Friday 27 November 2009

History Bites: Ganyarra & Damarri

CairnsBlog brings you our weekly column, History Bites, a series of historical vignettes, pertinent to our unique and special region.

Produced by Dr Timothy Bottoms, a published and widely respected historian based in Cairns, North Queensland. He has spent ten years researching and writing City of the South Pacific, A History of Cairns.

History Bites is a series of unique and easily readable pieces for
CairnsBlog readers.
Dr Bottoms is a specialist in Aboriginal and North Queensland history and has wide experience in writing, producing and presenting radio documentaries and music biographies.

The Bama (Rainforest Aboriginal people) of the future Cairns Harbour area, recall Bulurru (Religion/Law) Storywaters (or Dreamings) of the time of creation when the heroic being Damarri, strode from the mouth of Bana Bidagarra (‘waterway where bark canoes are used’, i.e., for freshwater fishing; now the coastal Barron River), across the Inlet to Bessie Point. Looking across the bay you can see ranges, and the point where it comes down to the water is Bessie Point.

This tip is the snout of Ganyarra (‘crocodile). Shortly after coming ashore, Damarri trod on a lawyer-vine thorn and began to bleed. This then became known as Bulmba Giyin.garra (‘home of the Lawyer vine’). Damarri decided to retrace his steps and return to the mouth of the Barron River. Ganyarra smelt the blood, followed him and attempted to bite Damarri’s leg off, but couldn’t because he didn’t have any teeth.

Damarri, being a daredevil, happy-go-lucky sort of fellow, laughed at Ganyarra and went and whittled some teeth from White Mangrove wood. When Ganyarra received this gift, he promptly turned around and bit off Damarri’s left leg, and from this Damarri instructed Ganyarra to go forth and hunt people, which explains why given the opportunity, crocodiles eat people.

This is an extract from: A History of Cairns – City of the South Pacific 1770-1995, by Dr Timothy Bottoms, PhD, Central Queensland University, 2002, Photo 2.1, p.72.You can contact Dr Bottoms via email. There is more information on his website.

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