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  • Free general admission

Willie Gordon, Nugal

WILLIE GORDON: That river down there is called the Endeavour, after Captain Cook’s boat, the Endeavour came into Cooktown. We call it Waalumbaal Birri. It’s a river that flows every day. How many people has the river seen throughout his life?

You see, there’s two things that look after life. That’s that sun up there and that’s that water down there. Sun’s shining. Water’s falling. Water travels along the ground like a snake. Looks after life.

This was the story about the creation of the river, that life-giving water.

NARRATOR: This is the story of Mungurru, the rock python. And Waalumbaal Birri. It was only named the Endeavour River in 1770 by Captain Cook. But before that, it was called Waalumbaal Birri.

One day Dyirimadhi, who was a young male blackbird, had fallen madly in love with Mungurru’s two beautiful daughters. He ask permission to marry the girls, but the old python said, 'No.'

He had better plans for his daughters. Dyirimadhi was disappointed and he was also angry and a few days later when he was coming back from hunting, he saw Mungurru sleeping on top of Gabulnda Gathayga. Today it’s called Connor’s Knob.

So he decided to pay back Mungurru for rejecting him. He found a big rock and he flew high into the sky and dropped it on old Mungurru’s head. Well, you can imagine how painful that was and Mungurru, he screamed with pain. He began to slither down the hill and he decided to head out to sea to bathe his wounds.

As he dragged himself, his body formed the river as we know it today and defined the clan boundaries. To the south, we had the Waymburr estate, the Bulgun estate. And to the north, clan areas of Nguymbaarr-Gnuymbaarr, Nugal and Gamay. Now, this was really important information for those clans who lived on the Endeavour River, Waalumbaal Birri, because this was an area that was shared by those clans.

WILLIE GORDON: My country’s where the river actually started. Not here. So the river actually connects us to the sea. Now, if you’re going from inland to the sea, you’re cutting across a lot of family groups and probably that’s how they found girlfriends and boyfriends.

So during the winter months, we would end up down the coast because all the crustaceans are hibernating. And right now we can say that they’re ready to go back to inland again because all of the wallabies and kangaroos have had their babies. We wouldn’t like to call them nomadic because they went for specific reasons. They wanted to connect that east-west. So that’s how they survived.

Watch The story of the river video

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