By Diane Bell
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Additional resources for Daughters of the Dreaming
The women were very considerate of my need to learn in a short time what they had acquired over a lifetime, and would make extra comments on tape which I would be able to hear on the play-back and discuss with my helper. The house also provided me with facilities such as a shower which the women used and shelter which I could share during the wet season with homeless families. I could and did sleep in the camp but the settlement life-style offers little privacy and my exit in the evening was a polite way of affording us both space.
At some universities prospective anthropologists may take courses in fieldwork method: usually one is shown how to operate a camera, rethread a reel-to-reel recorder and is advised to keep duplicate notes. Few are prepared to tell you what it was like and after the first trip you’re a member of an exclusive club, one of the rules of which is not to tell it as it really was. To admit to one’s inadequacies, to how fumbling one was in the local language, to how socially inept, how angry and upset one became, is simply not the done thing.
I was told not to tell others of its existence, that we had visited it, or of the resources we had exploited there. I complied. ’ I was made to recount this story to several groups as if to confirm the lesson I’d learnt and to demonstrate to others my increasing competence. Women were always careful to differentiate for me what was for my eyes only and what was general knowledge. Other information I was given could be passed on to women like myself in Canberra but not to Aboriginal women who stood outside the ritual land-holding and managing group.
Daughters of the Dreaming by Diane Bell