Blood Line Song Line Pt1

Blood Line Song Line Pt1

Being Nyikina and my Connection to Country

Ngajanoo Nilawal, Anne Poelina, Ngaiyoo Yimardoowarra Marnil. My name is Anne Poelina I am a woman from the Mardoowarra, Fitzroy River. Ngaiyoo mandajarra Nyikina. My people are Nyikina. Ngaiyoo Nyikina, I am Nyikina.

The traditional lands of Nyikina people are located in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia. In the past Nyikina people have been given many names; Walangaree people according to the early writings of Daisy Bates (1907), was one such name.

Walangaree/ Warloongarriy demonstrated our connection to the Law of the river, the Mardoowarra, named by settlers as the Fitzroy River. According to this song line, we as Nyikina people are all descendants of Woonyoomboo, the first human being who travelled along the living water ways to Mijirikan and was responsible for releasing and straddling, two Yoongoorroonkoo, river serpents which split forming Alexander Island dividing the Mardoowarra in two, in the creation of Warloongarriy Law.

The Songline for the Warloongarriy Law!
All Nyikina people are connected to one ancestor Woonyoomboo. Woonyoomboo was a human being who travelled with his extended family along the different billabongs, naming the living water holes.

Every time we sing the Warloongarriy song, we remind the people young and old, this is the Law of the Mardoowarra, this is the First Law we have inherited from Bookarrarra, from the beginning of time (Lucy Marshall, Senior Nyikina Elder).

It is because of our birth right that we describe ourselves as Yimardoowarra, which means we belong to the Mardoowarra, the Lower Fitzroy River. Our resource base for our traditional knowledge and contemporary practices is in our relationship with each other and our traditional lands and living waters. My doctoral studies (2009) confirmed our people believe our cultural actions are the basis for freedom and that our journey is strengthened through the wisdom, cultural and everyday relationship with each other, the Mardoowarra and our communities, extending outwards to the rest of humanity and the world.

We uphold the beliefs of this First traditional law and customs. It is our sovereign law from the beginning of time which is to protect the Mardoowarra. We have a responsibility to care for all of the living things connected to this country. To protect and care for the birds, the fish, the rocks to the trees, we are custodians for and in partnership with nature. Our duty of care recognises the Mardoowarra, as the River of Life! The Mardoowarra is recognised as a living being, with a right to life. As senior Nyikina elder and Cultural advisor Jeannie Warbi says, “No River No People”!

As a consequence of colonisation and the intergenerational trauma, we are rebuilding our lives and our Nyikina cultural, community and environmental capital. Over the past 12 years through a partnership with the Nyikina Association and senior Nyikina elders, my sisters, Lucy Marshall and Jeannie Warbie we are learning and maintain our language, stories and our songs and we are holding on to our birth right and transferring this knowledge system to our children and our grandchildren. Most important of all we are standing up for the Mardoowarra, to protect this sacred river for current and future generations of the world. This is the First Law the Law of Relationships and we as descendants of our apical ancestor Nanni and Danbarri believe the Mardoowarra is a living entity and as a living being it has the right to life to survive.

My Apical Ancestors
My great grandmother from my grandfather side is called Nanni. Our oral history from my grandmother Emily (Edgar) Watson records her mother in law Nanni as a Nyikina Warawa person. According to my grandmother, Emily, Nanni’s roam included the areas now known as Yooloowaja/Yuluwaja or Yeeda across the Waljarrarra (Yeeda Plains) to Bangarrikan or Fraser River and up through Mt Jowlenga down to Deep Creek to Lake Eda and into Kanin. Following ceremony, trade, and exchange my great grandmother Nanni and her family would venture to the other Northern Traditions, to visit family and friends at Walmadany and to Disaster Bay to Fraser River back to Yeeda (Yooloowaja/Yuluwaja).

If on their return from Kanin and Lake Eda they would pass through Djarraradoo/Jararroo through to Yallarroo, and across the living water systems to Garrawin/Mt Clarkson before returning to the areas near the mouth of the King Sound, and around Yeeda (Yooloowaja/Yuluwaja)! Other times our families would travel back from Kanin to Lake Eda and turn right to go to Mowla Bluff and Dampier Downs down through Geegully Creek and Boodangoonykoodany/Manguel Creek to Oongalkada/Udialla Springs across the Mardoowarra to Balginjirr and depending on circumstances and the time of the year, turn left or right on our country.

