First Nations seasonal calendars show an intricate knowledge of the relationships between plants, animals, water, the weather, and fire.
The ‘Many Lands, Many Seasons’ documentaries are a collaboration between the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and the national science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, also known as the CSIRO.
Over the past 15 years, scientists have helped Indigenous communities in Australia document and present the way they understand complex weather pattens.
Their knowledge of the seasons is highly localized and unique to each area. Subtle changes in the weather tell communities when to pick fruit, hunt and fish.
Emma Woodward, from the national science agency, told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. that this well of ecological knowledge that dates back up to 65,000 years is also helping researchers understand the impact of global warming.
“With climate change there has been great interest in saying, 'What are local Indigenous communities seeing change in the environment? How can these seasonal calendars be used as tools or bases for monitoring that change going forward?" she explained. "So, there has been huge interest and we frequently get requests from new language groups from around Australia to assist them to also create their own seasonal calendars."
On the Tiwi Islands, north of the Australian city of Darwin, Indigenous groups mark, among many others, the season of the mangrove worm, when the creeping invertebrates become a sweet, filling and easy meal.
Here, is also the ‘season of hot feet,’ when the earth is baked in the sun and becomes too warm to walk barefooted.
Research has found that about 120 Aboriginal languages are still in use in Australia. Of those, only around 12 are considered to be relatively strong and are being taught to children.