During the month of January, I was able to take a class at my abroad university called Introduction to the Sydney Environment. One of the main points of this class was to learn about the culture of Indigenous Australians, also known as Aboriginals. I had the opportunity to learn quite a few interesting facts and gained a new outlook on the Indigenous people.
One interesting thing I learned are how totems were an important aspect of Aboriginal life. A totem can be a natural object, plant, or animal that is inherited by members of a clan as their spiritual emblem. Totems bring a connection to the land, as well as define roles and responsibilities. For example, a few totems of the Sydney coastal people include the whale, wallaby, and stingray. The whale, or “Guriwal” in the native language, is a major totem. The whale was a sacred animal and played an important part in everyday life. The clan protected and oversaw the species by tracking migration patterns and numbers.
I also learned about the food resources surrounding the Sydney area. Living so close to the ocean, the Aboriginals of this area had fish as a main source of food. The women were actually the ones who caught and prepared the fish. Birds were also a part of the diet and were caught using returning boomerangs. Kangaroos were another food source of the area. The men would hunt and spear them, as well as use a bigger type of boomerang to catch the kangaroos. There were also many other plants and animals in their diet.
Aboriginals had many culture practices that conserved resources, which included middens. Middens are dumps that contained the remains of their meals such as old animals bones and shells. These piles would tell someone looking at it what they could and could not eat. This allowed for newly hunted food to repopulate. The bottom of the middens were the oldest bones and shells, which meant they had not been harvested in a while and could be eaten. The top were animals that had just been eaten and were meant to not be hunted at that time.
Overall, learning about Aboriginal culture gave me a new appreciation for their culture and customs, which have been around for over 65,000 years.
Caroline Cannon is a student at the University of Alabama and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying with ISA in Sydney, Australia.
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