Name: Clifford Brooks, Jawurji Mervyn Street
Jawurji Mervyn Street, Clifford Brooks - Boundaries [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Cliffy and Mervyn speak about the Martu boundaries that exist across Canning Stock Route Country and how kartiya maps do not acknowledge these boundaries. The speak about how Canning and his team used Martu people to help them find water for the wells on the stock route and how the Martu boundaries defined the final path of the stock route. Tourists don't understand the boudaries when they are passing through, they can't see the songlines. The Martu story of the guides and the people who have worked on the Canning Stock Route have not bee recorded.
Language spoken: English
Catalogue number: CSROH_07_Jawurji_Mervyn_Street_Clifford_Brooks
Interviewed By: John Carty
Transcribed By: John Carty
Location Recorded: Helen Hill
Cultural Protocols: PUBLIC ACCESS - VERBAL CONSENT
Notes: There are four minutes of dialogue at the end of Tape 7 Side A that was spoken in Martu Wangka and has not been transcribed, which means it remains without a permission. In this section Clifford Brooks talks about his father’s search for Rover Thomas and includes some interjections from Mervyn Street.
Mervyn Street: Now I was just lookin at this map here [tourist map of the Canning Stock Route], and see there’s nothing there, I can’t see any language boundary in this map- nothing. So for me you know, I was thinking ‘bout that time when Canning went through this way. Must be old people been workin for that kartiya [white person] – I dunno how many know, how many been workin for that kartiya doin well – when they was just about to get to that nother language boundary might be they been know that another family – like a boundary there – they never want go in more. Might be they been get frightened to go in there. Might be that kartiya pushed em, to make em to go there.
Some place story, you know, I been just listening, some people might have been forced to go there and when they been get to that nother area might be they been get frightened two sides: from other mob, from other tribe – because they been come from nother place – and they might have been frightened from kartiya [white person] side or from Martu side same time you know? That’s why kartiya might have been chain them every night time, so they can’t get away. And in the morning they make them work. But I been listening, they gotta good story, got good history for that kartiya, but somefella reckon kartiya been doing bad again some time, nother place, nother way, you know. But I thinking old people mighta been chained, locked up in a tree, might be kartiya been use, might be their wife – might be something like that – never know. That’s why might be some martu mighta been getting a funny feeling, like it might be kartiya never doin the right thing. Sometime they been frightened to run away, but sometime nother place now, they been get killed half way in the road – never know.
That’s the way the story gone, all the way. And what is worrying me here [Mervyn is addressing the map] – that got no boundary marks, for all the language, nothing. Kartiya [white person] gottem right across from Billiluna to Wiluna, you know. Like a language group you know, how far they go the language groups. Here from Billiluna they’re mixed, my family group there like a Jaru and [XX – mulpurra?] they talk and might be Kukatja [language group] that side, and more and more language coming in this road all the way. It got a language group all the way, right through. Might be some fella, Martu, might be frightened to go to nother area, nother language area, might be they been frightened to go through there, you know. And whitefella keep going, forcing them to go. And whitefella side they been thinking there’s nothing there, but Martu side, something is there.
John Carty: How do Martu know where the boundaries are, that kartiya [white people] can’t see?
MS: They know. Because they know what tribe the next place, they know how far they stop, when they go using that area. And they know how far that nother language boundary, they know. But whitefella, they don’t know where. They just you know go – long as they look at the Country – they just go. And they like to go straight! But in the road somewhere, Martu side, they got some special thing in the road there somewhere. In a front. They gonna have to dodge around, go other way round, all around you know? When Canning been going working with them people now, another people mighta been say, ‘this not our Country now. You gonna have to get right mob to lead you la this place now. ‘Only somefella been say you not gonna use same fella all the way, this not our area. And that why Martu always been say, you know, that they don’t understand. They like to force him, keep going people – to go through there.
Clifford Brooks: Chain em up.
MS: Chain em up, if he not listening. Chain em up.
CB: So he can’t run away you know? Night time he can’t run away he chained up there. He’ll still use him in the morning, you know.
