General — by Anthea Hudson February 28, 2012
Flinders Ranges, South Australia, Adnyamathanha Yarta
The old Adnyamathanha man places another log on the fire before sitting back down beside me. Uncle, as we will call him in the traditional Adnyamathanha way, stares into the flames for a minute, then begins to speak.
"We have lost so much" he says "our language is in danger of dying, many of our ceremonies have disappeared from knowledge — but we still have the ‘yarta’, the land. But our yakartis [children] need to listen, to learn about its ways, or we will lose our connection with the yarta too."
Uncle laments the way that so many indigenous youth leave their home territory and look for ‘opportunity’ in the big cities. They lose touch with their tribal family and the ways handed down, generation to generation, over thousands of years. "They want white man’s lives — they scoff at what we try to teach them. That’s just old fella talk, they say. Well, now it may just be the ‘old fella’ wisdom that helps save the planet."
He reminisces about life as a child in the outback, and the ways his father and grandfather taught him, to ‘listen to the bush’, to observe and read what the land was telling him and adapt to it — and not expect the land to adapt to him. Without these skills, passed down, the Adnyamathanha could not have survived in the often harsh environment of the Flinders Ranges, in northern South Australia. To them, listening to what their elders taught wasn’t just a ‘lesson’, but the difference between scarcity and enough, even life and death.
"This is what we face again today." he says "If we don’t learn ourselves how to live with respect on this land, we will be taught respect by a harsh mistress — Mother Nature herself. And it’s not just Yura’s [Adnyamathanha] who need to re-think how they are living today, but Utnyu [white people] too… people all over the world. They should be learning the ways of their elders — how they lived, their respect for the land. They worked with nature, not against it. If we want to survive, that’s what we have to re-learn."
Uncle still has hopes that this lesson will be learnt in time, but, he warns, if we don’t do it soon there may be no coming back from where we are headed. "We are affecting the planet — and not for the better — changing climate, melting ice caps, pumping toxins into the environment seemingly without care, destroying habitats and causing extinctions on a scale never seen before. What will be left for our children’s children? And what right do we have to do this?"
What right indeed? It’s time to stop living as if the future didn’t matter… wasn’t our concern. As Uncle says, let’s learn from our ‘elders’, of whatever colour or nationality they may be, and get back to a gentler, more intuitive way of living on the Earth… before it’s too late!Comments (6)