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It is beautiful Country with sad feelings from the past.
Manmarr Daisy Andrews
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Jackie Giles from Kayili Artists. Photo by Tim Acker, 2008.
The Canning Stock Route story revolves around water. To colonists, desert water was a commercial resource necessary for a successful stock route. To the people of the desert, these waters were the social, spiritual and economic bases of their existence. The wells built by Alfred Canning, therefore, became sites of conflict between cultures. Conflict on the stock route was also triggered by, and in response to, the men who made the wells, and the drovers who came to use them.
During Canning's return to Wiluna in 1907, a member of his party, Michael Tobin, was fatally speared at Natawalu (Well 40). In the same moment Tobin shot and killed Mungkututu, the Aboriginal man who had speared him. To this day, the reasons given for this incident are varied. One account says that Tobin had taken Mungkututu's wife, while another says that it was revenge for the theft of sacred objects by Canning's men. Mungkututu may have been frightened by Tobin, afraid of being chained up, or angered by the uninvited intrusion of strangers at his waterhole. Whatever the cause, in both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal histories, the incident has come to symbolise the clash of cultures that defined the early days of the Canning Stock Route.
While events at Natawalu were documented for posterity, many other conflicts around the Canning Stock Route were never recorded. They were, however, remembered by desert families. Today the emergent tradition of contemporary desert art provides the canvas for such stories to be told again, recorded in paint.
Mayapu Elsie Thomas, Mangkaja Arts, acrylic on canvas, 119.5 x 89.7 cm
At Natawalu an Aboriginal man speared a kartiya [white man], then that kartiya got a rifle and shot him. Right [at] Natawalu. Before there was a well there. That's the place I painted now. He was just coming to get water ... then he saw that kartiya. He speared him then, near the water.
One blackfella been coming along from Kurrkumalu. He been see — 'Hello somebody there'. Kartiya [white man] been reading book. Right, he been hookem up [spear] now, rip 'em. Kartiya been look around for revolver — bang! Same time they finished. Two [of] them finished there poor bugger.
We saw a native running towards us fully armed. He was watching Tobin all the time ... and just as the native moved with his spear Tobin raised his rifle and fired just after the native had discharged his spear which entered Tobin's right breast. The native fell ...
Alfred Canning, evidence given to the royal commission, 1908
Manmarr Daisy Andrews, Mangkaja Arts, acrylic on canvas, 90 x 118.5 cm
These are the hills around Lumpulumpu, a place with mixed memories for me. It is beautiful Country with sad feelings from the past. This is my mother and father's Country, between Christmas Creek station and Cherrabun station. Before I was born, my family lived around this area. It is good rocky Country. There is good living water here. My father [father's brother] was killed here at Lumpulumpu.
Our people came down from the Canning Stock Route and stayed at Lumpulumpu. They speared some cattle there for tucker and the station men got angry and killed lots of our people. My brother Boxer told me this story; he saw it happen. He told me that those men killed our men and a lot of our women too. They used to just kill the people and burn them. They just put kerosene on them.
Sunday Well, 2008
Dadda Samson, Martumili Artists, acrylic on canvas, 120.5 x 76 cm
People used to stay here. When people see the whitefella they used to run away, up to the hills and rocks. They were afraid of the whitefellas. My mother and my brothers ran away, right up to Puntawarri because the whitefellas were shooting at the Martu people. They were sneaking in and the gun went off, and they all ran and just kept running and running until they got to Puntawarri.
Dadda Samson, Martumili Artists, acrylic on linen, 125.5 x 78.5 cm
Purlpa is my mummy's Country near Mungarlu. My mother walked with my three brothers right down to Jigalong. On the way they stopped at Sunday Well. Whitefellas used to shoot people here and just leave them lying on the ground. [My family] were just travelling through here. When they saw the white people shooting they ran away to Puntawarri.
Lily Long, Martumili Artists, acrylic on canvas, 89.5 x 92.5 cm
This is the Canning Stock Route. This is the big hill where, a long time ago, my mother, father, my sister, Amy, and my brother used to live. We would sometimes climb up on that hill and see drovers. They put the government well  next to Tiwa jurnu [soak] when they were building the stock route.
The hills in this painting, Partujarapili, relate to the Jukurrpa story of an old woman who tried to poison the ancestral heroes Wati Kutjarra. These ancestral narratives found sad echoes in stock route history as well.
This used to happen to Aboriginal people on the Canning Stock Route too. My auntie's husband was poisoned by white people. They used to leave bullock leg with poison for people to eat.