Return to Basque Country.
I have found an intellectual home at IISJ. As an Indigenous person the welcome is especially meaningful, for our scholarship is often unrecognised in the struggle to regain our sovereignty, freedom and voice. After having spent three months here in late 2015, I return to Basque Country, and IISJ, to learn how the cultural strengths and practices of traditional communities underpin food tourism that contributes to national economies.
My peoples, Tasmanian Aboriginal peoples, suffered a colonial genocide in the early 1800s so fierce and swift that Raphaël Lempkin used our experience to help define his 1940s neologism ‘genocide’ and the terms of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (Curthoys 2005; Van Der Wilt et al. 2012). In the intervening years, we have been exiled from our lands and seas, denied the rights to practice our culture and excluded from participating in developing sympathetic economies (Lee 2016). However, these conditions have changed over the last three years due to new forms of advocacy that look towards resetting the relationship between our peoples and the Tasmanian government (Hodgman 2016).
These forms of advocacy have not been based on politicising our struggle or protesting, but rather a return to our old ways of respectfully listening to all people – Indigenous and non-Indigenous – and demonstrating that our cultural practices, such as conservation through caring for country, are a viable and compassionate form of creating new economies (Lee and Hamilton 2016). Where we were once a colonial problem, we are now seen as a solution.
My peoples and culture have had a home in Tasmania for over 40,000 years (Lee 2015). Some of our oral histories were recorded in the 1820s, where we remembered the flooding of the land bridge that saw our Tasmanian state become an island 10,000 years ago (Plomley 1966). For the last 10,000 years then, our home has been an island and seafoods have formed a major part of our diet and cultural practices. Living midden sites are architectural features that line our coastal shores and form part of our geography. These sites are composed of thousands of years of the remains of marine resources, building up to form middens metres high. They are home to us – we buried our dead, raised our families and practiced culture upon these living floors - yet we have never been part of Tasmanian contemporary marine and fisheries industries.
In resetting the relationship with the Tasmanian government, we have presented a plan to revive our marine practices and establish a cultural food tourism industry from scratch. I am at IISJ care of the highest international research scholarship that the Australian government gives out, the Endeavour Awards. In 2016 I am the first Tasmanian Aboriginal person to be a recipient of the Indigenous Fellowship Endeavour Award. This has allowed me to return to IISJ and undertake research regarding the policy and regulatory conditions of Basque traditional fisheries. Furthermore, I am also the recipient of an Australian government post-doctoral grant, to be taken up in 2017, to establish the pilot program that will see Indigenous wild catch fisheries being designed, developed and marketed as a contribution to the burgeoning tourism industry in Tasmania.
Part of my role as an ambassador under the Endeavour Award is to establish long-lasting connections to international research institutes, such as IISJ. This means that I promote at every turn the positive learning environment, the supportive regional communities and the depth of research knowledges of IISJ. It is a pleasure to do so, as I have been the beneficiary of the most sincere and warmest welcome to a research institute that has become so vitally important to me. I look forward to sharing my future work and results with the IISJ family.