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Who are the traditional owners?

Thumper 13 April 2009 58

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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Clown Killer Clown Killer 7:46 pm 14 Apr 09

VY… that pretty much sums it up.

monomania monomania 5:57 pm 14 Apr 09

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_copy VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy 4:59 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-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 4:22 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 Killer Clown Killer 2:53 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.

Davo111 Davo111 2:23 pm 14 Apr 09

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.

midlife midlife 1:44 pm 14 Apr 09

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.

monomania monomania 1:37 pm 14 Apr 09

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.

BerraBoy68 BerraBoy68 12:46 pm 14 Apr 09

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.

p1 p1 12:35 pm 14 Apr 09

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 canberran old canberran 10:47 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.

p1 p1 10:09 am 14 Apr 09

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>

grump grump 9:22 am 14 Apr 09

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.

captainwhorebags captainwhorebags 9:18 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-Caruso Woody Mann-Caruso 9:14 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.

Ralph Ralph 9:04 am 14 Apr 09

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

trevar trevar 8:57 am 14 Apr 09

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.

grump grump 8:50 am 14 Apr 09

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.

SheepGroper SheepGroper 8:14 am 14 Apr 09

Can’t both groups be traditional owners?

frontrow frontrow 8:00 am 14 Apr 09

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

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