Video: Dancing the River Back in Australia

Candice Gaukel Andrews September 25, 2012 7

Thanks to the Ngarrindjeri people, today there is water again at the mouth of Australia’s Murray River.

Our landscapes have a practical element that can’t be denied. They respond to and reflect back the physical forces of nature—drought, storms and temperatures certainly all have their impact on the health of the land.

But we sometimes forget that nature seems to have spiritual influences, a fact that native cultures still recognize.

In southeast Australia in 2010, after a decade-long drought, the country’s greatest river basin, the Murray-Darling, dried up. Climate change, the use of the Murray and Darling Rivers for irrigation and power production, and the destruction of lagoons, wetlands and forests had all taken their toll on the basin.

That’s when aboriginal elders decided to take matters into their own hands. The Ngarrindjeri people, a nation of 18 tribes, traveled the length of the basin for two weeks, performing the Murrundi Ruwe Pangari Ringbalin (River Country Spirit Ceremony) at various sacred places, hoping to dance the spirit back into the land and heal the waters. The result was the largest flood surge in a hundred years.

The Ringbalin has been performed every year since 2010, and today there is water again at the mouth of the Murray River. As Ngarrindjeri elder Major Sumner implies at the end of the short video below, perhaps there are times when the land needs us to give it not only a practical respect, but a little spiritual appreciation, as well.

Here’s to finding your true places and natural habitats,



  1. Caroline Clarke October 9, 2012 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    Having spent my childhood holidays at Wentworth caravan park on the Darling River, with the Murray in view it is not lost on me how valuable this system is to us all. We need to be mindful of how we manage these most valuable resources and work together to ensure tolerances are understood. Thanking you for bringing this to us.
    Kind regards

  2. Carlyn September 29, 2012 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    If you do not feel a spiritual dimension to an encounter with nature, whether in some far off “special” place or your own backyard, you are not paying attention.

  3. Travis September 27, 2012 at 5:09 pm - Reply

    Nice to connect with history!

  4. Anne J. September 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    thanks for sharing this – we humans are not always too bright about land management. We ruin the land and then wonder why. I really do believe native cultures should be respected and listened to a whole lot more.

  5. Lydia September 26, 2012 at 7:03 am - Reply

    Of course they do. Whether we are conscious of it or not, whether we interpret it as a writer through words, an aboriginal through dance, or as a simple participant experiencing peace of mind or intensity of the environment, it is present.

  6. John Daly September 25, 2012 at 10:16 am - Reply


  7. Burr Williams September 25, 2012 at 9:20 am - Reply

    yes…of course there is a spiritual element…and yes, we can tap into it…that is what makes us “native”…. you have to develop a deep connection, to begin learning and knowing the stories of the land, the stories of the plants and animals, and the stories of the people that came before you (of your bioregion), you do not begin to attain that spiritual connection…’or a sense of true patriotism…

    our society has ignored developing that connection with what is around us, or the history of what is around us…and to me, that is the reason for “nature-deficit disorder”… we have become untethered to place…

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