"Much trouble has come from people forgetting the land.."
Nganyinytja is an elder of the Pitjantjatjara people of Central Australia. The Australian aboriginal people have lived in harmony with this huge and mainly desert continent for many thousands of years. They know the secrets of the land and they respect and care for it.
Here Nganyinytja speaks to Diana James about her understanding of the law of the land, and of her vision of sharing her knowledge with the wider community of Australia and of the world.
"Much trouble has come from people forgetting the land, the spirit. Many people are sick and have lost their spirit. The white government has cut their culture; we grieve for them. But we can all learn and make our spirit strong. My teaching is about opening your spirit, working together to build understanding. Opening our way, opening our hearts to share the spirit of the land with all who want to learn.
Reconciliation means bringing two cultures together: maru munu piranpa tjun-gurin-ganyi, black and white coming together. The two laws need to become one to keep the land. We, the Pitjantjatjara people, have always kept our land and looked after it and made it grow.
At first white people did not understand us, they shot the black fella and the black fella speared the white fella. I do not speak badly of those people who do not understand. I want to teach all people, black and white, about the land and our way of living with it. Ignorance is the reason for a lot of racism. If people will listen to our way, they will understand why we live in the country of our grandparents and why we must have strong land rights. If people lose their land, their law is broken and their spirit dies.
Anangu Tjukurpa (Aboriginal law) needs to be kept strong. On Pitjantjatjara land our council keeps the land rights law strong. If people wish to come and learn our way, they can come on a trip to my homeland Angatja. My family runs a bush college teaching our law and lifestyle. Many people come ignorant of our way, wanting to learn. Office workers, teachers, doctors, nurse. Aboriginal people from the cities come to learn - those whose land and culture have been taken away from them. It makes me very sad to hear of what they have lost.
Now lots of people, black and white, are wanting to learn about the old law, from our grandmothers and grandfathers. People are happy to learn from me and my family. We are happy to share our way and pleased that they are taking back this new knowledge to their homes and teaching others. We need to keep the cultures strong, need the two laws to work together. All people whose hearts are open to understanding each other's culture should come together. We can work to increase the understanding and open-hearted acceptance of each other. Kulintja tjuta pakakni kuwari - many people who listen with understanding are rising up now. They want to keep the culture, ours and theirs, keep the two ways strong.
The Mabo decision is good. The land is the centre of culture and spirit for Aboriginal people. Those people whose land was taken from them, where the big cities like Sydney and Adelaide were built, those people need to be helped. They need land for their culture and spirit to be strong again.
White people need to understand Aboriginal law and that Tjukurpa is in the land. People need to not just talk mining, money, cars and cattle. They need to open their hearts, let the wind that blows across my country talk to them. Understand that anangu maru are alive and living on our land, looking after it as our grandmothers and grandfathers did, following the law.
People need to realise that we all share the same spirit that comes from God and from the earth."
(translated by Diana James, who is writing Nganyinytja's biography)
See also~ Diana James writes a fascinating acount of the experience of participating in Nganyinytja's open air college in the Central Desert.
Some related links:
Project Nature Connect - An interesting site which offers courses in learning from nature
The Permaculture Research Institute - Permaculture is an incredible system offering positive solutions to the problems facing the world; using ecology as the basis of designing integrated systems of food production, housing, technology and community development.
Permaculture in Orange County - uniting the natural landscape with the cultural landcape
OC living - information on the culture of OC
OC information and culture - Options and information related to post OC life
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