Riverland rangers monitoring Indigenous cultural sites for damage as flood peak approaches

Riverland rangers monitoring Indigenous cultural sites for damage as flood peak approaches

At least 700 heritage sites are in the direct path of flooding in South Australia’s Riverland as the River Murray nears its peak.

The tide was recently upgraded to a major flood event by the Bureau of Meteorology, with the peak expected to reach the first town on the South Australian branch by Boxing Day.

River Murray and Mallee Aboriginal Corporation (RMMAC) spokeswoman Fiona Giles said Riverland and Murraylands rangers are keeping an eye on a number of important sites across the region, including burial sites, scar trees and rock shelters.

“Especially the heritage sites that have recently been worked on and are now being flooded,” she said.

“For us, all hands will be on deck, we will go to as many places as we physically can and it will be a targeted time when the water starts to recede. We’ll have a number of other jobs to do, but that’s high on our priority list.”

The sun sets over a residential area on the edge of a swollen waterway.
An indigenous elder says there are many burial sites along the river.(Supplied: Mannum Motel)

Ms Giles said rangers had compiled an exhaustive list of sites in the area.

“We have our own database and record new pages ourselves when we’re on the road,” she said.

“The RMMAC database contains over 1,000 cultural heritage sites listed in Riverland.”

The complete picture of the damage is still pending

Cherrie DeLeiuen, acting chief heritage officer for the state government’s Office for Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation, said the modeling had shown that a significant number of sites were at risk.

“At least 700 … are in the direct path of the flooding modeled by the Department of Water,” said Dr. DeLeuen.

“There are a variety of site types, including culturally modified trees or stigma trees, that people may be familiar with, such as B. canoe booms.”

dr DeLeiuen said many of the rock shelters containing artwork and engravings, as well as burial sites, may already be inundated.

“We don’t know what the impact of the flood might be, what was damaged or what was washed downstream,” she said.

“Things can get wet and damaged in that sense, and some may just have silt and dirt deposited on them as the river dries up.”

What to do when you find artifacts?

dr DeLeiuen said she was also concerned that ancestral remains would be uncovered or washed downstream.

“People involved in the cleanup of their property or public land may see human remains and not know what to do,” she said.

“One of the messages we want to convey is what to do if you find what you think are human remains, archaeological sites, scattered artifacts, rock shelters with artwork.”

An Aborigine stands outside holding a piece of white material
There are a number of cultural sites along the river, from burial sites to indigenous artworks. (Delivered: Amy Roberts )

Her advice to the general public was to contact the police whenever human remains were discovered.

“If you find anything that looks like human remains or a bone that might be human, you must call the South Australian Police in all situations, especially if you think it might be linked to a funeral,” said Dr . DeLeuen.

“We have to rule out under all circumstances that it is a crime scene or a cold case or a missing person.”

Once it is clear that police involvement is not required, the Bureau of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation will be involved, she said.

“We can give advice or even come out, pick up the side and help,” said Dr. DeLeuen.

Finds that do not require police involvement, such as B. Artifact scatters and rock shelters containing works of art should be discussed directly with the Office of Aboriginal Affairs and Reconciliation.

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