In October of 2001, the Australian High Court confirmed aboriginal title to two thousand kilometres of ocean off the north coast. The decision, which was the result of a seven-year court battle, highlighted aboriginal belief that the sea is a gift from the creator to be used for sustenance, spirituality, identity, and community. This evocative study of the people of northern coastal Australia and their sea worlds illuminates the power of human attachment to place.Saltwater People: The Waves of Memory offers a cross-disciplinary approach to native land claims that incorporates historical and contemporary case studies from not only Australia, but also New Zealand, Scandinavia, the US, and Canada. Nonie Sharp discusses various issues of indigenous heritage, including land claims, concepts of public and private property, poverty, and the environment.Despite dispossession, the aboriginals of northern coastal Australia never faltered in their devotion to the sea, illustrating how profoundly such bonds are preserved in memory.
Their moving story of surviving and winning a lengthy court battle provides valuable information for all countries dealing with similar issues of rights to tenure and natural resources. Sharp provides the first book-length study of an integrated statement on the many defining qualities of the cultural relationship of aboriginals, non-aboriginals, and the concept of ownership over the sea, and illustrates the wisdom that different traditions can offer one another.