In October of 2001, the Australian High Court confirmed
aboriginal title to two thousand kilometres of ocean off the north
coast. The decision, which was the result of a seven-year court
battle, highlighted aboriginal belief that the sea is a gift from
the creator to be used for sustenance, spirituality, identity, and
community. This evocative study of the people of northern coastal
Australia and their sea worlds illuminates the power of human
attachment to place.
"Saltwater People: The Waves of Memory" offers a
cross-disciplinary approach to native land claims that incorporates
historical and contemporary case studies from not only Australia,
but also New Zealand, Scandinavia, the US, and Canada. Nonie Sharp
discusses various issues of indigenous heritage, including land
claims, concepts of public and private property, poverty, and the
Despite dispossession, the aboriginals of northern coastal
Australia never faltered in their devotion to the sea, illustrating
how profoundly such bonds are preserved in memory. Their moving
story of surviving and winning a lengthy court battle provides
valuable information for all countries dealing with similar issues
of rights to tenure and natural resources. Sharp provides the first
book-length study of an integrated statement on the many defining
qualities of the cultural relationship of aboriginals,
non-aboriginals, and the concept of ownership over the sea, and
illustrates the wisdom that different traditions can offer one
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