13 April 2009

Who are the traditional owners?

| Thumper
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The Canberra Times has jumped all over this bit of hilarity . Apparently a stoush has erupted between two indigenous groups over the traditional ownership of Canberra. The Ngunnawal people are currently recognised as the traditional custodians of the land, but the title is contested by the Ngambri people.

The standing disagreement took a dramatic turn earlier this week when ”Welcome to Canberra” signs were illegally changed.Five signs at entry points to the territory were altered from Ngunnawal Country and replaced with Ngambri Country some time between the weekend and Wednesday morning. The professional-looking Ngambri stickers were placed over the top of Ngunnawal to convincingly change the greeting.

The switch was noticed on Wednesday and TAMS moved quickly to restore the original message.

Mr Stanhope has indicated that the police will be involved to find the culprit, surely a fairly easy task one would think.

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Captain RAAF said :

Are we the only country in the world that ‘acknowledges the traditional owners’?

Nope, Cap’n. Finland, New Zealand, Canada . . . all countries with formal recongniton of their ‘first peoples’ built into treaties, constitutions and required to be acknowledged as such, including by action of legislation.

#53 +1 – since when has anyone “owned’ the land.

There have been as many as seven waves of Aboriginal migration into the country formally not known as Australia.

The first lot were akin to the Tasmanian aboriginal people who were a different race to the mainland mob.

Arguments about who were the “original” or “first” people and how they spelt their name is a joke and could easily be cleared up with a bit of DNA testing.

Captain RAAF8:35 am 07 Mar 11

Are we the only country in the world that ‘acknowledges the traditional owners’?

I’ve been to ceremonies in the UK, Germany and the US and I’ve never heard them do anything like this???

It’s pandering, that’s all it is, it’s smoke and mirrors to appease a minority that has a minority in support of it’s claim on territorial land ownership.

We’re talking about the same kinds of people that when the big ‘Native title’ land grab commenced, were staking a claim to portions of the Pacific Ocean FFS! Why do people think that acknowledging them is going to make any difference to anything, all it does it drive the wedge between ‘us’ and ‘them’ a little deeper.

No matter how bad they think their lot in life is under the ‘White man’ since ‘Invasion Day’, just remember it could easily have been the Portuguese or the French that invaded Ngunnawal Country and put every one of them to the sword!

You are all on a good wicket, petty bickering about which tribe occupied a mound first, around 15,000 years ago makes you look like fools and just turns more white folk against your cause, no matter how noble or ‘right’ you think it is.

Thumper # 52

Prove it, do you have the family crest?

we belong to the land not the land to us

Yay the Normans! My forebears… In fact, William the Conquerer was half brother to my direct forbear.

Suck it up Sackies 😉

Master_Bates7:56 am 14 Aug 09

Oh – and – Yep they will go away in about 1000 years – Just like the SAXONS did!

Master_Bates7:55 am 14 Aug 09

Jim Jones said :

Master_Bates said :

If we continue down this path, then we will never end up at the end point, which is a single society – we will always have a them and us.

Oh yes, much better to ignore them and just hope they go away. Taking 30 seconds to publicly acknowledge their existence and pay a bit of respect is all too onerous.

But Mr Jones, we actively ignore the others….

The Nunganwall were not the FIRST.!!! It is a bloody political stunt

Master_Bates said :

Ahem…

Thank you for that kind introduction.

Firstly, let me acknowledge from the outset the traditional owners of this land, the people.

Oh no – If they change this then we will all have to write new intros to every govmit speech that happens.

It is a bloody tragedy that this still goes on.

In England – do they start speeches with “Firstly let me acknowledge the Anglo-Saxons….” no – They lost the battle in 1066, those who were unhappy moved out, and society as a whole continued.

If we continue down this path, then we will never end up at the end point, which is a single society – we will always have a them and us.

Indeed … and you could acknowledge the unnamed earlier tribes wiped out by the Ngunnawal, Ngambri, Waradjiri et al!

Master_Bates said :

If we continue down this path, then we will never end up at the end point, which is a single society – we will always have a them and us.

Oh yes, much better to ignore them and just hope they go away. Taking 30 seconds to publicly acknowledge their existence and pay a bit of respect is all too onerous.

