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02 MAY 2015

Aboriginal People's Relationship to Land

"Every different clan group has stories about their beginnings. Stories are like our archives, detailing how Creator Beings from under the earth arose to shape the land and to create the landscape. There are myriad variations of the story, but the theme stays the same.

The whole surface of the earth was like a moonscape, no features, no flora and fauna, just bare open plain. But there were Creator Beings sleeping in a state of potentiality just under the surface. At a certain time they were disturbed, whereupon their potentiality transformed into actuality and they arose out of the ground. When they finally emerged, they were very big and tall. These beings were spirit ancestors of many of the varieties of flora and fauna, especially large animals, in Australia. When this emergence was completed, the spirit ancestors started to interact with one another, fighting, dancing, running about, making love, killing. All of this activity shaped the Australian landscape as we know it today.

Throughout this period humans remained asleep in various embryonic forms, in a state like a kind of proto-humanity. They were awakened by all the activity above; the Creator Beings helped these proto-humans to become fully human, teaching them the Laws of custodianship of land, the Laws of kinship, of marriage, of correct ceremonies-they gave them every kind of knowledge they needed to look after the land and to have a stable society.

When this work was finished, the Creator Beings went back into the land, where they all still remain in the same eternal sleep from which they awakened at the beginning of time. The locations to which they returned have always been and are still today regarded as very important sacred sites.

Wherever the Creator Beings travelled, they left tracks or some kind of evidence of themselves. These traces determined the identity of the people. In other words, every Aboriginal person has a part of the essence of one of the original creative spirits who formed the Australian landscape. Therefore each person has a charter of custodianship empowering them and making them responsible for renewing that part of the flora and its fauna. The details of this metaphysics varied widely across the land with the physical environment, but the spiritual basis-the understanding that what separates humans from animals is the fact that each human bears a creative and spiritual identity which still resides in land itself-provided and still provides in many places the religious, social, political and economic force throughout Aboriginal Australia."

(Mary Graham, 2008)

Australian Humanities Review 45 (November 2008): "Mary Graham: Philosophical Underpinnings of Aboriginal Worldviews". This essay was originally published in Worldviews: Environment, Culture, Religion 3 (1999): 105-118.




Aboriginal Australia • Aboriginal mythology • Aboriginal worldviews • ancestral beings • Association for the Study of Australian Literature (ASAL) • Australian Humanities Review (AHR) • Australian landscape • beginnings • belonging • charter of custodianship • clan • clan group • creation narrative • creative and spiritual identity • Creator Beings • custodianship • customs • embryonic forms • eternal sleep • fauna • florafolkloreIndigenous Australians • Juanita Bailey • Kombu-merri person • landland custodianshiplandmarkslandscape • Lilla Watson • Lin Morrow • Mary Grahammetaphysics • open plain • origin mythphysical environment • potentiality • proto-human • proto-humanity • sacred sites • spirit ancestors • symbolic placetimeless time • under the earth • under the surface • worldview


Simon Perkins
01 MAY 2015

Berta Cáceres 2015 Goldman Prize Recipient South and Central America

"In a country with growing socioeconomic inequality and human rights violations, Berta Cáceres rallied the indigenous Lenca people of Honduras and waged a grassroots campaign that successfully pressured the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.

(Goldman Environmental Foundation)




2015 • Agua Zarca Dam • Berta Caceres • blockade • Central America • community resistance • consultation • COPINH • dam • demand for cheap energy • Desarrollos Energeticos SA (DESA) • disenfranchised people • displaced indigenous communities • environmental activist • environmental impactenvironmentalist • environmentally destructive projects • Goldman Environmental Foundation • grassroots campaign • Gualcarque River • Hondurashuman rights • human rights activist • human rights violationIndigenous communities • indigenous rights • inspirational leader • Inter-American Human Rights Commission • International Finance Corporation (IFC) • landland custodianshipLatin America • Lenca people • mining • mining operations • murder • National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras • peaceful protest • Rio Blanco • riversacred sites • Sinohydro • social activist • socioeconomic inequality • South Americasymbolic place • Tomas Garcia • uprooting communities • World Bank


