Wangka Maya's Hidden Histories Project shed new light on some of the little known stories of early contact between Aboriginal people and white people.
While some of these stories are extremely sensitive, Wangka Maya believes it is important they are recorded. Aboriginal people want them to be told because they represent a true version of history. Telling this history will help people to understand what their old people experienced. Many younger people do not know these stories and wonder why their old people are sometimes afraid of white people. Many white people too are ignorant about this history and do not understand that it explains a lot about how Pilbara Aboriginal people live today.
In October 2008, Wangka Maya employed two historians Dr. Malcolm Allbrook and Dr. Mary Anne Jebb to research historical documents of the Pilbara and to start to collect oral histories from older Aboriginal people who carry stories from their old people about bad things that happened in the early days.
This was a difficult job because a lot of things that happened in the early days have been covered up or were never written down. Sometimes people writing reports concealed the truth because they were afraid they would get into trouble if the Perth government knew what they were really up to. Sometimes reports have been lost or files destroyed. Only a few police files describe in detail the kind of things that were going on in the bush.
The researchers spent a lot of time in the Battye Library and State Records Office in Perth looking at old documents from the times when white people first came to the Pilbara. They looked at records of many things that happened in the early days including:
- Battles and massacres, and how the old people tried to resist white people taking over their country.
- How white people set up sheep and cattle stations, and forced Aboriginal people to work for them.
- Early days of the pearling industry that used to run out of Cossack, and how many Aboriginal people from all around the Pilbara were captured and forced to work on pearling boats.
- Police records and how white people in the early days tried to control Aboriginal people.
- How Aboriginal people responded to all these things, and ways in which they tried to hang on to their traditional way of life.