Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders have a strong connection with the land, sea, rivers, mountains, plants and animals. Through Dreamtime stories, their spiritual connection with the surrounding environment and beliefs of creation are told. These stories depict cultural practices, laws, ways to hunt and gather, and relationships with the natural environment. Indigenous people use art, music, dance and stories to express their beliefs and to develop connections within and between traditional owner groups.
Fishing and the collection of marine resources is an important part of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture. The types of food eaten are dependent on the season and the environments in which they live. Both now and in the past, coastal Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders seasonally harvest stingrays and sharks from the sea and estuaries, with these foods forming an important component of Indigenous diets.
Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders use indicators in the environment to determine the best time to harvest their food source. For example:
- In some cultures, the first thunderstorm of the wet season is considered to be the time to harvest stingrays.
- In regions, such as the Kalumburu, the traditional owner groups start harvesting stingrays for their liver when they first notice flowers appearing on the Bush Almond.
- It is known amongst some traditional owner groups that the liver of a stingray is suitable for eating if it is oily and pinkish white in colour. It is also known that stingrays and manta rays with two spines are not good eating.
Wuthathi Tribe - Stingray Dreaming
Artist: Joe Saunders
The livers of stingrays and sharks are highly prized by some Indigenous cultures and considered to be very sacred objects of. The liver of these animals contains iron and vitamins, providing strength to those that eat it, and is a particularly valued food source for babies and elders.
Click on the Wuthathi Tribe - Stingray Dreaming artwork and read or listen to the "Emu and the Jabiru Story"
The bones of stingrays and sharks are used to make tools; the skin of sharks are used as sandpaper, the spine in the tail of stingrays are used as spear tips, and sharks teeth are used as drills and often embedded in hunting tools.
Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders have traditionally had strong spiritual connections with the environment, and strong beliefs about hunting, gathering and eating of foods. Different traditional owner groups are usually assigned different totems and in some cases individuals are given personal totems when they are born. It was custom not to eat, kill or harm their totem; in some traditional owner groups there are exceptions for special occasions.
The Diamond stingray (Yama) is the totem of the Wuthathi tribe, Shelbourne Bay, northern Queensland. See an example of their Stingray Dreaming artwork above. The stingray is also the totem emblem for some Torres Strait Islanders. Sharks are a totem of the South Australian Ramindjeri people and they are forbidden to hunt them.
In the Torres Strait, personal pendants are worn. These pendants often represent the persons totem and are mostly carved out of wood, turtle shell or shells. There are well-established rules as to when the pendants can be worn, often only allowed during ceremonies or rituals.
Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders have a strong connection with the land, sea, rivers, mountains, plants and animals. Through Dreamtime stories, their spiritual connection with the surrounding environment and beliefs of creation are told. These stories depict cultural practices, laws, ways to hunt and gather, and relationships with the natural environment.
Click on the picture of the Hammerhead Shark Headdress to find out why story telling is important.
The Dhui Dhui Story
The Bandjin people of Hinchinbrook Island and Lucinda Point on the adjoining mainland of North Queensland, as well as Gould and Garden islands and part of Dunk Island. The Dhui Dhui story appears courtesy of Russell Butler, of the Bandjin People. Bandjin means saltwater people.
Dhui Dhui Story of the Bandjin people
Where you look due south toward Hinchinbrook (Muddamuddanaymy; pronounced Mudda-mud-ah-nah-me) from Dunk Island (Coonangalbah; pronounced Koo-nang-gol-bar), two boys paddled out in a canoe and dropped their stone anchor. The elders had told them not to fish on that sand spit because there was a big shovelnose ray (Dhui Dhui; pronounced Doo-ee Doo-ee) that lived there. The boys fished anyway. The ray bit their line and started to tow them around in the canoe but the boys wouldn't let go of the line. It towed them around the ocean for a while before going down the Hinchinbrook channel. They disappeared into the horizon. By then it was getting dark and everyone was worried about the boys. As they were looking south with the night sky rising, the Southern Cross appeared, which was Dhui Dhui; the shovelnose ray, and the two pointers; the two warriors in their canoe.
Southern Cross - Stingray
Picture by: Paul Gurnow
The Ngarrindjeri people living in the Coorong and Murray Valley region, in South Australia, consider the Southern Cross to be a stingray (Nunganari) in the night sky, with the two pointer stars as sharks (Ngarakani). Aborigines in the Northern Territory consider the two pointer stars as one shark. Click on the Southern Cross - Stingray picture to find out more about Aboriginal astronomy and the stingray in the night sky.
Kondili Story and Song
"Kondili the Whale" is a Dreamtime story of the Kaurna/Ngarrindjeri people (living in South Australia). Click here to download the story and song with some fun activities.
Cultural Connections Challenge
Once you have looked at some of the artwork and read some of the Dreamtime stories design and paint your own x-ray or skeleton paintings.
Display or exhibit your Indigenous art forms in your classroom or library. Invite an audience to view your work. Make sure you can explain the Dreamtime story and animals that inspired your artwork.
Hint: Design a Dreamtime story or creature on paper. Transfer this image onto a lino tile and carve out the design. Use a paint roller to apply paint to the lino tile and then use the tile to print an image onto fabric. This form can be used to create tablecloths or individual T-shirts. This method could also be used to print onto stationary for invites to your student exhibition.
Now that you
have completed your Cultural Connections Challenge.
Click on the picture of the bull roarer to start your
Bull roarers like this one are used in initiation ceremonies.