Distinctions in identity

Just reading the Herald Sun and I noticed the article about Bruce Pascoe investigating his aboriginal heritage. The article was written by Andrew Bolt who investigated his aboriginal heritage and found that there were only individuals of English heritage being backdated.

Having written about Mudrooroo Narogin where his aboriginal heritage was called into question. Who was also a literary figure, I thought I’d weigh on in with my opinion on a few things.

I also watched a short online video clip where Andrew Bolt weighs on his claims that the aboriginal people were using agriculture by farming grain. Bolt, in his usual critical rhetoric, gives the evidence that Bruce Pascoe has given concerning his historical claims that the aboriginies were farming the land and making use of grain. He cites various historical references of a ‘grain belt’, basically a section of land that grew grain through out Australia that was located through out Australia, but did not include that of Victoria. Bolt is attempting to defend the colonial perspective that the aboriginal people were hunter-gatherers. Where Pascoe, as a historian, is putting forth the idea that they were farming the grain.

Now, Bolt is technically correct. In our view of what agriculture is there would have to be some evidence that the aborigines were farming the land. And I suppose to do this he would have to find some evidence of the aboriginal people ‘germinating the seed’ to plant and sow the grain. But there is no evidence given. So technically it wouldn’t be considered as an act of agriculture.

I suppose for any detailed account of these type of things, you should read, ‘Guns, Germs and Steel’ by Jared Diamond. To quote page one hundred concerning this subject, “The arrival of founder domesticates enabled local people to become sedentary, and thereby increased the likelihood of local crops’ evolving from wild plants that were gathered, brought home and planted accidentally, and later planted intentionally.” So what probably happened is that the aborigines were in the process of domesticating the plant for food when the colonialists arrived. Basically the grain belt spread by the aborigines and/or wildlife eating the plant and then taking a shit along what became the grain belt and it spread that way. Not really agriculture as we know it, but still it’s rudimentary form.

However, I suppose you could say that it was a rudimentary step towards the invention of agriculture. But that is already noted in historical records in which Pascoe finds his evidence. Still interesting to behold and noteworthy, but technically not agriculture.

As concerned to Pascoe and his aboriginal heritage. I am just going on Bolt’s research where he finds none. And I was only interested in this article because of the recent material I’ve read of Colin Johnson (Mudrooroo Narogin). The distinction can be made in Johnson’s life where he was brought up as an orphan and so his identity was always a questionable one and his literary work brings about these issues of identity, in which he may confuse himself as an aborigine, having no biological family to tell him otherwise. Johnson makes the claim, even though he may not be considered as a biological aborigine, he was treated like one so it makes his work of a somewhat authentic experience. Johnson was also an orphan, so his confused identity in the Australian culture also brings on its own articles of interest that makes his literary work noteworthy.

I also find Johnson a noteworthy figure because of the time he spent in Thailand and India living as a Buddhist monk. Which is commendable for any Australian to do, whether he be aborigine or otherwise.