MS: He never know, might be that Martu chained up, he never know if that man used his wife in the night, never know. That kind of thing, you know. Because I been understand all the road it circle round and round, and I been thinking straightaway might be something, special place there, and they been make it clear place all the way to go, and that’s why people used that place – nothing to worry, you know – might be bad thing one side all the way you know. But that’s the main thing, when you go to another language boundary, you get a right one to lead you through there – to guide you all the way. But whitefella never think anything like that, you know, they just reckon long as they been go where the straight line is, that’s all. In the Martu side there’s no straight line. You can’t go straight when you got something, some special thing in the road - you’re gonna have to dodge around, you know.
They got good name, but I heard about and know some story not good, you know.
JC: What would Martu do, if they’re comin up, might be that hill there, or nother hill, they come up to that place and they know that’s another man’s Country now, do they stop there or?
MS: Yeah. Only people who know, who belong to that place, he got a right to do that, but not Martu from nother area. He can’t do that, he gotta respect another Martu – you know, respect. He gonna have to ask proper way, and that Martu will lead for that nother Martu that free way to go, you know, no anything in the road. He can make it good.
JC: So you can’t just walk through another man’s Country?
MS: No. If you kartiya [white person] you’re leading me there, I might say I’m not allowed to go there, but you keep on telling me to go there. I never say, ‘no’ – you might turn and what you’ll do la me? You not listening to me. And those days, like before, it was happening like that, you know, ‘oh you not listening’ – he can punish you. He can starve you for dinner, or you can camp no feed all night, or something like that. Or might be just poison you or get rid of you – if you run away.
JC: So what you were saying, some of those people who were making the stock route, they put some of those Martu in a situation like where they afraid of kartiya [white people] one side – because they might get chained up, they might steal their wife, they might get shot, anything.
JC: But they afraid of Martu too because they’ve been taken in the wrong Country?
MS: Yeah. Wrong Country there. Yeah. And they been forced through that Country they gotta think bout ‘nother Martu might [XX] ... That Martu from nother place might be he’s thinking, ‘oh I’m doing the wrong thing because this whitefella making me to go there, I’m not supposed to be there.’ And Martu might say, ‘not me, you gotta get that one there, the right one to take you to show you to lead you right way. You get the right person from there to next language boundary – you get another Martu from there, keep going, you know. Language this one Martu all the way along, you know. That’s why maybe them Martu been frightened – they try to get away, but them whitefella keep going, force them to go there.
JC: It’s a little bit like this trip. Like you gotta have – early part, Jiglaong/ Wiluna mob, the right people who gotta talk.
MS: The right people gotta talk. Right across. When you’re lookin at this map there – it’s clean – just only that road Canning Stock Route all the way. When Martu look like that, it’s nothing there. They’re gonna have to work out some way to put boundaries so when people look here’s the language boundaries. And when we go to this trip, might be somewhere, who’s the right person to take you to lead you somewhere? Might be he’s right for whitefella, kartiya [white people] he just go you know.
CB: Yuwo [yes]. Kartiya-fella way, you’re trespassing on other people’s Country you know, other people’s land. You know that word you say “trespassing” - you can’t trespass on other peoples property. You’re breaking the law, you know. Because we’ve got our own law, and where the boundary ends is [XX] … it’s the songlines you follow, you know. That’s what the old people showed us, the old people keep it in their head, ‘this songline ah, that’s where my boundary finishes,’ you know. And that person in that group where they’re, you know, having a ceremony, ‘oh his boundary now, he can sing that area, that’s his Country.’ Well that’s what Mervyn been saying about the boundaries. We only can go so far, we can speak in that area because we – like for myself I’m a Kartujarra [language group], but I been born, I been with the Manyjilyjarra tribe, so I can speak two sides me. And my old man, he from up that side [pointing north] from [Well] 33 back here, he been right up to Lake Disappointment with the Putijarra tribe, so he made his way up this way to get through all that – so he had to … it’s already open for him to go through, for my old man. They been welcome him in every tribe. And like what’s-a-name been say, Mervyn been say, kartiya [white people] never put that in the map, where the language boundaries are. It might be in this book here [Tonkinson], old Tonkinson been put it, it’s in this book here, but there’s no line in that map you know. Like for myself, I been, I know that Country, all the language there, I can talk Manyjilyjarra I can talk Kartujarra me know, so I can talk right up to [Well] 33, to Kunawarritji you know, because of my old man on that side, father side. Mother’s side is here, from Raarki [Well 27] back that way [towards Well 23]. This last well we went through, my uncle’s.
