On the nineteenth of September, Butchulla dancers and group representatives got here collectively at Kingfisher Bay Resort to have fun the renaming of Fraser Island to the Ok’gari (Fraser Island) World Heritage Space.
The renaming was the results of a decades-long marketing campaign by Butchulla Elders and group members and was endorsed by the Queensland authorities and adopted by the World Heritage Committee.
This occasion is the newest in a rising variety of Indigenous title repatriations throughout the nation. As a Butchulla particular person, and a researcher of the illustration of Indigenous peoples in archives and historic narratives, I can respect the importance of one thing as seemingly small as a reputation change.
How widespread is it to revert to the Indigenous place title?
The reversion to the title Ok’gari has occurred in levels over a lot of years. In 2011, the Bligh authorities added Ok’gari as an alternative choice to the place title Fraser Island within the Queensland Place Names Register.
The Fraser Island portion of the Nice Sandy Nationwide Park was modified to Ok’gari (Fraser Island) Nationwide Park in 2017. This newest change is particularly in relation to the UNESCO World Heritage space.
Ok’gari is amongst a rising variety of locations round Australia which have returned to their Indigenous names. One of the vital well-known examples is Uluru.
In Queensland, the Nationwide Parks First Nations Naming Challenge has been helping in reverting nationwide park names to Indigenous names the place potential as part of the federal government’s dedication to the truth-telling course of. North Stradbroke Island and Moreton Island Nationwide Parks have reverted to Minjerribah and Gheebulum Coonungai, respectively.
In keeping with then-minister for setting and the Nice Barrier Reef, Leanne Enoch
This challenge is a optimistic step in our reality telling round First Nations Peoples’ important and historic connection to nation.
Not renaming, reclaiming
Altering a spot title is not going to repair racism in a single fell swoop. Nobody is claiming it’ll. However title repatriation speaks to the significance of language in each tradition and sovereignty.
Indigenous place names hyperlink Conventional Nation to the historical past, tradition and other people which were part of that land lengthy earlier than colonisation. Overwriting Indigenous names with colonist names is an try to deny this deep, pre-existing connection and the sovereignty of Indigenous peoples.
The renaming of Butchulla Nation was one of many first issues Captain James Cook dinner did as he first sailed the east coast of Australia.
In 1770, as Cook dinner’s ship sailed near Cheesy Waroo, a big basalt headland on the east facet of Ok’gari, it was met by a celebration of Butchulla warriors standing on the headland. Within the lexicon of the day, all dark-skinned individuals had been known as “Indians”, so Cook dinner renamed Cheesy Waroo “Indian Head”.
In different instances, colonial place names had been, and nonetheless are, blunt reminders of colonial violence. Locations like Murdering Creek, Bloodbath Bay, Cranium Creek and plenty of extra litter the Australian panorama and point out violent acts that occurred in these locations.
The title Fraser Island is called after a Scottish lady, Eliza Fraser, who was shipwrecked on the island in 1836. Fraser lied about being mistreated by Butchulla individuals after being shipwrecked. Even in these days, her account of her time on Ok’gari was thrown into doubt.
Fraser was recognized to be a sensationalist who made her story increasingly more salacious as time went on, in efforts to garner more cash from sympathetic supporters. Her accounts of her time on Ok’gari had been syndicated so far as the Americas, and bolstered the narrative that Indigenous peoples had been “savages” and “cannibals”. These classifications led to Indigenous peoples being vilified across the globe.
Colonial historical past is just not Indigenous historical past
Language performs an necessary half in reinforcing the notion that historical past in Australia started with the arrival of Cook dinner and his fleet.
Colonial place names are one other delicate but persistent reinforcement of the notion that this land solely has a spot in historical past as soon as it intersects with the narratives of colonists.
Ok’gari was the title chosen by the Butchulla as a result of that’s the sky spirit the island was created from. The title goes again to the very creation of the island, and but the title that caught was the title of a girl who spent no more than two months on the island.
Re-adoption of Indigenous place names signifies the elevated recognition of historical past and tradition that predates colonisation. Extra importantly, these title repatriations recognise that historical past and tradition proceed at the moment.
The historical past of colonisation is just not Indigenous historical past. Indigenous historical past and the historical past of this continent predates, pre-exists and can ultimately override colonial historical past. Indigenous place names are proof of that.
Indigenous treaties are meaningless with out addressing the problem of sovereignty
Bringing our previous right into a shared future
Repatriation of Indigenous place names is part of the method of reintroducing Indigenous views into the narratives of our fashionable society.
Repatriation of Indigenous place names reaffirms that First Nations have all the time existed, and nonetheless exist in Australia at the moment. Furthermore, they’re a supply of distinction that units Australia aside from the remainder of the world for the one factor no different nation on the planet can come near: being dwelling to the oldest dwelling cultures on the planet. That needs to be a supply of satisfaction for all Australians.
At all times was, all the time shall be Ok’gari.
Rose Barrowcliffe is a member of the Butchulla Aboriginal Company.