By Keith Davis
We experienced the scourge of invasion. My original people. My original culture. The Celts.
I am partly the progeny of Boudica. I am a faint remnant, a whispering lingering tendril, of the spirit of an Iceni Warrior Queen. My original people. My original culture. The Celts.
We opposed the Roman invasion of our land. We daubed the blue woad. But the fury of our nakedness, and the sharpness of our spears, was as of nothing.
Our Elders, our Seers, our Children, our Women, our Men, our Culture, our Way of Being, was swept aside by the greasy ease of unstoppable might. Swept aside, scattered, demolished.
Our land was taken from us, stolen by the Imperial Eagle. Our spirits were leached away under the cold gaze of Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. The smothering by the Legions was unending.
My original people, my original culture, the Celts. We ended up as nothing more than the flies on the excrement of Rome’s Empire.
All that was left to us was an ephemeral fragmented sense of what, and who, we had once been. Our sense of self became as swirly as bog mist. The killings, the massacres, had desiccated us.
Then came the Saxons, the Angles and the Jutes. Then came the fierce Northmen, the Vikings, the ravagers of Lindisfarne, the imposers of Dane Law. Then came the Normans.
They each, in turn, absorbed whatever had remained of our Celticness. We, all together, became something new. We accepted the hegemony of new kings. French Kings, Scandinavian Kings, German Kings. We all, both invader and invaded, became a new people, a new culture.
We became The Englanders.
And as this new people, as these Englanders, we embarked on the journey of the imposition of Empire by force. We had forgotten the lessons of our own history. We had ignored the tiny dying fragments, the tiny dying whispers, of what it had felt like to be an invaded, subjugated, and massacred, Celt.
As Englanders we invaded France, we unleashed the bodkins of Azincourt. As Englanders, we invaded the Raj, the jewel, our jewel, of India. As Englanders we coloured the world map with our red of Empire.
And, as Englanders, we invaded Australia.
Then you, the First Peoples of Australia, opposed the Englander invasion of your land. You daubed the Red Ochre. But the fury of your nakedness, and the sharpness of your spears, was as of nothing.
Your Elders, your Seers, your Children, your Women, your Men, your Culture, your Way of Being was swept aside by the greasy ease of unstoppable might. Swept aside, scattered, demolished.
Your land was taken from you, stolen by the Imperial Union Jack. Your spirits were leached away under the cold gaze of our Settlers, our Pioneers, our forgers of new frontiers, our Missionaries, our Bureaucrats, our rapacious need to grasp and own everything in sight.
The killings, the massacres, have dessicated you. The smothering of who you are was, and remains, ongoing.
We, the Englanders, had forgotten the very lessons of our own history.
Our invasion, the invasion of your land by us is now well over two centuries old. That is a fly-blown spec of time when compared to your 60,000 year tenure of this land.
Yet we, the Englanders, in an era when humans have already walked on the moon, and will soon walk upon the red plains and mountains of Mars, are still having a debate on whether you, the First Peoples of this land, are deserving, are worthy, of our Recognition.
Our esteemed and blood-soaked Recognition.
Still … there is the faintest whiff of blue woad about me. Somewhere buried deep within the strands of my DNA lurks the racial memory of what it was like to stand warrior-proud under the banners of Boudica. Somewhere, within me, lurks the remnant of a Celt.
And that Man, that Celtic Man, says this to you … the First Nations People of Australia:
My original people, my original culture, the Celts. We are no more. What we have lost cannot be retrieved. My culture, my Gods of the River and of the Earth, are dead.
But your culture is not dead.
Your Dreaming has not ended. Your warrior-pride still stands strong under your own banners. You have that advantage over me and mine.
Despite the killings, the massacres, the poisonings, the stealing of land, the stealing of children, the rape of women, the damaging effects of the drugs and alcohol that were introduced to your cultural bloodstreams, the shunting aside of who you are … and the secret hope of the rest of Australians that you will simply become just like them … you have resisted and survived.
You have my respect for that, and I would respectfully request that you do not let us Recognise you.
Whatever you do, I would respectfully request that you do not let us Recognise you.
Such an event, should it be allowed to happen, would be like Gallipoli myth-making writ large, bronzed Aussies with pretend tears in their eyes. It would be a sleight of hand, a dog and pony show. By any stretch of the imagination it would not cut any sort of meaningful mustard. Nothing of any worth will have changed.
We modern non-Indigenous Australians were not here in 1788. It was our ancestors who invaded you, poisoned you, demolished your culture and way of being, shot you, and massacred you. How often have you heard from us; “It was not me!”?
But, in truth, who are we who claim to be guilelessly guilt-free? Well, we are the beneficiaries of that invasion. We have reaped the rewards. We own, or have taken, just about everything from you. Our culture, our greed, swamps the land. We are digging everything up, poisoning the earth, and despoiling the environment. It is hard to see how we can be proud of anything we have done.
So do not let us tell you anything. If there is room in your heart, forgive us for our invasion, and Recognise us if you can because we are the latecomers … that is what it really needs to be about. And remind us of the lessons of our own history.
We are here now. It cannot be undone. Our joint future remains as yet unwritten. TREATY with us. Absorb us into you. Teach us about Your Land.
Some of us are listening.