Guest muppetbro

a very brief history lesson

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    Guest muppetbro

    I find the indiginous aborginal culture, history and arts intriguing so I thought I might share some knowledge I found on the WWW - I wanted to know whose land I live upon - it would appear I live upon the land belonging to the Kaurna and currently where I live on the "flats of the Adelaide plains" the land was occupied by a clan called the Kowandilla but soon I shall be living over the hill to the south which was occupied by the clan called the Yankalilla. By chance I stumbled upon the very important site of Warriparinga whilst checking out a lake for fishing - many of you will drive right past this site when shopping at the Marion centre! So close by and a beautiful parkland I look forward to fishing within - just watch out for the snakes! Rather than tell you where it is I think the most beautiful finds are stumbled upon or researched - check out the most eery dead gum tree collection.....



    To the custodians of the land - the Kaurna people - may you all one day find true 'Conciliation.'

    Kaurna people of the Adelaide Plains


    How long ago the Kaurna had first occupied the area is not known but we do know that the Aboriginal people have occupied the continent for 40 000 years. What population shifts took place in that time can only be surmised. similarly we can have no reliable data as to the size of the Kaurna. When the first Europeans arrived in South Australia a whole generation had already died from the small pox epidemic that travelled down the Murray from Sydney in the 1830's.

    The Social structure of the Kaurna appeared to have followed the classic cellular pattern of Aboriginal society. The tribe was a group that enjoyed a common language - with some regional dialects - and experienced a strong sense of belonging to a distinct social group, within a well defined geographical boundary. In the case of the Kaurna this boundary ran up along the ranges north from Cape Jervis, through Gawler and on up into the plains south of Crystal Brook.

    In this area there were at least three distinct groups, the Wirra people in the North, the Kowandilla people in the central plains and Yankalilla people in the south. Each group was probably 300 strong and had a defined boundary. Within their borders each group developed a subculture that reflected the environmental differences of each area and the cultural influences of neighbouring groups.

    The people we know most about were the members of the Kowandillah group, occupying the area in the vicinity of Adelaide and with a name which means 'people of the water', an allusion to the large areas of swamp that lay between the site of Adelaide and the coast.

    We probably know more about the Aboriginal inhabitants of Adelaide than of any other of the state capitals. This is not necessarily a benign comment on the overall pattern of relationships between Europeans and Aborigines because the Kaurna only survived the effects of the invasion for some 20 years. In that period they were reduced from a secure and successful group to a destitute people surviving at the physical level by handouts from the Europeans.

    The sympathy of a few friends was not effective against the apathy of the great majority of the european population. To them Kaurna were primitive savages of a primitive continent. Many of the newcomers probably felt that the Aborigines would go, in the same way as the vast populations of birds and animals had gone.

    The Kaurna perspective was very different. The first ships had come beating up the gulf from Kangaroo Island, the home of the dead spirits. The passengers that they bore must have been the spirits of long dead Kaurna returning to their homelands. The Kaurna called them Pinde-meyu - the people from the grave, an ironic title.


    But these pale ones refused to act like dead Kaurna should. They did not share, they ignored sacred and social boundaries, they destroyed resources in a reckless way and they lived by a totally alien set of values. In the words of Manning Clark, they were "manipulators moving into a world that was peopled by acceptors."

    The Kaurna themselves were acceptors in the typical Aboriginal style. They utilised the resources available to them to the full and yet made no damaging impact on the topography or ecology of the area.

    The various Aboriginal groups had a well established pattern of occupation. During the summer they ranged freely within recognised land owning boundaries, generally favouring the dunes and coastal areas where they could live satisfactorily off a wide range of fish and shellfish while extensive marshes adjacent to the coast teemed with water birds of many species. Marsupials of all sizes were plentiful and in addition there were extensive vegetable food sources, many of which are now extinct.

    The winter regime of tech Kaurna was more restricted. They tended to establish semi-permanent shelters at the base of the ranges. Here firewood and food resources were plentiful and strong shelters could be constructed against the rain and cold.

    One of the limitations the Kaurna had to accept was a lack of local stone suitable for fashioning into effective tools but the quartzite which was readily available, could be flaked into satisfactory knives. While these were adequate for cutting meat, they were not suitable for carving wood, so there was a trade of flints into the area to try to fill the gap. Ironically Noarlunga was a trading centre for many centuries before the recent development. Trading groups came here from neighbouring tribes bearing stone and other valuable items to exchange for the local ochre.

    This lack of stone gave a distinctive touch to Kaurna technology; for without stone chisels they were limited in the amount of wood working that they could do. Wooden implements were therefore very limited tn the culture. The major "worked" items were the spear throwers, which were of a very simple design compared with others from around the continent and is doubtful that the people of the Adelaide area had a boomerang. Their throwing stick was a carefully fashioned and balanced gum root, thrown with great accuracy, and called "wirri".

    The Kaurna excelled in fibre-based technologies, possessing extensive skills in net making, weaving and basket making. From surviving descriptions it is obvious that they had a very wide range of nets available to them for all aspects of hunting. For example, nets were strung across the tracks of kangaroos and emus which were caught in this way in preference to spearing. Several different types of fish nets were used and birds were caught in great aerial nets strung in trees over waterways. Smaller nets were made to serve as bags.

    The nets were made from vegetable fibres as well as from the tendons of animals.

    The Kaurna also had skills in working with skins and there is evidence that they exported skins to tribes in the North. In the Kaurna area were claypans and mud flats containing chemicals which cured the skins. The curing was effected by pegging out over the clay. Once cured the skins were cut to shape, incised with a diamond pattern to make them flexible and sewn together to make the required article. The range of articles varied greatly. The first Aussie rules football was made by kaurna men from possum skins. It was used in the game Parrdo, a traditional Kaurna ball game, much closer to Aussie rules than soccer.


    ............................................edited by muppetbro........................................................

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    Guest soggy

    Thanks for an interesting post, I sometimes forget Australian history did not start with Europeans.


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    Guest nikkiandlee

    Wow, how interesting:- I love to hear about the history of places.


    Thanks for sharing



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