My grandfather William Watson was born at Kakinpala/Myroodah Station on the 10th January 1894, he is Nyikina and Warawa. His paternal father was Percival Rose. Rose was the owner of a vast pastoral lease known as the Kimberley Pastoral Company. Rose’s practice was to place his mixed race children with other white men whom he employed to work the stock and Aboriginal people. Rose placed my grandfather in the care of Tom Watkin/Tom Watson and with his mother Nanni. Nanni also had a promised Aboriginal husband, known as Dick/Digbee or Balbarra.

Our oral history talks about our great grandmother Nanni, being born not far from where William Watson went through and initiated into Nyikina law, custom and ceremony. This was a ceremonial initiation ground on which a very old and large boab tree which was located on the right hand side as you drove in to Balginjirr (Lower Liveringa) this tree died several years ago and was a rich ceremonial law ground involving many of the neighbouring tribes.

My grandfather learnt the skills of station life and was fluent Nyikina and Warawa, along with English/Australian speaker. My grandfather was the overseer of Mt Anderson Station for over twenty years. He also was granted full citizenship status and rights on the 16th November 1930, whilst his half-brother George Canny Rose was the Manager of Mt Anderson Pastoral station and a Justice of the Peace.

My great grandmother, Maggie Chalmers/Chambers her Aboriginal name was Danbarri. Danbarri was already a woman when she was brought in to Noonkanbah Station after watching and surviving the massacre of her family and friends in 1896, at the St George Range. My grandmother Emily Edgar was born in 1897. She was the daughter of a well-known non Aboriginal man John Edgar also known as Jack Edgar.

John/Jack Edgar born at Mandurah in 1863. In 1882 he came to the Kimberley to fill a position as overseer on ‘Yeeda’ Station. John/Jack Edgar was legally married to Alice Mary Park in 1891. He undertook the task of droving his flock overland through 100 miles of trackless territory to their destination on the Fitzroy River – sinking wells along the route to water the stock. He spent some of his time also doing the “book work” for many pastoralist and met my great grandmother Danbarri/Maggie Chalmers/Chambers in Noonkanbah and fathered my grandmother Emily giving her his name Edgar. John/Jack went on to manage Thangoo Station near Broome. Jack Edgar’s brother, Felix Edgar went on to manage a station in the Hill Country on the Gibb River Road. Felix Edgar fathered many Ngarinyin children and so from our white European heritage we are related to these extended family members. My eldest brother Ernie Hunter spent many years working in the Hill Country firstly with his father, Eugene Hunter and then later living and working independently as a horse and cattleman. On many occasions he had been invited to witness Ngarinyin sites with senior Ngarinyin Law Men but always refused, citing he was and remains always “Nyikina!”

My grandmother told me her ray/rai, Oongkoorr, spirit child came from Doodoodoo/Mt Wynne from the bubbling hot spring, living water. The mapping of my grandmother’s song line is a major focus for our family. We are mapping and retracing this song line. These songs travel from Balginjirr to Doodoodoo, Mijirikan, Fishery Hill, Kookoorinya (Sandy Billabong). Emily Watson moved back to Noonkanbah for a short period after she had her children and her husband had died. Our family member Senior Nyikina Elder, Mum Rosie Mulligan who lives in Noonkanbah confirms that Emily returned to live near Noonkanbah after her children were born, this was between 1952 and 1954. I suspect this period was the 'mourning or sorry business' period for my grandmother as my grandfather, died in1952.

Rosie Mulligan confirmed my uncle Ivan was her promised husband, and remembers Ivan had spoken to Rosie’s father (who had grown her up and not her natural father). Ivan Watson confirmed Rosie was ‘too young and too small’ to be married to him. Rosie Mulligan confirms Ivan coming to see his mother at Noonkanbah and bringing her kangaroo and emu on weekend visits. She also remembers Ivan taking them to do the ‘windmill run’, the next time she saw Ivan he had married someone else. My uncle Ivan married his companion and lifelong friend, Aunty Doreen Chulung in 1954. However, Mum Rosie always refers to him as her promise husband, her 'yagoo'! She continues to have the relationship with my cousin brother, Robert who calls and respect Rosie as his “mum”.

Following the marriage of my uncle to aunt Doreen, my grandmother returned to live in Derby. Derby in known to us as “Purrula/Booroolla” which refers to a special living water spring in the middle of Derby. Derby is known as Nyikina country and is shared with Warawa people. Derby was the first town in the Kimberley, gazetted in 1883 and is located on the vast tidal mudflats on the edge of the King Sound and has the highest tidal range of any port in Australia. Derby services the pastoral, tourism and mining industries and has an Aboriginal population of around 5000 making up half of the population of the Shire of Derby/West Kimberley.

In the second part of my Australian story, I reflect on liyan my inner spirit which guides my values and ethics for everyday living, the part two is titled Law of Relationships, Law of the Land!

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