We’ve boundless plains to share
In one very confronting scene in the movie The Revenant, a village occupied by a tribe of Native American Indians was obliterated to nothing but the molten ash of teepees, and a carnage of blood smeared across their ‘native’ land, so murderously dispossessed by a heard of white invaders.
It’s confronting because how indigenous land was occupied is something a country is never proud of, and would sweep it under the carpet at any opportunity it was questioned about its shameful past; or, rather, bury it in a remote unmarked grave and never ever speak of it again.
A sliver of discomfort arises when such ferocious scenes of pillage and annihilation are recreated on screen for a 21st century audience. It’s even perhaps an uneasiness akin to what a German might feel watching scenes of the Holocaust.
I can’t help but think that these scenes from the movie are exactly what happened to the Aboriginal people of Australia and render a twinge of shame, guilt and regret where applicable.
The Native Americans had bows and arrows, while the whites had guns and ammunition. The Aborigines had spears and rocks; similarly had nothing powerful enough to retaliate or even defend themselves.
Bereft of their land and traditions; women raped; children stolen and raised to bring out their ‘blackness’; infectious diseases; genocide…Australia’s sins are the borne scars of Aborigines today. The same scars found in Native Americans, Maoris, Canadian Inuits and Metis…
It was Australia Day five days ago; a bittersweet occasion to celebrate. Aborigines like to call it “Invasion Day”, and from their stance, it honestly feels like it’s not entirely appropriate to celebrate the ‘discovery’ of Australia to such a patriotic and unadulterated extent.
But on the other hand (and from an immigrant’s point of view), if it wasn’t for these white folks who ‘developed’ and paved the way for the awesome opportunities and lifestyle that we have here, I can’t completely boycott any inclination to celebrate colonisation. It’s perplexing to be sitting in the middle.
The country’s relationship with its native Australians has never been great. Aborigines weren’t allowed to vote in 1965, and were only included in the official census in 1971.
From a prime minister who refused to say ‘sorry’, to a government official who demanded the Aboriginal flag be stood down at the Olympic Games, and to a more recent incident of a football player who was denounced for conducting a victorious Aboriginal tribal dance after scoring – it’s a splintered relationship to say in the least, but believe it or not, it has gotten better in the last few decades.
Many wouldn’t even give these themes a second thought in the middle of watching a Hollywood blockbuster. But this platform is so far-reaching, and its storytelling capabilities explosive they cut right to the core – that’s when people usually start listening.
We need to be reminded of these important issues more than once a year.