Thursday, November 15, 2007

Black Armband 4: The Angepena Atrocities

Angepena Station is a pastoral run near Copley in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia.

It is currently the subject of a dispute between the Adnyamathanha people, who are the traditional owners, and “Operation Flinders”, an SA-based Foundation that runs a boot camp style program for young offenders and youth at risk.

This dispute will be dealt with in a later post.

This post looks at the disputes that arose from the unsettlement of the area by pastoralists in the 1850s, and at incidents that could only be described as atrocities.

An atrocity is a term used to describe crimes or excesses ranging from an act committed against a single person to one committed against a population or ethnic group.

In general use, an atrocity designates a politically or ethnically motivated killing of civilians.

I use the term “Angepena Atrocities” to describe such actions in and around Angepena station (see homestead, below).

The chief source is the writing of John Wrathall Bull, perhaps better known in South Australia as one of two claimants to the title of inventor of the Stripper (below, left), an agricultural implement that dramatically increased the productive forces of the farm sector in colonial times.

As a twenty-one year old, Bull took charge of a cattle-run owned by John Chambers, at Bobmoonie West, to the north of Oratunga in the Flinders Ranges in 1856. One of his first jobs was to drove seven thousand sheep from Oratunga to Franklin Harbour at Cowell on the Eyre Peninsula.

The droving was not without incident, and Bull recounts one incident in which a group of about two hundred Aborigines threatened his progress near Port Augusta. He shot some of the old rams in the flock within sight of the Aborigines in order to impress upon them the lethal nature of his weaponry, and then gave them some of the meat. The Aborigines followed him to Minbrie, about twenty kilometres due north of Cowell, and then left.

On arrival at Minbrie, James Shannon, the manager, asked Bull about Pongilta, an Aborigine, saying that if he was among those that had threatened Bull he would find him and shoot him as he had robbed a shepherd’s hut a month previously.

Bull confirmed Pongilta’s presence and recorded that Shannon “went after him but whether he got him or not I never knew.”

What he did know, beyond doubt, was that there were only Aboriginal women at Minbrie homestead. He was surprised and asked them the whereabouts of their men. He was told they were “crackaback”, or dead. “All about white fella shoot ‘em,” they reported.

On his way back to Oratunga, a 4-day horse ride, he stopped at Wilpena and Aroona in the Flinders Ranges and, as he had at Minbrie, only saw Aboriginal women and children in the camps.

“They told me, ‘White fella shootem all about blackfella,’” he wrote.

Thus, the dispossession of the traditional owners and the unsettlement of their societies were accompanied by atrocities directed mainly at the adult men.

It was targetted, genocidal murder.

But it was not only the men who were the subject of atrocities by the unsettlers.

That same year Bull went from Bobmoonie West to the neighbouring Angepena to arrange for a cattle muster. There he met John Stewart, who ran the place. It was late in the day, and he noticed a “native camp” not far down the creek from Stewart’s hut.

“Stewart took me down the creek,” he wrote, “and showed me a camp of lubras and children all cut to pieces with the stockwhips.

“The women’s breasts were cut open and little children six to twelve months old were bleeding all over.

“They said they were coming through Pernunna and went to a little spring to get a drink.

“They said ‘No bullocky there, master,’ meaning they were doing no harm, as there were no cattle there to be frightened away by them.

“They said Arkaba Charlie and Jack Morrow galloped down on them and ‘Whip give it’.”

Similar reports from other observers throughout South Australia make it clear that denying Aboriginal people access to water holes was a common practice at the time, and that in any case, sheep and cattle soon left natural water holes fouled and undrinkable.

Bull and Stewart went mustering cattle the next day, leaving Stewart’s hut-keeper James Mitchell in charge. When they returned several days later, they found that Mitchell had been killed by Aboriginal men enraged at the treatment of the woman and children.

Mounted police were sent to find Mitchell’s killers and an Aboriginal male named Warrioota was captured, fastened “with a dog-chain and a rope around his neck so (the troopers) could each take an end to lead him.” However, Warrioota escaped on the third day, rejoined his people and was never recaptured.

