First Nations seasonal calendars show a complex knowledge of the relationships between plants, animals, water, weather, and fire.
The ‘Many Lands, Many Seasons’ documentary is a collaboration between the Australian Broadcasting Corporation and the national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, also known as CSIRO.
Over the past 15 years, scientists have helped document indigenous communities in Australia and present the way they understand complex weather patterns.
Their knowledge of the seasons is highly localized and unique to each region. Subtle changes in the weather tell communities when to pick fruit, prey, and fish.
This well of ecological knowledge, which is 65,000 years old, is also helping researchers understand the effects of global warming, Emma Woodward of the National Science Agency told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
“With climate change there has been a lot of interest to say, ‘What changes are local Indigenous communities seeing in the environment? How can these seasonal calendars be used as tools or a basis for monitoring that change? she explained. “Therefore, there has been great interest and we frequently receive requests from new language groups in Australia to help them create their own seasonal calendar.”
On Tiwi Island north of the Australian city of Darwin, indigenous groups, among many others, mark mangrove worm season, when crawling invertebrates become a sweet, filling and easy meal.
Here, there is also the ‘warm feet season’, when the earth is baked in the sun and becomes too hot to walk barefoot.
Research has found that there are about 120 Aboriginal languages still in use in Australia. Only 12 of them are considered relatively strong and are being taught to children.