The Sacred Wisdom & Beauty of Indigenous Australia | Noel Butler: Aboriginal Elder #064

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Uncle Noel Butler is an indigenous elder of the Yuin Nation (South Coast New South Wales).

As a child he spent the days in the bush, hiding from government authorities as they were taking children away from their parents.

He was living off the land and the ocean, in absolute communion with the environment that surrounded him and his community.

Uncle Noel delivers his knowledge on Aboriginal Culture generously with passion and urgency.

Indigenous and Aboriginal culture holds immense value for everyone living on earth, even more so in these times where we find ourselves increasingly alienated from nature.
This sacred wisdom is so relevant to the modern man - practical knowledge to live a richer life in greater health, individually and collectively.

About Our Guest: Uncle Noel Butler

Noel Butler is an Aboriginal (Budawang) Elder of the Yuin Nation, South Coast NSW, Australia. 
He is a qualified teacher and mentor and has been working as a Cultural Educator for over 30 years.
He has experienced firsthand Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal history, lifestyle, society and shares it all around the world. 
Conservation is his forte. He grew up in south coast NSW in a family of 8 who was living off the land in the bush.
Uncle Noel Butler, Yuin Nation Elder
His knowledge has been passed down from his Elders to enable a sustainable lifestyle even in today's modern world.
Uncle Noel delivers his knowledge on Aboriginal Culture generously with passion and urgency.

In this Episode we Discuss:

The Scarce Accessibility to Aboriginal Wisdom

The deliberate restriction of access to the richness of aboriginal history and knowledge - something that is deeply rooted in our modern world. 
The subjugation that historically has existed (and continues to exist) of aboriginal and indigenous communities.
Why it is important that we urgently share this unique and powerful wisdom.
Dylan Smith and Uncle Noel Butler, Yuin Nation Elder, recording this podcast

Life Expectancy for Indigenous Men ("The Gap")

Uncle Noel’s mind-blowing health & physique at 72 years of age.
Life expectancy for native men is around 58 years - 17 years less than other males in Australia. 
Mental health is one of the biggest health concerns for Indigenous communities. 
  • Being sent to facilities to get treated, and therefore being removed from their home, community and rites implies a major alienation that ends up being very destructive.  

Uncle Noel’s Family & Marriage

Being and existing as a unit. They think of themselves only as a “we” or “us” and never “you and me”. 
  • Good communication and mutual respect are fundamental to live that type of harmonious life.
  • Sharing moments on the daily, engaging in activities together to establish solid and sincere bonds. 

Communing with Nature as a Way of Life

The understanding that everything has a right to live and that no species should dominate & control over another in a way that is so detrimental that it cannot recover and replenish itself.
Considering your very environment as part of your family and you must therefore look after that/them.
Appreciating the Elements - providers of life to all living beings:
  • Father Sky
  • Mother Earth
  • Grandfather Sun
  • Grandmother Moon
The Blue Mountains in Yuin Nation territory, New South Wales
It all coming down to being a compassionate and caring human being while also fostering a sharing capacity that allows for others to be included and participate in that state of being.

A Mindset for Positivity

Living every day and experiencing it as it comes, without excessive planning or expectations of specific outcomes
The belief that no negativity can be taken to bed with you. Everything has to finish at the end of the day. 

Uncle Noel’s childhood

Being born by the sea and with his whole family living off the ocean. Being kicked off the land and later moving to the aboriginal reserve in Ulladulla. 
Having his brother taken away from Yuin Nation territory, hence becoming a part of the infamous “stolen generation”.
  • The “Stolen Generation” refers to the aboriginal children that were being removed from their communities such as the Yuin Nation and placed in institutions that forced them to assimilate white culture (particularly during the time period between 1910 and 1970). 
  • Many of these children were treated with neglect within these institutions and were forced to cut ties with all of their ancestral background, not being allowed to refer to themselves by the name given to them by their parents and not being allowed to speak in their native language. 
  • Some of these children were adopted by white families and many were used for domestic work. 
  • This was a very brutal and trauma-inducing period for Native Communities in Australia. 
  • Read more about the Stolen Generation HERE.
Noel and his fellow young relatives had to hide from welfare officers and other scouts who came looking for children where the indigenous communities settled. 
Stolen Generation
Newspaper article looking for a home for aboriginal children
Learning to get their own food from the land they inhabited. This allowed for them to learn how to truly read nature - how to deeply understand it.
  • What food to eat
  • Where the food was
  • When it was available
  • How to hunt and correctly predict animal behavior
  • How to communicate with birds by mimicking their different sounds/chirping
Salmon Fishes swimming upstream

The Power of Fire and the Mysticism That Surrounds It

A Bonfire in the dessert
In Dhurga language (the language of the Yuin Nation) fire is called “yau yee”. The fire keeps the bad spirits away, it acts as a protection. 
Noel’s family kept a fire burning constantly for many years while his father was bed-ridden due to suffering MS (Multiple Sclerosis). 
In Vedic tradition, the fire is considered a sentient Being itself, referred to as "agni devata" ("divine fire"). Agni Devata is not only a flaming hot element that is worshipped in the Vedas for its ability to transform and metabolise, but Agni Devata is also a highly revered celestial that has the ability to commune with celestial realms, a.k.a. "the cosmic mobile phone."
Fire is considered one of the most important Divine Beings in the Vedas.

