White Man's Dreaming: Killalpaninna Mission, 1866-1915

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Oxford University Press, 1994 - History - 308 pages
The history of the Killalpaninna Mission (1866-1915) is stark and tragic. White Man's Dreaming tells how a group of Lutheran missionaries dominated the Diyari Aborigines of the far north of South Australia. These missionaries - part of the great exodus of Lutherans from Prussia to South Australia after 1838 - were intent on spreading their religious faith to the 'underprivileged heathen' of the New World. With great perseverance, despite heat, drought, floods, disease and despair, the missionaries made their cumbersome way to the desert-dwelling Diyari and established the Killalpaninna Mission. Ironically, having appropriated Aboriginal land and introduced European livestock, the Lutherans came to depend on Aboriginal domestic labour and stockmen. The Diyari, in turn, forced into an uneasy dependence on the mission for rations that supplanted now polluted water supplies and traditional food sources, moved confusedly between two cultures and two sets of religious beliefs. The mission became a mere refuge from outer violence and a ration station for the dispossessed people. One of the leading missionaries, Johann Georg Reuther, reported that mission work was 'a stony field ... full of human bones'. Although their proselytising was largely a failure, some of the missionaries undertook valuable linguistic and ethnological work, documenting the language customs and religion of the Diyari. In 1893 Reuther, along with Carl Strehlow, set out to translate the New Testament into the Diyari language. White Man's Dreaming is underpinned by the prolific correspondence between the Lutherans and their supporters in Adelaide and Germany. Christine Stevens also uses interviews with the families ofmissionaries and Aborigines who survived the mission. White Man's Dreaming is a narrative history of rare power and poignancy. The many photographs alone constitute a graphic record of European appropriation and incomprehension. A contact history demonstrating the strength of the human spirit when opposing cultures - opposing 'Dreamings' - meet for the first time, it is also a microcosm of the metamorphosis of Aboriginal culture since European colonisation.

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Reuther and the Glorious 1890s
Old Rites New Order and Mission Decline
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