the intrusion of white settlement in the 1880s, Kija people occupied a
huge tract of land to the north of Halls Creek. For millennia
they had maintained this rugged country, and had developed a
way of life in keeping with the harsh climate and its extremely
high temperatures. The order of life was dictated through Ngarrankarni - the Dreaming.
in the last two decades of the nineteenth century had an enormous
impact on the lifes of the Kija. Kija territory was usurped by
the forming of cattle stations. Through over-grazing the cattle
destroyed the ecological balance of the country. Sacred waterholes
were despoiled. New thoroughfares were cut across the traditional
Dreaming Tracks marked out by the ancestors.
Conflicts grew between the two
groups. There was aggression and fear on both sides. When Kija
people speared cattle for food, this often led to extreme reactions
of pastoralists, resulting in numerous massacres. It is estimated
that about half of the Aboriginal people of the East Kimberley
were murdered in the first fifty years of colonization. Aboriginal
people tried to fight back, but were overpowered by the kartiya (white people).
To stop the killings, the Department of Native Welfare set up
a ration depot at Turkey Creek in 1901, followed by reserve stations
at Moola Bulla in 1910 and Violet Valley in 1911. Being pushed
of their land, the Kija people had no other choice than to move
to the reserves or to work at one of the private cattle stations.
At the latter they were usually better off, being able to continue
their traditional way of life outside work hours. In contrast,
the reserve stations were nothing more than centres of assimilation.
Traditional culture and language were repressed, and people were
treated cruelly. Both reserves were finally closed (in the forties
and fifties), and the people moved to work on cattle stations
for basic rations.
Yet another change
was coming up. The Pastoral
of 1969 ensured the payment of equal wages for black and white
stockmen. This was no improvement, however. The stations retained
only essential labour. Aboriginal families were forced to leave
and find shelter on the fringe of Halls Creek, Wyndham, or Kununurra.
Here they faced confusion, poverty and further culture shock.
Often, alcohol became a substitute for the loss of meaning in