Abstract

Focusing on colonial Australia in the later decades of the nineteenth century, we read the texts of a white ethnologist, Katie Langloh Parker, to explore the ways in which Yuwalaraay women of northern New South Wales sustained their links to land and culture. The wife of a pastoralist who held a government lease on a huge tract of former Aboriginal territory and mistress of numerous Aboriginal domestic servants, Parker was complicit in colonialism. Given her childhood experiences of Aboriginal playmates and an intellectual curiosity about the Yuwalaraay, she was at the same time more sympathetic than the majority of colonial commentators in her portrayal of indigenous lives, par-ticularly of indigenous women whom male anthropologists seldom secured as informants. The complexities of utilizing a white woman's writings as sources for understanding Aboriginal women are multiple: in this instance, Yuwalaraay women's experiences of necessity reached readers through the lens of a colonial woman's perceptions. Nevertheless, we argue that, given the paucity of other literary sources for the period, Parker's writings warrant serious attention, principally for the insight they offer into Yuwalaraay women's continued care of their land and maintenance of the cultural practices so closely related to it. Parker's accounts of the Yuwalaraay become especially significant in light of the long overdue land rights legislation of the 1990s, under which Aborigines have been forced to prove continuing historical attachments to former tribal lands in order to claim title or usage.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2036
Print ISSN
1042-7961
Pages
pp. 15-37
Launched on MUSE
2003-03-26
Open Access
No
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