Invasion of East Coast Australia – Ngarakbal Githabal Lands

To achieve Civil Rights recognition in 1967, the Ngarakbal Githabal Elders told their stories….some of the stories were ancestral Lore Bootheram, and some of the stories were historical parables about what had happened in the invasion wars….But all of these stories were vitally important in bringing about unity…and through unity, success…rights

 ….“The Invasion of the Northern Rivers of NSW by Europeans began in earnest in 1821 when the Penal settlement of Port Macquarie was established on the Hastings River…In later years cedar getters arrived and harvested cedar apart from the Penal Settlement”….N.C. Keates.”Wollumbin”…………..

The ‘accepted history’ books tell us that the Tweed / Gold Coast environs were established in the mid 1840’s….The first Cedar getters [wood cutters] were claimed to have arrived by boat in 1844…commencing the indiscriminate ‘clear fell’ denuding of the Gondwana Super Forest from the Brunswick River, just North of Byron Bay…However,  the oral traditions of the indigenous Aboriginal people tell of this lands invasion beginning well before the 1830’s…The first white skinned invaders they say also arrived by sail boat long before Cook claimed the country for the crown…. contrary to the contemporary history presented by Australian authorities the traditional Aboriginal people tell of a prior arrival of the Spanish in the 1500’s coming to Byron Bay……..but,   this has been eradicated from the authorised historical records….prior arrival in Australia would nullify the Crowns claim of Terra Nullus as unoccupied lands….and this is not a popular political option…..IMG_205881337394860

The authorised histories also tell us that John Oxley had discovered the entrance of the Tweed River and sailed into the Tweed Caldera on his Northern voyage (1823) scouting for a suitable penal colony location,  but the treacherous Tweed  bar, the density of the Caldera  jungle and the numerous (200+) angry natives was not ‘conducive’ to a fledgling settlement and so he pushed North to Moreton Bay/Brisbane…and here in 1824 they built the northern jail colony – to operate simultaneously to the southern Port Macquarie settlement

Now, both of these penal colonies were established by British soldiers who had served in the Napoleonic wars – mercenaries…..and scrutiny of the authorised academic records, and the more elusive ships logs, shows these invading mercenaries used classic Roman ‘pincer’ strategy to invade the Yoocum Yoocum ancestral lands……Advancing simultaneously from both the northern and southern penal colonies….pushing upriver, into the mountains….the goal was trapping everyone in the middle…thus, the brutal invasion of the Yoocum Yoocum – ‘Bird Tribe’ lands began…..

The northern Invading forces pushed West, South West from Brisbane…And, at the same time, in the South another group of soldier mercenaries were rampaging West, North West, traveling upwards into the mountains, advancing via the southern flows …

1843 by Surveyor Finch recorded one of the first publicly released detailed maps of the area known as Moreton Bay to Port Macquarie…
1843 by Surveyor Finch recorded one of the first publicly released detailed maps of the area known as Moreton Bay to Port Macquarie…

The two Rivers they followed were the Northern Logan/Brisbane and the Southern Clarence…These rivers come from the one source – The Condamine Catchment of the Murray Darling River complex – which to the ancestral Yoocum Yoocum moieties is ‘Rainbow Serpent Dreaming’…The mercenary invaders followed the rivers (like roads) to the headwaters…. massacring many along the way….

Thousands of traditional owners fled into the safety of the Tweed Caldera highland escarpments…traditional site of creation lore of the Rainbow Serpent Bootheram [Dreaming]…high volcanic jungle….

tweed caldera
satellite image of the Tweed volcano caldera

Carved by the waters…ringed by the rivers…for the traditional peoples fleeing from the terror of (never seen) guns the Tweed Caldera was a strategic point of survival because of its rugged topography…… and blessed with an abundance of resources….a natural fortress…..

Over Twenty [undocumented] years the initial invasion war’s raged in the Yoocum Yoocum lands …and, like the sanitised maps, these years were cleaned from the authorised histories….but, despite the cover-up campaigns,  the oral histories of the survivors recount how the invaders continued to come…like invading ants … lusting for land and the red gold of Cedar wood – later followed by the Gold-diggers establishing the first gold fields behind the lush volcanic lands…despite the reprisals of the Traditional people the invaders continued to come………. “Savage Ants” – the  oral metaphor for the numbers and ferocity at which they attacked the ancestral peoples…

Here is one account from Mr. Alex Vesper, who was one of the Ngarakbal Githabal Elders that had been removed from his ancestral country and sent to Stony Gully Aboriginal Reserve near Kyogle….Mr Vesper was later sent to Mulli Mulli Aboriginal Station when the Stony Gully Reserve was revoked by the authorities… Along with the other survivors of his people he was given no rights of recognition as a Human being…so, Mr Vesper, with his fellow elders, rallied his people to overcome the divisions that the ‘invaders’ had so skilfully manipulated…bringing all the people together to lobby as one….dropping ‘old grievances’ and working together they brought about the Civil Rights recognition of the people in 1967…These people are heroes that authorities refuse to acknowledge……..Over-coming manipulation, putting aside self-interests and working together for a positive outcome, together….

To achieve their monumental success the Elders told their stories….some of the stories were ancestral Lore, and some of the stories were historical parables about what had happened to their lands, lore and language by succumbing to the divide and conquer mechanism of the invaders manipulations, in the past…..