Master_Bates3:59 pm 13 Aug 09

Ahem…

Thank you for that kind introduction. Firstly, let me acknowledge from the outset the traditional owners of this land, the people.

Oh no – If they change this then we will all have to write new intros to every govmit speech that happens.

It is a bloody tragedy that this still goes on.

In England – do they start speeches with “Firstly let me acknowledge the Anglo-Saxons….” no – They lost the battle in 1066, those who were unhappy moved out, and society as a whole continued.

If we continue down this path, then we will never end up at the end point, which is a single society – we will always have a them and us.

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

@monomania: Something about clutches?

Got one. Breathes through it. Asks, “Is that about laying or sucking?”

I-filed said :

Why is it a no-no to question inauthenticity – much of it fraud in most people’s understanding?

I have a feeling the answer to this is that any view that differs from that of ‘Aboriginal lobby’ will be deemed to be ‘racist’, regardless of how much sense it makes to question such things.

“Why is it a no-no to question inauthenticity – much of it fraud in most people’s understanding?”

Because apparently you are a racist if you do. I mean if you question anyone else’s authenticity that is valid, but dare do it as you explain and you’re a blanket racist, insensitive or intolerant.

Some of the worst racism I’ve seen actually travels in the reverse direction of what is expected

Woody Mann-Caruso8:52 pm 14 Apr 09

@monomania: Something about clutches?

I do feel for the loss of culture & knowledge, but there’s lots of sheer nonsense around attempting to compensate. I recall being in the company of a “local” Indig rep who waxed lyrical and at length about the old ways, and how they used to do this and that on Acton Peninsula before white settlement … by the water’s edge … etc etc. Didn’t of course know that the lake dates from um, is it 1962, and the “peninsula” never existed before then! Oh, and same person also went on about the Murrumbidgee’s great meanings and folklore, as the Murrumbidgee wended its way through Canberra past Mt Ainslie, etc, incorporating stories of the actual Murrumbidgee … didn’t know it’s the Molonglo running through Canberra … Another elder had a set of artefacts that she claimed were handcarved old things (she charged $400 a session to teach about them in schools) – they were clearly machine-made and some originated from the Top End. I also wonder about the origin of these “smoking ceremonies” applied locally. Why is it a no-no to question inauthenticity – much of it fraud in most people’s understanding?

Well said VY.

Clown Killer7:46 pm 14 Apr 09

VY… that pretty much sums it up.

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

WMC, your post (1) was only one that preceded my comment in post 10 about the racist nature of some comments made up till then and you were wrong to assume that I was unaware of the history you have referred to in post 15 but right to assume that I included your initial comment as contributing to the tone.

I was like ‘what?’ then I was like ‘huh?’ and then I got a little bored.

I can do that to you in three lines. Wow! You usually take six. But when you pontificate for 18 I can be bored for longer.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy4:59 pm 14 Apr 09

Why is it racist not to be particularly interested in another culture’s interpretation of who the traditional custodians of the area are? There’s nothing wrong with the Aboriginal community working this through, but frankly, I’m not that interested.

Woody Mann-Caruso4:22 pm 14 Apr 09

WMC, your post (1) was only one that preceded my comment in post 10 about the racist nature of some comments made up till then and you were wrong to assume that I was unaware of the history you have referred to in post 15 but right to assume that I included your initial comment as contributing to the tone.

I was like ‘what?’ then I was like ‘huh?’ and then I got a little bored.

Clown Killer2:53 pm 14 Apr 09

Traditional ownership is a vexed issue in this context. In other areas of Australia where I work (Pilbara, Kimberly and Arnhemland) traditional ownership of land rests with an individual or small number of individuals within the community and the exact boundaries and extent of their lands can be precisely defined – the other Aboriginal people who live on that land belong but are not owners and often refer to themselves when in discourse with whites as being ‘countrymen’.

In the ACT, for a range of reasons, the majority of traditional Aboriginal language, lore and law has been lost, to a non-Aboriginal person it seems that these people are trying to hold together what they have while trying to reclaim what culture, language and heritage they can piece together – in that context it’s going to be messy as Aboriginal communities will behave like any other group in terms of politics, allegiances and self interest.

