Of all the ways I expected today to go down, finding out about family all over the Northern Territory was decidedly left of field. Let me explain…
Today our team visited Nungalinya college, a Bible college for Indigenous students here in Darwin. While there, we joined in a chapel service, learning about Sampson who was no superhero and being reminded of Jesus who is our Saviour and example. We spent the morning in cultural awareness training with Rachel B, before enjoying morning tea with the college students. And it was there that Daisy, an older student who has country near Mataranka, gave me a skin name!
Skin names are part of a kinship system which organises Indigenous Australians into families. They help people understand their relationships to each other within the kinship group. It isn’t uncommon for whitefellas to be given a skin name as relationships with Indigenous folk develop, but it was a surprise for everyone that it happened so quickly!
After excitedly giving me my name – Gamany – Daisy proceeded to point people out around the room: “that’s your daughter”, “I’m your sister”, “you’re her mother”. This was equal parts thrilling and bewildering! She also told me that wherever I go within the Territory, now I will have people to belong with.
I’m incredibly humbled at and grateful for Daisy’s kindness to me, which also included an induction into various forms of bush tucker and bush medicine, which she explained how to find and benefit from! A little while later as we heard from Rachael and Olga, they found out about my skin name and delightedly pronounced themselves to be my Aunties! It is amazing to think that even more than these skin relationships, we are united by still stronger bonds as sisters in Christ!
If you would like to know more about skin names, or other aspects of indigenous culture and cultural relations, please download this pdf which Rachel has prepared. It’s excellent!
Apparently people often have strong reactions to Darwin when they arrive. Personally, I can’t put my finger on it but this place is a precious kind of special, and I’m more than a bit enamoured…