Saturday 22 May, 2010 Original Sovereign Tribal Federation Ceremony by Jenefer Marquis
Sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples Illegally Dispossessed of their Country and Human Rights of Self-determination
When written, it appears to be a statement of ethical commonsense. However history shows numerous claims of sovereign rights by indigenous, bloodline, or other genuine reasons, have been ignored or actively suppressed by usurpers - kings and queens, governments, religious institutions, economists.It appears that owning the inalienable right to indigeneity, bloodline, or even humanity, does not necessarily make any difference when the vested interests of others is at stake. So what makes this bold statement of Indigenous Australian people’s sovereignty different from previous movements for, say, land rights and Native Title? These are some of the issues in my mind at 3.45 a.m. as I drive to participate in the inaugural ‘Original Sovereign Tribal Federation’ ceremony at Prince Edward Park, Parramatta, Sydney.
A traditional men’s ground on the West side of the river in Dharug Country, the park is edged by suburban Sydney life: a 24-hour Maccas; a tall Christian church with spires that disappear into the night above the glow of the street lamps. The place is filled with shadows from the Moreton Bay Fig trees as we walk into the gloom towards a small group silhouetted against the shop fronts.
The ceremony has been called by the Original Sovereign Tribal Federation (OSTF), and sees the culmination of extensive research and consultation between lawyers and Original Law and language holders, into British Sovereign Law and the consequences for Australia’s Original peoples. ‘Original’ rather than ‘Aboriginal’ - which means ‘from’ or ‘of’ the original - a distinction that marks the precise semantics coming from this highly professional group.
In their document ‘Sovereignty Explained’ OSTF state that:- “Since the first unlawful settlement of the British here on this, Our Sovereign land, some two hundred and thirty years ago, there has been much written about Britain’s claim that they had some right to take what did not – and does not to this day – belong to them or their Crown or their parliament or any of their subsidiaries or agents…
There is no evidence - lawful, legal nor historical - which provides for any lawful, legal extending of the UK parliaments’ monarchs’ sovereignty into this continent – in fact the ONLY jurisdiction the Monarch has (if she has any), is over ‘Her Majesties subjects pursuant to S.6 of the Pacific Islander Protection Act 1875’ (UK) (the PIP Act).”
The extraordinary claim by the OSTF is that permission was never granted by the British parliament to Captain Cook to take possession of Australia and, in fact, was in contravention of his sealed orders. So too, Captain Arthur Phillips’ Commission and Instructions under the Act of Parliament Establishing the Colony gave him various powers, including the appointment of public officials and the establishment of civil and criminal courts, but none of his orders gave him authority over the Sovereign Origine Tribes. This gross oversight was probably understandable to the British, at the time, as the illusion of terra nullius (land belonging to no-one) was already rife, with the Traditional Owners being actively overlooked and their lands seen by British eyes to be empty and ripe for settlement. There is evidence, however, from reports and documents of the early 1830’s and 40’s (“Report of the Select Committee Of The House Of Commons On The Aborigines Wherever British Settlements Are Made”), that discussions were taking place in Great Britain regarding the protection of Original rights but not, however, regarding Sovereignty of the country and its peoples:-
“It might be presumed that the native inhabitants of any land have an incontrovertible right to their own soil; it is a plain and sacred right which seems not to have been understood. Europeans have entered their borders uninvited, and when there, have not only acted as if they were the undoubted lords of the soil, but have punished the natives as aggressors if they have evinced a disposition to live in their own country.”
The myth of terra nullius was perpetuated until the 1980’s when it was finally legally overturned in the landmark High Court case of Mabo vs Queensland No2, when it was proven within the Crown’s own courts that terra nullius was a legally unsafe basis of claiming the territories of the Origine Tribes. The researching of British Sovereignty over Origines by the OSTF has uncovered some very interesting points that are pertinent to this declaration of Sovereign Original rights. It appears that there are three situations in which the British could claim Sovereignty over the Origines:
1. If war has been declared and won by the British
2. If terra nullius is proven, and
3. If a treaty between the British and the Original peoples is ratified.
Interestingly, none of the above has happened.
