Thursday, 4 March 2010

dingoes as pets in the Western Desert in the sixties

I've just watched a fascinating documentary - Contact - about a group of nomadic women and children who lived in the Western Desert in Australia in the 1960s and had never seen white people.

When this section of desert was chosen as the possible landing point of rockets in 1964, government officers contacted the nomads to convince them to move away from the area.

The film is mostly narrated by Yuwali, a 62-year-old gifted storyteller. She was 17 when the officials arrived in trucks she thought were rocks come alive. It's amazing to see the film that was shot at the time, but what struck me as a dog-owner was Yuwali's sadness when she viewed footage of her pet dingo, which she was forced to leave behind in the desert when she was taken with her family to live elsewhere.

It was sad to see the dingo following the truck as long as it could and then fading into the desert. At the time Yuwali begged to be allowed to take her pet with her, but this was refused.

We tend to think of dingoes as wild animals, but a transcript of The Science Show reports the work of Laurie Corbett, who has studied the history of the dingo and related it to the dogs of Asia. He believes the dingo came to Australia as a domesticated dog and points to its role as a companion animal for Aboriginal people in the past.

Dr. Eve Fesl, indigenous academic, suggests that in some areas there was a deliberate campaign to kill domesticated dingoes so as to deprive indigenous people of their valuable help in hunting, and thus force the people to abandon their nomadic life and agree to live in government camps.

The transcript of the show makes very interesting reading for anyone interested in the history of the dog.


Twinkietinydog said...

Thank you for a very informative post. This was almost all news to me.

Schwang said...

That does sound interesting. I remember seeing a PBS special showing how dogs were actually "created" as wolves began becoming more dependent on people, feeding from their scraps, and eventually evolved. It sounds like a strain of dingoes could be doing this too...

parlance said...

If the guy in the show is correct, there's a process going on here whereby the dingoes are kind of 'reverse evolving' from domesticated to wild.

But when I think about it, I guess that must go on when any group of dogs have to fend for themselves over generations.

parlance said...

Twink, the transcript of The Science Show episode I mentioned is well worth a read, even though it's long. A lot of what was discussed was new to me also.

The Aphasia Decoder.... said...

Very interesting. What has been done in the name of progress to indigenous people all over the world is sad.

Levi's mom

parlance said...

Aphasia Decoder, Australia has a terrible record of treatment of indigenous people and it's reflected in many sad tales of how they live nowadays.

But this show was very positive in that the people who were telling their story had been treated badly but were positive, seemingly happy people who had not let themselves be caught up in the past.

They seemed to have a well-balanced community, aware of their ancient culture and passing it on to the young people. (I realise it's hard to tell from a short film like this, but that's the impression I got.)