Undaunted, the troopers arrested a second man whom they believed to be Puttapa Bob, another of Mitchell’s assailants. The arrest wasn’t easy – “Puttapa Bob” resisted and was stabbed and cut by a sword and shot through the arm. Thus wounded, chained and handcuffed, the captured man was forced to walk to Mt Remarkable, a walk that took several days. He was seen there by Bull who recognised immediately that it was the wrong man!

Bull wrote that the innocent “blackfellow was ironed and chained down to a large ring-bolt in the middle and stank…He died a few days after I saw him and there was nothing said about it. I knew it was no use saying anything at that time.”

He commented that the Aborigines “look upon the white man as their general enemy taking the water and hunting grounds from them and giving them no recompense for it, but shooting them down.”

The situation in and around Angepena remained “unsettled” and a police station was maintained there for ten years until drought forced its closure in 1867.

When Prime Monster John Howard announced his proposal for a Constitutional “affirmation of the unique place of Indigenous Australians” at the Sydney Institute on October 12, he simultaneously reiterated his disdain for “shame, guilt and apologies”.

The truth will out. The facts are plain.

British colonialism was guilty of unsettling the traditional owners of the land, of dispossessing them, and of carrying out this unsettlement and dispossession with atrocities and massacres.

This is what is required to be stated in the Constitutional Preamble!


Anonymous said...

You write 0n Now 15 07. The truth will out. The facts are plain.
British colonialism was guilty of unsettling the traditional owners of the land, of dispossessing them, and of carrying out this unsettlement and dispossession with atrocities and massacres."
That.... 'This is what is required to be stated in the Constitutional Preamble"!
And elsewhere ; Australia must sign the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples!.
..and A capitalist Australia is now showing the world that it cannot reconcile itself to the existence of Aboriginal land rights and native title...
'A socialist people's republic must have the opportunity to solve this problem".
There is a bit of a disconnect from reality in this type of legalistic and socialist republic dreamers stuff.
First of all it ignores or brushes over the reality of Australia as a white settler colonialist state. It is no accident that it was precisely white settler states that were the forces opposing the UN Declaration of indigenous Peoples Not simply capitalist states.
Second British colonialism is the guilty party! Nothing to with the continuing Australian white settler colonialism and Australian imperialism .
We gotta write that down !That is was all the criminal British in a new constitutional preamble. Blame those Poms!. See .Note.
Was all this really in the past ,and all the filthy plots of the dastardly British colonialists ?
Is today's Australian white settler apartheid reality just a dream?
Howard too, says 'not responsible" for the sins of PAST generations.
But our socialists say we gotta sign a few new bits of UN legal paper too, like- those against Genocide- the Rights of Man etc as we did in the past .all of course avoided by the Australian government or honoured in the breech.
Feel good ,apple pie ,good image stuff like the referendum forty years ago to show we were not like apartheid South Africa.
Next the best hope for the first nation peoples Is to wait in hope for a socialist republic to put things right.
Wait for a bit more for white settler but now socialist paternalism?
And when might that be realistically likely to happen ? Anytime soon?
Meanwhile the first nation peoples communities are picked off one by one in concerted attacks by the bi-partisan Apartheid type white settler state.
A new stolen generation and racial genocide continues TODAY on a massive scale against the first nation peoples.
It simply has a new forms, including the "criminalisation" of the first nations youth.
In the past it was stolen children today it is the stolen Black youth now locked up in the white settlers gaols .
Locked away during what is normally the most productive and active reproductive time in peoples lives .
So check out the huge numbers of Blacks locked up in the gaols to understand stolen generations genocide TODAY.
Many will be corrupted by the drug and gang cultures in those gaols and never return to their own communities . Their future wealth creating labour contributing to the welfare of their own communities is lost forever. Their real Aboriginal identity/nature as social members of a DEFINATE community, replaced perhaps with an Aboriginality simply based on perceived skin colour and the common inheritance of some genes.

