This is a beautiful part of Australia where my husband's tribe is from. My husband Eddie belongs to the 'Dubbi warra' tribe (pronounced Doopi-Wadda). These people are the traditional owners for the community Hopvale which is west of Cooktown. Their language group is called 'Guugu Timidhirr'.
It is amazing for me to hear Eddie tell his stories and speak his native tongue as I didn't get to learn my actual language that my tribe the 'Gunni / Kabbi Kabbi' tribe spoke. As so much of our teachings are passed down by way of story telling (verbal) so that when the old people pass away, so does their knowledge.
Now, having said that I was lucky to have my uncle who learnt everything he could from Nan before she died and spent a lot of time with other elders that me and my siblings and cousins were blessed to have learnt our songs and dance.
Although I can't help but be jealous sometimes of the fact that Eddie is able to pass on the amazing gift if language into out two year old son Nullen who has a language name from Eddie's tribe, Nullen means the 'Sun'.
Eddie speaks of different hunting experiences and how to traditionally cut, prepare and cook certain animals and even what seasons to look for certain animals or specific berries on trees. It is really astonishing so much knowledge and wisdom the Aboriginal people have about their land that God has blessed them to be in tune with.
I had the opportunity to to going up to Hopevale with Eddie although it was unfortunate very sad circumstances as his great grand father who raised him had passed away. But it was an amazing experience as their burial customs are different to what I had been use to and the wide range of food that was on show as it was an eye opener. Of course there was your standard salads and nibbles one sees at any gathering, but the difference was the meat and how they were cooking it.
It was being cooked in what they call a 'cup-murri' or what we may know as a 'hungi' (not sure of the spelling). It was being cooked underground and the main meats cooking were Turtle and Dugong which is what they have hunted and eaten up there for centuries. These are their traditional foods. I respected this and accepted it because when they handed me a plate there was no way I could say no to it even of I was scared to try Turtle and Dugong. But it was the best food I had ever tasted.
I even watched the food be prepared and cooked. I saw the Turtle meat be cut up especially and then placed back into the empty turtle shell which was then put under the hot rocks with banana or coconut leaves placed over and followed by a damp empty potato sack over the top of that when finishing with a final layer of sand over that to ensure that no heat would pass through and it was left for about three hours to four hours to cook.
They cooked the Dugong the same way and they also had kangaroo. The meat cooked like that was divine and I also had the pleasure of tasting turtle dipped in flour and deep fried with lime and it was delicious. Still to this day I crave that taste.
Hopevale's bush tucker
Hopevale is an amazing place, it's blessed with both the land and sea to hunt from and up there they even hunt for their own wild cattle and wild pigs. They know how to cut the meat just as a butcher would here in mainstream society.
Our kids love hearing the stories from Eddie when as a young boy spearing mullet and barramundi with his great granddad and even going reef diving with cousins for 'Guu'oo' (Sea urchant) and 'Yeeduhngoo' (Gray fish) plus many big reef fish plus many bog reef fish. Sometimes there were close encounters with sharks and big crocodiles in the Endeavor River.
He also learnt from his 'great nana' how to hunt Goanna and cut it correctly and also cook it over the fire. This was also the case for Kangaroo, Torres Straight Island Pigeon, bush turkey and in the creeks freshwater turtle, eels, catfish and in the winter time the most popular was Porkypine (ant eater).
I resisted for sometime that I would not eat porkypine but when it was cooking in the oven after Eddie had cleaned and taken the quills off, the smell of it cooking was amazing. It was a mix between roast pork and roast lamb. And it tasted even better, especially with some rice and soy sauce. It was so good and lovely and sweet because of the Ant diet of the porkypine.
Lately I've been wishing and wanting bush tucker. I do buy kangaroo meat from the supermarkets and the kids love it but its sad they miss out on the whole hunting experience which is in their culture.
I've been thinking a lot of all the health benefits of such a diet because of all the natural oils and fats from all the bush tucker. Eddie is fit-as-a-fiddle and he is never ever sick or catches cold. His immune system is so good and I've always said to him 'why'? Why are you never sick? (a nice thing to ask someone). I'm often sick and out of action as soon as I catch a cold but not him and he swears its because he grew up on bush tucker and all the fish he ate as a boy.
I truly think that this has played a major role in his health today and I think if only my kids could get that too ….
Tisha Williams is an indigenous home maker and mother on the Gold Coast / Tweed. He husband Edward is an indigenous painter, training to be a carpenter and teaches their children his language and dream time stories which have parallels in the Bible.
Tisha Williams' previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/tisha-williams.html