TGA–Chatham Islands and Pitcairn Islands

27 04 2010

moko/adams rock/ah cut/allens stone/aute wally/johnny fall

At 7:45 a. m., most Pitcairn residents were outside craning their necks and scanning the skies to follow the progress of a small, blue-and-white plane as it circled around the island several times before continuing on into the wild blue yonder

fridays road/giffords gun/john catch a cow/where minnie off

6 Are Guilty in Pitcairn Island Sex Abuse Case

timitis crack/where tom off/oh dear/old palm/out the small/hulianda

I had thought I might complete this “project” with this entry, and I might.   But I suspect I have one entry left.

that streams through each break/and dreams

I saved studying page 63 of The Dossier until last.  It is a page of text and, as many of us are wont to do, I used Google to search the phrases.  Some phrases

Bruce shot the heifer between the eyes with a .22 and it went right down.

I suspect I should know, but I cannot find nor can I place unless they are linked directly to subsequent phrases such as

Waitingi’s harbor


The jog allows several island nations to be in the same day as the rest of australasia

Plankton Bloom Surrounds Chatham Islands

Because these seem to be about The Chatham Islands

Chatham Island Bellbird, Last seen 1906

Thus far, the Moriori were but a local variant of most flaxen-skirted, feather-cloaked heathens of those dwindling ‘blindspots’ of ocean still unschooled by the White Man

The Chatham Islands are Islands off New Zealand.  Up until the early 1800’s the islands were inhabited primarily by the Moriori, or Rekohu, people.

The Moriori’s priestly caste dictated that whosoever spilt a man’s blood killed his own mana–his honour, his worth, his standing & his soul.

On Chatham, the toll of British colonialism was exacerbated by the New Zealand Maori’s violent colonization of the islands resulting in, essentially, the extinction of the Moriori People  first from disease and then from massacre and enslavement.

The Maori proved themselves apt pupils of the English in the “dark arts of colonization.”

Initially, as has happened so many times it is nearly, but not really, a cliché, the British used the islands as a base for hunting seal, fish and whales and brought disease and death to the indigenous people.  Then, in 1835, two British ships brought approximately 900 Māori: Ngāti Mutunga and Ngāti Tama from the Taranaki region of New Zealand’s North Island.  The British colonizers had already involved themselves with local conflicts among Māori and provided the Taranaki Māori weapons and transport.   On Chatham, the Taranaki Māori proceeded to violently overthrow the Moriori. The Moriori refused to kill their killers, and became subject to the Māori.

On Waitangi Beach fifty Moriori were beheaded, filleted

Not half of those Moriori who had seen Old Rekohu’s last sunset were alive to see the Māori sun rise

And, prevented from marrying each other (no Moriori/Moriori couples allowed after the invasion), the pure Moriori line died out in 1933 with the death of Tommy Solomon.

What moral to draw?  Peace, through beloved of our Lord, is a cardinal virtue only if your neighbours share your conscience.

There is simplicity in the idea of a pure line–and of the British, though facilitating, not actually directly killing the Moriori.   Blame the Māori.   It is, however, never so simple.  At the time, the Māori were facing the invasion of their home by the British, and, like the native Americans, they were not a single cultural unit but a diversity of communities, held together by family and clan relationships.   Existing conflicts were influenced and exacerbated by the European settlers.  And, when the settlers ignored treaties (sound familiar?), a series of wars erupted with some Māori clans rebelling against, and others siding with, the European settlers.   The clans that overtook the Chatham Islands were of the Māori, but not all the Māori, and indeed, the Moriori are now believed to have been descendants of Māori ancestors.

And while Māori clans resisted the European influence more overtly than many other indigenous groups, the resistance did not save them–nor did loyalty to Europeans save those clans that practiced it.  The  Māori, like indigenous groups the world over faced serious cultural marginalization the impacts of which continue to this day.

through violence/through the changing guards/through the grinding away

you are castaways


a calm/then the roaring wall of the eye/as we sailed to the world/from an insular life

The lower third of the page is covered with words and phrases separated by “/” like lines in a poem or lyrics to a song.  These words

the rope/timitis rack/toms block/two boars roll

are the names of locations.  In particularly, locations in the Pitcairn Islands– a British dependency, the recognized country with perhaps the smallest population in the world (@ 50 individuals at last count).  I have a personal interest in Pitcairn Islands or at least I used to have a slight obsession over them.