I only been travel through here one time, from … goin up to [Well] 33. First time I came through here was in ’97, and I didn’t even know all them areas, you know. I knew them but I didn’t ... I was a young bloke travelling. I didn’t took much interest. I been listening to all them Countries when I was a kid with my old man. He tell me, ‘one day when you want to see me you’ll go to all them places there, and you have a look, and you can tell the story. If they can’t listen to you by the story, you’ll do the art. By painting you can do that’. And that’s one of the things I’m gonna do when I go back [to Wiluna], do the language groups’ painting. Tell my story through there, through the art. Probably do a really big one, show where the boundaries are for all the language groups
JC: We’ll put it next to this one [tourist map of the Canning Stock Route]!
CB: Kartiya [white people] been putting the map here, you know, he only want to put the cattle through, right up here to Wiluna, you know. And its like what Mervyn been saying, people been getting frightened come along, ‘oh I can’t go in the next man’s boundary, I might get speared, or they might do something, sing me, you know. You’ll be cripple or sick for lifetime, you won’t get healed. And the old people will say – they’ll point a bone at you, you know, you’ll be finished in one day, if they really wanted to get rid of you. So you can’t go back and tell the people what been happen. Finished’.
JC: That’s something kartiya [white people] don’t really understand. Like it wasn’t just kartiya who got speared for goin the wrong place, like Martu would spear Martu if they’re trespassing another man’s Country, wouldn’t they?
CB: That’s right.
JC: It’s a really hard Law.
MS: That’s why I’ve been bring up this thing, looking at this map and I been thinking, ‘where’s the language boundary?’ You got a track right there, they made a good history, and where’s the boundary for all the people here? Because when you go farm they got electric fence. And that nother farmer, neighbour, they can’t jump over another people’s boundary. They got electric fence, keep that bloke one side. Martu boundaries got no electric fence, just tree … People just passing through. But looking at this map, they [kartiya – white people] gotta recognise where are all the boundaries, language boundaries.
JC: Do you think tourists understand, when they’re passing through, might be that way if there’s a boundary of hills, or sandhill, they understand what boundaries they’re passing through?
CB: I don’t think they really understand the boundaries, they just drive through thinking its free, vacant land, you know – they say its Country that anyone can travel on. But they don’t know the real history, the real true story about the Martu, what’s really underneath, the stories have really never been told, you know. I know its sacred to the Martu, but for the whitefella to really understand what this Martu land is, ‘oh, this hill, what is it sacred or you know …’ They just drive along, and drive up the hills thinking, ‘it’s only a hill there’. Like when we went past that hill over there [pointing to the sandhill with tyre marks running up it that Cam and Paul went back to film], they think its just a hill and you can drive up there and do whatever you want. Back in those old people days you’re gonna get, old people, if you go up there – you’re gone [dead] that night now. They’ll sing you just like that. They’ll come to you when you sleep. They can pull any part of your organs inside of you, they’ll pull it out of you. You’re gone. Like going into next man’s territory you know, you can’t do that really. Well in the kartiya [white person] way you can’t go into another man’s property, you’re trespassing, you go to lock-up. You’ll be prosecuted, or even shot! Yuwo [yes]. If you’re trespassing in another people’s Country, ‘specially in a farm. You got a house there next door, you can’t jump over the other side. Only if you’re welcome to go there. Same here now. Like that from Wiluna there I couldn’t speak, I only spoke quietly now. I just kept quiet you know. And I just tell Friday, I tell him, ‘hey, where’s that songline?’ That’s all I been ask him, you know, secret way, and he just tell me by myself, ‘that’s this one here now’, and I knew straight away because I knew some of the songs. But its just for myself, I keep it because I know – what my tjamu [grandfather] tell me, grandfather telling, ‘don’t tell anybody’, unless they’re a Man [initiated], you know.
MS: What is good thing for putting a boundary line, you know? Get somebody along this road – all the people who know where all the boundaries is, putting all the name, and when the tourist come they can sort of read, ‘ah, we’re in Gardujarra Country’. Next one, other sign, ‘ah we’re in Manyjilyjarra Country’.
CB: Or Putjiarra, or…
MS: When they know, when they coming driving through.
