Its been a while since I wrote about the CMTs here but Ive been learning about their cultural significance from those who know best. My friend Priscilla Reid-Loynes, Gomilaroi/ Yuwaalaraay women, education consultant and cultural creative, has been back in Walgett for a couple of weeks. We’ve been hanging out with the trees, sharing understandings & discovering new places of total wonder. Sometimes you just get overwhelmed by the emotional impact of the aboriginally altered landscapes here. If you let these moments of utter empathy go unremarked, they will disappear from your memory – like tears in the rain (Blade Runner)
I am becoming something of a joy junkie with people who share my love of this land west of Walgett and are helping to rediscover the vast record of traditional knowledge it contains. Rhonda Ashby another Gomilaroi/ Yuwaalaraay friend & Aboriginal education, linguistic and culture advisor living in Lightning ridge has also been out twice in the last month. Not only does she know all the Aboriginal words from these parts but she makes a mean fruit cake too ..
Anyway back to the bone story, Rhonda brought her friend, the native grains specialist Gomilaroi man Jacob Birch out mid-June. We looked at various TinTs including the one with some whitish material lodged in a scar below where the guest tree emerges.
Ive been assuming this whitish object was just another random fungus like these…
I first came across this Currant bush in box TinT mid November 2021 & have revisited a few times since as it’s the 2nd member of a TinT trilogy of that place. There are other TinTs around the area but these 3 have large scars as well & I think of them as memorials for special tribal leaders. As Priscilla has repeated a few times now – the trees all have stories & are connected to the culture of Murra-manaarr. Another of Priscilla’s sayings is “ its not the dead that you have to be frightened of but the living” – I found this one particularly comforting out in a 5000 acre paddock with an old bone lodged in a tree & being the only whitey around should its owner come looking for it!
So it was at this drive by drop in with Jacob & Rhonda where she suggested the white thing might be a bone. I took some pics with the low morning winter sun later that week & sent them to her. She had a friend in the Dept. of Heritage & Environment who could handle the investigation apparently. Anyway to cut a long story short the Dept. guy Steven Booby arranged for the Walgett Police to come out & photograph the bone & send the pics to their forensic crew in Dubbo. The answer came back a few hours later that yes the whitish object was a Distal Femur bone but no it was not human. Wally Cran, who works for the Walgett police & whose ancestors came from here, as well as Priscilla witnessed the not-so-secret bone business. So those of you into conspiracy theories can talk to either of them …
This is the correct procedure when dealing with suss bone type objects you come across – not that applicable on large properties but still worth noting. No one is going to turn up & declare a “sacred site” & take your land;
When human skeletal remains/suspected remains are discovered staff need to:
Old Aboriginal burials involving trees was part of the culture here & you can google more information like this below
|Australia: The Land Where Time Began|
|Aboriginal Mortuary Rites – Platform and Tree Disposal|
In northern New South Wales, the Wollaroi ( Yuwaalaraay ?) people sat beneath the platform as fluid drips from the corpse, rubbing it over themselves to gain strength. Once the flesh has decomposed away, the bones are buried (Howitt, 1904; 467). Examples of tree and platform disposal are given in which the bones are finally buried (Spencer, 1914; 249-52)
There are variations in the funeral rites of nearly every tribe. Even in our district the dead were sometimes placed in hollow trees. I know of skeletons in trees on the edge of the ridge on which the home station was built. These are said to be for the most part the bodies of worthless women or babies.
The Euahlayi Tribe A Study of Aboriginal Life in Australia
by K. Langloh Parker
Anyway enough of bones in trees in general Im only interested in this bone in particular & have more questions … 1) If this Distal Femur bone isn’t human, what is it? 2) How old is it? 3) What’s it doing embedded in the mostly closed up scar of a Currant bush TinT? & 4) What’s it going to cost me to find out?
Im currently working through these questions with Alyssa Tate, M.S. Director of Laboratory Operations at DirectAMS – an American company that specialises in carbon dating. I have sent a slice of Quinine guest over there for dating some years ago now – they are quick & efficient within in the boundaries of our buggered up Carbon ratios (due to the British testing atom bombs in Australia over 60 yrs ago). If I waited for Australian universities, museums, or Elders groups to step up & help me my bones would be as old as this one. If we could have a skerrick of the millions being spent on the various voice campaigns we could not only have answers but employment for locals wanting to renew & display their culture. We need a keeping place for cultural artefacts in Walgett that are often in the possession of generational farmers who have become their reluctant custodians. We need assistance to set up small scale indigenous tourism businesses to benefit from all this interest in Aboriginal culture.
To other unfinished bone business Ive been back over to the Marra ck Paleochannel where it crosses the Billybingbone rd finding many more TinTs – over 40 in total now. This high wilga below was a stand out as wilgas are usually found growing low in box trees.
I love this wailwun country with its vast catchments of saltbush scattered red flats draining into deep blackbox/coolabah swamps. There seems to be lots of available surface water after minimal rain – only a 16″ ave.per year rainfall zone. Also many ringtrees & very old peach bush clusters on the billabongs revealing old camps with stone artefacts and ovens dating back forever.
I grew up just north of here & this geographical area is regarded as some of the best sheep country in Australia. There are few scarred trees compared to the Barwon paleochannels due to the lack of underground water & wells perhaps? Also the variety of guests is much lower as I suspect the rarer ones may have required much more time & care to get established. You simply cannot live permanently in a place without permanent water now or back then – the ultimate truth for all of us. XXXX