The story of The Bounty–the mutiny and the desertion of a handful of mutineers and their Tahitian friends and lovers to Pitcairn Islands–was what specifically obsessed me.  It was a time when we regularly went to Hana on Maui (staying in the cottage where Charles Lindbegh chose to die) so I had a sense of the South Pacific and also of the people–how the people of the islands were marginalized even when it was not an overt sort of thing.

turn homeword/over seas

And of islands, I have always had…well, anyway.  I can still smell the place.  Even here.  The sea and the islands pull at me, always.

“That, captain Bligh, that is the thing; I am in hell, I am in hell.”

What I learned (I believe I was 14 or 15 at the time–a rough and very lonely age and perfectly suited to a month’s isolation, but that is another story) was that the mutiny I’d watched on the film The Bounty had actually occurred but that accounts varied, depending upon what text one read.

civilian lives

Of course, the one set of voices never recorded was that of the Tahitians.

I found no man to rescue me

What the mutiny was about:  certainly Captain William Bligh’s ship was run to a degree no harsher other British vessels.  That does not mean, however, that the ship was a pleasant place to be.  And, it appears, the actual driving force really was what the mutineers had found on Tahiti–the place and the relationships.  These did not await the men on their ship, laden with breadfruit, nor in their home in Great Britain.  Unlike other sailors that wanted to remain behind and simply deserted, the mutineers expelled their captain and those loyal to him or desirous of returning to England, and took the ship.

there could be no doubt from the directions Tinah had given of the deserters being brought to the ship as soon as the weather would admit canoes to go after them.

Desertion seldom succeeded, for the British captains had relationships with the local chiefs that facilitated the return of the deserters to the ship.  Likely, the taking of The Bounty, and the subsequent voyage and habitation of Pitcairn was the reason the mutineers (other than those that remained on Tahiti and were captured and returned to England) survived outside the arm of the British legal system.

in the crack of the drum/but if the body dies/what is left of the heart/burns

Captain Bligh proved himself an astonishing seaman, sailing those 18 men evicted from The Bounty with him 3,618 nautical miles in a 23 foot launch from the site of the mutiny to Timor in 47 days.  Only one man died, and he was murdered on Tofua.  No one starved to death and no one turned cannibal.  And while his seamanship has since never been questioned, his leadership has.  He appears no great captain of men outside of this incredible voyage of survival–but neither does he appear a tyrant.  The tension on The Bounty seemed to be that tension found within each man over what existed and was acceptable under British law of land and sea and what these sailors, many of them extremely naive and insulated, discovered as an alternative in Tahiti.

Know then my own Dear Betsy, that I have lost the Bounty

Of course, it is never so easy because what we desire is never in actuality what it was upon imagining.  It is not always lesser, although, for most of the mutineers, it was.

Fletcher Christian, master’s mate and friend of Bligh, was the ostensible leader of the mutiny and, after a false attempt at building a colony on Tubai, sailed The Bounty to Tahiti, leaving 16 men, some Bligh loyalists, and gathering on board Tahitian friends and lovers.   Christian married local chief’s daughter, Maimiti, and sailed on to the Pitcairn Islands–lands, at the time, devoid of humans.

call back to the old familiar

please hide me

What Christian anticipated no one knows, he left no text behind.  Certainly he did not expect to die a mere four years after the mutiny, at the age of 29.  His death, along with that of most of the other men, appears to have been a result of the violence that erupted among the mutineers and the Tahitian men over both the imbalanced sex ratio and the Tahitian mens’ virtual enslavement.

In 1808 the first British ship made contact since the mutiny and discovered, of all the mutineers, only John Adams surviving along with his nine wives.  He had become a devout Christian.

I learned a lie/that power breeds/regeneration

In 2004, the descendants of the Tahitians and the mutineers were subject to intense scrutiny over allegations of institutionalized rape and pedophilia.

The charges include 21 counts of rape, 41 of indecent assault and two of gross indecency with a child under 14.

Six men were tried on the islands and convicted; six more tried elsewhere.  One of the convicted was  the Mayor, Steve Christian, a patrilineal descendent of Fletcher Christian.

