Traditional Aboriginal life in the Alps included an annual migration of some thousands of people from the valleys and foothills up to temporary summer camps just below the treeline.
Its focus was the seasonal harvest of cori, or Bogong moths (Agrotis infusa). The moth season was the focus for great gatherings of neighbouring tribes, summoned by messengers within a range of 160 kilometres. It is possible that even tribes from south Gippsland took part. Five or six hundred people in each campsite would hold corroborees lasting six days before feasting began, when songs were exchanged, trade and initiations would take place and betrothals and arguments would be settled. The early settlers named the Niggerheads because the mountain’s rocky formation resembles an aboriginal head, especially from the West Kiewa River. Although many say the name didn’t intend to be racist one can’t help but to be sceptical given the atrocities the indigenous people endured.
After many years of lobbying, Kath finally succeeded in finding an appropriate name for these majestic mountains near Tawonga Huts. With the support of Eddie Kneebone aboriginal coordinator at Wodonga TAFE, Elder of the Pangarang people of the Goulburn Valley and Sandy Atkinson Elder of the Yorta Yorta people of the Shepparton area, the new name the Yit-Ma-Thangs was born! It is a fantastic name and acknowledges the original inhabitants of the Bogongs the Yit-Ma-Thang people. These people lived all year round in the area and had a gathering of many different clans in the summers to feast on the Bogong Moth. The men would hunt the moth found under rock ledges and shaded areas. Cooking the moth involved searing the wings off over hot coals and making them into patties that could be kept for periods of time. The moth was a very high source of protein and for the indigenous people and was an essential part of their diet.
In the Year 2000 with reconciliation issues so prominent this is a small step in the right direction, finally recognising the original inhabitants existence, with a respectful name for the mountain which may help to rekindle interpretation of their culture and history that has sadly been lost.
The place names committee has accepted the name change after many reminders from Kath and although the process has been slow and sometimes tedious we may be looking at the official change happening soon! The bureaucratic wheels turn very slowly! Don’t we know it!