Lake Eyre Basin Rivers 104 from the Sandover region, near Ampilatwatja and Amaroo, and also with Waanyi and Kalkadoon men, for ceremonies. Their ceremonies were held all up and down our river. Some were near Urandangie, downstream from Boundary Gully. One corroboree travelled with our people from Camooweal, down the Georgina River, across onto the Hamilton River and finally onto the Diamantina River. A few elders still carry on the ceremonies today. These ceremonies are designed to maintain alliances and religious customs. Our people first met the Europeans in the early 1860s. This was graphically described by John Sutherland, the first European settler through our country, who brought 8000 sheep to the Georgina at Lake Mary in 1864 (Sutherland 1913). He was aiming to graze them on what is now Rocklands Station. After droving, over the dry country, he arrived at Lake Mary. The sheep smelt water and charged at the river where our mob was camped, with their campfires. This European and his sheep scattered my people. Big droughts followed, through to 1869, and there was inevitable conflict over access to water between my people and the settlers (Dugalunji Aboriginal Corporation 2015). Our stories tragically reflect this troubled history. My mother’s grandmother lived through the struggles, telling her story to my mother, who was a little girl. Her family and tribe were attacked and bayonetted by troopers at Louie Creek at Lawn Hill (Roberts 2005, pp. 233–234). Many died but my great- grandmother managed to flee. Conflict erupted everywhere. My people retaliated to save their precious drinking water, by spearing cattle that were dying and polluting all the waterholes. This is a history inevitably tied to water in this dry country. It is not surprising that our people care so much about our precious water resources (see Chapter 8). The rivers The rivers were the trade routes between tribes living in the Lake Eyre Basin and elsewhere. The Georgina River was one of the biggest trade routes in Australia as Aboriginal people moved shells from the Gulf and Arnhem Land all the way into South Australia. The stimulant, pituri, was also a highly sought after commodity, derived from the leaves of the corkwood tree (Duboisia hopwoodii). Around Carlo Station near Boulia, the most potent pituri produced from the plants grew in the sand hills. It was mixed with the best ashes along the Georgina River to make a highly valuable commodity which was fought over and traded for ochre and chisel blades, up and down the river. The Georgina River has enormous cultural significance with sites ranging up to 10 km on either side of the river and all along it. It provides ecosystem services in the form of our bush foods, such as freshwater fish, mussels and plants such as water lilies (Nymphaea georginae) and nardoo (Marsilea drumondii) (Dugalunji Aboriginal Corporation 2012). We Traditional Owners remain concerned about modern demands on these rivers, particularly from pastoralism, tourism, feral animals, weeds, erosion and sedimentation. Tourists are increasingly coming to this country, seeking out this wild and magnificent place (Schmiechen 2004), but they need to be managed. They also need to appreciate the system’s cultural and environmental values. Ignorant, careless and thoughtless tourists can damage the river banks and vegetation and pollute the rivers with litter and waste. For example, the fascination with campfires can mean culturally significant trees, with scars made by our people, are cut down.
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