No comrades ,the best way forward for the indigenous peoples now ,is to form a united indigenous federal nation that claims the right to self determination and assures mutual community protection.
And what's more ,massive land and cash reparations are due and in order not some sort of "sorry" words or words in the constitution blaming the Brits
Perhaps in the past the separated different first nation peoples and communities had no common consciousness of common interest.
This has now changed.
White settler interventionism and apartheid measures again teaches them the common interest and the need for unity as nation. That nothing good can be expected from the capitalist colonialist white settler oppressor state "reconciliation" ploys.
To have real enforceable treaty rights and national equality between nations requires the formation of strong common Federal First Nation of all indigenous peoples.
Socialists can support that struggle for real self determination as nation or wait like moralising reformists for a socialist republic ..someday.
On to the "socialist" republic! Fight the foreign resources grabbing imperialists and their puppets !
That is a "revolutionary" position that uses class to hide the need ,and puts of the struggle for self determination of the first nations off ,till some vague socialist future time.
Meanwhile instead of fighting on a national level the socialists are reducfed to supporting the aboriginal peoples on a case by case basis.
But the white settlers and their state has its own programme to 'socialise" wealth now .And cheers on Howard to regain control of any billion dollar natural resources in the material interest of "ALL Australians" for all
"races " "equally". All men ,white settler and first nations ,are brother Australians before the law .Aparheid is the practice of that shit.
The white settler nation don't give a damn what foreigners owns or grabs these resources, as long as royalties and taxes flow to the Australian treasury and they can hope for a share via tax cuts.
Fair 'leases" for profits and more tax cuts and a feel good bonus - We 'save" the Aboriginal children!
Economic AND psychological warfare against the Aboriginal peoples is being waged to carry out that white settler colonialist aim.
The latest trick is to admit that massive amounts of child molestation and family destruction the stolen children etc did actually occur in the past but, now claim this psychologically damaged the victims . The "damaged" victims are now said to be "dysfunctional" the main perpetuators and the children of the present generation must now be saved from their own 'damaged" communities .
A hunt for Black sex offender scalps proceeds nationaly , so more Black "criminals" can be removed from their communities and gaoled.
The more the communities and families are broken up and separated the less chance they will have of proving any connection with their traditional land in the future. The 'legal logic" of imperialism .
Genocide has its ideological justifiers including bourgeois psychology and the White settlers military ,police and lawyers and NGOs are on the front line in the attack on the first nation peoples.
Note .On the dastardly British.
Perhaps the Australian government still under secret instructions from the British Empire bankers As the La Rouche mob explains?
(actually they ,The CEC are taking a very strong (nationalist)anti-multinational stand and are opposing the Howard /Rudd intervention as profit driven fraud )

Anonymous said...

the more important issue with Angepena is that it is vital land for the Adnyamathanha people. It contains many sacred sites that must be protected and the only way they can be protected is for Adnyamathnaha people to have complete control.

Operation Flinders are showing no respect to the Adnyamathanha people.

This land was stolen originally and should now be handed back.

The State Government has the power to fix this but they wont. They used the Aboriginal Heritage Act to stop the sale of the Burke and Wills breast plate - a non-Aboriginal item but they wont use the Aboriginal Heritage Act to stop this sale and protect these sites.

saveangepena said...

check out the Adnyamathanha peoples website about the Angepena issue

Anonymous said...

Firstly let me state that I do this outside of the foundations knowledge and persmission. I write this because it is the truth and it needs to be said.

Operation Flinders shows nothing but respect for the Adnyamathanha people and their traditions. I know what Operation Flinders does. I have seen it and been a part of it. Operation Flinders helps kids, simple as that. Everybody who goes out there, gives up their time to help troubled youth and give them a brighter future, are heros and not the vandals that Vince is trying to make them out to be. Operation Flinders is a brilliant organisation that does not need to be dealing with the rubbish the Mr Coulthard is causing. He says on his website that he worries people walking in Angepena may suffer from mental troubles if the choose to walk on Sacred Sites. I have walked the Campbellbald Range and climbed the old abseil site near Frome Gap before Vince and his assosciates declared them out of bounds. Funny, I feel fine. Let me put this out there for all to see. Vince Coulthard only wants Angepena for his own greed. He wants it for the Homestead. What good will letting Vince have it do? If Operation Flinders is allowed to buy Angepena they will put it to good use. They will turn it into a place that will be ideal for helping troubled youth. I firmly believe in what the foundation does. Operation Flinders regularly takes boys and girls of indigenous background into the Flinders, some of whom are Adnyamathanha. Operation Flinders helped indigenous kids, as well as whites. I have seen it with my own eyes. I have walked with Aboriginal boys and know for a fact that it helped them and made them realise stuff about themselves that will help them in the future. I support Operation Flinders bid to buy Angepena. I do this because I have been out there in the Flinders, seen the changes in the youth they help and experienced the heart warming joy of seeing the pride in the eyes of young men who just completed an exercise.

