Cultural chatFire

October 20, 2020by Top Didj

Aboriginal people have been managing fires in the Top End landscape for thousands of years, and traditionally did that for a wide range of reasons, from the management of habitat, driving kangaroos so they can be hunted, helping look for bush tucker, and just making it easier to go through the country.  In the top end of the NT, with the impact of colonization, a lot of Aboriginal lands were abandoned and left unmanaged, and consequently, there were very frequent late-season fires that saw too much fire on the landscape, the wrong time of year, and too intense. The easiest way to reverse this is through using lower-intensity patchy early dry season fires you can manage. In other words, using fire to fight fire, the way the aboriginal people did before colonization. So fire has always been a big part of aboriginal life.  As Manuel says in his story they never had to light a fire every day as they would keep the fire burning and take it with them when they moved camp. When they were walking through the bush, they would burn as they traveled.  Leaving these long trails of slightly burnt areas reduced the fire fuel, so when wildfires from lightning happened, the wildfire would stop at the firebreaks that had been drizzled all across the landscape.  Manuel was shown how to make his own fire sticks.  He kept them safe and never let anyone else use them. When hunting he took the sticks with him, in case he wanted to cook up some of the food speared.  Lighting fires for cooking and keeping warm was done by men, women, and kids, and it was also everyone’s job to make sure the fire did not go out. Below are three fire lighting experiences at Top Didj.  I have included one video showing the ember being made.  This is where you need lots of stamina to keep going.  I just love the reaction from everyone when the grass bursts into flame.