“If it’s your totem you are not supposed to eat that totem.”
Ernie Raymont, Ngadjon-Jii Elder, 2003
Many Aboriginal people in the region have a mutual obligation or totemic relationship with certain animals or places.
The ecosystems of the Wet Tropics region have evolved over thousands of years through active Aboriginal interaction with the land.
Activities such as fire management, hunting, gathering, harvesting of materials for shelter, tools, ceremony and art and craft have always been integral to the ecology of the Wet Tropics.
The plants and animals of the region are of great importance to Aboriginal culture and there are many customs, stories, songs and dances associated with them. They are a fundamental and integral part of many aspects of the life and culture of Traditional Owners.
Traditional Owners don’t view the plants and animals of their landscape as resources to be exploited. Looking after Country and all the species that live there is a natural obligation for Rainforest Aboriginal People.
Many Aboriginal groups in the region have a totemic relationship with particular animals or plants which are considered their totems.
This means they must abide by the many social and spiritual responsibilities related to that totem and respect and conserve the totem by refraining from eating that species.
Traditional Owner Concerns
Traditional Owners across the whole region have grave concerns about things that threaten the health of the plants and animals of the Wet Tropics, including vegetation clearing, habitat fragmentation, pests and weeds, urban development and climate change.
There is a sense that there isn’t enough awareness of the cultural importance of the plants and animals of this region and they would like to create more awareness.
They also want to be part of the solution and be respectfully involved in, and benefit socially, culturally and economically from research, planning, monitoring and management of plants and animals.
Inspiring Traditional Owner Initiatives
Traditional Owner groups across the region are involved in some exciting projects relating to the region’s biodiversity.
These initiatives demonstrate the benefits Traditional Owners can bring to the management of our natural resources, but also the ways in which they can benefit through employment.