If we want to impose a universal understanding of something like ‘traditional ownership’ then I would be cautious about whether or not such a position could be held with respect to the ACT. That said, I’m guessing that the local Aboriginal community will work something out over time.

I think we should have a tribal fight to the death, last man standing could decide who gets to become traditional owners of this land.

I am not racist I hate all races equally.

I suggest to prove the claim then all prosepctive claimants should provide documentary evidence. How about a 100 points test. Oh I forgot these are disempowered people who do not have access to the same things as white people.

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

Next time, instead of pointing and howling ‘racist’, how about you try to learn a little bit about what’s going on? In case you hadn’t realised, Aboriginal people can be d.ckheads too sometimes, and it’s not racist to say so.

WMC, your post (1) was only one that preceded my comment in post 10 about the racist nature of some comments made up till then and you were wrong to assume that I was unaware of the history you have referred to in post 15 but right to assume that I included your initial comment as contributing to the tone.

Of course I am only assuming that because I used the word racism that the you you refer to as howling is me.

Various aboriginal groups fighting over specific areas of land is nothing new, only in the past it was over the hunting of food sources etc, not just a symbolic name on a sign.

I’m only curious to know why this is an issue now? After all, the Ngunnawal people have been recognised as the traditional owners here for along time.

As no written history as to true ownership of this area exists, both sides can make their case till the cows come home but it will never be settled. Good fodder for the academics though.

I would suggest a detailed genetic examination of the whole population, but privacy aside, I suspect it would simply show that all indigenous people in the area are historically related to each other.

old canberran10:47 am 14 Apr 09

One of the books I have about Canberra states that evidence of Aboriginal existence in the area goes back 15.000 years which tends to make it a bit difficult to prove who was here first. Perhaps the ‘claimants’ should be asked to produce some evidence supporting their claim of ownership.

I think (feel free to flame me to high heavens for my misguided view of the world), that the reason that people have problems with the term “traditional owner”, is because they think in terms of owning a block of land. A clearly defined boundary, (with a fence), total legal control, rights of appeal and a bit of paper for proof.

“Traditional ownership” existed in a totally different societal construct. Individuals did not own block of land. A “people” did, in a way which is more like a nation state does today. A relativity large tract of land. Even then, it wouldn’t be defined by a line on a map like the ACT is. Just a acknowledgement with neighbouring groups that a certain river or mountain range is the boundary (possibly not so much an agreement as a constantly disputed disagreement).

The concept of guardianship, or custodianship, I see as probably coming from trying to explain an individuals relationship with the land of his (or her) people.

</RANT>

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

I’m confused, I thought that they were more caretakers of the land, not “owners”, silly me

I’ve said it before, and no doubt I’ll say it again – Crocodile Dundee is not an authoritative anthropological source. It might make you feel better to think about noble savages raking up gum leaves and riding around on a John Deere, but you’re wrong.

Woody – like the imagery but I really meant a litle more that raking leaves and keeping the paths tidy – more of holding the land in trust for future people, but not ownership per se.

captainwhorebags9:18 am 14 Apr 09

Someone once told me that a better way to describe the Aboriginal tie with the land was that they felt the “land owned the people” not the other way around. Dunno how much substance there is in that, but it sounds respectable to me.

Woody Mann-Caruso9:14 am 14 Apr 09

You’re confusing (as always) traditional ownership with native title – except that in the latter case, you might have to pay them rates.

I’m confused, I thought that they were more caretakers of the land, not “owners”, silly me

I’ve said it before, and no doubt I’ll say it again – Crocodile Dundee is not an authoritative anthropological source. It might make you feel better to think about noble savages raking up gum leaves and riding around on a John Deere, but you’re wrong.

Can said traditional owners please forward their name and address – so I can forward my rates notice to them.

SheepGroper said :

Can’t both groups be traditional owners?

They’re both traditional custodians as far as I’m concerned, but the issue is more to do with the definition of a ‘group’, and whether the word ‘Ngunnawal’ indicates a people group, or only a language that crosses the boundaries of several people groups, including the Wiradjuri and Ngambri.

grump said :

I’m confused, I thought that they were more caretakers of the land, not “owners”, silly me.

