Archaeology in the Long Grass: a study of Aboriginal fringe camps, Darwin, Australia

Author: Kellie Pollard

Pollard, Kellie, 2019 Archaeology in the Long Grass: a study of Aboriginal fringe camps, Darwin, Australia, Flinders University, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences

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This is an archaeological study of thirty Aboriginal fringe camps in the Darwin region in the Northern Territory of Australia that date to between 1869 and 2018 after the European invasion and colonization of the Darwin region. The aims of this study are to understand the dynamism of Aboriginal agency to colonization and colonialism continuously over 130 years from invasion to the present day, and to demonstrate the resilience of Aboriginal agency to the forces of colonialism. To achieve these aims the question that directed this research is Can Aboriginal fringe camps provide insights into social, cultural and economic adaptations to colonialism from the initial contact period to the present? In answer to the question I developed a new and innovative model using principles borrowed from philosophy to inform the interpretation of the material evidence of Aboriginal agency through an archaeological lens. The model is a theoretical interpretation of four modes of Aboriginal agency. They are called accommodation, engagement, survivance, and resistance/transgression, and begin after 1869 and continue to the present day. Each of these modes represent the ways Aboriginal agency manifested survival and continues to do so, in material terms and in behavioral terms, to colonialism. The ways Aboriginal agency was conceptualized was through the phenomena of fringe camps since this context is a fact of Darwin’s colonization history and contemporary Darwin. Aboriginal fringe camps are a unique context of Aboriginal design and expression, and their potential to archaeological research for conceptualizing how Aboriginal people negotiated colonialism, and continue to do so, is significant. The study found that since the European invasion while Aboriginal agency first negotiated, and now transcends colonialism, even in spite of land dispossession causing disruption of Aboriginal connection to country, colonialism is a force of racism and oppression that continues to be a major impact on Aboriginal people in the Darwin region today. However, the study also found that colonialism has not succeeded in extinguishing Aboriginal autonomy of cultural continuity, persistence of Aboriginal fringe camps and Aboriginal identity resilience.

Keywords: Indigenous archaeology, contact archaeology, European colonization, colonailism, long grass, Darwin Australia, Aboriginal people, Larrakia people, Aboriginal agency, philosophy

Subject: Archaeology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2019
School: College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences
Supervisor: Claire Smith