Home Forums Nodes Indigenous Health & Wellbeing General Is there an alternative to the term "hunter-gatherers"?

This topic contains 3 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Rowena Ball Rowena Ball 3 years, 4 months ago.

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  • #1733
    Kathleen Clapham
    Kathleen Clapham
    Moderator

    My training anthropology has led me (and others) to use the term ‘hunter-gatherer’ uncricially to describe traditional lifesyles of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, but according to health node members there must be a better alternative.

    From Rowena Ball –
    To the best of my knowledge it is inaccurate as a description of the ways of life of all Aussie Indigenous nations at the time of colonisation. For example, for my talk at the UCQ Symposium last year I did some research on the Gunditjmara of western Victoria. They ran a sophisticated eel farming enterprise, involving extensive and ingenious civil engineering works to provide the system of water channels, locks, canals and weirs that was needed. They lived in stone houses and smoked the eels in smokehouses and traded the smoked eels. That is how they made their living. It is believed the eel farming had been carried out for up to 8000 years, because the volcano eruption that created the wetlands necessary to set it up occurred 8000 years ago. The British came along and trashed all of those priceless civil engineering works, filled in the wetland, and put sheep on the country. They had to maintain the fiction of Terra Nullius at all cost. (The people have got the land back now, or some of it, and there is talk of reviving the smoked eel business.)

    Anyway, that does not sound much like a hunter-gatherer society to me. Perhaps something like “advanced sustainable land management societies” could be substituted, although I admit that is a bit cumbersome.

    What do you think?

    #1736
    Rowena Ball
    Rowena Ball
    Participant

    Clair has suggested ‘sustainable land managers’ as an alternative to ‘hunter-gatherers’. This is nice, because the meaning is clear, but I don’t think it would be accepted generally, if only because it is ungrammatical. The adjective ‘sustainable’ refers to ‘land managers’ – i.e. people. You can’t really refer meaningfully to ‘sustainable people’. Or it refers to ‘land’ – but ‘sustainable’ describes an action or process, not things or persons.

    Perhaps “a Caring For Country way of life” would be acceptable? With a footnote and a reference. This seems to express the sustainable, holistic way in which the lands, seas, waterways, biospheres and human cultures were managed, without excluding eel farming, hunting and gathering, or any other specific ways in which people made their living.

    #1737
    Kathleen Clapham
    Kathleen Clapham
    Moderator

    Not bad, but then should it be ‘Caring For Country way of lifers’ …

    #1739
    Rowena Ball
    Rowena Ball
    Participant

    Hmm… colloquially, a ‘lifer’ is someone who has received a life sentence. We could use ‘carers for country’.

    An alternative wording of the relevant sentence in the draft paper could be:
    “At the time of colonisation Indigenous peoples in general were ‘carers for country’^2, in the sense that all of nature and human culture and history were at one and spiritually connected (Dudgeon 2014).”

    And footnote ^2 as given:
    ” ^2 ‘Caring For Country’ is described by Burgess et al. (2009) as ‘Participating in interrelated activities on Aboriginal lands and seas with the objective of promoting ecological, spiritual and human health.’ Morrison (2007) also links the modern grassroots Caring For Country movement with Aboriginal Ranger programs that aim to use traditional knowledges of the lands and waterways to create sustainable economic development in remote communities.”

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