Food and other Ngadjonji uses of Rainforest Plants & Animals
During their thousands of years of living in the rainforests of North
Queensland, the Ngadjonji have acquired an intimate knowledge of the plants
and animals which shared their world.
They discovered which fruits and seeds were good for eating and which ones needed processing to remove poisons before being used for food. They knew which parts of which plants at which time of year could be used as medicine for particular ailments. They knew which vines yielded the best fibres for their intricately woven baskets and bags; which tree buttresses made the strongest swords and the lightest shields, and, in general, where to find all the materials they needed for the technology appropriate to their life in the rainforest.
With the arrival of Europeans and the resulting catastrophic disruption of the old Ngadjonji ways, there was a great danger that this traditional knowledge might have been lost forever. Luckily, there were a few Ngadjonji Elders who lived long enough to carry the knowledge through from before the breakdown to later times when it began to be valued for the wonderfully rich resource that it is.
Because of her excellent memory and great age - she lived to be over 100 - the late Ngadjonji Elder, Molly Raymont (Biographical Notes, Obituary), was a central figure in this custodianship of Ngadjonji Lore and Language. Bob Dixon, who spent years recording the languages of the Ngadjonji and other North Queensland aboriginal tribes, wrote of Molly:
Photo - Tony Irvine
Molly Raymont & Bob Dixon, Malanda 1988
"George Watson and Mollie and I went out into the bush with a botanist to identify native plants, each year from 1979 to 1982 - and old Mollie, ninety if she was a day, spindle-legged, walked us all off our feet, pointing with excitement at each new plant she found, giving its name in the everyday style and in Jalnguy ("Mother-in-law language"), explaining what it was used for, how it was cooked, and breaking off a piece to show us. She is truly indestructible." Bob Dixon "Searching for Aboriginal Languages"
The present day Ngadjonji Elders continue this generous willingness to share much of their rainforest lore with the wider community. These pages try to give a hint of this vast well of knowledge and understanding.
Thanks are due to many people who contributed to this section of the Ngadjonji Website:
Ngadjonji Elders Emma Johnston, Jessie Calico and Ernie Raymont for sharing their knowledge of the old ways and language.
Malanbarra Yidinyji Elder, the late George Davis, who kept alive many of the traditional skills of the Tableland Aboriginal tribes, for permission to photograph items from an exhibition of his craft.
Tony Irvine for giving of his wide knowledge of the Ngadjonji uses of plants obtained from the time he spent with the late Ngadjonji Elder Molly Raymont, help with written Ngadjon and plant & animal photographs.
Bill Cooper for permission to use some of the beautiful images from Fruits of the Rainforest and Visions of a Rainforest.
Helen Pedley for the use of a photograph which appeared in Aboriginal Life in the Rainforest. This and the other book she compiled with the Aboriginal people of Jumbun, Aboriginal Tools of the Rainforest, give a wonderful insight into the traditional ways of the North Queensland rainforest Aborigines.
The Australian National Botanic Garden (ANBG) and Greg Steenbeeke (Orkology) for permission to use copyright images.
Other artefacts and images are used by courtesy of the Eacham Historical Society, the Cairns Historical Society, A.Nye and Samuel Fesuk.
The development of this section of the Ngadjonji website has been assisted by a grant from the Queensland Arts Council.