Simon Perkins
26 MAY 2009

Speculation about New Zealand's economic value and advantage in 1866


(From the Melbourne Argus.)
Will Victoria be the foremost of Australian colonies in the future? Hitherto we have not permitted ourselves to doubt it ; but then it is only quite lately that events in New Zealand have been calling attention to the extraordinary resources and prospects of that country. Long secluded, petty, and almost unnoticed, the settlements in those islands have suddenly sprung into a prominence and importance which recall the progress of our own early days. Communities are quickly built up in these regions of the far south, which were a hemisphere of mystery to the old world a few short years ago. The turn of New Zealand is fast coming ; within four or five years she has doubled her inhabitants. Population is multiplying, not only on the auriferous hillsides and terraces of Otago and Westland, but in the province of Auckland, furthest removed from the goldfields. Her bound into importance has been so sudden that those great islands have not been oven named yet. Countries as largo as England and Scotland are only distinguished as the North and South Islands – the native appellations, unlike native ones in general, being in this instance too clumsy and long–winded for every day use ; while as for the common term New Zealand, it cannot, of course, serve for the future, and, as inappropriate and absurd, its withdrawal was long since determined on. If their present extraordinary advance be sustained, those islands will be soon well on the path to that magnificent destiny which, from their geographical position and great natural opportunities, was predicted for them by the thoughtful in England long before the first of our settlements was formed on their shores. Perhaps it is in climate that New Zealand has the most striking advantage over the Australian continent. Being very mountainous, surrounded by the ocean, and far from any other land, there are no desert winds, and the moisture is perennial, and at all seasons reliable. The country is about the size of Great Britain, but the shape being much more elongated, there are greater varieties of temperature ; for while the sugar cane, it is suspected, would grow in the peninsula of the extreme north, antarctic breezes give to the south the winter of Britain. As a whole, however, the climate has been compared, not unjustly, to that of Great Britain in its vicissitudes at all seasons, and its influence on the soil and the human constitution. There is no country, therefore, better adapted for the transplantation of the Anglo–Saxon and Celtic races, with a successful perpetuation of the original type. It is entirely because of the difference of climate between New Zealand and the archipelagos of the Pacific that the Maoris are so much more energetic, industrious, and masculine, than their soft kinsmen of the Sandwich and Society Islands. And the earth, like the air, seems fashioned for the development of a great nation. Noble harbors indent the coasts ; great and deep rivers, hundreds of yards wide, hundreds of miles long, traverse the plains ; the mountains are as high as those of Switzerland, the forests as majestic as in the tropics. And over so many degrees of latitude almost all useful plants, except those exclusively of the torrid zone, can find congenial growth–all cereals, from the hardy oat and rye which need the cold, to rice and maize which love the sun–all fruits and vegetables and their products, except, perhaps wine, for which the restlessness of the atmosphere may not be well suited–all minerals, from gold, the most artificially valuable, to iron and coal, the most useful, are found. Then the constant verdure affords unlimited scope for grazing, and the adjacent seas yield abundance of fish. Just now the South Island has the largest population because of the gold–fields, has in more permanent advantages the North is vastly superior. It has not its neighbor's severe winters, the mountain masses do not engross so much of its surface, the extent of fertile land is far greater, and the navigable rivers have longer courses. The North Island must be the principal seat of agriculture and of internal and external trade.

The two islands are rising into importance so fast, and their chief seats of population are so very distant from each other, that their formation into two colonies cannot be long postponed. The late removal of the capital to the town of Wellington on the dividing strait, as a central situation, was almost superfluous in the present aspect of affairs. It is not a central seat of Government that the islands are now asking for, but distinct Governments, as they have distinct interests. The South has only a couple of native tribes, and no Maori wars, and grumbles at being taxed for the expense ; while the North has no gold–fields or digging populations. Already, therefore, the chief communities in both quarters are agitating for separation. Our New Zealand correspondent mentions in his last letter that Auckland is to make common cause in the General Assembly, which has just met, with Otago and Canterbury on this subject, and these three provinces have twice and a–half as many in habitants as the other six.

As for the grand old native war race, it is fast passing away without fulfilling the dream of Sydney Smith, of amalgamating with its supplanters. Diffenbach estimated the Maoris at 115,000 in the beginning of the present century. In 1861, an estimate based on a recent census returned them as 55,336. Now, says our correspondent, nobody believes that they exceed 40,000 souls. That which was probably their last war with us is virtually at an end. Most of our regular forces leaving, no longer necessary in New Zealand. Subdued and hopeless, a fatal despair has seized upon the proud Maori that dull depression, that tedium vite which smites with the hand of death. Among the tribes which have submitted the mortality is described as astonishing. Without the presence of epidemic or other active cause, two hundred individuals of some small hapus near Raglan died off within two months. The Maori is departing over the rock of the Reinga – the gateway of the land of spirits. Centuries hence, when millions of civilised, and therefore superior, men occupy the plains and mountains, the valor and the fate of the ancient owners of the land will be the theme of many a tradition, of many a poetic fancy. Time will lend its embellishment, and history will not forget the gallant aborigines of New Zealand."
(The Brisbane Courier, Tuesday 14 August 1866)

[A rather enlightening article from 1866. The article was retrieved through using the Australian Newspapers beta which was developed by the National Library of Australia as part of the Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program.