Cull the silver bodies from the waves

To arrive on the shore of the island

Turn homeward

Give my blessings to my Dear Harriet, my Dear Mary, my Dear Betsy & to my Dear little stranger & tell them I shall soon be home.

Abutilon pitcairnense

Abutilon pitcairnense Presumed extinct, flowered in Dublin Botanical Gardens in January 2010.


Note:A film worth seeing: Once Were Warriors and a book worth reading The Bone People.

Quotes are from Shearwater, Captain William Bligh, Reuters, David Mitchell, Pitcairn Island Study Group


TGA–Bikini Atoll

22 04 2010

we are born without souls.  The world gives them to us.

Europa, a moon and an island

the empire that dreams

The Golden Archipelago opens with Meridian; and Meridian opens with The National Anthem of Bikini (Pikini) Atoll

I jab ber emol, aet, I jab ber ainmon

No longer can I stay; it’s true

It was written by 1947  by Lore Kessibuki, not on Bikini but on Rongerik Atoll, where the exiled Bikinians were starving to death.

Gone from the house

the hidden life

On March 7, 1946 the residents of Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands (in Micronesia) were evacuated to Rongerik Atoll (125 miles east and 1/6 the size of Bikini).  The purpose of the evacuation

the good of mankind and to end all world wars

was to allow the U. S. military to test nuclear bombs in the region.

we call back to our old familiar life

We will go believing that everything is in the hands of God.

I am life breathed in the radiant lie

Since perhaps 5000 years ago there have been people in Micronesia.   There is something about that sort of time and about a place and a being in that place. The people of Bikini belonged.  On Rongerik  the Bikinian exiles suffered starvation and malnutrition.  There was a reason Rongerik was uninhabited–the evil spirits and the lack of food. The coconut and breadfruit plants did not provide enough food, the fish poisoned the people.  The U.S. and the military was slow to react and then reacted 2 years after the original displacement by moving the Bikinians not once more but two more times.

Ultimately, 23 nuclear devices were detonated at Bikini. You can watch some on YouTube

As soon as the war ended, we located the one spot on earth that hadn’t been touched by the war and blew it to hell.

This was, of course, about dominoes; not about humans, nor anything else living.

There’s virtually no radiation left and we can find no discernible effect on either plant or animal life.

higher levels of radioactivity than originally thought

The Bikinians are still waiting to return–their Atoll is permeated by radiation.  A cleanup is underway, but is moving slowly because, while scraping the top layer of the Atoll and removing it would remove most of the contaminants, it would also render the Atoll a virtual wasteland.

Ao emotlok rounni im lo ijen ion/ijen ebin joe a eankin/ijen jikin ao emotlok im ber im mad ie

My spirit leaves drifting around and far away/Where it becomes caught in a current of immense power–/And only then do I find tranquility

all will be carried away


While the Bikinians were evacuated, those residents of Rongelap Atoll, 150 miles away, were not.

I was laid among the waves

I was lifted from the shoreline

The clouded eyes dilate

Castle Bravo, a thermonuclear hydrogen bomb, was detonated on March 1, 1954 on Bikini.  Bravo was/is the most powerful weapon ever exploded by the United States

And that means, I suppose, by anyone.

Both Bikinians on Rongelik and individuals of Rongelap were exposed to nuclear fallout.

Later, as the entire village gathered, they watched the radioactive gray ash fall on them, their houses and their children.

The effects of which were carefully monitored by military scientists–although the “test” subjects were never asked for consent.

John did not express any anger, only deep sorrow that his one-year-old daughter died from leukemia soon after Bravo.

conduct a scientific study of radiation injuries to human beings.

The heavens hang limp and the stars release

themselves from their bond with the moon and night

Here is a video of the Castle Bravo Explosion

this is the way the world ends, not with a bang

They had built the first device under the shadow of Hitler, and they dedicated it to him.

quotes from Shearwater, Commodore Ben H. Wyatt, King Juda, The Atomic Energy Commission, Robinson Jeffers, Bob Hope, Ingborg Bachman, John via Randall Bell, Defense Nuclear Agency Report, Lydia Millet, T. S. Eliot

TGA–Johnny Rook

20 04 2010

File:Johnny Rook.jpg

Farmers must now obtain a licence if they wish to shoot or capture the Striated Caracara,

This bird is looking at you

if they feel it is endangering their livestook

Or would be if it were not captured inside the frame of a photograph.

