Jakayu Biljabu - history and Country [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Jakayu Biljabu talks about her life history and Country. She talks about the time they got fruit for the first time and cooked it. She also tells stroies about aeroplanes and bulldozers.
Art centre(s): Martumili Artists
Language spoken: Martu Wangka
Catalogue number: CSROH_103_Jakayu_Biljabu
Transcribed By: Ngalangka Nola Taylor
Translated By: Ngalangka Nola Taylor
Location Recorded: Kunawarritji (Well 33)
Cultural Protocols: Public Access - Restrictions on Use
Notes: Recording made behind clinic - some air con noise.
Full transcript: [Audio File: T323]
Morika Biljabu: Where were you born?
Jakayu Biljabu: I was born on the north side of Pitu. At the time that I was born my oldest brother was going through the Law. I was born north of Pitu at the soak called Winiji. My mother told me and my sister from Pitu I used to travel east to Nakarl, from there I travelled south and east again to Ninkul and another place called Kurlilyuwakarl [yinta]. I used to have a rest then I started walking again to the rockholes, and a place called Ninpinkajarra, north of Wikirri. And another place called Jarntukurangu [belongs to the dog] Nguji and we went west to Tuturr, from there we could go to Payiyarr. From there we went to Manjunjurn from there we went to Wikirri and stay around there. West of Wikirri could go to Purn. From there to Puyulkurra and south to Ninkurl and Pinpinjarnu.
MB: Where did you see cattle for the first time?
JB: I saw the cattle for the first time a long time ago when I was growing up, I was a teenager and I was still travelling from place to place. I was living with my family at Marlukujarra and travelling south to Jarturti, and from there to Makurti, Purlpurl, and there we used to get a lot of witchetty grubs. And from there we used to go east to Karwun. And I used to hunt along to the east and get to Maliyartu. From there I went back west to Pirrili. And next stop Larlta, hunting and eating as we travelled all through winter. Then when it came to summertime we stopped. We never used to see whitefellas. We would stay at a main water place until wintertime. In the winter, I travelled west with my family towards the Canning Stock Route Well 24 – Kartarru to meet up with the other families. I looked to the north and saw a large moving cloud of dust – it was people coming with animals [a herd of cattle], it was the first time I had seen that. We used to go travelling from place to place and hunt at the same time. One time, a teenage boy from my family [about the same age as Jakayu] fell into a well and passed away [at Kartarru].
[Added information from MLF notes Punmu March 09]:
JB: He was my cousin who drowned. There were all black and white finches in the well drinking there and all the kids were throwing sticks to get them for a meat to eat and this boy told them, ‘Move away, I’ll go in.’ He fell in and drowned.
JB: We stayed there in at Kartarru for a few weeks, at the soak and the well. We went west to Well 23 – Kalypa, with the other Martu people we met up with at Kartarru. Then we went to Martalirri. As we were going over the crest of a sandhill, we came face to face [actually, they were a considerable distance away] with the whitefellas, with their camel [they ran away before they were too close]. As they were coming up side one of a sand hill, we were coming up the other side. We were living around when Martalirri [Well 22] my husband was getting some water from the well we saw more whitefellas travelling with camels, and we took off, running to the north. From then on, whenever there were whitefellas going past, on their way to Wiluna, we ran away and only came back to that Country when the whitefellas had gone.
We were living around Martalirri and we saw a man coming from Balfour Downs station. He was walking with a rifle on his shoulder, walking, and I got up and looked, and said ‘Leave him, he’s waving at us, with a friendly wave!’, but my brother and husband had already run and stood on the top of a termite mound. They were ready and waiting to shoot the man with maparn [invisible power], and then he came closer and asked us, ‘I’m here in peace. I’m looking for my family. I’m from Balfour Downs.’ But he wasn’t a whitefella. He was looking for his friends.
Two men left the children and their mothers and went over the sand hills and looked, and saw many motor cars. One of the men took his nephew with him. Those people on the other side of the sand hill fed all of us, they gave us flour, sugar. We didn’t know how to cook the flour, but Bugai knew and she cooked it for us [made a damper] [Bugai knew how to make tea and damper from living with the drovers]. We stayed there for a while. We saw another group of whitefellas coming with cattle from Well 23, Kalypa, the cattle were kicking up a storm cloud of dust, and people were travelling in the front with camels. First we met up with the people with the camels, and the people travelling behind the cattle were still coming. They killed a cow and left it there for us. We ate the whole thing. The drovers went on to Wiluna, but we stayed where we were for a while.
When we finished eating the cow we went west to Turnmurl. We stayed there for a while and some of our group went to Yulpuu. We also went to Yulpuu and stayed there for a while.