The photo shows a National Provincial Council mining licence from 1884 (source).]



1866 • agricultureAnglo-SaxonAotearoa New ZealandAucklandAustralia • Australian Newspapers Digitisation Program • Canterbury • Celtic • colonydatabaseEnglandgeographyGreat BritainIndigenouslandLand WarslibraryMaoriMelbourne • Melbourne Argus • National Library of Australia • NLA • Otago • Sandwich Islands • ScotlandsearchsettlementSociety IslandsSouth IslandSwitzerland • Sydney Smith • tradeVictoria (Australia) • Westland


Simon Perkins
30 DECEMBER 2008

Understanding the social relations operating within Indigenous communities key to economic development

"Regulation theory has emerged from the conflict between the modernisation and dependency perspectives discussed by Anderson (2002) and Anderson et al. (2005). Regulation theory emphasises the importance of economic and extra–economic institutions in economic development (Skrypietz, 2003), with the accumulation of capital being influenced by state and non–state institutions, and interactions between agents within the economic system (Dana, 2005). Value is placed not only on the economic aspects, but also on understanding the social relations and interactions within industrial economies. The objective of this approach is to develop diverse strategies that are suited to respective societal structure and consequently lead to a maximising of economic development for both distinctive economies as well as the general economy. The modes of development that emerge can reflect the history, values and cultural aspects, and the objectives of the people involved (Anderson, 2002). This suggests that the objective of Maoris, and indeed all indigenous groups, is to develop a diverse range of strategies suited to the unique characteristics of their economy as well as the cultural aspects in which they live, to achieve maximum results not only for themselves but for the economy as a whole."
(Stephen Buckingham and Leo Paul Dana, pp. 178–187, 178 Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 2, No. 2, 2005)

Anderson, R. (2002) 'Entrepreneurship and aboriginal Canadians: a case study in economic
development', Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp.45–65.

Anderson, R.B., Camp II, R., Dana, L.P., Honig, B., Nkongolo–Bakenda, J–M. and Peredo, A.M.
(2005) 'Indigenous land rights in Canada: the foundation for development?',
Int. J. Entrepreneurship and Small Business, Vol. 2, No. 2, pp.104–133.

Skrypietz, I. (2003) 'Regulation theory and the crisis of capitalism', Book review, Capital and
Class, Spring.

Dana, L.P. (2005) When Economies Change Hands: A Survey of Entrepreneurship in the Emerging
Markets of Europe from the Balkans to the Baltic States, International Business Press,


agencyagreementAotearoa New Zealandautonomyculture • dependency • economic developmententrepreneurship • grievance • IndigenousiwilandMaorimodernisationregulation • regulation theory • settlementsocial changesocietysocio-economicSouth IslandTe Tiriti o WaitangitransformationTreaty of Waitangitribevalues


Simon Perkins
05 OCTOBER 2005

Land is ultimately the only thing that exists

"Mary Graham has declared that one of the most taken–for–granted assumptions of Aboriginal thought is that spirit is real; another is that land is all there is (Graham 1992). That is to say, spirit has a status, in Aboriginal thought, as incontestable as that of energy and matter; and, since there is no heaven and hell, and since theories and ideas, however dazzling, are not real, land is ultimately the only thing that exists. If 'land' is expanded to encompass the concrete given – all that is actual in a physical sense – then I think that the attitude of letting be follows from these twin premises: spirit animates the given rather than existing in the realm of the abstract, so we connect with spirit by engaging – and not unnecessarily interfering – with the given. By embracing the given even in its most adulterated forms, we reinhabit our own contemporary, mundane reality in the same kind of profound way that traditional Aboriginal peoples inhabited their reality, the still edenic land. Graham, Mary 1992, interviewed on Aboriginal Perspectives, Caroline Jones and Stephen Godley, ABC Religious Program"
(Freya Mathews, Australian Humanities Review)

Mathews, F. (2004). "Letting the World Do the Doing." Australian Humanities Review August – October 2004(33).

[Issues surrounding land and its relationship to spirituality are central to an indigenous Australian world view. The belief that land is something that can’t be contained or controlled stands in stark contrast to the Western belief that sees land as a commodity that can be owned by individuals and sold for personal gain.]



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