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Dark Emu

Black seeds agriculture or accident?

Rating: 5.0000 - 2 votes
Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe
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AU$ 19.99
Dark Emu puts forward an argument for a reconsideration of the hunter-gatherer tag for precolonial Aboriginal Australians. The evidence insists that Aboriginal people right across the continent were using domesticated plants, sowing, harvesting, irrigating and storing - behaviours inconsistent with the hunter-gatherer tag. Gerritsen and Gammage in their latest books support this premise but Pascoe takes this further and challenges the hunter-gatherer tag as a convenient lie. Almost all the evidence comes from the records and diaries of the Australian explorers, impeccable sources.
Magabala Books; March 2014
176 pages; ISBN 9781922142450
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Title: Dark Emu
Author: Bruce Pascoe
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NSW Premier's Literary Awards: Bruce Pascoe's Dark Emu wins Book of the Year - ABC Online
Mon, 16 May 2016 04:09:27 -0700
ABC OnlineNSW Premier's Literary Awards: Bruce Pascoe's Dark Emu wins Book of the YearABC OnlineThirty judges had the ...
Bruce Pascoe's Dark Emu unveils proud history of indigenous ag - Weekly Times Now
Tue, 09 Aug 2016 07:48:40 -0700
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Indigenous writers rise to the top of the 2016 NSW Premier's Literary Awards - The Sydney Morning Herald
Mon, 16 May 2016 04:03:53 -0700
The Sydney Morning HeraldIndigenous writers rise to the top of the 2016 NSW Premier's Literary AwardsThe Sydney Morning ...
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One of the most important books of this place in time
The story of Indigenous Australians, who they are and what they did pre-colonisation, has been widely reduced to potable stereotypes or, as Bruce Pascoe claims in this brilliant little book, ‘convenient lies’. “In the excision of unpalatable parts of our history’, writes Pascoe, “the illegal occupation of land and the slaughter of the occupants, for instance we have lost elements we never knew existed. Those elements - like the crops, houses, irrigation systems and fisheries - may hold keys to future prosperity” (154).
Pascoe, a Bunwurung man, presents a case against the myth of First Australians as predominantly nomadic hunter-gatherers. This ‘new’ version of an ancient story is exemplified in Bill Gammage’s tome The Biggest Estate on Earth, an extensive compilation of evidence to support the thesis of Indigenous Australians as the earliest farmers and managers of a seamless ecological ‘estate’. Dark Emu provides a more forthright argument and broader discussion, revealing the earliest signs of sustainable agriculture on the planet.
The book describes how this story is only now emerging in the journals of European explorers who observed ‘Houses, water races, harvest fields and irrigation’ but writes Pascoe: “within weeks, sometimes hours of observation, fire destroyed the houses, sheep and cattle destroyed the fields, and the dams were usurped for European use” (44).
The obliteration was fast and furious and only now, over 200 years later, the stories have begun to fly like the phoenix from the ashes.
Dark Emu provides an important way of interpreting these stories by situating them in the socio-political context and presenting a case for how this evidence might help heal our home, the people and the place, through the celebration of this incredible ancient knowledge system. Pascoe offers a fraught yet hope-filled narrative, writing that “it seems improbable that a country can continue to hide from the actuality of its history in order to validate the fact that having said sorry we refuse to say thanks” (156).
Without romanticising the ‘noble savage’ this bold book eloquently critiques colonial denial as we learn from the recorded stories of explorers and settlers in order to inform a more meaningful vision of what might be based on a more honest account of what has been: “Aboriginals were intervening in the productivity of the country and what they learnt during that process over many thousands of years will be useful to us today” (156).

Pascoe depicts the deafening silence that still abounds in research conducted on Aboriginal people without listening to their stories and learning from them as active participant researchers. This reminded me of a recent interview with local artist, Reko Rennie who reflected that “internationally there’s an amazing appreciation of our culture and in some countries more so than back here” . This similar sentiment is carried through Dark Emu – there’s no anger, but there is a visceral sorrow that we haven’t, as yet, opened to the magnificence and magnitude of the ingenuity of First Australians:
Darwinism and its Medean outlook may provide solace to those unwilling to investigate the colonial past and its decimation of indigenous populations across the globe, but the future of the world and its creatures deserves our most coherent thought and judgement. To wonder about the trajectory of modern civilisations is not to sneer at private enterprise or scientific enquiry but to wish those energies were directed in such a way that they do not destroy the planet. (154)
There are some dangerous ideas in Dark Emu that won’t sit well with people confronted by this counter narrative to the hunter-gatherer myth. But “to deny Aboriginal agricultural and spiritual achievement” cautions Pascoe, “is the single greatest impediment to inter-cultural understanding and, perhaps, Australian moral and economic prosperity” (156).
Dark Emu is a far-reaching manifesto about inhabiting Earth, in our local places and learning from the widespread traditional ecological practices of Aboriginal Australians. My only criticism of this book is that it is short, but no doubt that was intentional as Pascoe’s eloquence proves less is more. Please read this book, and then pass it on to others. Teachers will also find the Notes produced by Magdala Books a very helpful resource.
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Dark Emu
An eye-opening, beautiful and important read....
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Reality Bites
What a great book! Not one for those that want a story, but superb if you want to contemplate all the crap we were told (or not told) as young Australians growing up. Why did we never question why the aboriginal clans of the Avoca and Richardson rivers had juts disappeared? Why have we not looked at ancient Chinese history regarding their trading routes? Why do we not celebrate the amazing history of people inventing breads and cakes, firing pottery, developing complex land and water management systems? A must read for every 'Aussie'
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A must read for every Australian
Sims well-researched and is a must read for anyone interested in being an Australian and realising that we are living on a continent where there is penis stable previous culture that needs to be honoured but more than that learnt from they were able to sustainably live and farm the continent for perhaps up to 120,000 years mostly peacefully. The present culture has much to learn.

The writing style is almost that of an academic paper and I for one need a dictionary at hand I bought this as an e-book on the eBook reader for Andriod and it's a very difficult time concuming piece of software to use needs much improvement.

This work is still well worth reading and rereading

Ken Cochrane