Chain of Bays Chain of Bays
July 04, 2022, 07:13:00 pm *
News: Here we explore the traditional lands of the Wirangu Nation. We pay respect to Elders both past, present and future. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are advised that this website may contain images, voices and videos of deceased persons. Videos can be viewed via your browser flash player extensions.
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Traditional Owners

We acknowledge the Wirangu people as the traditional custodians of the Chain of Bays region. We also acknowledge the neighbouring Barngarla and Nauo people, and other tribes who have utilised the area and travelled through the region as part of their cultural activities. Today, Wirangu people live in a number of different communities, including Yalata, Ceduna, Koonibba and Port Lincoln. Support for employment of indigenous people in the region though tourism and parks are encouraged.
It is envisaged that eventually successful land claims will be made in the region to ensure that first people's rights are recognised and that an economic and social base is established for ongoing tenure and development.
The Wirangu people have some historical references and tribal boundaries that form an essential link in the knowledge of the Chain of Bays. From the days of Flinders, and the paintings of Baudin, (which can be seen in national art collections), awareness of indigenous history and connection to the land has formed a strong part of our consciousness of the West Coast region. Paintings of the smoke fires seen from explorer's ships in the 1800's are currently on display at the Port Adelaide Maritime Museum.

White Sails

Dreaming stories of people coming to the region from islands when sea levels were lower are part of local indigenous history. Mitch Dunnett, an Aboriginal leader from Ceduna, tells of one Wirangu story which refers to a ship with white sails which seemed to have been anchored near cliffs in the Sceale Bay area. It is believed that this story dates from a time well before Flinders and Baudin charted these waters, and may possibly refer to a Dutch or Portuguese ship.

Middens at Aerie, burial sites at Searcy Bay, and oral history of Aboriginal Elders are evidence of prior occupation.

Oral history exists of people forced over cliffs at Elliston and the memorial to shepherd James Baird and his death at the hands of indigenous people is located on the Point Labatt Road. The forced relocation and dispossession of indigenous tribes in the region to settlements away from their traditional lands caused a great degree of hardship to Aboriginal people, and resulted in a significant loss of cultural artefacts and traditional knowledge. Despite these unfortunate events, Aboriginal links to the area remain strong.

From the Sea

Allan Wilson, an Elder from the Wirangu tribe, recalls questioning his father about where his people came from. His father replied, "We came from the sea".

Wirangu consider themselves to be coastal people, and their traditional lives are centered on their relationship with the coast. Unlike many other Aboriginal tribes, Wirangu people considered seafood to be an important part of their diet. Traditional methods of fishing were used. These included the establishment of "fish traps" in some locations, either natural or placed rock formations which would channel fish into pools on the incoming tide.

Sticks and rocks would be used to scare the fish towards a hunter who would spear them. Wirangu people consumed a variety of shellfish, and shell fragments, middens and charred stones from campfires may still be seen today on the cliffs and in the sand hills of the Chain of Bays.

Some areas in the region, such as Murphy's Haystacks, are considered important as birthing sites. Mount Hall also is said to have spiritual significance. Coastal granite outcrops and vegetated dune hummocks are also considered meaningful.


The following Dreaming story from Allan Wilson reveals the spiritual significance of the eagle (Waldya) and the prominent granite outcrops of the area to the Wirangu:

"...with all the stories of the granite...where there's waterholes, and granite hills and all that you know, and there's always a story, a Dreaming story, because they were thought of like Gods, you know."

"Like for instance the eagle came down, the Waldya eagle you know, come down from the north and it sat on those rocks down at Murphy's Haystack, and you can still see the blood on there...(the Waldya was speared by an ancestral warrior over one on the rocks at Murphy's Haystacks, and the eagle's blood is still visible today as a distinctive red marking on one of the prominent rock formations there. The eagle survived, and continued its journey southward)... then it flew down towards Marble Range way area...because there was a big end one Wunda there, a big disturbance.

"But where it flew afterwards, I just don't know. But there are always stories fitting in with the waterholes, fitting in with the big (hills)."

Allan Wilson, Wirangu Elder

Wardu and Bulgura

The Eagle, Wombat and Sea-Lion are important totems for the Wirangu people. One story explains how the Sea Lion came to be found lying on the rocks, a sight familiar to visitors at Point Labatt. The Sea-Lion (Bulgura) had a brother, the Wombat (Wardu). One day, the Wombat went for a swim, and changed places with the Sea Lion. From that day, the Sea Lion came up onto the land, and may still be seen lying on the beach and rocks of Point Labatt.
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