Standing on Dharug sacred ground at the beginning of the ceremony on Saturday, Mark McMurtrie, who is the inspiration behind the OSTF, and Richard Green, the local language holder and Lawman of the Sydney Dharug people, are emotionally charged with intention, barely contained excitement and focused will. It is still dark enough that individual faces are lost in the shadows, and whether we are black or white, indigenous or not is immaterial. We are all joined together by the palpable force of shared inspiration and the tangible presence of the Ancestors of the Original peoples. A smoking gum leaf fire is lit as a beginning of the cleansing and welcome to country. As the pungent smoke envelops us, we move into the timelessness that is ceremonial space. The church and shops of modern Parramatta recede into the haze. Richard speaks in the language of the Original inhabitants of Sydney, introducing local Dharug people by name, describing where they were born and their lineages. We separate into lines of men and women, approaching the fire from opposite directions to be painted – firstly, a stripe of charcoal ochre across the forehead, painted by young Dharug people. Then we move into a circle and two youngsters paint a white ochre stripe on our foreheads and dots of white on cheeks and nose. Kneeling, we are touched on each shoulder by a large ceremonial boomerang. We are now part of this Original Sovereign Tribal Federation ceremony – initiates at the beginning of a new phase of Original law. My heart and spirit swell with pride and humility to be here as a witness and supporter. As I gaze around the circle at faces now emerging in the pre-dawn pale light, I see that pride and humbleness reflected in the looks of those around me – black, white, Origine, Polynesians, Europeans, Asians. People state their names and ancestry. We are a rich cultural fruit salad – brothers and sisters - of humanity, drawn together by the gravity of common origin or ethos. In traditional style, the Dharug Origines cluster around the fire and challenge each group individually to name ourselves, state where we come from, and our purpose. When each group is accepted as being friendly, a runner is sent out to greet the spokesperson and guide the group to a place in the fire circle.
A spokeswoman from the Original Kimberley Nymbal clan introduces our group that is made up of wandering Celts, Asians from India and Mongolia, and a small dog. The Law woman has traveled down from Broome especially for this weekend to participate in the signing of the treaty, taking the news back up to her clans where the word is already spreading by the modern version of the bush telegraph – the USB memory stick. The Mirrial Archive Media mob are filming the public parts of the ceremony, recording the signing of the treaty between clan groups and Original nations. The film will be used to spread the word visually to every nation, nationally and internationally. The crew weaves mandalas around the group in their movements as they record thoughts and feelings for posterity and cultural heritage learning for future generations. The Maori group ‘Guardians of the Pacific’ are here – large in form and spirit - radiating a calm gravitas that is both affirming and grounding. These male elders represent the public face of a people who have already fought a war for their sovereignty against the British Crown; who treated with the British at Waitangi; and have since gained the practical experience of what it really means to have to re-negotiate land, human and citizenship rights, and the social/cultural consequences of having to unite as a people in the face of the Pakeha (European) establishment. I wonder what they would do differently if they had their time again. One says that with hindsight, they would have kept more of their land and resources. As this first part of the day’s ceremony comes to a completion, the rising sun disperses the dawn shadows, and the serious sacredness of ceremony is lit up with the beaming smiles of the group as we move into a celebratory mood. Hugs, greetings, slaps on the back, introductions and laughter erupt all around as the bonding of this initiation draws us together in common brother and sisterhood. Together with the local Dharug people, I meet visiting Europeans who have grasped the import of sovereign freedom for Australia’s Original peoples. They will carry the ceremony and treaty signing in their hearts and minds, as the ochres and cultural law sink into their skin, creating an intercultural mob of messengers as they travel on to spread the word. A man from Greece, jubilant in his new role as ambassador, exuberantly states that he will affirm the sovereignty of Earth’s oldest continuous culture to Europe’s ancient civilizations. So also, a man of Mongolian descent, and many young folk of Earth’s rainbow culture, for whom peace and freedom are humanity’s greatest rights, will carry the message to their own cultures. I speak to many Original people, whose recent colonial usurpation of their fundamental rights over the past 230 years of British settlement make many of them cautious in their responses at first. They have heard numerous promises being made and broken in their lifetimes.This is different though, as the treaty is something to be shared only between their own peoples, initially, and is a statement of unity and solidarity that is the foundation upon which the Original Sovereign Tribal Federation will be built. Between us all is the growing understanding and recognition that, principally, this declaration of sovereignty does not depend on the ratification or approval of the British Commonwealth government. It is neither a request nor an application for sovereignty, but a clear statement of Original Sovereign rights between their nations, clans and peoples, independent of non-indigenous ratification. By creating a treaty with the Maori Sovereign Nation of Aotearoa, who officially recognize the sovereign rights of the Australian Origines, the necessity of sovereignty being recognized by the British Crown is neatly bypassed. As the groundswell expands, and more Original Nations sign the treaty within Australia, an Original inter-nation government will, without doubt, be informed and advised by the many indigenous and non-indigenous councils and communities, who have researched and worked with governmental and non-governmental organizations for decades on intercultural relations. Advisors to the OSTF will assist with the many upcoming challenges of creating a viable treaty with the British Commonwealth. Meanwhile, we hear that the ceremony planned for Sunday at La Perouse has had to be cancelled due to the local non-Original council refusing permission for a ceremony to be held on the reserve. However, the council at Bondi has extended their welcome for the OSTF to continue on the following day. Also, news is spreading that Northern Territory Nations are travelling to the ceremony and are due to arrive within the next 12 hours in order to sign the treaty. For now, as the group moves to the next site of the ceremony and the signing of the treaty at Bwandi (Bondi), the coming struggles are far from the minds of the jubilant celebrations of the group, as the rising sun heralds the dawning of a new and radically different era for the Original Sovereign Tribal Federation of Australia.
Original Sovereign Tribal Federation Ceremony – Saturday 22 May 2010 By Jenefer Marquis