The River 8c - Rivers of Blood


Rivers of Blood


Rivers and waterways are sacred sources of life to Indigenous peoples, but many major massacres during the Frontier Wars took place alongside rivers, where Aboriginal people lived. In Australia, as in Canada, colonists violently cleared Aboriginal bodies from what they claimed as good pastoral lands, leaving rivers of blood in their wake. ‘The river ran red that day with all our mob’, Noongar Elder Fred Nannup recounted of the Pinjarra Massacre of 1834, one of the most notorious massacre sites in Australia, on the banks of the Murray River in WA.  Rivers are also the sites of contemporary deaths for Aboriginal people in Australia, from the dry Todd River bed in Alice Springs to the rivers into which people leap to escape police pursuit.

In Canada, the bodies of Indigenous women continue to be disposed of in rivers, most notoriously the Red River, with the intention of concealing violent crimes and eliminating culpability. Authorities often refuse to search rivers, raising the question of how many missing Indigenous women, girls and Two Spirit people have been massacred and forced into watery graves. Activists and artists continue to find ways to commemorate missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls murdered in the river. In January 2019 Métis artist Jaime Black sculpted the figures of the dead on the frozen surface of the Red River in one such act of memorialisation.



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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are respectfully advised that this website contains images of and references to deceased persons.

All viewers are respectfully advised that the site contains images of and references to the deaths in custody of Indigenous peoples, Black people and refugees that may cause distress.