die in a swamp area near circular quay; their hands cut off. Too painful to even be there.
The story is becoming clearer and at last moves are being made towards some kind of healing. There was an official apology two years ago. The aboriginal flag now flies alongside the colonial one.
I saw a play called The Secret River in the Sydney theatre. It tells the story of a settler family and a local family. Not pretty. The aboriginal culture is like pure water. Instead of investing their evolutionary energy in material permanence, they advanced in the sophistication of their relationship with creation and each other. To pay attention to this culture is to be deeply moved and connected to the world on new levels. Their art still lives in caves and sacred places all over the land. Just like European cave paintings except they continue to refer and relate to theirs. They are connected to their beginnings. There is a strand of this dreaming in Irish tradition. One Steve Cooney carried some of the dreaming when he came some 30 years ago. He brought the yidaki into our music and with it a respect for the law of that culture. A law that relates to the mystery of creation. A foundation for great visionâ€¦that is my experience. It lives in my heart.
Sydney still has untamed land. There is national parkland all around. It makes it easy to feel the presence of the songs and the dances that made this land. I shared a dance with Trevor Jameison one night after a show. An eagle about to fly from the Nullarbor Plain. Inland of West Australia which is Trevor’s country. Pidginjarra people.
We were welcomed by the descendants of the Cadigal (sometimes sounds like garrigal)….people before our third performance in Sydney. It is now an official part of political protocol to be welcomed formally by the original people of this land. It has always been important to be welcomed to a country. Someone from one territory would have to be welcomed if they were to travel to another area outside of their ancestral claim. This is civilization. The welcoming tunes the person to the energy and spirit of the land they are visiting. We were singing and dancing on Cadigal land. It was important that we were welcomed. Millie Ingram. Her sister Norma, and their Niece Delara and Christine, a saltwater freshwater woman did us the honour.
Saku, Louise T, Anna and myself took ourselves out to the royal national park on a Monday. Breathtaking beauty…bush and sandstone, pink and white. As we descended from the cliffs Saku nearly stepped on a black snake. The snake went to bite him but stopped short. I believe our welcome protected us. The Royal National Park is also Dharawal country.
I am back now. There is a great wind blowing outside. It is night here. It is morning there. The earth is a miracle…
ps … there is a lot more detail regarding people and language groups around the Sydney area. If you go to Aboriginal People and Place you will find a beautifully put together site giving more detailed information and history about Sydney’s aboriginal heritage.