Indigenous Culture in the Valley
The Indigenous culture in the Valley is evident in many aspects, including many bora rings. Casino was an important centre. A bora ring more than twice the diameter of the average ring was found just north of the town. However, the site was destroyed for land fill in 1976. In the Broadwater area there is a bora ring approximately three kilometres northwest of Bagotville and another east of Cook’s Hill on Pine Tree Road. About ten kilometres south west of Coraki is Bora Ridge, much of which has been destroyed. A fine bora ring which is cared for by the NPWS has been preserved in the grounds of Tucki General Cemetery on the Woodburn to Lismore Rd.
The Dreamtime legend of the Bundjalung people says that their race in Australia originated thousands of years ago when three brothers – Bundjalung, Githabul and Gallibal- their wives and mother came from across the sea and landed at the mouth of the Clarence River.
The Three Brothers…
The legend of the Three Brothers tells how Aborigines came to the Northern Rivers. The brothers, their mother and their wives landed at Chinaman’s Beach at Evans Head to repair a canoe. The mother went to look for food and when she returned they had sailed without her. She became angry and called out to them, hitting the water with a stick and causing the first big waves. These big waves made the brothers land at Ballina and return over land to find their mother. Deciding to populate the land, one brother went to the north, one to the south and one to the west. The area near the footbridge in Bundjalung National Park is named Gumma Garra after the mother. There are scarred trees nearby and one story says they were caused when the brothers had to repair their canoe. Today, people still speak of hearing voices on the hill around the old camp site late in the afternoons and fishermen have spoken of lights on the river at night. Aboriginal legend says that the lights are from fire sticks.
A Dreamtime Legend…
The significance to the Aboriginal people of the Goanna Headland at South Evans Head was recognised by the State Government in 1985 with a grant of land to be administered by a trust.
Another Dreamtime story tells how a Bundjalung man called on a goanna to chase away the snake which was tormenting the bird.
The chase began near Bungawalbyn and headed towards Woodburn. Reaching Evans Head, the snake escaped out to sea. The goanna laid down on the shore to rest and to await the return of the snake. This hasn’t occurred yet but still the goanna waits and its form can be seen on the headland.
An Aboriginal legend tells of a ‘Clever Man’ at Bungawalbin, a man with great powers. He called on Dirrawong the goanna to help him when a snake began tormenting a bird. Dirrawong chased the snake from the hill and across the plain towards Woodburn, forming part of the course of the Richmond River. Halfway to Evans Head the goanna caught up with the snake and tried to bite him but was bitten on the head himself. While Dirrawong stopped to eat herbs, the snake turned around in the river, forming Snake Island. Dirrawong chased him out to sea and lay on the coast, where he still waits today. His body forms Goanna Headland, Joggly Point being his head. This is a very sacred place for Bundjalung people.
Songlines of the Valley…
The people of the Bundjalung tribe lived in this area for 6,000 years before the coming of the white man. Many who lived inland would make a journey to the coast during winter months when mullet was plentiful. They would bring with them seeds from the black bean tree for food and for trading. Some of these would be dropped as they made their way along the banks of the Richmond River to the coast. In Bundjalung National Park at an Aboriginal midden on the banks of the Evans River, is a Western Kurrajong tree. This is estimated to be 360 years old and is believed to have grown from a seed dropped in this way.
An Aboriginal Legend…
In ancient times, long before white people came to this country, Aboriginal people living in the area now known as the Upper Richmond River District believed that a lagoon at Wiangaree was haunted by the ghostly spirit of a woman. One day a warrior from a tribe living near the lagoon came back to the camp tired from hunting. He was angry when he found that his wife was not there to meet him, as were the wives of the other warriors.
The warrior was jealous and thought immediately that his wife was being unfaithful. He went looking for her and became more and more angry with every step he took. When he found her walking in the bush, quite unaware that her husband had returned, he accused her of being unfaithful. Against her determined protests of innocence and her struggles, he drowned her in the lagoon.
It was said that from time to time the sound of her body struggling in the lagoon could be heard, as could her cries as she sank beneath the surface. The warriors, an ancient people, continue to live there in spirit.
And what of the spirit of the woman? Is it the sound of her body splashing in the lagoon or ... only a platypus? Are they her death cries one can hear or ... merely those of a night bird?
Who can tell? It was so long ago.