We have been fortunate to meet many wonderful Elders during our time working with the Hope Vale community. Phylamena Naylor was on board with members of Hopevale Congress for our journey from Cooktown to Starke river, where the annual Hopevale/Pelican project is being run this year. The trip is the first day of the program involving Pelican.
Phylamena recounted to me her time spent with an uncle along the coast we were travelling. She is a good Guugu Yimithirr speaker but she said her uncle knew the language names of all the reefs along this coastline. She expressed her sadness that she never thought to write it all down. He passed away quite a long time ago and she feared that all that knowledge was lost forever.
A participant in this year's project, Chris Roberts from Balkanu, who I was talking to about the loss of language, said that " language is a code that links people to country".
The 'found' part of this blog title refers to a conversation I had today with Des Bowen, who is one of the key Elders, involved in this project (his wife Estelle being the other pillar). He told me that the name of the reef in language between the McIvor river and Guumbunie (Chronicle Rock) is burreeka (pronounced with a silent l- burreelka). I look forward to seeing Phylamena in the next days and sharing that parcel of knowledge.
Brian Cobus (pictured on the left) is the chair of Hope Vale Congress. Both Brian and Phylamena were teaching me words in Guugu. As we were talking a black and yellow sea snake appeared and I learnt the Guugu term 'uurri' for sea snake.
Some of the sea country traversed as seen in the Pelican wheelhouse. And outside the wheelhouse...