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Acknowledging Country

by Niki and Pete (Wiradjuri mob)

I would like to acknowledge the Wiradjuri people who are the traditional custodians of this land. I would also like to pay respect to the elders past and present of the Wiradjuri nation and extend that respect to other Aboriginal people present.

The Matong State Forest is Wiradjuri country, and here at Burning Seed we recognize the privilege of  being able to build our experimental community each year on this beautiful site. We feel we should not ignore the existence and ownership of this land by Aboriginal people before European settlement and acknowledge the history within the ritual of 'Welcome to Country', the ceremony performed each year at Red Earth City to formally launch the event.

Welcome to Country & Acknowledgement of Country

‘Welcome to Country’ is an important ceremony by Aboriginal people and it helps non-Indigenous people recognize Aboriginal culture and history and make connections with country. With Welcome to Country, Elders pay respect to custodians past and present as well as Elders past and present.

Before European settlement, despite the absence of fences or visible borders, Aboriginal groups had clear boundaries separating their country from that of other groups. Crossing into another group’s country required a request for permission to enter. When that permission was granted the hosting group would welcome the visitors, offering them safe passage

Spiritually, this is showing respect for the country and the custodians who are responsible for taking care of the country where we live… So what our custodians are doing is trying to give respect back into the country.

Respecting Tradition

It was the tradition of Aboriginals that when strangers came into their particular country to hunt or to gather, or to just pass through on their way to other places, that the host Aboriginals would go out to welcome them. When they met, there would be the formalities of greeting. Part of the ceremony of welcome would be the men sitting around and talking men’s business (share knowledge and lore) whilst the host women would take the visiting women and children to a women’s site to talk women’s business.

When this was completed, the two groups would join again and the men would trade and hunt for kangaroo, goannas or bush turkey - and the women would prepare an area for eating and would gather firewood and berries, fruit, nuts and lily roots for a meal.

Dancing, Singing, Leaving No Trace (sound familiar!?)

Then the ceremonies, the corroborees dancing would commence, the singing songs around the fire could well go on, not only all night, but sometimes for many nights in a row. Each with a message within their own stories. Men, women and children all taking part. Whilst during the day, the visiting tribe would be taken and shown the sites of significance and be told the stories of the spirit of the land they would be passing.

In this way, the hosts believed that by the end of formalities, when the strangers were ready to move on they would not be considered not strangers but friends who now had the spirit of the country in their heart. They believed that once the spirit of the land was in their hearts, then those people would never damage the land they would love it and care for it like those whose home country it was…

History

A Welcome to Country is about Aboriginal people acknowledging the past, and looking to the future. It is often delivered by an Aboriginal person who has themselves been the victim of government policies.

Our Elders do the Welcome to Country as an act of generosity. These are the same people who have had their children taken away, or been removed themselves. They’re the same people who had their wages stolen by successive governments. They’re the same people who had their ancestors’ remains raided by grave robbers. They’re the same people who were disposed from their lands and forced on to missions and reserves.

And yet despite all of these terrible events and the horrendous treatment by so many parliaments, these very same people are still prepared to say ‘welcome’ to the very people who in some cases have presided over the oppression.

We encourage everyone to come along and join in to the ceremonies, to be welcomed, feel loved and pay our respects to Country. Still today we all have Knowledge to share for a better future.

Niki and Pete 

Pete tending the Sacred Fire at Welcome to Country in 2015

Pete tending the Sacred Fire at Welcome to Country in 2015 (photo: Ryan McRobb)

Yindyamarra Circle near First Camp at Seed 2015

Yindyamarra Circle near First Camp at Seed 2015

The Sacred Fire (photo: Ryan McRobb)

The Sacred Fire (photo: Ryan McRobb)

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INDIGENOUS ASTRONOMY – YINDYAMARRA CIRCLE

by Niki Wheatley

Yindyamarra (respect, be gentle, to honour, to do slowly)  

Yindyamarra Circle is a space held at Burning Seed for the Indigenous sacred fire which burns for the duration of Seed. The Circle is a space for participants to connect with indigenous art, stories, learning and a quiet place to talk and just take a moment to reflect.

The sacred fire is maintained and cared for by Peter Ingram – a local Wiradjuri man. This sacred fire is treated with respect (we don’t throw rubbish in it!) and the Wiradjuri people, on whose traditional land Red Earth City is built, welcome participation in the Circle.

The theme for this year’s Burning Seed – DEEP SPACE – offers all of us an opportunity to explore, engage with and find inspiration in the ancient but living wisdom of Australian Indigenous Astronomy.

Emu in the Sky

The ‘Emu in the Sky’ – Indigenous astronomy is linked to the natural world

Ancient Wisdom

The observation and use of astronomy by Aboriginal people is recognised as one of the oldest on the planet. The stars and sky were used for survival, seasonal awareness, storylines and a connection to the Dreaming.

For example, Autumn evenings will soon bring the ‘great Emu in the Sky’ a dark shape with a black head (the Coalsack, next to the Southern Cross) and dark legs trailing along the Milky Way to Scorpius.

In the Kuringai National Park in north Sydney for example we find extensive rock engravings of the Guringai people, including representations of Daramulan and his emu-wife.

One of these engravings shows an emu in the same pose and orientation as the ‘Emu in the Sky’ constellation. On Autumn evenings, the emu in the sky stands directly over this engraving – just when it’s time to gather emu eggs.

Find Out More

There are many more stories and ideas to explore. Check out the Australian Aboriginal Astronomy Project at the Department of Indigenous Studies (Warawara) at Macquarie, an interdisciplinary collaboration of academics and Indigenous Elders who are researching the astronomical knowledge and traditions of Indigenous Australians. You can also stay in touch with the project on Facebook.

A new documentary – Star Stories of The Dreaming – sees Ghillar Michael Anderson share publicly for the first time teachings passed to him as the knowledge holder for his People, the Euahlayi. Prof Ray Norris, CSIRO astrophysicist meets with Ghillar to look at parallels – such as ‘wormholes’ and the pathway to Bullima, the Euahlayi Sky Camp, via the hollow Coolabah tree.

Charles Sturt University’s Sky Stories Project also offers heaps of resources and insights on Indigenous Astronomy.

Yindyamarra Circle

Wiradjuri elder, Uncle Jimmy Ingram (right) and his grandson Peter (Centre), perform a smoking ceremony at Burning Seed 2015

Yindyamarra Circle at Burning Seed

We are looking forward to welcoming you to Burning Seed this year and to the opportunity for all of us to be a part of learning through stories and talks in the evening under the stars at the Yindyamarra Circle.

If you are interested in being a part of First Camp, crewing, getting involved by helping during Seed or set-up and pack down, or if you have an Indigenous or related art project or workshop you would like to discuss, please feel free to contact me via comms@burningseed.com and we can make it happen .

 

Mandaang guwa (thank you).

Yuwin Ngadhi Niki (my name is Niki),
Indigenous Liaison, Burning Seed

 

We pay respect to the Wiradjuri elders (both past and present) and show our respect in maintaining Traditional values, Language and Culture.
We acknowledge Burning Seed is held on Wiradjuri land.

Star Stories of The Dreaming is screening on 1 March 2016 at the Palace Cinema Como in South Yarra, VIC