I think in terms of the way people think, none of these words are quite adequate. From what I understand of Aboriginal culture, the way they traditionally thought about their relationship to the land it was somewhere in the middle of ‘custodianship’ and ‘ownership’, but we don’t have an English word for the concept, and custodianship is probably closest.

SheepGroper said :

Can’t both groups be traditional owners?

I’m confused, I thought that they were more caretakers of the land, not “owners”, silly me.

All a storm in billy.

Can’t both groups be traditional owners?

Traditional ownership is sound and fury, signifying nothing. It’s not as if anybody is paying any rent.

bloodnut said :

Granny said :

I’ve heard WMC accused of a hell of a lot of things on RA, but racist??!

No – just tactless.

Perhaps WMC’s extended response is the better and more enlightening one, but I don’t think that post #1 can be described as either racist or tactless. In this context, it makes a great deal of sense. This debate over labels is as clear and possibly as legitimate as King Henry V’s claim on France, and no one scoffs at Shakespeare for making light of that scenario. No Shakespearean scholar suggests from it that Shakespeare is undermining either the French king, or the English fella. They just interpret Shakespeare’s treatment of the convoluted claim as a harmless jest, and move on to the more interesting parts of the story, as WMC did in post #15.

Not that I’m comparing WMC to Billy Shakespeare or anything…

Woody Mann-Caruso10:32 pm 13 Apr 09

“Never offend people with style when you can offend them with substance.” -Sam Brown

Granny said :

I’ve heard WMC accused of a hell of a lot of things on RA, but racist??!

No – just tactless.

I’ve heard WMC accused of a hell of a lot of things on RA, but racist??!

Woody Mann-Caruso said :

Here’s why I’m skeptical:

The driving force behind the whole Ngunnawal vs Ngambri thing are Matilda, Harold and Arnold Williams. You may know Matilda better as Matilda House. These three claim that there’s no such thing as the Ngunnawal people, only a Ngunnawal language spoken by people who are not the traditional owners of Canberra.

This strikes me as a peculiar position to hold, given that these three formed the Ngunnawal Local Aboriginal Land Council in 1984, and up until very, very recently, have always identified as Ngunnawal people. This isn’t the first time they’ve played the “one of these groups just doesn’t belong here” game – over the years, there have been all sorts of political shenanigans, with claims that some Ngunnawal people were actually Wiradjuri people, or that the ‘double N’ Ngunnawal were the only legit mob and that the ‘single N’ Ngunawal were fakes.

These days, you can see Matilda described as Ngunnawal, Ngambri or even Ngunnawal-Ngambri. Despite claiming to have ‘recovered [her] Ngambri heritage’ by 1996, she was still identifying as Ngunnawal in 2000 for the Olympics, and was doing the ‘welcome to country’ as a Ngunnawal elder as late as 2007. When she was named Canberra Citizen of the Year in 2006, Stanhope acknowledged her long-standing involvement in local affairs as a Ngunnawal woman, including on the United Ngunnawal Elders Council. In 2002 when she set fire to structures at the Tent Embassy she said she was “asserting the rights of my grandfather and my great grandfather … the true Ngunnawal people.”

I’m not saying that there weren’t and aren’t Ngambri people, or that there weren’t and aren’t Ngunnawal people, or that either group is or isn’t the traditional owners of Canberra. What I am saying is that the Ngambri thing is just the latest twist in a long-running battle.

Next time, instead of pointing and howling ‘racist’, how about you try to learn a little bit about what’s going on? In case you hadn’t realised, Aboriginal people can be d.ckheads too sometimes, and it’s not racist to say so.

To be fair, that should have been your first comment.

Woody Mann-Caruso9:42 pm 13 Apr 09

Here’s why I’m skeptical:

The driving force behind the whole Ngunnawal vs Ngambri thing are Matilda, Harold and Arnold Williams. You may know Matilda better as Matilda House. These three claim that there’s no such thing as the Ngunnawal people, only a Ngunnawal language spoken by people who are not the traditional owners of Canberra.

