The dreaming paths of Aboriginal nations – paths that crossed the Australian landscape – formed major ceremonial routes along which goods and knowledge flowed. These became the trade routes that crisscrossed Australia and transported religion and cultural values.
Aboriginal Dreaming Paths and Trading Routes highlights the valuable contribution Aboriginal people made in assisting European explorers, surveyors, and stockmen to open the country for colonisation, and it explores the interface between Aboriginal possession of the Australian continent and European colonisation and appropriation.
Instead of positing a radical disjunction between cultural competencies, the book considers how European colonisation of Australia appropriated Aboriginal competence in terms of the landscape: by tapping into culinary and medicinal knowledge, water and resource knowledge, hunting, food collecting, and path-finding.
As a consequence of this assistance, Aboriginal Dreaming paths and trading routes also became the routes and roads of the colonisers. Indeed, the European colonisation of Australia owes much of its success to the deliberate process of Aboriginal land management practices.
The book provides a social science context for the broader study of Aboriginal trading routes by providing an historic interpretation of the Aboriginal/European contact period. It scrutinises arguments about nomadic and primitive societies, as well as romantic views of culture and affluence. These circumstances and outcomes are juxtaposed with evidence that indicates that Aboriginal societies are substantially sedentary and highly developed, capable of functional differentiation and foresight - attributes previously only granted to the European settlers.
The hunter-gatherer image of Aboriginal society is rejected by providing evidence of crop cultivation and land management, as well as social arrangements that made best use of a hostile environment.
Aboriginal Dreaming Paths and Trading Routes is essential reading for all those who seek to have a better knowledge of Australia and its first people. It inscribes Aboriginal people firmly in the body of Australian history.