Gunderbooka Mountain

Image: Gunderbooka Mountain

This is the creation story of Ngiyaampaa country, as well as the land belonging to Eaglehawk and Crow.

Now long, long time ago of course, in the beginning, when there was no people, no trees, no plants whatever on this land, “Guthi-guthi”, the spirit of our ancestral being, he lived up in the sky.

So he came down and he wanted to create the special land for people and animals and birds to live in.

So Guthi-guthi came down and he went on creating the land for the people-after he’d set the borders in place and the sacred sights, the birthing places of all the Dreamings, where all our Dreamings were to come out of.

Guthi-guthi put one foot on Gunderbooka Mountain and another one at Mount Grenfell.

And he looked out over the land and he could see that the land was bare. There was no water in sight, there was nothing growing. So Guthi-guthi knew that trapped in a mountain-Mount Minara-the water serpent, Weowie, he was trapped in the mountain. So Guthi-guthi called out to him, “Weowie, Weowie”, but because Weowie was trapped right in the middle of the mountain, he couldn’t hear him.

Guthi-guthi went back up into the sky and he called out once more, “Weowie”, but once again Weowie didn’t respond. So Guthi-guthi came down with a roar like thunder and banged on the mountain and the mountain split open. Weowie the water serpent came out. And where the water serpent travelled he made waterholes and streams and depressions in the land.

So once all that was finished, of course, Weowie went back into the mountain to live and that’s where Weowie lives now, in Mount Minara. But then after that, they wanted another lot of water to come down from the north, throughout our country. Old Pundu, the Cod, it was his duty to drag and create the river known as the Darling River today.

So Cod came out with Mudlark, his little mate, and they set off from the north and they created the big river. Flows right down, water flows right throughout our country, right into the sea now.

And of course, this country was also created, the first two tribes put in our country were Eaglehawk and Crow. And from these two tribes came many tribal people, many tribes, and we call them sub-groups today. So my people, the Ngiyaampaa people and the Barkandji further down are all sub-groups of Eaglehawk and Crow.

So what I’m telling you-the stories that were handed down to me all come from within this country.

Thukeri story explanation

We are now at the site of the Thukeri story. In front of me is Lake Alexandrina. This part of the country belongs to the Ngarrindjeri people, it’s my people and it’s the site where the two Ngarrindjerri men went out fishing in their bark canoe.

A long time ago, the Ngarrindjeri people would have used their bark canoes to go fishing and to trade with other neighbouring groups along the Coorong and also, the Ngarrindjeri children would have spent a lot of time swimming and playing other games along this area.

Here is one part of the original school building that was built round about the time when the Mission was established in 1859. This church was erected by Reverend George Taplin and his role in the community was to protect Aboriginal people, so he thought he was protecting the Ngarrindjeri people, but what happened was the Ngarrindjeri people lost language, lost their right to practice their ceremonies, to pass on the laws to their young people.

Stories were lost because the Elders of the Ngarrindjeri nation could not pass on these stories and were told that you couldn’t practice your ceremonies, or do any of these important things for the culture to be taught.

What the children get from it is not just looking at how the characters look, but the information they get from the story. It tells of rules, gives them information about the environment as well as the spirit ancestor, Ngurunderi.

Behind is what’s left of the jetty. The Ngarrindjeri men used to shear the sheep and bring the sheep’s wool down onto the beachfront and then it would be baled up and taken by paddle steamer over to Goolwa and then transported to Adelaide.

This area was taken up for farming. The Ngarrindjeri people were very lucky to have all this water, because the Ngarrindjeri people were people who used the ocean and the water for fishing. There’s many different types of fish in Lake Alexandrina. We have Cape Barron Geese and swans, when the egg-laying season starts, the Ngarrindjeri people would go in their boats to go amongst the long bulrushes in the lake, where the swan would make its nest and they would take some of these eggs and eat them. We would also eat swan.

The Ngarrindjeri women came down here. There are long rushes that grow along the lakefront. They used these long rushes to weave carrying-baskets, big woven mats to sit on in their traditional camps and also the two Ngarrindjeri men who went fishing on Lake Alexandrina, they took with them a woven mat and a couple of woven baskets and they used these woven baskets to carry the Thukeri back to the camp.

This monument was erected by the young Ngarrindjeri men of the Mission. This commemorated the voyage of Captain Sturt down the River Murray. I think for the Ngarrindjeri people there wouldn’t have been any other significance to building it, other than an idea put forth by the missionaries.

For the Ngarrindjeri people, it’s very important that these stories are continued and the Thukeri story is told today in all South Australian schools. The story is very important because it teaches the young people about respect. It teaches about greed and lying and it also teaches about respect for your spirit ancestors, the creators of the Ngarrindjeri people and Ngarrindjeri lands.

I see it-as a Ngarrindjeri person-that, while we continue to tell the Thukeri story, our cultural beliefs will stay alive and that the young people-and most importantly the Ngarrindjeri children-will have something that they can identify with.

(Veena Gollan. Lake Alexandrina, South Australia, 1997)