The correct name for this carrion hawk is striated caracara (Phalcoboenus australis) but it has a ‘caw’-like sound, somewhat like the European rook which caused early settlers in the Falklands to give it the more familiar name.

This bird is a Striated Caracara, a Johnny Rook, a Phalcoboenus australis, a Forster’s Caracara

As I pondered my plight, curious ‘Johnny rooks’ swooped around me.

These creatures are scavengers of seabirds, sometimes predators of chicks, sometimes a consumer of dead, and perhaps injured, sheep and lamb.  Because of this, the straited caracaras were called pests [read verminous; read a threat to economic ventures].  In 1908 the Ordinance for the Destruction of Birds of Prey was passed by the government of the Falkland Islands and individuals bringing in killed members of this now official pest species were treated to a reward.

(think wolves, think thylacines, think nonhumans and humans in various times and places)

The greatest danger of existence lies in the fact that man only nourishes himself on souls

The active payment and slaughter ended @ 70 years ago, after the naturalist James Erik Hamilton called for a recognition of the threat to “one of the ornaments of the local avifauna.”  Striated caracaras are protected now.

Subject to the provisions of this Part, it is an offence for any person deliberately–

(a) to kill, injure or capture a wild bird.

But the name sheep-killer has not left them.

The gleam off their armor now in this bird’s

eye, as it flies towards me

And according to the recent (2007) report by Robin Woods of Falklands Conservation, their numbers are not increasing.

They were constantly flying on board the vessel when in the harbour; and it was necessary to keep a good look-out to prevent the leather being torn from the rigging, and the meat or game from the stern.


Jonathan Meiburg studied the biogeography of the striated caracara for his master’s thesis at the University of Texas Austin entitled: The biogeography of Striated Caracaras Phalcoboenus australis (published 2006).  This, of course, is why the dossier contains several gorgeous photographs of these birds and why I am writing about the here (rather than, for example, California quail).  These photos include an immature staring into the camera, an adult near a colony of rockhopper penguins, a captive adult with a metal ring holding the wire netting of an aviary and an absolutely beautiful photo of two adults sharing a meal with rocks and guano and and white and grey and blood.

the wind is howling from the southwest, straight off Antarctica, and the gusts are so high that they fling…wet sand against the tent like grapeshot

Johnny Rook is not explicitly named in the The Golden Archipelago–though the images pervade the Dossier.  Shearwater’s prior album, Rook, and the title song Rooks, is perhaps named after Johnny Rook, perhaps after the rook of Great Britain and continental Europe.  It was after this rook, of course, that the British named the straited caracaras they encountered.

In the way of new world quail being called quail after those in Europe, and robins after the cock robin of English gardens.  While rooks are corvids, caracaras are raptors, but so it goes.

Striated caracaras, particularly the young, are notoriously inquisitive and playful, traits that probably favour their survival in the harsh and resource-depleted winter environment of outlying islands

Meiburg was involved in two surveys with Robin Woods–1996-7 and 2006.  The goal was to find the birds and get an estimate of their numbers as well as to evaluate whether the population numbers were stable.  Robin Woods, whose photo is also in the Dossier, is a true field biologist, the founder of Falklands Conservation and a recipient of a Member of the British Order.

A true field biologist is something fundamentally different than a biologist of the academy, although he/she may, at times, be affiliated with the academy–there are a few such folks, Dan Janzen whose field work in Costa Rica is renown, for example, but the work is hard and rewards are generally the work itself.  There is no straight track–degree, post doc, faculty–that a person takes.  These people are in the field more often than not, in difficult physical circumstances, trouble-shooting problems we cannot imagine.  With a feeling for the organism whatever it may be, that is something more than pure intellect.

notoriously horrible stretch of water between Estados and the big island of Tierra del Fuego

I’ve noted in earlier blogs the presence of The Feuerland in the Dossier–this ship was renamed The Penelope, after Plüschow sold her, and she was the ship that carried the researchers to Isla de los Estados  in 1997.  In 2006, they traveled on The Condor, a craft that picked them up on Carcass Island.  One thing evident even in the 2007 report by Woods is the difficulty getting to the remote islands at the southern part of the world.  For their work in 2006, they had only November to survey the islands because of traveling constraints.  In 1997, I believe, though here I may be confused, the currency meltdown in Argentina and the demonstrations in Buenos Aires affected travel.  [I am confused because the timing is unclear.  Through the 1990’s, Argentina’s currency lost value, but it was in 1999-2002 that the crisis came to a head].

