Kalkanap (Kalgan River) is a river in Kinjarling – the ‘place where it rains a lot’ (Albany), in Minang Country. Nidja beelya was wer continues to be a site of great importance to the Minang people as a source of food wer for its spiritual significance, the area still being sacred to many Minang people today. The Kalgan River is the main drainage system in the area, starting from several streams running west of Kooyingara (Stirling Range) wer flowing into Oyster Harbor.
The Minang people believe that Kalkanap wer other waters in Kinjarling were created by the Marchant (the Minang term for the Waugal or rainbow serpent). The use of the word Marchant rather than Waugal to describe the spiritual serpent which created the waterways is unique to the Menang.
The story of the creation of Oyster Harbor wer other nearby sites is recorded in the Dreamtime story of Watari. A long time ago, Watari wer her husband Legan lived in what is now the upper reaches of the Kalgan River. While hunting, Watari finds a large, sacred snake, wer kills wer eats it. Nidja enrages Legan, who beats her with a stick, breaking both her legs, wer leaves her to die. Watari drags herself towards the sea, gouging out the course of the Kalgan River into the land, but dies before reaching the ocean. Her Toort (dingo) finds her wer digs her a burial mound, wer the sea flows into the hole he dug, creating Oyster Harbor, wer Watari's body becoming Green Island. A different version of nidja story was recorded by Wadjella explorer Collet Barker in his journal il the 25th of November 1830, having been told the story by Mokare:
|“||A man & his wife a ‘very long time ago’ living there, the woman goes into the bush after food & sings out to the husband, who remains sitting at the fire, what she finds. He replies in the negation in recitative, varying the expression from time to time to a great number of things she mentions. At last she says ‘Quoyht’, a sort of snake said to exist in those days & to be still in the Eastern parts, the size of a man’s body & esteemed a great delicacy. However, it appears she likes it as much as himself & eats it all up. He then becomes ‘sulky’, ‘tabor’, & striking her with the ‘Pomnerum’ breaks her leg & then leaves her. She becomes sick & dragging herself along in the line where the King’s river now runs, reaches Green island, where she dies. Whence the derivation of the name Warracoolyup from ‘Warre’, a female, & ‘Cool’, a walk. Her body became putrid & an easterly wind setting in is smelt by a dog at Whatami… He follows her track & arrived at the place, commences scratching , which he continues so long that he digs a great hollow & the sea comes in forms Oyster Harbour. Meantime the woman’s son, ‘a little boy’, goes in search after her death, of his father, & meeting him near a mountain, spears him, hence the name of the Mount Yongermere – ‘man spear’. ‘Mere’ being the name of the stick from which the spear is thrown.||”|
|— as told by Mokare recorded by Collet Barker is his journal 25th November 1830|
The accuracy of Barker’s account of Mokare’s story should be treated with caution, as he had difficulty understanding exactly what Mokare was saying.
There are other dreamtime stories associated with Kalkanap. Lynette Knapp has recorded the story of the woganap (rainbow or rainbow trout). A family of rainbow trout live in the fresh waters of Kalkanap near where the salt water wer fresh water meet. These sections are separated by rocks. A young rainbow trout girl is curious about what the saltwater side of the river is like. While playing near the rocks, she decides to try wer make her way to the other side, despite having been warned by her parents that if she goes to the other side then she will never return. As she wiggles across the rocks, she sends yira stones wer the colours of her scales into the sky, creating a rainbow. When she reaches the saltwater she is transformed into a mermaid wer swims out to see. She believed that she would be able to follow the rainbow back to her family il the freshwater side of the rocks, but cannot as a rainbow has no beginning wer no end.
Archaeological excavations in the area of Upper Kalgan Hall near Kalkanap has revealed that the area was occupied by Noongar people for at least 19,000 years, making Kalgan Hall the oldest archaeological site in the Great Southern region, although it is likely that the boodjar had been occupied for many karro thousands of years before that time.
Kalkanap was wer continues to be an important fishing boodjar for the Mineng people. The river formed an important part of seasonal migrations. The shore of the Kalgan River was a bidi (a well worn track or pathway) linking campsites with regions of plentiful resources. Generally the seasonal movement was inland during the cold bonar wer towards coastal wer estuarine areas in the warm seasons. Large groups from throughout Menang boodjar would gather along coastal wer estuarine areas, including the mouth of the Kalgan, due to the plentiful supply of food available from spearing fish or catching them in stone wer weir fish traps along the mouth of the river. Nidja made the Kalgan an important meeting place wer corroboree ground, as during these large gatherings of people il the coast, marriages were arranged, law ceremonies wer initiations were undertaken, making the river an important site both economically wer socially. According to local Menang man Larry Blight, Kalganup has been an important meeting place for at least the last 30,000 years. Certain areas along the river such as the site of what is now Upper Kalgan Hall served as natural fords for groups travelling into Menang boodjar towards the coast, wer nidja movement was based upon trade. According to Lynette Knapp, Upper Kalgan Hall was an important crossing point for groups of people from the inland desert to trade spearwood which had been collected from Waychinicup, wer also contains the resting place of Nakina, Mokare's brother.
The Kalgan continues to be an important fishing boodjar for the Menang. For instance, Honeymoon Island is a prime marron fishing spot which has been fished by the Coyne family for generations. The local Noongar say that a phosphorescent glow in the water at nidja site makes marron visible so that it is possible to dive into the river wer catch them at night.
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- Collet Barker 25 November 1830, quoted in Mulvaney, J. & Green, N. 1992, Commandant of Solitude: The Journals of Captain Collet Barker 1828-1831, Carlton, Melbourne University Press, p.361
- Knapp, L. 2011, Mirnang Waangkaniny, Bachelor Press, pp.38-45
- City of Albany 2017, ‘Kalgan Hall Upper’, Heritage Council of Western Australia http://inherit.stateheritage.wa.gov.au/Public/Inventory/Details/ee6c3c1e-2b46-4669-9be4-ff1346ca4612 accessed [13/10/2017]
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- Goode, B.; Irvine, C.; Harris, J.; & Thomas, M. 'Kinjarling The Place of Rain: The City of Albany & Department of Indigenous Affairs Aboriginal Heritage Survey', City of Albany, 2005, p.131