Indigenous Elder Major ‘Moogy’ Sumner Addresses the Climate Assembly
Elder Major ‘Moogy’ Sumner addressed the Climate Action I Assembly at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago, USA.
August 14, 2023 (Transcript) – Good afternoon. What I’d like to talk about is how part of the country, where I live, where I grew up, what I done as a kid, what I done when I followed my uncle, my dad,my grandparents, all the things that we done to look after the land. I’m still doing that today. I’m teaching my grandchildren, my children, my great-grandchildren, teaching them about looking after the environment, looking after the land that we live on, looking after the animals.
We travel from our part of the country down on the River Murray, the Kurung, on the Southern Ocean, all the way up to a place in New South Wales, and we dance. We celebrate the river, the water, and we dance to different groups. We go through, because we are Ngarengiri in Ghana, we travel up to all the other groups, and we dance from there all the way down on the River Murray, to Lake Alexanderina, to the Kurung.
It’s a mixture of fresh and salt water. We dance all the way down there. It takes us about 10 days. We dance at a different spot every night. The welcome is done by that group. They welcome us into their country, and we’ll move on.
As we move on, some of the people from that country will come with us, and then we go through the same process all the way down. So we travel up there with about maybe 40 people. When we get back down the end of the river, there’s maybe 800 to 1,000 people dancing. All different people paint up differently. It’s a big festival. We celebrate the river, celebrate the ocean, looking after and dancing and looking after different parts of the land. We talk about that land. We show people. Some people come and they travel with us. They come to watch. They come to take pictures. They come to… Because they’re interested in what we’re doing. Most of them, by the time they get to the end of the river, they’re dancing with us. They’re painted up with us. So, you know, it’s a learning thing for people.
Teaching them that the land that we live on, what we call Mother Earth, if we stuff this up, there’s nowhere else for us to go. We can’t just go to the next planet and start living there. This is home for everyone. So it’s everyone’s responsibility to look after it. To be there, to learn the ceremonies, to sing the songs of the land, to do the dances, but also be responsible. Not just looking after the land, but look after ourselves, look after each other, because we need each other. We’re not here just because we want to live in an area, and this is ours, no. We have to look after each other.
All the things that we do, all the places we travel, looking after the fish. Make sure there’s enough fish for everyone. The food that grows in our area, the berries, they need fresh water, same as we do. Our bodies need fresh water. If we don’t have water to drink, if we don’t have water for the plants.
One year there in Australia, we had a drought for about 12 years straight, and me and my family said, “Well, okay, we need to start something going.” So we started dancing, talking about the river, talking about all the different things that it’s connected to. As we traveled, we can see the clouds coming behind us. As we danced over nighttime, you can see the thunder in the clouds. You can see the clouds move, and you can hear the thunder rattling. Once we finished dancing, then the rain come in and rained.
So the next day when we started again, the rain would stop, and the clouds followed us all the way down. It was like someone was telling them, the clouds, “This is what we want to do.” So they followed us all the way down to the end of the river Murray and they rained. One night there on a place called Lake Albert, we were dancing about 200 and something meters out on the lake bed.
And guess what? When we finished dancing, the rain came. As it came and we were walking off with the boomerangs, singing the songs, the rain was washing the paint off of us. So things like that, if you want to look at something like that, you just Google my name, Major Sumner, and you’ll see a video there, Ringberlin River Ceremony. That’ll show you all the stuff that I do around ceremonies, around looking after the land. And when we have the ceremony down there, it’s open to anyone. Everyone could come. We get buses, put people on buses and we travel.
So if you want to come and learn, come and dance, come and be a part of healing, not just for the land and the river, but healing ourselves, you’re welcome to come. Just look up my name and we’ll have it advertised when we’re going to have it next time. So I do a lot of stuff around culture.
You could see me doing things around throwing boomerangs and making them, showing people how to do that. I end it on to people so that it’s never lost. So thank you very much for listening to me and thanks to people of this land for allowing me to speak on their country.