95 8 Looking after the rivers a view from nearly 50 000 years of experience Scott Gorringe Introduction Many people who come to visit this country, the Lake Eyre Basin and its rivers, for more than one day gain a connection to it. Multiply this feeling of connection over 50 to 100 years and talk to families who have settled in the Channel Country and you appreciate their love of this country and its waters. Now I challenge you to imagine almost 50 000 years of connection and cultural obligation to a land (Tobler et al. 2017) and tell me that’s not significant. Connecting with this country makes you feel responsibility for it and its waters. Many of us care deeply about this country and its rivers. It feels good to have a responsibility and an obligation that’s bigger than you. I belong to the Mithaka people. Our mob are the Kurrithala Tjimpa (Black Hawk) and our country is bordered by Cooper Creek (east) and the Diamantina River to the west. Kirrenderri is what we call this country, but now it’s called the Channel Country. Mithaka people feel it’s not only our right but it’s also our responsibility to look after the country and its rivers. Wahlduru is our name for the three rivers, the Cooper, Diamantina and the Georgina Rivers, which may be different to the names given to them by other Aboriginal mobs in this region. My mob has been connected continuously to country and its waters for tens of thousands of years. I believe that I have approval to speak on behalf of these waters and this country. I have a responsibility, a right and an obligation to do this. I grew up on the Cooper that’s where I learnt to swim, near the bridge on the Cooper near Windorah (Fig. 8.1). Most of our Christmases and all of our school break-ups were on the river. We drink the water out of the Cooper. These rivers and this country sustained thousands of peoples over tens of thousands of years. They provided food and water for us, as well as food and water for our food the mussels (Fig. 8.2), fish and birds. And they are also the sites of our birthing places and our resting places. These are strategically scattered across the country, not far from water. Along these waterways, you will find the foundation of our stories: Mowana (budgerigar), Multhuri (pelican), Magwiri (stork), Miljoori (spoonbill), Munkerran (white ibis) and many more. They represent our families, the names for our clans and language groups, all of which inform us of our place in this country. All along these iconic rivers, you will find the foundations of our stories they either start or end at the significant waterholes. The stories connect us all the time and help us to remember the ways that we are supposed to be. These same stories informed a people for thousands of years. They continue to form the bases for our governing laws and our
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