Black history’s missing parts
I have just read a remarkable book, Dark Emu Black Seeds: agriculture or accident? by Bruce Pascoe. It deals in detail with the magnitude and significance of indigenous agriculture and the extent of sedentism. The evidence is in written records and the few remains of substantial buildings, proof of permanent and semi permanent settlements in Australia over millennia.
Most of the evidence he presents I had not heard of.
Pascoe’s sources are the diaries of early explorers and settlers, like Major Thomas Mitchell, Hamilton Hume, Captain Charles Sturt, Chief Protector of Aborigines of the Port Philip District George Augustus Robinson and many, more recent, historians.
Pascoe quotes Mitchell observing, “haycocks” that extended for miles over a stubble paddock where every stalk had been cut. Mitchell wondered if, “the heaps of grass had been pulled there, for some purpose for the allurement of agriculture.”
Pascoe produces evidence of damn construction, intricate fish traps (probably among the oldest human constructions on earth), and both stone and wattle and daub houses.
All this is archeological evidence of civilisations far beyond that of simply hunter gatherers which is presented as pre-European invasion history.
It is obvious why this evidence has been excluded from white Australian history, it does not fit the ruling paradigm of a continent, if not empty, at least not “utilised”.
The extensive bibliography in Pascoe’s book shows that many people have written on this subject but their work has been swallowed by the whale of conservative national myth builders. Or maybe I’m being too polite, perhaps they should be given a more robust description and called liars. For those who bury the truth are liars by omission.
Pascoe says of his book, “The reason I have provided so many examples … is to emphasise the depth of the material available and the desperate need for a revision of our history.”
I hope this book, and the many others listed, will be given the attention they deserve in the fight to recognise the true history of this continent and all its in habitants.
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