By this I mean whether or not travel occurred, not simple travel delays and inconveniences.

And apart from the difficulty of travel, there is the climate, down there in the roaring 50’s (54.5 deg. S, 64 deg W), and the sea.  Wind and ice and snow. There is also the terrain itself, rocky, tussocky and prohibitive of controlled survey work.

But the birds.  The striated caracaras are incredibly tame, curious and intelligent.  Here is Meiburg’s Looking for Johnny Rook Part 1, a video that includes footage of these birds:  link. (Parts 2 and beyond should pop up for you–watch them too, you’ll be glad you did).  Watching them I can understand developing a passionate obsession to learn more about them–more especially, because that is what interests me, about their behavior.

Here are some things that seem to be true about the striated caracara at least some of the time:

Annual adult mortality is 5% live; they can live at least 20 years

An average pair raises on 1.5 chicks annually

The mortality of chicks is up to 75%

Woods also asks why, despite the current protection, has the population not increased? He then includes a long list of what questions should be asked about this species, from behavior, to diet, to impact on sheep.  Because any of these things can affect population size–

And, as with many species, quite possibly some of the problem is because of words, of names (pest, sheep-killer).

the boldness and rapacity of these birds

The Ordinance for the Destruction of Birds of Prey.


More videos of these birds (notice the sound of the wind in the mic):  skua stealing and egg and caracara stealing it again, eating goose, calling pair, sharing pair


Quotes are from Charles Darwin, Emma Wood & Len Hill, Jonathan Meiburg, Jorie Graham, Robin W. Woods, Simone Weil, The Falkland Island Conservation of Wildlife and Nature Bill

TGA–teeny bit more re Australia

12 04 2010

The human heart seemed inverted, and the very conscience reversed

I am not yet ready to leave Queensland, or rather, Australia proper, (but then I wasn’t at the time, either).

the circumstances of detention are arranged to enhance within the subject his feelings of being cut off from the known and the reassuring, and of being plunged into the strange.

I visitedCoat of arms of  Queensland the rainforest in the Far North of Queensland–like your typical tourist I traveled north from Cairns to a hostel in a preserve.  The site of the Mitchell River Mission is on the other side, in the North West.

I saw many orange footed scrub fowl as well as the special mounds they build to incubate their eggs perfectly.  These mounds are archeological.

I also saw a juvenile southern cassowary.

I shall learn poetry here

The bird moved quietly through the jungle though he/she was tall as I am.  I was displaced from time.

And the spirit of God moved on the face of the waters

I was in Australia for a conference in Canberra but spent my own tiny bit of time wandering the eastern part of the continent–to Queensland, Sydney and the blue mountains.  And of course the field trips out from Canberra.

Not much and though I fantasized going back and studying those gorgeous megapodes, I haven’t yet.

I traveled with my “A Field Guide to the Birds of Australia” and a copy of The Fatal Shore, by Robert Hughes.

the blood of several of my fellow Prisoners

I was not alone in toting this latter text around.  Most of the other folks in the hostels I visited had their own copy, in a variety of languages–in particular I remember a young German man reading his in a bar (a fellow traveler).

cryed aloud

The Fatal Shore is about Australia’s colonial past, as the place to which convicts from Great Britain were transported.  These convicts, of course, were those not sentenced to death–petty and political crimes were common (many convicts were there because they had committed the crime of engaging in politics while Irish).

Heaven…let fall its vengeance on this wholesale Murderer and despicable White Savage

The book documents the brutality with which these convicts were treated.  On a continent (on an island) subject to near total power of their keepers and considered forgotten in their prior homes. 100 lashes was common punishment. (and so on…)

in the dark

There are two things that bind The Golden Archipelago to The Fatal Shore, at least in my mind, if not in the mind of TGA’s creators–The continent Herself, and torture.

till his arms are tired/till his lungs are tired/starve him of the air the dimming light/

Whether a description of the act of torture is intended in the lyrics I do not know.  For me there is the stripping of one’s home, the colonial degradation but there is also torture.

till his eyes are wide/till his eye are wild/till he sees the other side

Of course, some of this may be my own associations with being in Australia.  The extreme difference in the animals and the plants–their archaic diffferences–was everywhere, in the cities, in the mountains, on the beach, in the rivers, in the forest.  It was like being dropped into evolution.

chain him to the burning carousel/till the horses tire

But there was also the human sense–the history I was reading in The Fatal Shore at the time and the brutal history of colonization’s affect on the Aboriginal people and their culture.

