Bruce Pascoe, a Bunurong and Yuin man from Tasmania, delivers a stinging rebuke to historians and educators in a speech broadcast on 4ZZZ’s Paradigm Shift.
In the interview with Andy, Bruce Pascoe argues that aboriginal systems of food production and land management have been blatantly understated in modern re-tellings of Australian history by the New Left.
Listen to Andy’s interview with Bruce Pascoe, author of the book ‘Dark Emu – Black Seeds: Agriculture or Accident? ‘, on the pre-colonial agriculture and technology of aboriginal people. We speak about that history, about the challenge of recording it now, and about farming native yams.
Bruce points the bone at, not the revisionist history warrior, Keith Windshuttle, no, but Pascoe shames Manning Clarke, Gough Whitlam, Meanjin and Overland magazines for their failure to report in their books, speeches and articles that aboriginal Australia were horticulturalists and farmers long before the British colonialists arrived on the scene.
There is no doubt that the journals of early settlers Edward Curr, James Kirby, George Augustus Robinson, Mitchell and Sturt disclosed that there were yam, tuber and grain farmers among aboriginal nations.
The early settlers recognised this including my ancestor in Edward Micklethwaite Curr in his book RecollectionsofSquatting in Victoria. His cartwheels turned up tubers. Curr recognised that it was his sheep that destroyed the native crops cultivated for thousands of years by tribes living along the Murray River.
Sadly the High Court gave no credence to the historical record in its decision over the Yorta Yorta claim for land rights.
Yet no one could have read the historical novel, Secret River, written by Kate Grenville in 2005 or watched the series on ABC TV and not recognised that settlers on the Hawkesbury River stole the yam farms from the first nations people.
In the words of William Augustus Robinson in his report to the colonial office in London, Aboriginal people had ‘nowhere left to stand‘ thus provoking this ‘whispering in our hearts’.
Bruce Pascoe says, as an aboriginal man, he came across by accident the discoveries in early settlers journals. ‘Other people read them before me, but looking at it from an aboriginal people, professors did not see any significance to aboriginal civilisation’ says Pascoe. Young people between 5 and 25 are interested in it, says Bruce Pascoe. He learnt a lot about massacres that had ever been recorded, including people in his own family.
More recently historians Lyndall Ryan and Henry Reynolds and historical novels like The Secret River by Kate Grenville in 2005 reveal the stories documented by settlers in the 19th century.
Dark Emu inspired Bangarra dance company to create a choreography of the book.
Why did Manning Clarke miss this in his ‘Short History of Australia‘? Why didn’t Humphrey McQueen recognise the agricultural labour of Aboriginal first nations in The New Britannia?
Bruce Pascoe says that he has been taken to task by some well-meaning academics for his efforts.
In response Pascoe has reverted to native farming, growing tubers and native grains in Victoria.