In the following account, called ‘The Attack on Tabulam’,  Mr Alex Vesper relates an historical event about a Mr Ogilvie who was a Squatter that established a sheep grazing station in the ancestral lands of the Yoocum Yoocum ….Now, this is a landscape that had seen many invasions and has had a long history of inter-tribal warfare as a result…

The Squatters, which were exactly as the name implies – illegal occupiers,  quickly figured out the inter-tribal dynamics and would manipulate the ancestral tribes – drawing on the ‘Old scores’ – setting one tribe against another …text-book ‘divide and conquer’ mechanisms…the Squatters led the tribes to attack one another – and do so willingly on behalf of the Squatters…unfortunately, little did the ancestral peoples realise what they were being led to do….and so,  Mr Vesper told this story to remind everyone to work together during the decade of the Civil Rights campaigns……forget ‘old scores’, stay unified, and succeed

 

Alex Vesper - in the centre
Alex Vesper – in the centre

The Attack at Tabulam – by Mr Alex Vesper 

………….”The shooting of the Aborigines in Ogilvie’s time was the beginning of fear in the Aborigine and a terrifying of him which eventually drove him from his tribal life and place.  It happened about 1835.

Ogilvie started a grazing station at Baryulgil, and the area of his grazing even came as far as the southerly part of Tabulam.  He had sheep grazing on the area, and it was reported to him that his sheep were being killed.  He came up to the place where the sheep-killing had been reported.  He blamed the aborigines for killing the sheep instead of blaming the dingoes.  He got aboriginal and white stockmen from Grafton and they gathered to attack the tribe at Tabulam.

Through the night, they prepared to surround the camp of the aborigines and to attack at dawn to get everybody unawares.

So, when the aborigines at Tabulam knew that they were going to be attacked, they were warned by their divine powers.  They also prepared.

They told their women and old men to pack up and go up Rocky Creek to the mountainous country at a place they call Bull-Dog.  All the clever-fellers, the Wee-uns, were left with the war-faring aborigines to await the attack.

The clever-fellers, the Wee-uns, said, “We’ll wait until they attack the camp and then we’ll see who has the power.  The bullets will not hurt us.  We’ll stop them with our magic power.”

So they waited.  Of course, the aborigines who were affiliated with Ogilvie thought with delight how they would have the women of the Tabulam men after the camp was attacked.  That was the custom of the aborigines, to take such women back to their own camp.

Well, on the morning of the attack, Ogilvie and his stockmen surrounded the camp while it was still dark. The Tabulam aborigines had kept fires going in the camp all night.  Apple-wood was the notable wood used, it would burn all night.

Just at dawn the attackers had the camp surrounded.  The Tabulam men were painted up, they were painted white, waiting for the attack.  They were singing their sacred songs in order to paralyse the gun-power.

At daybreak the attackers sang out to the camp, “Hoy! Hoy!” The white painted aborigines came out of the camp and the attackers had them surrounded with their guns.

Then Ogilvie and his men said, “Will you surrender?”

The Tabulam aborigines said, “We won’t surrender, but if any of us get shot in the legs or arms, we’ll finish you.  You’ll pay the penalty.”  But Ogilvie and his men pulled out their guns and started firing.

The Tabulam aborigines never flinched.  Their sacred songs had paralysed the guns.  The bullets were deflected, and half the guns never went off.

The Tabulam aborigines called out, “Look out if you hit any of us, you’ll pay the penalty.”

So, when one of the Tabulam blokes who wasn’t so clever was hit in the arm, he sang out in the language, “I am hit!”

“All right,” said the Tabulam clever-fellers. “That’s good enough.”

Then one of the Wee-uns, the clever-fellers, pulled out a spear and speared the white man, who had shot the Tabulam man, through the heart.

Ogilvie, when he saw this, threw up his arms and cried, “That’s enough! That’ll do now!”  He surrendered, and all his mate surrendered.

Then the Tabulam Aborigines sang out, “We Jabilum! We Jabilum!” and stamped on the ground.  This meant, “We belong to this place.  We are the originals!”

“Hello,” Ogilvie said, “we’re friends now!” And he told his aborigines to make friends.  The Tabulam aborigines said that since Ogilvie had surrendered they would make peace.

They buried the man who was speared.  Then, afterwards, Ogilvie invited the ‘Jabilum’ men down to Baryulgil.  The aborigines explained that the sheep had never been taken by them.  They had no need to kill sheep, they had plenty of food of their own, possum, duck, fish, wallabies and yams.  They told the white men that it was a bad report that they had been killing the sheep.

And Ogilvie quite admitted, by surrendering and making peace, that he was wrong.  And the tomb of the man who was speared is there to this day at Tabulam……”………Mr Alex Vesper – recorded by Roland Robinson in 1966.

The use of parables to illustrate collective visions is nothing new….His-story has used it to grand effect to validate the appropriation of tribal nations globally…

The stories of the Yoocum Yoocum Elders brought about unity, and through that unity recognition….by looking deeply into the strengths and the weaknesses of the people, and moving forward together……..It’s important to remind ourselves that we are all wanting a better world to “grow up the future”……so, here’s a nice reminder of what the future is about….enjoy…

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