A Higher Authority: Indigenous Transnationalism and by Ravi De Costa

By Ravi De Costa

This crucial ebook recovers the lengthy culture of indigenous transnationalism – touch with exterior humans, associations, rules – all through Australia’s background from earlier than white payment to the current.

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73 The Yolngu adopted Macassan material culture, including buffalo horn, tobacco and alcohol, and the Macassans’ dug-out canoe technology spread around the coast at the rate of 80–100 kilometres per generation. The Yolngu carved wooden representations of trepang, took Macassan place and personal names, and even made large representations of Macassan camps, which they sculpted into the environment with stones. 74 Aborigines valued highly the material they received. It was anthropologist Donald Thomson who first noticed the Yolngu ‘ceremonial exchange cycles’ between coastal and inland groups, arguing that it was the presence and contact of the Macassans that had shaped this cultural patterning of material and conceptual exchange.

Major Mitchell’s expedition into Queensland took him into territories far beyond the linguistic skills of his Wiradjuri guide, Yuranigh, where they met one ‘frustrated elder [who] burst into tears, finding himself incapable either in words or deeds for a meeting so uncommon’. Mulvaney lamented the consequences of misunderstanding indigenous protocols. Rituals such as those of the Arrernte of central Australia, which included an initial massed approach of gesturing and armed men, were rebuffed by Europeans as the behaviour of ‘intruders or assailants’.

Numerous different tribes of south-eastern Australia, for example, had initiation cults that revered the same figures: ‘The unusually high status enjoyed by gods such as Baiame is a consequence of internationalism and religious confederation’, he argued. 1 HigherAuthority01 18 26/6/06 3:45 PM Page 18 A Higher Authority Hiatt wrote of: … a genre, a suite of fleeting forms connected with the rainbow through which the philosophers of Aboriginal Australia have sought to express the idea of an underlying reality … in the higher reaches of serious reflection, we find a persistent intuition of a presence or power whose Oneness is felt to account for the plurality and impermanence of the sensible world and those who live in it … Cosmologically, the unknown worlds nearest at hand and most accessible to the imagination lie in the regions above and below the earth’s surface – the sky and the underworld.

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