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.


  1. I find it kind of ironic that there are stingless bees in Australia, considering they have the worlds most poisonous spiders and snakes. I bet the other insects make fun of them.

    I'm going to break blog comment protocol and answer yesterdays blog re-response with todays blog response...

    I have seen The Man from Snowy River and Return to Snowy River. That was the movie that started my horse obsession when I was about 5 years old. Come to think of it, it probably added to my Australia obsession as well. Did you know its based off of poems and short stories from A.B. "Banjo" Paterson, a famous bush poet?

    After I made that comment about not reading as much as I should, I felt like a slacker and started a book called The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I stayed up until 6AM finishing it. It's a teen fiction novel set in a future where teenagers are put in a lottery to battle to death in the wilderness, all while being televised for the nation to watch. It's The Running Man meets Mad Max meets any generic teenage romantic comedy movie. So if you decide to take a break from your aboriginal studies, I highly suggest this book. It's going to be a trilogy and I can almost guarantee your local library will have a copy.

  2. Darcy,

    I thought that was funny about the Stingless bees too. I thought the exact same thing as you. The one thing we noticed about Australia (or at least the places we were in Australia) is that there weren't a lot of bees, wasps, etc. It was rare to see them. We liked that because Jack and I are kind of scared of flying things that sting.

    I LOVE hearing about how people become obsessed with things. So, your horse obsession is pretty long-going. Awesome. I did know about the poem--same guy who wrote Waltzing Matilda. Do you remember in McLeod's Daughters....they recite one of the poems? I think maybe it was Tess???

    I like teen fiction. I think I'm going to get back into it. I stopped for awhile because I failed at getting my own teen novel published. I was jealous and resentful of the writers who HAD gotten published. I think I'm over that now. I'll probably read mostly Australian YA fiction if I can find it. Is the Collins book Australian? If not, I might read it anyway. It sounds good. I definitely want to read all the John Marsden books. Have you read those? They're set in the future of Australia. There is some war going on. It ends up I started reading in the middle of the series. I still like it and am not that lost.

    I did the same with Harry Potter. Well, sort of. I accidently read the second book before the first.

    I just thought of something. One of Jack's best friends....this little girl. She's like a younger you. She loves Australia--I think she got into it because of Bindi and the Crocodile Hunter. AND she loves horses. She had one of her birthday parties at a horse-riding place.

  3. We didn't have a lot of money when I was a kid, so I never got to have my horse back birthday party. After my 9th birthday I decided I didn't want parties and instead we would take a day trip to a mountain town in New Mexico (it's only a 2 hour drive) and my mom, my sister, and I would go horseback riding and have mountain side picnics.

    I hadn't heard of John Marsden before, I'll look him up when I get to work. I don't usually read fiction at all. I am a bigger fan of true stories, mostly history and travel writing. The fiction that I do read is usually sci-fi, so if its futuristic Australia then I will probably like it. Unfortunately, I don't think Collins is Australian but I won't hold it against her ;)

    I have a few friends and family members who are trying to get into the writing business. Getting books published is a hard thing to do, its a hard industry to break into. I live life afraid of rejection of any type, so I have a tremendous amount of respect for anyone who has the courage to lay it all out like that.

  4. I think that's awesome about your birthdays. Did you do that just for your 9th birthday or other ones after that?

    How do you like working at a bookstore? Did I ask you that already? I think it would be fun looking at what people are buying. I'm extremely nosey.

    I go through spurts/phases with books. Right now it's pretty much all Australian. I read a small handful of self-help books this summer and am slowly rereading one now. Those get on my nerves fast.

    But before the Australia thing, I was really into autobiographies.

    What kind of travel books do you like? Guides or more essay-personal stuff.

    Have you read Blue Latitudes? I think the author is Tony Horowitz. I THINK you might like it. It's about these two men (one American and one Australian) who go to all the places that Captain Cook went. The book goes back and forth from modern day to Cook's day. It's one of the best travel books I've read. Fascinating. And it talks about people like us--who become passionate about certain subjects.