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The Land is a Map

The Land is a Map: Placenames of Indigenous Origin in Australia OPEN ACCESS

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: ANU Press
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    The Land is a Map
    Book Description:

    The entire Australian continent was once covered with networks of Indigenous placenames. These names often evoke important information about features of the environment and their place in Indigenous systems of knowledge. On the other hand, placenames assigned by European settlers and officials are largely arbitrary, except for occasional descriptive labels such as 'river, lake, mountain'. They typically commemorate people, or unrelated places in the Northern hemisphere. In areas where Indigenous societies remain relatively intact, thousands of Indigenous placenames are used, but have no official recognition. Little is known about principles of forming and bestowing Indigenous placenames. Still less is known about any variation in principles of placename bestowal found in different Indigenous groups. While many Indigenous placenames have been taken into the official placename system, they are often given to different features from those to which they originally applied. In the process, they have been cut off from any understanding of their original meanings. Attempts are now being made to ensure that additions of Indigenous placenames to the system of official placenames more accurately reflect the traditions they come from. The eighteen chapters in this book range across all of these issues. The contributors (linguistics, historians and anthropologists) bring a wide range of different experiences, both academic and practical, to their contributions. The book promises to be a standard reference work on Indigenous placenames in Australia for many years to come.

    eISBN: 978-1-921536-57-1
    Subjects: Sociology
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Table of Contents

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  1. PREFACE (pp. xix-xx)
    Luise Hercus, Flavia Hodges and Jane Simpson
    • Luise Hercus and Jane Simpson

      In Australia we have two sets of placenames, one superimposed over the other. These are the set of networks of placenames that Indigenous Australians developed to refer to places (the Indigenous placename networks), and the set of placenames that Europeans developed to refer to places (the introduced placename system). The placenames bestowed by Europeans have been systematically recorded and they form the bulk of the official placenames of Australia, ranging from names for houses, streets and dams, to names for States and the country itself. Indigenous placenames, on the other hand, have been sporadically recorded by Europeans, varying in accuracy...

    • David P. Wilkins

      It is necessary to preface the discussion of place in Mpamtwe Arrernte with a justification as to why it falls within the domain of entities rather than the domain of space.² Einstein’s quote echoes a popular view, within some semantic approaches, that fundamental to the domain of space is the notion of place. The most radical position is that place is a universal semantic primitive through which location and other spatial relations are to be explicated (cf. Wierzbicka 1980). Such a claim would suggest that some form of lexical or morphological equivalent to English ‘place’ should exist in all languages...

    • Michael Walsh

      This question arose because of the discrepancy I had noticed between a relatively high proportion of transparency of about 66 per cent reported by Dixon (1991:125ff.) for the north Queensland language, Yidiny, compared to the relatively low proportion of transparency of about 20 per cent observed by me in my own work in the Darwin area. This led me to wonder whether there was some kind of norm in the proportion of transparency to opacity in the Aboriginal² placenames of a particular area. In turn this led me to send a query to Peter Sutton and, as I might have...

    • Patrick McConvell

      Gurindji people had special cause to note European-Australians’ fondness for taking placenames with them when they moved, because this is what happened to the name of the most important cattle station in the region, where most Gurindji people came to live—Wave Hill. Buchanan (1935:71) records why Sam ‘Greenhide’ Croker gave this name to the camp the pioneer pastoralists made on the Victoria River in 1883:

      Greenhide Sam, struck by the sharp undulations of the plateau, suggested the name of Wave Hill, by which it has been known ever since ...

      The land formation is clearly visible from the bridge...

    • Luise Hercus

      There are few topics as challenging as the study of Australian placenames. Their formation varies from region to region, they may be analysable or not, they may refer to the actions of Ancestors, they may be descriptive, or ‘indirectly’ descriptive: an Ancestor is said to have noticed some particular feature and named the place accordingly. That feature may or may not be permanent. Placenames may be single morphemes or consist of a whole sentence, they may show archaic features. In any case they are unpredictable: we can never guess what a place was called. We can also never be sure...

    • Peter Sutton

      In the late 1980s I obtained Australian Research Council and local Wik organisational funding to compile a database of site records from western Cape York Peninsula between the Embley and Edward Rivers, in a project based at the South Australian Museum. The main field data came from myself (mapping from 1976 onwards), David Martin (mapping from 1985) and John von Sturmer (mapping from 1969). Small amounts also came from fieldwork by Roger Cribb and Athol Chase, who mainly mapped in 1985, although Roger returned to focus more on archaeological mapping and site work later.²

      There has also been further database...

    • Franca Tamisari

      In 1946 Donald Thomson (1946:157) noted that ‘very little has been recorded of the derivation and use of personal names among the Australian Aborigines’. Despite the significance that Australian Indigenous people in general give to the meaning and use of proper names of people and places and to the action of naming in cosmogonic events, with some exceptions this neglect continues today.¹ Thomson explains this dearth of research by the secrecy and the sacredness of proper names and toponyms which derive from their ancestral associations and by the rules of avoiding names in everyday life. However, like Keith Basso (1988:103),...

