I’ve just read Bruce Pascoe’s book Dark Emu: Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? (Magabala Books, Broome, WA, 2014). I cannot recommend it too highly. It deserves to be read not only by all non-indigenous Australians, but also by the non-indigenous peoples of other countries (such as the USA and Canada) which were colonised by Europeans full of the confidence of their “superior” culture, religion, and understanding of the way things ought to be. I speak as a descendant of English and Irish people who came to settle in Australia some four or five generations ago.
I was taught at school that aboriginal people were hunter-gathers, naked nomads who were most of the time on “walkabout”, who didn’t build “proper” houses, etc. And I’m sure the words “primitive” and “uncivilised” came into it somewhere. It suited my British forebears to regard the country as “terra nullius” – “nobody’s land” – and thus legitimise their claiming of the country as a British possession, just waiting to be occupied and put to some worthwhile use by civilised people.
Pascoe provides copious well-documented evidence of just how wrong this view is. Here are some quotes from this excellent book:
If we look at the evidence …. and explain to our children that Aboriginal people did build houses, did build dams, did sow, irrigate and till the land, did alter the course of rivers, did sew their clothes, and did construct a system of pan-continental government that generated peace and prosperity, then it is likely we will admire and love our land all the more.
In Aboriginal life, the spirit and the corporeal world are wedded, but in European society the economy operates independently of the spirit and, as modern examples illustrate, almost in defiance of the religious moral code.
Francisco Pizzaro gained Peru from the Incas by massacring five thousand Indians in cold blood. Today he would be considered a war criminal.
Of course, it is no small matter to seek to right even some of the wrongs of yesteryear, but one could argue that a logical starting point is to become acquainted with the facts behind the myths. I urge you to read this book.