Saturday, September 27, 2008

Once Upon An Island


I did most of my research and writing about Indigenous Tasmanians on Wednesday.  Then today (Friday) Tim tried to find Tasmania flights for us, and couldn't find anything at a good time with a good price.   I was a bit sad because I thought I wouldn't be able to visit my friend.    But also now that I've read about Tasmania, I really want to see it.   I mean I wanted to go before, but it was mostly just to see my friend.   Now I'm actually very interested in Tasmania.   I feel weird saying that because what I read was fairly negative.  Yet, somehow I now feel an attachment to Tasmania.    I guess there's something about learning the history of a place.  When I read about the history, I feel sort of like I'm there.   I guess it makes me feel connected?

Anyway, the good news is we did some more searching and found good flights.   We are all booked and ready to go!

So.....This is what I've learned so far:

Tasmanian Aborigines are called Palawa. So we have the Koori in NSW/Victoria, and the Palawa in Tasmania.

Some people consider the Tasmanian Aborigines to be extinct because the last full-blooded one died in 1876. This was Truganini.

Does one needed to be full-blooded in order to count as an Aborigine?

Does my son Jack not count as a "true" Jew because his father is not biologically Jewish?

I personally think race and pure-blooded status is less important than the transmission of culture.

I think I have more concern for cultural aspects of a group that are lost.

I think when we worry so much about full-blood and ethnic purity, we become racist and closed-minded. We start telling children who they can and cannot marry--regardless of who they love or who's a better match for them.

I do understand that in some cultures and subgroups, ethnic purity is important. It's just not for me. I guess because I believe in reincarnation and that has a huge effect on how you view people. I have no feelings of the Jews being MY people because I don't know if I was Jewish in a past life. I might have been Arab. I might have been German. I might have been a Koori.

There are many myths about Tasmanian Aborigines--that because they were separated from the mainland they were less advanced.  Isolated and backwards people-unable to start a fire or use stone tools.   Archaeological evidence has shown this to be wrong.

Here's some history stuff:

Between 1808-1823, the white men felt they were lacking in sexual partners so they kidnapped the Aboriginal women.

There was something called a black war between 1828-1832.  Bad bad stuff.

A Christian missionary guy named George Augustus Robinson convinced Aborigines to move to Flinders Island. This was in 1832. I guess he convinced them it would be safer? I do sort of remember reading about this elsewhere.  Three hundred went and two hundred and fifty of them died. I'm not sure if Robinson had the best of intentions and things went wrong. Or if his intentions were not good. I'll have to read more into this.

The survivors were brought back to the mainland. Since there were only about fifty left, they were no longer seemed as a threat. It seems instead they were seen as entertainment--put on display.

Bodies of the dead were not treated with respect and they were passed on to various museums. This is despite the fact that it was important in Palawa culture for the dead to be buried in their homeland.

In 1997, a formal apology was issued to the Tasmanians. This was mostly in regard to the stolen children.   Tasmania is the first state to offer financial compensation for the stolen generations. Good on them!

There are now 150,000 descendants of the Palawa. They may not be full-blooded, but they're still part of the clan.

Some people want to start genetic testing of people to prove whether or not they are really Palawa. Other people say genetics don't matter. It's more about a culture and spiritual connection.

I have torn feelings about that. On one hand, I do find genetics fascinating. On the other hand, should someone be excluded because of blood? If they look Palawa, feel Palawa, and act goodness let them be a Palawa.   Or whatever type of Aborigine they claim to be.....It gets a bit confusing.

There is a group called the Lie Pootah people who claim to be Aboriginal, but the Palawa believes they are not. It kind of reminds me of the lost tribes of Israel. 

The Palawa language disappeared for the most part, but some folks in the modern community are trying to resurrect language by using the few words they know.

Some words in the language (provided by Lord Wiki)


krakapaka-death (that's an awesome word for death)





Oh. Here we go. There are characters in Star Wars named Followers of Palawa. I wonder if it's a coincidence?  Maybe George Lucas was obsessed with Australia too!!

Some more Tasmanian History:

At one time, Tasmania was connected to the mainland. Then the rising of the sea took away the natural bridge connecting them.  The Tasmanians became a bit stranded.

Tasmania was visited by white dutch man named Abel Janson Tasman. How funny that he ended up on an island with his name! No, I'm joking. Ha ha. He found the country and then named it after himself.
Oh.  No.  Wrong.   Actually he wasn't that vain. He named the place Van Diemen's land after the guy who had sent him on the voyage.  Then later the name was changed to his name.  

The next white people to visit were the French.

Captain Cook did a quick drive by in 1777. This was seven years after he visited the mainland and eleven years before Philip brought the convicts over.

I like putting things in perspective.

Tasmania wasn't established as a colony for convicts until 1803.

White people were horribly cruel to the original Tasmanians. It seems like killing them was almost a hobby.

White people were not punished for murdering the Palawa.    

I'm sure this is a horrific thing to deal with if you are a Tasmanian Aborigine today. Since there are no "full-blooded" ones left, this means they're part white. I think it would be hard having those genes flowing through your body.  I guess anyone, who came about as a result of a rape, has to deal with that.

Martial law was declared in 1825. Whites were allowed to kill Aborigines on site. No questions asked.

Okay.  Here we go......

This website says that Mr. Robinson was HIRED to remove the Aborigines and bring them to Flinders island.

On Flinders Island, Mr. Robinson's goal was to Christianize and civilize the Palawa. They worked and sang hymns.  The children spent time away from their heathen parents. Too bad Mr. Robinson didn't spent less time on these goals and more effort towards their health. The diet fed to them was so bad they became malnourished.

What happened to the Palawa was really horrific.  But that's okay because what we can do is just pretend it never happened.   Why deal with the past when we got denial at our disposal.  Come on!  Really!

Keith Windschuttle believes there were no huge atrocities against the Aborigines and it was all made up.

It reminds me of Holocaust denial or Global Warming Denial.   Cause we all know that Auschwitz was really a beach resort where people drank Cherry soda and sang Jewish camp songs.


I think often the first argument tried in these situations is that the events happened but were misinterpreted. If that argument fails and enough time has passed, the next argument is that the event never even took place.

I'm not saying that there are people (individuals or groups) falsely accused of crimes. That happens and it's unfortunate.  ( If you don't agree with me, obviously you didn't watch the episodes of Days of our Lives where Sammi almost got executed for a crime she didn't commit!!)

But I think too often people deal with their mistakes by denying them. This makes them feel better--either about themselves or their ancestors. We don't want anyone having a bruised self-esteem. But for the people who were wronged it makes things much worse.

If you make a mistake (or your ancestors made a mistake) admit it, apologize, and try to fix things. Is all of that really too hard to do? I don't think so.   Okay, it is hard.  But think of it this way.  It's not as bad as going to the dentist.  (uh, don't tell Jack I said that)

Deborah Lipstadt the author of a book on Holocaust denial calls this denial bullshit an assault on truth and memory. I agree with her. I think it's also an assault on trust--trust for other people and trust in yourself.

We all have our beliefs and I have mine.

I believe the Holocaust really happened.

I believe horrible things happened to the Tasmanian Aborigines.

I believe in human-induced global warming.

I also believe there's a lot of good in the world and that it helps to balance out the bad.

Anyway, I think this is my last Indigenous Australia post for awhile--at least in terms of history.  A little later, I want to learn more about their spirituality.

So in honor of that, I'm going to post this video.   It's lovely and educational.   Paul Kelly/Kev Carmody meets Schoolhouse Rock.