We recently hosted Wendy Lotter, a knowledgeable local Aboriginal woman from ‘Platypus Dreamin’, for a traditional cleansing/smoking ceremony at Santi. We invited her to come to teach us more about the history of this land, particularly as it pertains to the Aboriginal people who may have lived or travelled through the country around Santi, and to heal and cleanse the area in the traditional Aboriginal way. Wendy informed us that most of the land at Santi was traditional women’s area as there is an abundance of bush medicine which the women from the Gundungurra tribe would have collected and used for a range of different purposes.
@Cara I’d love to hear more and maybe you can answer Sarath’s question from what you learned.
As far as I know they are very deeply connected to nature, similarly to other indigenous cultures. They had very advanced navigation and food cultivation systems etc. Just in the state that I live in there are more than 20 different Aboriginal nations each with their own languages and traditions. ATSI nations map illustrates this.
Sure, there are lot of wisdom teachings passed down through the community and elders. Of course it’s lived wisdom, and it can’t really be defined or pinned down.
My first teaching on this, one that made a big impact, was a forum I did many years ago—1985, I think—together with the famous Nyoongar elder Ken Colbung.
A group of us were putting together a conference on environmental and progressive issues; and yes, I have been organizing conferences since I was 19! Anyway, I put together a panel on vegetarianism, and hearing that Ken was a vegetarian, I made an appointment and went out to his community to meet him. Very kindly, he agreed to join our little panel.
So the panel comes along, and I did a pretty dry summary of ethical arguments on vegetarianism. Then come Ken’s turn, and he starts singing, “I just called to say I love you”! Now, all respect to Stevie Wonder, but boy did I loathe that song. I was startled, bemused, and ultimately charmed and moved. He just went straight to the heart of it in a way that would never have occurred to me.
When he talked, he spoke his traditional beliefs and how they relate to nature. He said that he wasn’t a Christian or anything, he just followed his old ways. And for him that meant a deep sense of connection to all living things, a brotherhood with all life.
He said that when his people lived in the bush, they had to survive any way they could. Yes, they killed animals to eat, but only when they had to. And they always made a prayer or communion with the beast they killed, addressing it as a brother and an equal, asking for forgiveness, and explaining why they needed the food.
These days, he said, there’s no need to kill: he can just drive down to the supermarket and buy some tofu!
He spoke with sadness of some young aboriginal men, who, he said, believed you had to kill and eat snake and roo to be a proper Nyoongar. He said they didn’t understand their own tradition; what was necessary in those days has changed today. This understanding of the real nature of tradition has shaped my approach to my own Buddhist tradition to this day.
Sadly, Ken passed away in 2010. But to get an idea what kind of man he was, have a look at this video. Here he speaks of our common humanity, in a delegation to bring about the return of the remains of the elder Yagan from England to Australian soil.