Their relationship to the place and to life was essentially torn away (as it was everywhere my forebears trampled, North America, Africa, and most of Oceania.  I know…and, yet, part of me wants to be on a ship, then, to someplace “new”)

I too am brutal

While Australia has her lash-stained history and Bikini Atoll her forced evacuation, Tierra del Fuego her isolation–one island location–Guantánamo Bay–is not mentioned in the lyrics, in the Dossier, or in any interviews I’ve read.

stave off suicide

But it occurs to me every time I focus on the lyrics of many of the songs.  It hovers like the other ghosts that populate the music and the images in the Dossier

most people underestimate their capacity to withstand pain

Guantánamo Bay is in itself a ghost, but it also right now.   It is this moment.  It echos Abu Ghraib and whatever they say it is brutal.

After great pain

a formal feeling comes–

Quotes are from Genesis, KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation Manual, Shearwater, William Bernard Ullathorne and Laurence Frayere quoted in The Fatal Shore, Emily Dickinson, John Keats

TGA: Mitchell River Mission

6 04 2010

Picture of / about 'Mitchell River' Queensland - View of Mitchell River Mission, 1919

This picture is of the Mitchell River Mission in 1919.  It is not from the Dossier.  There are, however, a cluster of images in the Dossier from this Mission because Jonathan Meiburg spent some of his fellowship time here

what the body allows

and indeed this is a place of loss

a flash in the heart

The Mission itself was active in Kowanyama Queensland land of many waters, North of where I visited, for a very short time, in 1996 and what I remember were the crocadiles, the baby cassowaries and the lovely scrubfowl.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I didn’t sense the human history.  It is imprinted but I was somewhat ignorant and I was a tourist travelling to a conference. But you feel these things, you know.

The Mitchell River Mission itself was active from 1904-1962  well past the time of the Second Great Awakening but, as Australian missions started late, certainly during the heyday of mission work in Queensland.

everyone to experience the wholeness of life God offers in Jesus Christ, and to this end support our Partners as they participate in God’s mission.

So they say on their website

god made me

Should I say now that the mere idea of missionary work bothers me.  I cannot view it with eyes unclouded by doubts and even antagonism.

I learned a lie/that power breeds/regeneration

It always appears to me to be an issue of power and of erasing of difference.  A coming into the fold because of power or of fearing of hellfire or even of a sort of pity.

burning wall/that approaches


And of course, over all my impression of missionary work, in the recent history of the church is the shadow of abuse (a cleanly term).  I know a person who works with the indigenous survivors of institutionalized abuse in Canada’s Anglican schools–these are adults that carry the little broken children they were locked inside themselves.

I suppose we all do, but then this abuse changes the nature of the break.

And, ultimately, the Anglican missionaries enabled and embodied the colonial waltz of the British Empire.

the empire/that sleeps

Images of the Dossier from the mission archives;

Wedding–1950’s clothing– a man in slacks, no shirt, paint spear(?) crossing before the front of the camera. Another image of the wedding(?) With a baby and bottle and child/young woman looking into the camera, dogs and people in pants or skirts and shirts, and a cluster, in the upper left corner, of men in dungarees and naked painted chests, headgear. Three aboriginal men, in western clothing, in front of the Australian flag, one holding what appears to be rigging.


Peter Bindigo 6.11.1904, John Grady 6.11.1904, Warrie 8. 4.1906


Tommy 13. 8.1911(Little Tommy), Willie 13. 8.1911 (Daphne)


John Grady              Rhoda Grady
Bowendonolly Hannah

C    Married according to native custom (both)
A    40 yrs ?                        36 yrs ?
F    Terracolly                      Benginjee
M    Banang                          Bongelgorrambo
Married 1. 1.1913

A child gutting a marsupial(?)–this is perhaps one of the most beautiful photographs in the Dossier.  Two older (white bearded) aboriginal men, just their heads and a bit of their torsos and nothing else in the photograph.


