Aboriginal Spirituality and the Australian Environment
Many people have attempted to explain the Aboriginal culture and their "dreamworld" or spirituality. We, the authors of Seeking the White Root, believe that if the world were a classroom with an Aboriginal teacher, the emphasis would be on nature, community, ceremony and spirituality, and if we were all to graduate, the quality of life here on earth would be tremendously enhanced.
This novel traces Aboriginal history and their regard for the Earth as mother, as a nurturing provider, as home. Their attitude toward the Earth originally was one of giving and taking with reverence and in accordance with nature. Many of the changes in the environment in Australia are a result of the European settlement.
To learn more about how this came about read the excerpt below:
OR to learn more about Australian rainforests click here.
Mid 1800s along the southern coast of Victoria
...Nguyah stood on a hill overlooking the beach again. She felt sad. She had come to say goodbye to the beach and the sea. Her family must move. She remembered the shipwreck and how much they had all tried to help the white people. Those white people were a strange mob. They took everything and gave nothing back. They even claimed they owned the earth. Nobody can own the earth, not even if you call it land. What a strange word for the earth. Nguyah shook her head. It really didn't matter what she thought. The big white man had destroyed everything. He said he owned all the land and then proceeded to cut all the trees. Nguyah had watched from the edge of the bush as he cut down all the beautiful old trees. He worked hard every day and never seemed to rest. She had often wondered when he had time for his children or for ceremonies. There was much she had been curious about, wanting to know what the white man's customs were and why they did certain things. There had not been any opportunity to learn. The white man had banned the aboriginal people from his farm because they had refused to help him cut the trees. The men had stood and watched him for a couple of days, which had made him very angry. The white man hadn't even used much of the wood; instead he set fire to the branches. He had built a house, and that was alright. But those beautiful big trees were the earth's gifts to her people. They had given food, shelter and spiritual strength to Nguyah and her family and to all the creatures of the forests. All the time he was cutting the trees, Nguyah couldn't sleep at night for hearing the animals and birds crying out because their homes were gone. Many of the animals were actually burned to death in the huge raging fires he had started. Even the trees cried, their spirits moaning because they were dying. Now, there was no longer a forest, only bare earth, grass and long lonely hills dotted with the white man's animals.
The setting of Seeking the White Root is based on actual places in Australia where both authors have visited. These areas are described in the book as accurately as possible within the context of the story.
According to the Department of Natural Resources in Victoria, Australia, there are rainforests both in tropical and in temperate areas of Australia. In the 1700s, when the first white men started coming to Australia, about one percent of the island continent was covered by rainforests. Now in the late 1900s, only tiny fragments of the rainforests remain and these are extremely fragile. Read an excerpt from the Prologue for an illustration of this.
There are two types of rainforest in the temperate areas of Victoria, warm temperate rainforests and cool temperate ones. The cool temperate rainforests described in Seeking the White Root are near where the shipwreck occurred. There on the sides of hills, near the ocean where forests still stand in some areas, are a few rich deep fern gullies where many different species of ferns, lichen and moss grow thick. The paths are wet and slippery and water drips off the tall tree ferns nearly always. Near the top of the gullies, giant trees, the Otway Messmate, are a centuries old cross between the Mountain Ash and Messmate Eucalptyus Oblique. The big tree in the story actually exists and is one of these rare trees, protected today by the DNR.
In far north Queensland, closer to the equator, the tropical World Heritage Rainforest is an entirely different world. The rainfall exceeds 60 inches annually and trees are so close together that little sunlight reaches the ground. The canopy is dense and high from the ground, usually 70 to 120 feet or more. Often there are smaller trees, forming a second canopy a little lower, with virtually no vegetation on the ground.
In areas where the canopy is less dense, thousands of species of plants and animals live and thrive as they do nowhere else on earth. Many of the plants have medicinal properties yet to be discovered by western science. Some of these fragile areas are explored in the book by Jane and her Aboriginal friend, Flora. Many environmental concerns from this area are examined and solutions explored.
How we all can help:Perhaps a closer look into the spiritual beliefs of all indigenous cultures regarding their beliefs about our home would be wise. Seeking the White Root suggests ways in which we, the people who inhabit the Earth, might recognize the great gift we have been given and learn less destructive ways of living here.