Dingo Makes Us Human: Life and Land in an Australian Aboriginal Culture

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CUP Archive, Aug 28, 2000 - Biography & Autobiography - 264 pages
The Aboriginal people are essential figures in White Australia's mythology, and as such are often represented as being intrinsic to the past. Nevertheless their role in the future is widely perceived as being irrelevant and the much publicised images of the squalor and misery of contemporary Aboriginal communities often serve to further alienate European Australia from Aboriginal Australia. Debbie Bird Rose's highly original ethnography of the people of the Victoria River Valley in the Northern Territory fulfils what she sees as anthropology's basic purpose: to emphasise our shared humanity. In Dingo Makes Us Human, members of several Aboriginal communities recount their stories, stories which bring the past and present, the specific and general and the individual and collective into a shared matrix. The study has a firm historical grounding, describing the decimation and subjugation of the Aboriginal people in the region following white colonisation. In 1883, Victoria River Downs was the largest cattle station in the world and 4-5,000 Aboriginal people lived in its surrounding area; by 1939, 187 people remained, complete tribes and languages having been destroyed. This nightmarish history is recounted by the Yarralin people, yet the author ensures that they be viewed as survivors who have creatively maintained their culture. Dr Rose's approach is largely dialogic. Her analysis encompasses religion, philosophy, politics, ecology and kinship, explaining the ideas contained within the people's stories and their philosophies of life. Debbie Bird Rose lived for two years with the Yarralin community, and her lucid descriptions of the Dreaming as both a model and celebration of life, and of the network of identities which link people to each other and to the world in which they live, demonstrate the extent of her understanding of and empathy with the Yarralin people. The book's boldly direct and personal approach will be illuminating for readers lacking a sophisticated anthropological background and its insight of great value to experienced anthropologists.
 

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Contents

Remembrance
1
Australia
4
community locations
5
Pastoral boundaries and language areas
8
Illustrations
16
Population pyramid 1939
36
Sign announcing that Yarralin is a dry area
39
Line drawing of Walujapi
44
The Gift of Life
90
Wuttjastrings which connect earth and sky
93
Dream Country
106
Sketch of generations and country
112
Crosscousins replace a previous generation
115
Erosion at a Victoria River Downs yard
116
To Have and to Hold
123
Marriages between Jangaris and Japartas children
125

Dreaming strings
54
Ivy Kulngarri with one of the baby spirit stones
60
Line drawing of a sorcery painting
66
Circle of women
75
Circle of women including brothers and marriage partners
76
Sixteen subsection categories
77
Three generations
78
Lines of men
79
Circles of women and oscillating sets of men
80
Moiety divisions
81
Ngurlu and matrimoieties
83
Ages and percentages of people living in their own country
140
Nancys story
142
Freehold
145
Men dancing Wangka
146
Genealogical and languageidentity sketch of participants in the murder case
154
n Jacky Jacky
186
is Life Time
203
Russell crawls through the legs of the men
210
This Earth
217
Relationships and contexts
222
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