Saturday, September 20, 2008

Learning About the Wangal People

My next topic of study regarding Indigenous Australia are the Wangal from the Sydney area.

If my brain is processing the information correctly, then the Wangal are from the Western part of Sydney.

They're neighbors with the Cadigal people. Both groups are Eora.  I THINK I'm finally understanding this. Maybe?

The Wangal and Cadigal were among the first to encounter the white people. I guess this would make sense since the British landed in Sydney first.

One of the most well-known Wangals was Bennelong.

I found a ton of Wangal/Cadigal dietary info from this website.

They went fishing with spears in canoe like boats called noweys.  They were made with bark, and tied with vines.

They hunted various animals. Fruit bats, kangaroos, wallabies. It seems they used spears for the most part.

They used many different local plants for basket weaving. When the desired material was not found, they ordered what they needed online.

Besides seafood and game, they ate insects and native fruits. Bush Tucker. Well, I guess all of the above is Bush Tucker. Well, except the basket-weaving stuff. That would be Bush Not-Tucker. Oh! Unless maybe they made edible baskets. That would be cool.

They drank nectar from various blossoms--One of the most prized was Bullrush. I guess I can call it Wangal Starbucks. They drank the nectar as they passed by--a grab and go kind of thing. They also collected the flowers to make drinks.

They ate eggs, reptiles, grub, ants, and honey from stingless bees. We saw stingless bees at the Taronga zoo. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. I had never heard of such a thing. Bees that don't sting? BRILLIANT. I'm sure the bees that DO sting don't agree with me. They probably look at the stingless bees and say "Losers!"

I'm thinking I would love to do one of those bush-tucker tours. Have any of you done one? If you have any you can recommend, PLEASE do so!

The Wangal's land area was called Wanne. The eastern boundaries are around Birchgrove and Balmain. The western boundaries are around Silverwater and Auburn. I'm trying to grasp this on a map and am having trouble. I'll keep trying.

Okay, I think I got it. Google maps is fun. All right. Confession. I had my east and west messed up. That's why it took me awhile to figure things out. Oops.

Cadigal lived to the East of Wangal. I'll look for them on another day.

Back to Bennelog. He got along fairly well with the new white people, and even traveled back to Europe with them. He found himself in the situation that many people find themselves in today. Torn between two cultures. I think there's a term for that, but it has slipped my mind.

Bennelong lived in a little brick hut. The little piece of land where his home sat became known as Bennelong point. And that's now where the Opera House sits.

I think there's something a little sad and ironic about that piece of land. First, it holds the story of a man pretty much used and exploited by the newbies. Then there's the story of the Danish man who designed the Opera House and then left before he ever got to see it. It IS a really beautiful building though. I love it despite it's tragic aspects. It's kind of bittersweet.

I think someone should make a movie about Bennelong point. It can be one of those movies where they have two storylines intersecting--one in the past about Bennelong, and then another about the creation/building of the Opera House. It could have the same actors in both storylines. I think it would be awesome.

This article here says Bennelong was kidnapped while fishing by Captain Philip. In traditional Stockholm Syndrome fashion, the two became friends. Bennelong was somewhat entranced by white culture. He enjoyed that lifestyle, but it seems was eventually discarded by the white people. Late in life, he found himself rejected by both cultures.

I'm reading various websites though and in some Bennelong seemed eager to partake in the white man's world, and in others it seems more like he was forced and disliked it. Maybe in reality, it was a mixture of both.

My gut feeling says, that for the most part, his story is a sad and unfortunate one.