ABSTRACT

For thousands of years, the water-finding abilities of the Australian dingo (Canis dingo), has assisted human survival in one of the most extreme, arid environments on earth. In addition to their contribution to Traditional Aboriginal society as a guardian, living blanket, hunting assistant and companion, the dingo’s role as intermediary between the earth’s surface and the river systems that flow beneath the continent is legendary. Both the ancestral/mythical dingo and the contemporary dingo are attributed with having assisted people in the location of aquifers, billabongs, inland lakes. They guided people safely across hundreds of kilometers of desert, locating the places where water sources reach up closest to the earth’s surface from the underground lakes and waterways that flow beneath the continent. The dingo’s status in Aboriginal culture is celebrated in the naming of waterholes, soaks, river systems and aquifers. This paper follows the path of the ancient dingo, tracing how, as a cultural keystone species, dingoes have shaped human society and belief systems, encouraging cultures of reciprocity and laws of protection for vital resources. Post-colonization, these traditions have not been recognized outside of Aboriginal communities, and this loss of cultural heritage comes at great cost to the Australian environment, biodiversity and the health and preservation of vital resources.

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