    • Brett Baker

      In the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, we find many placenames that can be characterised as a compound of a generic term for a topographic feature or habitation, together with a specific or modifying term characterising that place with reference to a person, a characteristic, historical or mythological event, or some other topographic or habitation term; some examples are presented in (1).²

      (1) a. Salt Creek, Roper River

      b. East Hills

      c. Chilton, Dutton, Petersham

      d. Sherwood

      Many such names — Salt Creek, for instance — are transparent in meaning to a speaker of English. Others — such as Chilton, Dutton — are...

    • Barry Alpher

      Yir-Yoront (pronounced Yirr-Yorront)² speakers’ country lies around the mouths of the Mitchell River in western Cape York Peninsula, Queensland. Their land tenure is organised in terms of named tracts, many of considerably less than a kilometre in breadth.³ Sets of tracts, usually but not always contiguous within the territory of the Yir-Yoront language, make up the estate of a patrilineal clan (Sharp 1934a and b; in more recent and exact terminology, a group in which membership is assigned through serial patrifiliation; see Sutton 1998:24). Some of these clans are represented among speakers of other languages and in territory other than...

    • Bernhard Schebeck

      The Northern Flinders Ranges are the home of the Adnya-mathanha people, ‘the people of the rocky hills’, whose language is related to the Kaurna language of the Adelaide Plains. The cursory analysis presented here is based on a sample of 483 placenames in the Flinders Ranges.

      This number is subject to the understanding that it is not always clear whether two entries are really two names or rather two ‘spellings’ of the same name. But for the present brief survey I simply ignore such questions. I shall also disregard the question of ‘one versus two words’, for instance spellings such...

    • Edward Ryan

      Indigenous placenames of north-west Victoria originate in what has been described as the western Kulin group of languages which were traditionally spoken across the region.¹ More particularly in terms of this paper, Wergaia speakers occupied the northern Wimmera and much of the Mallee and were bounded on the north-east from around Lalbert Creek by speakers of Wemba Wemba. Current knowledge of the placenames of this area is limited by problems common to other areas of ‘settled’ Australia, involving a lack of knowledge of the dynamics of European naming processes, in addition to ignorance of that of the original inhabitants. As...

    • Rob Amery

      The etymology of Kaurna placenames is often vety difficult to determine. With the passage of more than 160 years since colonisation and several generations since the death of the last fluent Kaurna speakers, it is difficult to be certain about anything. Folk etymology is rampant. About 60² different Kaurna placenames are recorded in the vocabulary sources. Teichelmann and Schürmann (1840) (henceforth referred to as T&S;), Williams (1840), Piesse (1840), Wyatt (1879) and Black (1920) all recorded Kaurna placenames.

      Apart from the recognised sources of Kaurna language, placenames are recorded on a variety of maps. They appear in journals, government records,...

    • Anna Ash

      Yuwaalaraay, Yuwaaliyaay and Gamilaraay are closely related languages that cover a large area of north-west New South Wales, from the New South Wales–Queensland border down to the Tamworth area, and from the edge of the Tablelands, west to beyond Walgett. Cognacy rates of around 60–80 per cent (Williams 1980:1) and comparable grammars mean that the three languages are dialects. The names of these languages have two parts, the first part is the word for ‘no’, and the second is the comitative suffix meaning ‘having’. So Yuwaalaraay has yuwaal (actually waal) ‘no’, and Gamilaraay has gamil ‘no’. This is...

    • Philip Jones

      This paper is about the Hillier Map of Aboriginal placenames of north-eastern South Australia. By 1904, when this map was drawn (Fig. 1), the region east and north of Lake Eyre had been largely explored and surveyed, its principal features named and the country had been divided and then subdivided for pastoral purposes. A couple of years earlier at the height of a severe drought, the last Aboriginal people living beyond the bounds of European influence had chosen to leave their Simpson Desert home.¹ Their destinations were the remote cattle stations such as Alton Downs, Cowarie and Macumba, established on...

    • Nicholas Reid

      In a move progressive for local councils at the time, Armidale City Council (henceforth ACC) initiated a draft policy in 1994 for placenaming in the City. An interim policy commenced in January 1994, and the policy proper was adopted in June 1996. The push to develop a policy for placenaming was born of dissatisfaction with the ad hoc and inconsistent bases by which names were being applied.¹

      The stated aims of the ACC’s 1996 policy are to:

      provide a consistent approach to placenaming;

      increase the use of placenames with local historical, botanical and zoological associations;

      provide the local community and...

    • Rob Amery and Georgina Yambo Williams

      Some placenames on the Adelaide Plains, such as Yankalilla, Myponga, Aldinga, Willunga and Waitpinga, have always been in use.¹ These localities have always been known by their Indigenous names and only by their Indigenous names. Yankalilla, for instance, was in use by sealers based at Kangaroo Island before colonisation and also recorded by George Augustus Robinson on 2 June 1837 in an interview with Kalloongoo, a Kaurna woman who had been kidnapped from the district some years previous (see Amery 1996). The name appeared in Colonel Light’s journals and was in frequent use before the establishment of a settlement in...