Let the sale of Angepena go through and stop the slander of a stand up organisation such as Operation Flinders.


Anonymous said...

Dear David

I have never written on the internet before but I was saddened to read your letter. I have supported Operation Flinders in the past and I even sent their charity Christmas cards this year.

However it now seems that my support was ill founded and that perhaps Mr Coulthard is right your organisation is racist. Your letter proves that your organisation is showing no respect for the indigenous culture.

I would suggest your comments are both slanderous and offensive to the Aboriginal people, especially Mr Coulthard.

I for one will not be supporting Operation Flinders any more as it is clear to me that you cannot teach the young people in your care respect when you yourself are so disrespectful.

kind regards


Anonymous said...

I agree with Mary, David you obviously dont know Vince Coulthard at all.

He works tirelessly for his people and has won awards for it, including an Australia Day Award from the Premier for his committment to the Aboriginal community.

You are not serious with your comments about him surely??

I did some cross cultural training with him and he is a very passionate person who stands up for his people and his culture.

He is a leader and deserves more respect.


Anonymous said...

I have been following the situation with Operation Flinders and the Adnyamathanha people and I thought that they had been to mediation and had come up with an agreement both parties were happy with and they were working together.

this doesnt seem to be the case given your disgusting comments David

that is disappointing because I wanted to beleive that Operation Flinders were a good organisation but now I am not so sure.

you say you do this without Operation Flinders knowledge but clearly you work for them and your views are disturbing.


Anonymous said...

I was involved with a camp for disadvantaged kids at Iga Warta and that camp was written up in the ICAN newsletter which is on the internet, but one of the quotes says:-

“Seventeen young people from Port Augusta are immersing themselves in Aboriginal experiences over the week long camp at Iga Warta, a cultural centre set amongst the Iga, or native orange trees. Vince Coulthard, Adnyamathanha Elder and co manager of Iga Warta acts as a guide nd mentor. “the children today are our future and its our responsibility to pass on education about our culture” he states emphatically.

Vince has an expectation of mutual respect. A man of stature, his quiet assured tones command a presence and his gift for storytelling is compelling. “its taught me how to respect not just people I like, but everyone," says Makala one of a group of non-Aboriginal girls who has a history of class suspensions. I think my behaviour in class wil be very different.”

Vince Coulthard is not the selfish man you describe, he is a very caring man who puts others before himself.

You are showing him and his culture no respect and if you are an example of the staff of Operation Flinders then I would question the whole program.

your views are simplistic and disrespectful

how sad to think you are in charge of our kids that are already at risk


Anonymous said...

I have just checked Vince Coulthard's website and that says that his people went into mediation with Operation Flinders in July last year.

from your letter David it doesnt sound to me like Operation Flinders are serious about this mediation process.

you are obviously part of Operation Flinders and you have those attitudes - sounds to me like the mediation process has a problem.

TJM & MHM Accounts said...

I have been instructed to advise that the comments posted by David above do not represent the position of Operation Flinders, which confirms its respect for Adnyamathanha traditional law and custom and disassociates itself from the denigratory comments made about Mr Vincent Coulthard.

Tim Mellor,
Mellor Olsson Lawyers

Anonymous said...

Vince Coulthard has just been re elected by the Adnyamathanha people for the 13th consecutive year as Chairperson of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Lands Association. He clearly has the backing of his people and works tirelessly to protect their culture and land.

Anonymous said...

Vince Coulthard has been awarded the National NAIDOC Lifetime Achievement Award.

Indigenous actor Ernie Dingo praised Vince,

``Vince is a tireless champion of Indigenous voices, land rights and justice,'' Dingo said.

``Vince Coulthard empowers others to fulfill their dreams and make a difference.''

This is the highest award in the country for an Aborginal person.

The Governor General of Aust sent a message of congratulations -

"I want you to know how much I admire and respect your lifelong dedication and commitment to the promotion and protection of the rights of Indigenous Australians.

Your work stands as a source of support, courage, and inspiration to all of us. At its heart is the recognition of the dignity and worth of every human being." Quentin Bryce