While we were there, two men from Jigalong [one from Kelly family and one from Ward family] caught up with us. They had been following our tracks. They said we should go back and wait at Parnngurr rockhole and they would come and pick us up and take us to Jigalong, where we could see all our family who we had not seen for a long time. So we did, we went and stayed in Parnngurr.
When we were at Martalirri [Well 22], and my husband and Bugai’s father went over the dune and saw the Land Rovers, they saw so many people there, all the trucks, they were very frightened, but they walked in anyway. But one Martu bloke said, ‘oh, I am just looking for family’. They stayed with them for a couple of nights, but then the people with the trucks left. They told me before they left, ‘We are going to go and look for a truck to pick you all up.’ So they stayed there waiting. They went and waited in Parnngurr and when they were there, white people from Jigalong arrived with tucker. They returned with the truck and they left the truck about 50 km down the Talawana track, to the west of Parnngurr, and just came with the Land Rover. So they came and picked everybody up, took us out to where the truck was. They did five trips to transport everybody to the truck. Darson Wumi, Mr. Plum, and Bob Tonkinson left the truck up the road and got a land rover to go in and pick us up, bring us to the truck and drive us to Jigalong mission. Halfway along Talawana track we saw a windmill for the first time. We didn’t want to go near it because we thought those sharp rotating blades would cut us into pieces. Then we drank the water from the cattle trough – we didn’t know it was meant for cattle and wanted to take it with us as we travelled. The people from Jigalong – Darson Wumi – told us not to drink from the trough: ‘Don’t drink it from there, that’s the cattle’s drinking water.’ We said, ‘but it’s water, can’t we have a drink?’ ‘No, it’s for the cattle, don’t drink it!’
After that they got back on the truck and went all the way to Jigalong. We got there at nightfall. So many people were there. So we stayed there, and now we’ve come back to our homeland. We stayed with our families when we were in Jigalong, they looked after us.
[Audio File: T326]
We were all frightened, running, trying to hide ourselves so no one could see us walking. We were coming from Nyukurrwarta, south east past Parnngurr towards Martalirri. We were going south east. Past Parnngurr. It was in springtime, when the bloke was coming. That walypala [Len Beadell].
I sat down and then she heard a noise, thought it was an aeroplane but it was a grader. [She didn’t quite know what an aeroplane really was but had seen and had hidden from them before]. I was looking around in the sky, but then realised that the noise but it was coming slowly up the creek, and she knew it was something on the ground and I looked around and saw a gigantic moving rock coming up from the creek. It was removing trees and rocks. So when the kids saw it they all ran up the hill, (Mitchell, Neil, Ngamaru, and the others) but I got up and walked towards it and sat down. So the bulldozer that was pushing all the rocks and tress was in the front and another vehicle – a grader – was behind it. I sat down with one child [Gilbert Biljabu] while the boys were running up the hill, the person on the Land Rover chased after them, he stopped them from running. And that man stopped and got out of he car and called out to them, ‘come here’ but they stopped to look and then kept on running towards the hill. They went up on the hill to Winukurrujurnu. A person with a Land Rover followed them, chased them up the hill and the other two [bulldozer and grader] went after them. They picked the two old men up, [Mitchell and Bugai’s fathers, maybe Ngamaru’s father] and gave them food. They gave them apples, oranges, plums and when they were given the fruit they went and made a fire and cooked it. And they went to dig some yams [kanjimarra – pencil yam] while it was cooking, so when they went back to the fire they had a look but nothing was left, it was all completely dehydrated, all the food was wasted. And somebody told them, ‘you gotta eat the oranges and apples raw, only the onion and the potato should be cooked’. It’s so funny that we cooked it all until there was nothing left. But now we know. So when it was night fall the whitefellas left to go and find a place to camp. They went and camped not far from Parnngurr. They used to bring food and give it to them; sugar, flour. We would eat the sugar straight out, thought it was like tree sap [laughing]. We used to throw out the tea leaves. But Bugai and her mother they used to cook the rest of it, the flour, and used to make tea, but instead of using tea they sometime just used the sugar to sweeten the water and drank it like that. Ngamaru’s mother used to mix the sugar in the water and drink it straight out and then she got sick [vomited]. Everybody was there and I went away over the hill with the others [with Kumpaya] to Turnmu and then came back. When her husband, Ngamaru’s dad came back, she could hardly walk, they had to help her to walk slowly [because she had eaten too much sugar].
Rights: Cultural Owner & Storyteller: Jakayu Biljabu; © FORM, transcript only
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.