Articles on Indigenous history

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Vincent Lingiari looks on as Prime Minister Gough Whitlam swigs champagne after the symbolic handback of the Gurindji people’s land. Rob Wesley-Smith

An historic handful of dirt: Whitlam and the legacy of the Wave Hill Walk-Off

A new book reveals the drama and comedy of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam's famous "hand back" of Gurindji land in 1975, following the Wave Hill Walk-Off 50 years ago – and the bittersweet aftermath.
Gurindji ranger Ursula Chubb pays her respects to ancestors killed in the early 1900s at Blackfella Creek, where children were tied with wire and dragged by horses, and adults were shot as they fled. They were buried under rocks where they fell. Brenda L Croft, from Yijarni

Friday essay: the untold story behind the 1966 Wave Hill Walk-Off

The Gurindji people of the Northern Territory made history 50 years ago by standing up for their rights to land and better pay. But a new book reveals the deeper story behind the Wave Hill Walk-Off.
The Papunya elders who organised the event were less concerned about their team winning and more about ensuring each community got a fair go. Barry Judd

The Aboriginal football ethic: where the rules get flexible

Sports weekends are where family connections are sustained, and culture is infused into Australian football games played on country.
A picture of strength: lifelong activist Bonita Mabo OA in front of her portrait as a young woman, which features in her granddaughter Boneta-Marie Mabo’s first solo exhibition. Josef Ruckli, courtesy of the State Library of Queensland

Black Velvet: redefining and celebrating Indigenous Australian women in art

Boneta-Marie Mabo's art responds to a colonial past in which Aboriginal women were fetishised as "black velvet". But it also celebrates strong women, including her activist grandmother Bonita Mabo.
There’s too much evidence of violence in Australia’s past to hide behind euphemisms. The Founding of Australia, Algernon Talmadge, 1937.

Of course Australia was invaded – massacres happened here less than 90 years ago

Detailed historical research on the colonial frontier unequivocally supports the idea that Aboriginal people were subject to attack, assault, conquest and subjugation: all synonyms for the term 'invasion'.
The figure of the ‘noble savage’ has deep roots in Australia colonialism. Shipwreck of the Stirling Castle, John Curtis, 1838.

Explainer: the myth of the Noble Savage

Liberal MP Dennis Jensen's comments about the 'noble savage' lifestyle tap into a centuries-old stereotype about Indigenous people.
A meeting to plan the 1938 Day of Mourning in Sydney is addressed by Jack Patten, a leader of the Aborigines Progressive Association (APA), which had three aims: full citizenship rights; Aboriginal representation in parliament and the abolition of the NSW Aborigines Protection Board. Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW – MLQ059/9

Capturing the lived history of the Aborigines Protection Board while we still can

Researchers aim to record the experiences of the last people to live under the control of the Aborigines Protection/Welfare Board in NSW as part of a complete history of its far-reaching impacts.
Drawings by male warriors – like Black Hawk’s ‘Dream or Vision or Himself Changed to a Destroyer or Riding a Bufalo Eagle (1880-1881)’ – often depicted visions perceived during meditation and fasting. New York State Historical Association, Fenimore Art Museum/John Bigelow Taylor

From the Great Plains, Native American masterpieces emerged

A new exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art celebrates 2,000 years of artistic achievement.
Aboriginal gargoyles are the Australian War Memorial’s only overt representation, albeit unintentional, of a violent history of colonisation. James Sinclair

Gargoyles and silence: ‘our story’ at the Australian War Memorial

The Australian War Memorial promises to tell 'our story' about the nation's war experience – but it silences many stories about Australia's nationhood and glosses over Indigenous experience.
This nation has a history that extends well beyond the past 227 years. AAP/Joe Castro

The day I don’t feel Australian? That would be Australia Day

If there is ever a day that I don’t feel Australian, it would be on Australia Day. My mother is a fifth-generation Australian of English and Irish heritage and my father is Munanjahli and an Australian-born…
The unfinished Crazy Horse memorial in Custer County, South Dakota. Bernd00/Wikimedia Commons

Crazy Horse: leader, warrior, martyr … artist?

More than a century after he died, the Lakota warrior Crazy Horse, who famously fought General Custer in the Battle of Little Bighorn, is thought of as transcendent force – attuned to the universe in a…
Aboriginal stories say Fitzroy Island on the Great Barrier Reef was connected to the mainland. It was, at least 10,000 years ago. Felix Dziekan/Flickr

Ancient Aboriginal stories preserve history of a rise in sea level

In the beginning, as far back as we remember, our home islands were not islands at all as they are today. They were part of a peninsula that jutted out from the mainland and we roamed freely throughout…
Some Indigenous paintings have lasted thousands of years … so what is it about the pigments that make them so long-lasting? Carolien Coenen/Flickr

Pigments and palettes from the past – science of Indigenous art

Indigenous Australian practices, honed over thousands of years, weave science with storytelling. In this Indigenous science series, we look at different aspects of First Australians’ traditional life and…
In an otherwise fraught policy landscape, ‘cheapness’ has been one of the cold hard facts of Indigenous affairs. AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Cheap in the deep sense: the sorry business of Indigenous affairs

Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a bold move in September when he ran the country for four days from a tent at Gulkula in far northeast Arnhem Land in remote Australia. While there, he observed that although…
The breastplate given to ‘U. Robert King of the Big River and Big Leather Tribes’ by an unknown settler at Goonal station. Photo Dragi Markovic, National Museum of Australia

A breastplate reveals the story of an Australian frontier massacre

The flood of coverage of the centenary of Gallipoli and the first world war profoundly shapes the way we think of Australia’s history; but we suppress other violent events in our own country that also…
Many threats – the lower paintings at this site at Malarrak in Arnhem Land are being removed by feral animals rubbing against the wall. Paul Tacon

Australian rock art is threatened by a lack of conservation

Australian rock art is under threat from both natural and cultural forces impacting on sites. But what saddens me the most is that there is so much government lethargy in Australia when it comes to documenting…
Nicholas Clements’ The Black War sheds new light on the long and bloody war between colonists and Aboriginal people in Tasmania in the early 19th century. Crop of Governor Davey's Proclamation to the Aborigines, Wikimedia Commons

Noted works: The Black War

Nicholas Clements, The Black War: Fear, Sex and Resistance in Tasmania (2014, University of Queensland Press). In the heat of commemoration of Australians’ involvement in the first world war, it’s timely…

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