Li-anthawirriyarra, people of the sea
: Yanyuwa relations with their maritime environment

  • John James Bradley

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    All people, wherever they live, interpret the environment in which they find themselves. This thesis explores the way in which the Yanyuwa people of Borroloola in the South West Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory of Australia respond to the environment in which they live.

    For the Yanyuwa their environment also includes the sea, which is for them country and a powerful source of their group identity. The Yanyuwa interpretation of their environment is not based purely upon the pragmatic use of that land and sea. History, spirituality, ritual, emotion, living and deceased people as well as other spiritual inhabitants are all part of the basis on which individual and group negotiation with the environment takes place.

    The study of these responses to the environment is called -using the jargon of the western world - ethnoecology and ethnobiology. This thesis examines the western responses to these disciplines in regard to studies undertaken in other parts of the world. The number of Australian case studies is surprisingly small. There are two schools of thought which seek to view the way indigenous people relate to their environment. One response is to rely heavily on the cognitive and analytical skills of the people in regard to the way the environment is classified. The other response is to say that time and some of the factors enumerated above, such as history, spirituality and negotiation, are important keys in understanding the way people interpret and classify their environment. The thesis argues that it is this second response which allows for a clearer understanding of the total indigenous response to the environment. By seeking to undertake a more holistic study a valuable convergence of anthropology, ethnobiology and ethnoecology can in some part be achieved.

    Following on from this, the thesis then examines in detail the Yanyuwa relationship with the maritime environment, with particular attention being placed upon the dugong and sea turtle, upon Yanyuwa involvement as predators upon these two species, and upon the historical factors which have influenced this relationship.

    Note: Please note that the original has 2 pages of number 22, 145, 383, 433 and does not contain page number 227, 246, 258, and 320.
    Date of Award1997
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorChris Healey (Supervisor)

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