This strikes me as a peculiar position to hold, given that these three formed the Ngunnawal Local Aboriginal Land Council in 1984, and up until very, very recently, have always identified as Ngunnawal people. This isn’t the first time they’ve played the “one of these groups just doesn’t belong here” game – over the years, there have been all sorts of political shenanigans, with claims that some Ngunnawal people were actually Wiradjuri people, or that the ‘double N’ Ngunnawal were the only legit mob and that the ‘single N’ Ngunawal were fakes.

These days, you can see Matilda described as Ngunnawal, Ngambri or even Ngunnawal-Ngambri. Despite claiming to have ‘recovered [her] Ngambri heritage’ by 1996, she was still identifying as Ngunnawal in 2000 for the Olympics, and was doing the ‘welcome to country’ as a Ngunnawal elder as late as 2007. When she was named Canberra Citizen of the Year in 2006, Stanhope acknowledged her long-standing involvement in local affairs as a Ngunnawal woman, including on the United Ngunnawal Elders Council. In 2002 when she set fire to structures at the Tent Embassy she said she was “asserting the rights of my grandfather and my great grandfather … the true Ngunnawal people.”

I’m not saying that there weren’t and aren’t Ngambri people, or that there weren’t and aren’t Ngunnawal people, or that either group is or isn’t the traditional owners of Canberra. What I am saying is that the Ngambri thing is just the latest twist in a long-running battle.

Next time, instead of pointing and howling ‘racist’, how about you try to learn a little bit about what’s going on? In case you hadn’t realised, Aboriginal people can be d.ckheads too sometimes, and it’s not racist to say so.

monomania said :

If it was anyone else who contested their right for recognition as a owner of an asset such as a house or a copyright or a patent it would not be treated with the scorn shown here.

Yes it would, this is THE RiotACT!

double posting apology – i agree that the first few comments for this post were made in extremely poor taste.

monomania said :

Ori said :

I care. And I wish there was more legit info on this than the one-sided nature of the Canberra Times article. I also don’t get why this is “hilarity”.

+1

If it was anyone else who contested their right for recognition as a owner of an asset such as a house or a copyright or a patent it would not be treated with the scorn shown here. Blatant racism.

-2

you both miss the point.

if you tried to claim a patent or a house by putting a sticker on it?

i don’t think there is a question of legitimate issue – just the methods employed.

i’d love to see photos.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the large amounts of money paid for ‘Welcome to Country’ ceremonies. I’ve heard from reliable sources 1 particular Ngambri woman charges more than $500 for a 5 minute ‘Welcome’.

From http://www.ngambri.org/statement.php

“We also humbly request that the ACT Government ends the practice of paying non-Ngambri usurpers to conduct ‘Welcome to Country’ addresses.”

Ori said :

I care. And I wish there was more legit info on this than the one-sided nature of the Canberra Times article. I also don’t get why this is “hilarity”.

+1

If it was anyone else who contested their right for recognition as a owner of an asset such as a house or a copyright or a patent it would not be treated with the scorn shown here. Blatant racism.

You need a sense of humour then

I thought that the welcome sign on Canberra Avenue had the Ngambi name since January 2009. But I would like to know why after over 150 years after white people, has these court proceedings only just began?

I care. And I wish there was more legit info on this than the one-sided nature of the Canberra Times article. I also don’t get why this is “hilarity”.

Isn’t Matilda House a Waradjiri woman? I think the Ngambri are just as entitled as a rep who is Waradjiri/Ngun(n)awal.

sad guys, move to northern queensland you three will fit right in.

I’m sure the Ngambri care.

The argument is over whether the Ngambri are a clan within the Ngunnawal nation, as one of the early scholars said, or whether they were separate prior to the British occupation. His Chiefliness follows this line of reasoning, and acknowledges the Ngunnawal on the strength of this argument, intending to include the Ngambri.

The Ngambri dispute this, and I believe their argument is partly that the Ngambri were a separate clan, not a part of the Ngunnawal, AND that the name of the city, Canberra, is a anglicisation of Ngambri, and therefore worthy of greater acknowledgment.

Tell someone who cares!

Woody Mann-Caruso5:58 pm 13 Apr 09

You say Ngambri
I say Ngunnawal
Let’s call the whole thing off

(Or just call yourself one, the other, or both at the same time depending on what’s most advantageous at the time.)

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