Book argues against Aboriginal 'hunter gatherer' history

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Fishing at the Brewarrina Fish Traps

Yam Diggers at Indented Head Victoria 1835
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Yam Diggers at Indented Head Victoria 1835

Hilary Smale and Vanessa Mills ABC Kimberley Mornings via 774 Victoria 17 March 2014

A fresh perspective of Indigenous history showing evidence of village populations, crop harvesting, and irrigation, is all explored Bruce Pascoe's new book Dark Emu.

The common perception of Indigenous Australians leading a 'hunter-gatherer' lifestyle before European settlement is ignoring strong evidence of sophisticated farming and agriculture practices, argues Mr Pascoe.

"There certainly was a lot of movement ... but there was also a lot more sedentary living than we were led to believe."

In Dark Emu, Mr Pascoe revisits early explorers' accounts of seeing women harvesting yams, onions, and cultivating the land.

"I guess it was the grain harvests, and the grinding of seed into flour on such an extensive scale.

The reserves of flour that were made by people. The reserves of grain that were stored in secure vessels; that's what took me by surprise."

Mr Pascoe laments the fact that this information hasn't come to the fore in the history books to date.

"I think that was ignored because it was evidence of occupation... it seems pretty obvious to me that that's the case."

Mr Pascoe would like to see the book change how history is now taught.

"I never learnt it when I was at school; my son never learnt it, my daughter never learnt it.

Why are we not telling Australian children of the success and the achievements of Aboriginal Australia?"

Dark Emu is published through Magabala Books.

Bruce Pascoe spoke about Dark Emu with Vanessa Mills for Kimberley Mornings.

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