The Dreaming

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Tribal Boundaries


In the Dreamtime, before tribal laws were established, the people wandered wherever they wished and took whatever the land offered. Unfortunately, this often caused problems, especially with tribes that had occupied an area for a long time. As far as they were concerned, their years of occupation entitled them to claim the land and all it contained.

This also occurred with neighbouring tribes and they usually came to an agreement. However, some of the larger tribes ignored recognized boundaries and hunted or removed sticks for spears or clay for ceremonial adornment, and physical confrontation usually followed.

Baiame, the Great Spirit, realized that something had to be done to bring order to the land to avoid more serious consequences, so he created a large billabong amid a stand of gum trees situated on the claimed boundaries of several tribes. Then he called them together to meet at the billabong.

Now, the Great Spirit never appeared as himself, because to reveal himself in all his glory would most certainly destroy all those who saw him, so he always appeared in the form of an animal, in this case, a gaya dari, or platypus.

After the tribes had set up their camps at the billabong, the Great Spirit revealed himself. He rose to the surface and began allotting each tribe a certain area of land to be theirs alone, and any tribe trespassing upon another tribe's land would be in breach of his law and would suffer the consequences.

Thus, from then on, the tribes could rightfully claim their land and deal with any trespassers without fear of offending the spirits.

Burramadagal clan of the Dharrug tribe

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