Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Whalumbaal Birri - Endeavour River


It seems fitting that our final day for the 2011 Hope Vale/Pelican project was held on the Endeavour River. The Guugu Yimithirr name for the river, now named by Cook (apparently the only Australian river named by Cook along the Australian coastline) is Whalumball birri - Whalumbaal meaning "you will be missed" or "you will be missing".

It was decided to have a river cruise for people in Hope Vale Aged Care. Starke is a difficult boarding point for most of our older passengers, so we returned to the river for boarding from Cooks Landing, after a few days grace to sail Pelican back to Cooktown. Our inaugural sail with the Hope Vale community was from the same wharf on the 5th Aug 2004 (the link refers to the Captain's Log-just scroll down to the date).


Ella Woibo and Maude Rosendale

Just before midnight on 10 June 1770, James Cook's boat Endeavour hit the Great Barrier Reef. The impact tore a huge hole in her side and it was only through fast, united action by her crew and the lucky bit of coral that broke off in the hole, that the ship was able to limp into the Endeavour River. She was carreened on the bank and repaired, near the contempory township of Cooktown for 48 days. 

Gumba Charlotte (Burns) - Charlotte brought some of her beautiful small paintings of local animals on board. They are painted on large seeds.

It was during this time that the Guugu Yimithirr language became the first Aboriginal language that was recorded by strangers. Those words are written down in Banks journal, which you can read for free on the Project Gutenberg Australia website. Cook and Sydney Parkinson also recorded Guugu words.


Daisy Hamlot, Violet Cobus, Leslie Reid and Dorothy Rosendale


Sydney Parkinson's unfinished drawing of a Kangaru

It was also the first time that a kangaroo was sighted, named by the Guugu Yimithirr people and drawn by the visitors to this great Southern continent. The pictures can be seen at the James Cook museum, which is well worth a visit if you ever get to Cooktown. Another first was that Sydney Parkinson painted the first known landscape painting in Australia, here in Cape York.

Sisters: Anna Darken and Mavis Yoren

The time that Cook and his men spent here was one of relatively peaceful though minimal contact with the Guugu Yimithirr people, who kept their distance and kept their women at an even greater remove. Cook had advised his men not to make the first move. The Europeans tried to trade for objects like spears etc but found that the local people had relatively little interest in their objects. In fact, soon before leaving they discovered a discarded pile of the objects they did manage to trade. It was when they decided to trade fish that they exited more interest. 

Daisy and Violet

Conflict did occur however, when Cook's men caught 12 turtles to help feed them over the next period at sea and did not understand the necessity of gifting at least one of their catch to the people whose country they were visiting. 

Aurora and Maude making origami cranes

When Cook left the Endeavour river he sailed a bit further North and stopped at Possession Island where he hoisted the union jack and declared the coast British Territory. He lalso named Cape York after His late Royal highness, the Duke of York.

Tall mangroves lining the Endeavour River

It would be 100 years before the Guugu Yimithirr would feel the meaning of this act of dispossesion. On the 5th of August, 1872, the last of the old-fashioned Australian gold fevers struck, with the discovery of gold in the Palmer River.

Esmai Bowen and Selica

In a very short and for the Guugu Yimithirr, horrendous period, these people were totally dispossesed of their country, rights, respect and only too often, life.

Esmai and Clarence Bowen

Over the last 8 years of working with the Hope Vale community, we have been fortunate to work with and get to know many Guugu Yimithirr people. In that process we have become much more attuned to these relatively recent events in the history of Aboriginal people. It was not until I spent time in Cooktown, that I learnt of the relativley benign story of this first contact. The general respect and interst in another's culture was, tragically, not to become the story line of colonial Australia.

Tom Moore

On our journey up the river, Tom told me about his role in building the Queensland railways, describing the incredibly tough conditions that working in those times entailed. As he said there was no machinery to help you in those days, only the sheer muscle power of the men.

Returning to Cooktown

I heard from one of the project Elders the next day, that Aged Care all requested the same trip for the following weekends. They also wanted us to come back and teach more origami. We are planning to run similar cruises next year.

Madge Bowen and Grace Rosendale

Travellers on the river cruise
George Dick and Gumba Charlotte
Origami takes off
Looking at the book Cockatoo- My Life in Cape York-Stories and Art by Roy McIvor.
(Retired) Pastor George Rosendale
Sandy point on the river with Mt Saunders in the background.
Clarence pointing out features in the river

Esmai and Clarence looking at pics from the 2010 HopeVale/ Pelican project. Book created by Vanessa Gillen.

Garry and Karl helping people off the boat
Pelican Expeditions would like to thank all the Elders, Traditional Owners and community of Hope Vale who have welcomed us every year to work on their sea country. The program is a collaborative cross-cultural effort to form a creative and exiting project for everyone in Hope Vale, particularly the youth. Over the years we have had so many people involved and helping and nothing would happen without their enthusiastic support. 
Farewell sun and farewell Hope Vale /Pelican project for another year. We hope to be back in 2012!

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