Banksia – what’s in a name?
CLONING ON A GRAND SCALE
Europeans first referred to this country as “New” Holland and, while Cook had used “South Wales”, it soon became “New South Wales”. There is a pattern – New World, New Spain, New Amsterdam, New Zealand, New Guinea, New Caledonia, New Hebrides, New Britain …
In some instances, these are said to become ‘Neo-Europes’. (Alfred W Crosby 2004 ‘Ecological Imperialism – The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900.)
The imperial colonising process can be compared to the cloning process – that is, the existing cultural nucleus is forcefully excluded or suppressed and another foreign culture is forcefully inserted in its places in order to monopolise the rich resources of living country. Keeping the original culture(s) suppressed is a key part of maintaining the privileges thus acquaired.
In this country, at least, European one-sided cultural forms were conceived in bad-faith vis-a-via First Peoples – and remain so in present times.
This country was never an empty space – either in terms of population or in terms of culture. As we now know, it was completely populated and completely cultured by the time Europeans arrived.
A kind of counterfeit reality was constructed. We know this one-sided form of reality as ‘Australia’. We do not yet have an agreed indigenous name (or names) for this country.
From the outset of European designs on this country they proceeded to fill the imaginary ‘empty space’ with culturally one-sided cultural forms. Irrespective of First Peoples forms of signification for places, plants, animals – and people – European cultural constructs were prefabricated and imposed on to life here.
HERE IS ONE RELEVANT EXAMPLE
The role of the Gentleman’s pursuit of botany in the Endeavour’s voyage of exploration is given recognition when ‘Stingray Harbour’’ was later renamed ‘Botany Bay’ by James Cook. Initially, the presence of the many very large stringrays, which were caught for food, was the significant feature recorded in the English name for the large bay.
As Cook noted, with the change of name from Stingray Harbour, the Naturalists – Banks and Dr Solander – had been engaged in collecting plant materials while they were there. On board the Endeavour where plants being taken to Europe.
Joseph Banks had an interest in botany from his teenage years. He actually paid for for a Linnaean lecturer of botany when he attended Oxford University as there was none. (See, for example, Richard Holmes “The Age of Wonder” The Folio Society MMXV pp7-8). He also contributed 10,000 pounds (two years of his exceptional income) for the study of Natural History on the Endeavour voyage.
In September 1770, as the Endeavour sailed away from the East Coast of this country, Banks wrote in his journal:
“Of Plants in general the countrey afforded a far larger variety than its barren appearance seemd to promise. Many of these have no doubt properties which might be useful, but for Physical or oeconomical purposes which we were not able to investigate, could we have understood the Indians or made them by any means our friends we might perchance have learnt some of these: for tho their manner of life, but one degree removed from Brutes, does not seem to promise much yet they had a knowledge of plants as we plainly could percieve by their having names for them.” J. Banks 1770 ‘The Endeavour Journal of Sir Joseph Banks’ (The Echo Library 2006:308 – emphasis added)
Well, First Peoples ‘botantists’ may have had names (and much knowledge of the plants) but the next step in this process was to name a whole genus, not merely a species, in honour of Banks:
“The genus Banksia was first described and named by Carl Linnaeus the Younger in his April 1782 publication Supplementum Plantarum; hence the full name for the genus is “Banksia L.f.” The genus name honours the English botanist Sir Joseph Banks, who collected the first Banksia specimens in 1770, during James Cook‘s first expedition.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banksia )
The Wikipedia entry on Banksia integrifloia also provides some useful information
“B. integrifolia was first collected at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770, by Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Daniel Solander, naturalists on the Endeavour during Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific Ocean. However, the species was not published until April 1782, when Carolus Linnaeus the Younger described the first four Banksia species in his Supplementum Plantarum. Linnaeus distinguished the species by their leaf shapes, and named them accordingly. Thus the species with entire leaf margins was given the specific name integrifolia, from the Latin integer, meaning “entire”, and folium, meaning “leaf”. The full name for the species is therefore Banksia integrifolia L.f.
Now widely known as coast banksia or coastal banksia, B. integrifolia was previously known by a range of common names. The Checklist of Australian Trees lists four other common names: honeysuckle, white banksia, white bottlebrush and white honeysuckle; and some older sources refer to it as honeysuckle oak.”
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banksia_integrifolia (accessed 5 April 2017)
But what happens next? Wikipedia notes of this species of tree:
It was known to Indigenous Australians before its discovery and naming by Europeans; for example, the Gunai people of Gippsland called it birrna. Because of its wide range it would have a name in a number of other indigenous languages, but these are now lost. In 2001, a search of historical archives for recorded indigenous names of Victorian flora and fauna failed to find a single name for the species.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Banksia_integrifolia (emphasis added)
Now, while Joseph Banks never returned to this country, it was not long after he returned to England that, partially on his recommendation, the First Fleet was on its way to found a penal colony at Botany Bay.
With the large number of Europeans arriving, there also arrived the opportunity for some Officers and, later, Gentlemen to fill in the great blanks in Banks knowledge of indigenous plants (and etc). But this did not happen. As was noted in the case of Banksia integrifolia mentioned above, few (if any) of the original names survive.
The colonising process in this country was been one where, instead of making good use of first-hand experience to falsify and correct initial and mistaken European notions of life here, the opposite seems to be the case – life here has been forced to conform with the mistaken notions imported from overseas.
The name for this culturally one-sided process is ethnocide. This dreadful history has left us with a most challenging legacy – to make good (using the best possible healing means) the errors and omissions of the past.
It is an enormous task. They say healing ourselves is a necessary first step.
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