These six words were spoken by Daniel Browning the presenter of Radio National Australia’s, Away, programme on indigineous issues to describe the inherent connection and way of living of the earliest ancestors of his aboriginal family. The programme today was about the repatriation of the remains of a famous elder, Mungo Man, which were disintered many years ago by non indigenous archeologists without permission from the aboriginal people. Western, white sensibilities so often show a lack of implicit understanding of how deeply interconnected indigneous people were to the land, to the elements, and to their ancestors. Ancestral spirits are acknowledged and sensed, they are not forgotten or rejected in indigenous culture.
On the programme today people were describing how the spirits made their presence felt in a mass of tiny whirlwinds when they visited certain areas of the land. The aborigines had real rites of mourning and certain burial rites. Hearing him say the words we lived, we loved, we mourned got me to thinking how often in western white consciousness we don’t want to mourn or face our grief, and the result is that we live in a more loveless place. Our grieving or mourning is a sign not only of love but of what we value and helps us to move through to resolution and new life. What happens when we try to turn our back on it or deny it?
To the white archeologists the body of Mungo Man was just an object they could study and write notes about, it was not understood that this was a far more superficial perspective, bereft of so much deeper meaning and respect not only for the ancestors themselves but far more lacking than the more deeply profound way in which indigenous people approach such inherently spiritual subjects.
I find so much richness in the aboriginal culture. They have a depth of insight and so much to offer non indigenous peoples. I love how they acknowledge their ancestors and give them a place. They do not cut off from them like we so often do. The return of Mungo Man to his rightful home was attended by powerful ceremonies. It was a binding back again of a body and spirit torn away. It was deeply reverent. With the message of ‘standing in unity’.
In the second part of the programme one of the aboriginal men being interviewed said that if Mungo Man was alive to day he may well be asking this question : “What have you done with my country and what have you done with my people?” We might also turn back towards the ancestors and ask “What did you carry and what do you have to teach us about wisdom and wounds?” These, it seems to me, are profound questions we should not turn our backs on.