Aboriginal people relationship with the land

Subject: History
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Word count: 987
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The British white settlers’ invasion in 1788 had a very huge impact on the Australian aboriginal’s way of life. It is certain the colonial rule had a very huge impact to the aboriginals and even the few that survived were significantly affected (Norris, 2014). The aboriginals had strong believed that their ancestors’ spirits in their human form came to earth and moved over the land creating flora, fauna, rocks and other land forms that are known today. They also believed that the ancestral spirits created a huge bond between them and their land. Therefore, they thought that the land was a connection which bound them to their ancestors (Behrendt, 2013) hovered

Australian Aboriginals were gatherers and semi nomadic hunters. Each clan in this community had their own territory and it was in these territories or traditional lands that they made their living. Their lands were defined by geographical boundaries such mountains, lakes and rivers. Land was seen as a source of food and other economic and social gains. Aboriginals viewed land as a force that impacted on all aspects of their lives (Clendinnen, 2012). They developed a deep sense of connection to land before colonization and based on this they referred land as a second skin. They had developed indigenous knowledge of their traditional lands which is well illustrated by their exceptional tracking skills which supported their hunting and gathering life. Based on such knowledge they were able to locate and identify edible plants. Additionally, it allowed them to track down animals to be able to survive (Powell, 2015).

Aborigines had a spiritual connection to land, viewing it as the mother of all the things existing on earth. Aborigines grew to understand the central role that land played in the development of their character as a community. The communities had strict laws about the use and interaction with land. The spiritual connection made it difficult for the Aborigines to abandon the land. The battles that ensued in the play were driven by the need to control land. The Aborigines were ready to kill for the land and the settlers who had first occupied the land along the river faced daily episodes of spear attacks (Clendinnen, 2012).

Conflicts between settlers and Aboriginal people

The settlers viewed land differently from the Aborigines. Land was an asset that they could own to prove that they had achieved a certain goal in life. William, who represented the dreams and hopes that the settlers held, viewed land as an achievement, a symbol of self-actualization. He was willing to kill to maintain the prosperity of his dream of owning the prime plot that he had named Thornhill’s Point (Grenville, 2012). The new settlers had a view that those who had not done anything on land to develop it could not be the owners of the land. Settling and developing the land to produce benefits was more important to the new settlers than preserving the land. Owning land was also a status symbol as they had no chance of owning land in England. The prospect of owning land in the new country gave William a chance to be a man again (Grenville, 2012). He could now talk to his superiors in confidence.

The contrasting views about land led to the constant attacks between the two groups of occupiers. While the Aborigines wanted to protect, and maintain the land, the whites wanted to use the land to benefit themselves (Behrendt, 2013). The benefits would be economic and social. The resulting conflicts brought about the death of large numbers of people on both divides (Grenville, 2012). The Aboriginal’s fight was to maintain land due to their spiritual connection. The whites mocked the traditions that the Aborigines held at heart. The Aborigines were not ready to abandon their culture that represented their identity to adopt something that was foreign and destructive. In the colonial period the white settlers opted to sell and lease land which completely was objected by the aboriginals. The settlers thought that the aboriginals would be greatly pleased by the new land due to the nature of their indigenous lifestyle that they had upheld for centuries (Grenville, 2012). However, the aboriginals became very unhappy with their land disposition which resulted to violent clashes. The main reason for the clash arose due to the cultural misunderstandings over the land. The war was brutal as both sides felt that they were fighting for their survival.

Reasons why the white settlers felt superior to the Aboriginal people

Initially the white settlers didn’t have bad intentions with the aboriginal people and all they wanted was to take up their land for their own gains. In the beginning the aboriginal people were willing to share the land with the settlers and in return they expected that they would share their animals, foods and tools (Norris, 2014). Ultimately there was conflict as the white settlers had a different perspective as they believed they were superior.  From the settlers point of view they felt that the aboriginal people didn’t deserve to have title of the land (Grenville, 2012). On the other hand, the aboriginal people felt that the land was theirs as it was their ancestral land. They therefore saw that white settlers being a threat as they perceived they wanted to rob them of their fishing and hunting grounds.

The settlers felt superior to the Aborigines in terms of their culture and their language. The Aborigines used a native language when conversing, a language that the settlers simply did not comprehend (Grenville, 2012). The settlers also referred to the Aboriginal dancing as monkey dances They saw their culture as more refined and their mannerisms more polished than the Aboriginals. They further viewed themselves superior since they could talk and work efficiently (Norris, 2014). Ultimately the conflict of interest resulted to war which ultimately led to the death of many aborigines.

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  1. Behrendt, L., 2013. Diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. Hot Topics: Legal Issues in Plain Language, (86), p.1.
  2. Clendinnen, I., 2012. Dancing with strangers: the true history of the meeting of the British first fleet and the Aboriginal Australians, 1788. Canongate Books.
  3. Grenville, K., 2012. The Writing of The Secret River. The 2005 Herbert Blaiklock Memorial Lecture. Arts: The Journal of the Sydney University Arts Association, 27.
  4. Norris, R.P., 2014. The Australian Aboriginal People: How to Misunderstand Their Science. arXiv preprint arXiv:1405.7108.
  5. Powell, M., 2015. Assessing Magnitude: Tasmanian Aboriginal Population, Resistance and the Significance of Musquito in the Black War. History Compass, 13(8), pp.375-384.
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