Shearing time and lambmarking brings me into contact with more Trees in Trees as ewes and lambs are very slow and I’m mustering all the grazing paddocks (about 30,000 acres). The more I see, the more fascinating these TinTs are but the questions about their origins remain and the answers are as far away as ever. Unfortunately the Australian Research Council (ARC) has not found Prof. Judith Field’s submission worthy of funding so there is no help on the horizon. The odds of getting funding from this source are about 5%. This means for every 20 submissions made for research funding each year only one is successful. Or to put it another way once every 20 years we might get lucky.
I don’t have 20 years and many of the CMTs don’t either. We need to find resources (money/people) if we are to ever understand what went on here. THIS IS WHAT I KNOW: Murrumanaarr (dragonfly) is a special women’s place where they had medicine & edible plant nurseries & grew and trained trees to create shelters (permanent camps): These camps are set in sandy soil with a soft grass or groundcover & the central eucalypt bent down to allow bark sheets to be placed against it for weather proofing. Most of the camps consist of a bent bimblebox surrounded by a cluster of Peach bush (Ehretia membranifolia); In addition to eating the fruit of this tree, Aborigines used a decoction of the wood for pain relief (Wikipedia)
THIS IS WHAT I THINK I KNOW: The trees within trees are an awesome display of sophisticated botany that were cared for & admired over generations. Seeds & cuttings were traded throughout this country in a process known as ‘Translocation”. Their medicinal/hallucinogenic/toxic properties were well known & promoted in an area of knowledge now called ‘secret women’s business’; Some trees of special value were grown in the forks or fissures of box trees so they could be easily removed & transported/traded along the songlines – these include Wilga (Geijera parviflora) whose baked & powdered & smoked leaves induce drunkenness & drowsiness and repel insects; Quinine (Alstonia constricta) whose poisonous latex was used to cure infectious sores; Leafless cherry (Exocarpus aphylla) the decoction applied as a poultice or used for colds & sores; Wild orange/bumble (Capparis mitchellii) used mainly for women’s illnesses; Butterbush (pittosporum angustifolium) decoction used as inhalant for colds & cough and externally for eczema & skin problems; Boobialla (Myroporum montanum) used for glue & as a general tonic; Leopardwood (Flindersia maculata) made into a paste for toothache; Peach bush (Ehretia saligna var. membranifolia) decoction drunk for aches & pains; Budda (Eremophila mitchellii) used for smoking places/people to be rid of evil spirits & mosquitoes. Also used as a decongestant and cure for infertility & STDs; Spiny fan flower (Scaevola spinescens) infusion of roots used for pains of the alimentary tract Currant/Warrior bush (Apophyllum anomalum) home to the caper butterfly; Nepine (Capparis lasiantha) roots soaked & mashed with the liquid used for cuts, stings & swellings especially to the head; Sandalwood (Santalum lanceolatum) infusion of roots used for rheumatism and decoctions used as a purgative and for chest problems; Supplejack (Ventilago viminalis) doesn’t grow inside boxtrees but around them like a strangler fig. Its uses are too numerous to list but includes enhancing the effects of native tobacco & rubbing sticks for fire making.
THIS IS WHAT I THINK: I think the numbers of TinTs & Ringtrees at a certain area or camp grounds can be seen as a botanic rating system. We know the people moved around seasonally on their land but the very old or young or ill or injured or nursing mothers would need to permanent accommodation. Firstly these permanent camps had to have permanent water and if not based on the river they had to be here at the ‘native wells’ at murrumanaarr (Moramana outstation) The best of these ‘supercamps also had good surface water catchments & I think these were deepened by digging sticks & planted with all sorts of edible water loving plants.
I THINK there were other lesser camps along the songlines (eg.Gingie rd between Walgett & Cumborah) that also had Trees in Trees and Ringtrees but far fewer. These camps were suitable for travellers and had good reliable billabongs but would need rain. The more the reliable the water source the more Ringtrees. Ringtrees surround good water catches & the paths leading up to them like sign posts. The paths are gone now but many of these signposts remain at varying distance from the waterhole. Without regular digging out these billabongs have deteriorated & silted up but many still contain water long after nearby surface water has dried up.
I THINK the TinTs have more spiritual/cultural origins than the Ringtrees. The dendrochronologist (tree aging specialist) is getting the small Quinine tested for me & I have sent another slice to a private radiocarbon dating service in Washington State, USA. As I don’t have any institutional backing this costs $300 US per test. I need a way to sample the guest without cutting it down as they only need a piece the size of a toothpick. Technically these Trees in Trees have no legal protection because they are not acknowledged to be Culturally Modified. This is the responsibility of Indigenous representative bodies like Elders groups & Land councils. If you are reading this and are of Gomilaroi descent you need to get on to this through your leaders.
I THINK YOU KNOW who I’m talking to – Rhonda, Jilda, Penny, Liz, Priscilla etc. A quick Yaama & Yaluu visit won’t do. Your ancestors created these trees (CMTs STs RTs & TinTs) for a reason and your descendants will want to know why. They could have been copying what they saw in nature like the old dances mimic native animals and birds. They may have watered what germinated naturally or they may have chosen certain guest trees to place in certain areas – women’s ceremonial or birthing sites for example. Some of the most common guest trees are very hard to germinate eg wilga is difficult to grow from seed or cuttings & the rosewood only ever suckers, so how they get to be living in box trees isn’t just anyone’s guess …it is yours. You all know how this murrumanaarr landscape makes you feel. Your great great, great, great & so on…grandmothers were very great indeed. This place of healing & women’s power has to be reclaimed & re used. Priscilla compared what I’m doing to what Katie Langloh Parker did over a century ago. We are/were both white women recording the local Aboriginal culture we saw around us. She writing down the old stories, me photographing & uploading the trees. The old trees are at the mercy of an erratic climate and natural decay. Transgenerational trauma or not, you special women need to reclaim your birthright & I will do anything within my power to help you, that’s a promise.
The First Supper by Susan Dorothea White