CB: It may be a good idea, you know, to just put signs [saying], ‘you’re in this territory’. ‘Oh, we’re in Manyjilyjarra tribe Country now’, so that they can respect. Put a sign there saying, ‘don’t go driving off the road and don’t go to driving doing wheelies around the claypans’, and all that stuff.
MS: Have a big sign, saying what’s the place where you’re in, and it’s got all the things there.
CB: Maybe put a sign there, you know. Its like what we said earlier, might be, to tell our story to the world, we can do it by painting, paint this Country. But we don’t want to paint other people’s Country, you gotta get permission first, ‘can we paint from the start to the end?’ You know. Maybe I can just paint in that area, my area, and other people from that side can paint that way and join it up together. Maybe this mob can join up, and nother mob can join in the middle you know, like do it in parts you know. Maybe … that’s what I think. We can paint in one area, and middle mob can, that tribe can paint that area, and that last mob can painting and put it in the painting. Join them together.
MS: Make a map out of the painting!
CB: Maybe, I’m just thinking you know like that, a good idea.
JC: I think that’s a really good idea, that the real map.
CB: Yuwo [yes].
JC: That’s what this exhibition can be, if you mob want to do it that way, telling your story through your own maps.
CB: That north mob, Balgo and Fizroy, they painting their Country, like that picture I been see the other night, they painting they’re Country, they paint, like that one now. We get them to paint, get a painting for that one there, and maybe we can paint our one in the middle there and join em together. … and we can get maybe this mob, maybe Jiglaong or Parnngurr to join em together, join the paintings, tell their story
through there, ‘this one here rockhole, mine one belong to my grandfather...’
MS: And they can know now, they can know where’s that place not to go, where’s that place you can go – all that kind, all the way along. That map will show everything that way; it would make a really good map.
[Note: There are four minutes at the end of this track that are not transcribed. In this section Clifford Brooks talks about his father’s story looking for Rover Thomas, with some interjections from Mervyn Street]
[CSR Tape 7: Side B]
CB: Yeah, big painting from the start, today that’ll be really good for the exhibition, you know.
JC: Well it’ll be great because kartiya [white people] will be able to see, they can look at this map that they understand and then see that other map there and go ‘oh, there’s a different story’.
CB: Yeah, oh this is where … the boundaries are here, you know … we want to … what we say been a good idea … where the boundaries you know? We can tell our stories through that, you know? Might be here, put it on here … some part might be, will be cut … to make the program on the thing there shorter, you know? That’s what um, editors do, you know? They might cut all the stories out, you know? Yuwo [yes]… to make it short, you know? Yuwoo [yes].
JC: They might have to.
CB: Yuwo [yes] … that’s how some of the stories are getting get missed out, you know? Our stories are getting missed out, you know?
CB: But … the only way for us mob is to do it by painting, do it section by section … this is the group, this is the language group here, another language group here, you know? And this is a boundary that one, we can put it all in the one … boundary side. When you look at it now, kartiya’s [white people] going through the boundary, going right through …
JC: It’s trespassing - but we call it tourism.
CB: Yuwo [yes], tourism yeah, tourism you call him.
MS: Just like a … Canning got good history of this road now for his story, made it really good history – what about all the Martu? We got no history. We been working through here, at least Martu do their best to make a road for other mob.
CB: All the Martu been used, like some of them come on the trip, they’re like a cook, old people, they been come as a cook washing plate and all that, and they been come up there … They not in the photo, they not in the book, they not in the pictures …
MS: No name, nothing …
CB: Nothing. You go to Turkey Creek now I seen a one old lady there she got a wooden leg you know … and he been sit down they and he been tell me the story, ‘well, I been droving, I been go that-a way, Wiluna’, and he got a wooden leg.
CB: I seen her last … year before … last year when I was there. Yeah before that, yeah … I seen her with a wooden leg still walking around and he been tell me that story, ‘oh, I been to Wiluna, I been droving, I been washing plate I been come back and I been hurt my leg on that, on that trip’ … that old lady still there …
MS: In Billiluna … they know their story again, you know, old people again, but they’re not in the photos, they got no name, nothing. And we’re trying to get that story back and, you know, put their name down. They gotta be part of this droving story and this story about why Canning been making that well all the way. They got names, old people. But we want to bring them back again, story for old people.
CB: Yuwo [yes].
MS: Yuwo [yes].
Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.