Birds

Birds have an admirable capability to communicate between themselves, even amongst the different species. They can identify warning calls from other species and make their own, they all protect each other in that way. 
Noel and his family learned how to communicate with birds by mimicking their different sounds/chirping.
The Lyre Bird ("Naran Naran" in dhurga), local to Southern Australia, mimics with great accuracy an astounding variety of sounds that it picks up in its habitat (both natural and artificial sounds). Natives of the Yuin Nation use the chirping of this bird as a reference to see which birds (and potentially other animals) live in their surroundings. 
  • After the bushfires in Australia, the different chirpings of the Lyrebirds serve as indicators of what birds have re-incorporated themselves to these areas that suffered greatly.
Looking at the flight patterns of swans and being able to tell how far away the rain is and from what direction it is coming from. 

Dhurga - The Language of the Yuin Nation

All countries in Australia are named after the language they speak. All except for the Yuin Nation, who speak dhurga. 
Yuin in dhurga means “Man”. Noel’s theory is that when the settlers came, they asked a native “who are you?” and that native answered “Yuin” (man). The white setters then believed that to be the name of the native community and hence they have been named that ever since. 
There are many misinterpretations and misspellings of dhurga language that white settlers (and later governments) didn’t care to correct and have been carried forth to this day. 
  • The now city of Mollymook, 220 km south from Sydney, is actually spelled "Bollymook" in dhurga. 
  • Ulladulla is actually "Nulladar" in dhurga.

The “Discoveries” of the European Settlers

Most places that were allegedly “discovered” during the settlement of the Europeans, were actually known to the native communities way before the time of their "discovery".
These places already carried names, they were never lost in the first place so that "discovery" could take place. White settlers simply chose to ignore the history and wisdom that natives had of their own land before they came.

Cave Paintings

Aboriginal Australians have been living on the continent for over 50,000 years. They are believed to be the oldest population of humans living outside of Africa. 
Many paintings in places around Australia tell the story of this country and all of the changes it has been through, even from way before white settlers came. 
Paintings of the time when the ocean currents first rose, where you start seeing pictures and carvings of kangaroos, and on the top of caves you can see turtles and dugongs.
There are even cave paintings that tell the stories of volcanoes: “The Fire Mountain” -  A cockatoo that burnt its tail with the ‘fire’ (lava) from that mountain. 
Paintings of the invasion of the white man. Men holding rifles painted in caves, men riding horses with very distinct hats. 
Australian Cave Painting of a Kangaroo
Australian Cave Painting of Turtles
Australian Cave Painting of Dugongs

Bush Fires

During the bushfires that occurred in February 2020, Noel’s community suffered immense losses, material and, more importantly, in wildlife. 
Since then, they have managed to reincorporate 31 of the 54 species of birds that used to live in those territories and 23 kangaroos that some already have joeys in their pouches. 
The maintenance that the government carries out in this area is very precarious and, according to Uncle Noel, it will most certainly cause other bushfires in the near future. 
Bush Fire in Yuin Nation territory and the silhouette of a Kangaroo
Taken from Daily Telegraph - Photograph: Matthew Abbott
  • There already is a considerate level of accumulation of flammable debris from dead trees and bushes. 
  • Weed species are now dangerously proliferating in the area and they will eventually smother themselves out, dying and becoming fuel for the next wildfire. 
Controlled burning (a.k.a. cultural burning or prescribed burning) needs to be carried out in all of the different countries within Australia so that these massive bushfires can be effectively prevented. 
  • To do this, a proper understanding of these areas and the communities, wildlife and plants that live in them is imperative. One cannot implement this type of technique without first taking into consideration everything that lives within these regions. 
Cultural Burning, a technique implemented by the Yuin Nation to prevent bushfires
ABC News: Rudy De Santis
  • Firesticks Alliance is an organization that carries out cultural burnings all around the country in an effort to prevent mass-scale bushfires.  
Noel is working with a group of college graduates of environmental sciences with the idea that by combining his ancestral knowledge and understanding of how this land and everything in it works with modern science and technology, they’ll be able to appropriately take measures that will guarantee the survival and thriving of this area + record the results.  
  • All of the implemented measures and results are disclosed so that anyone in the future can use that as a reference for the preservation of other areas.
The health repercussions of the mass-scale smoke inhalation that these bush fires caused are still yet to be known but could potentially be very serious (especially in children). 

Resources

Nuragunyu Website HERE

Nuragunyu's Facebook HERE - Keep up to date with events offered by Uncle Noel and Trish

Firesticks Alliance Website HERE

Firesticks Instagram Account (@firesticks.alliance.network) HERE

***

Unsettled Exhibition in the Australian Museum of Sydney

Budawang Elder Noel Butler Mourns for Country and his Special Place in it

Indigenous Elder, Conservationist, Educator and Sustainability Advocate - Australian Geographic

Read More on the "Stolen Generation" HERE

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