1.1931  Camp man Lightfoot                                  A nomadic native
7. 5.1931  Maurice                                    c23y                  Accident while mustering
19. 7.1931  Percy                                      c25y                  Lingering death. Bush burial
11.11.1931  Jane                                         2d                  Dau of Amos & Annie [This is a baby]
29. 4.1932  Bob Dunbar                                 c50y                  Died suddenly
3. 7.1932  Jack Daphne, old man                                 Senile decay


30. 6.1933  Erlish             c13y      Unwell for some time [and this is a child]
31. 3.1944  Leah Lorraine              Measles & dysentry, Dora’s baby [a baby]

[on and on, when cause of death is listed, measles, dysentery, whooping cough, illness, unwell

old man, died suddenly, lingering death, accident, decay]

and the last to die

12. 9.1962  Bernard Brumby               Drowning

The Queensland aboriginal is docile, law-abiding, and even quick to learn

In the Dossier there are also small photographs, some with labels, arranged as in a photo album:  “Norman & sign High Voltage Keep Out” “Aborginese [sic] Natives–He said many were friendly”

Who is the Norman in these photos?  He is the only person named, all others are the “natives.”  What I know about Norman is that he apparently “hated Guard Duty.”  But why was he doing guard duty in the mission?

total institution…of locks and guards

And who has written these labels on these small slightly blurry photographs?  Who is the I behind the hand?


you [who] are in Australia unlawfully

you should immediately tell an immigration officer

The missions of Australia (mission becoming a sort of slang term for state institution) grew out of the desire, of course, to proselytize but also out of a certain sense of a need to “protect.”  And they were late to happen, perhaps, in part, because Samuel Marsden, though deeply interested in setting up missionary work in New Zealand held to popular thought of his time, in which Australian Aborigines were believed to represent the lowest form of social life in the great Chain of Being

The missions of Australia, from the 19th century and through the 20th century, were institutions, or total institutions, with an inside and an outside.

Single boys have their own house and may not

Single boys may

No dance or play

No dancing

Natives who purchase food from the store are expect to

Natives must wash

Girls must perform all necessary work

Girls are not permitted

Attendance at morning prayers in church is compulsory

these girls receive food

no clothing

no tobacco

if she does not accept

No adults are allowed inside the school fence

Males are expected to keep the building

Females are to keep mats

Cow boys

Same as sanitary men

God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then, at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.

I cannot feel myself as a missionary, I cannot pull up reserves of empathy for that state.

Now will you not see that my God is a better God than yours

Or at least, not the state of the missionary that believes in his work.  The missionary who is full of doubt is another matter.

but he felt a deep reluctance to saying it

I have lost Him.  I lost Him.

The voices of the missionaries remain, in their letters and notes and the records of the overarching agencies for whom they acted.  Their voices, their impact or what they are impress upon the images in the Dossier.  None of these images is free from the gaze of the empire.

they are gone/ they are gone from life

But the voices of those within this, the aboriginal people taken into the fold,

compulsion, duress, undue influence

the children just when they are brought in, before they realized themselves members of a Stolen Generation

Everything’s gone, the loss of your



all these things

Their voices are lost.  The sound vanishes and what they were inside of themselves, in the moment, at that time, is gone.  Because of what you become when you are inside of something, and placed within it by the culture that creates the documentation.

not to talk that language, that it’s devil’s language.

So, perhaps it is easier for me to be in the place of the doubting missionary, because that is how the history is written and how our eyes are tuned.  And of course because the line of my ancestry travels straight back to Great Britain (and Germany, though that’s another story).

wiped out all our language that we knew.

but the missionary’s voice is not the one I want– I desperately want those lost voices.

The only time I was happy is when my father or mother would come into the mission and see me

we can see…hold their hands

they were lovely moments

From the Apology Given by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in 2008:

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.


Quotes are from Erving Goffman, Angela Middleton, Jonathan Edwards, Sylvia Townsend Warner, The Archbishop of Brisbane, Lyn Austin, Elsie Roughsey and the testimony of an Aboriginal woman forcibly removed from her parents a from the Australian Human Rights Commission’s “National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families.”