Maayu yanaaya, Gumba Dhina

Go well, Hard Foot. (Yuwaalayaay)

John Giacon, 2021-09-29

It is with sadness I pass on the news of the passing last week of Ian Sim. He was in hospital for a standard procedure but complications arose. Ian contributed enormously to our knowledge of Yuwaalayaay, and so of Yuwaalaraay and Gamilaraay, language, culture and people. This is mainly about areas I worked with Ian on, so a very small part of his wonderful life.

I got to know Ian firstly through the material on Yuwaalayaay he deposited in the Mitchell Library, and later in discussions with him while editing that material, in discussions about other Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay, especially the dictionary, and in regular meetings afterwards.

In the early 1950’s, as a young surveyor, Ian was involved in dividing up large properties around the Goodooga/Lightning Ridge area. The leader of the surveying time had to return to Sydney from time to time – which meant a long absence in those days – and Ian sat down in the camps of Aboriginal people in Goodooga, despite being warned not to by the local policeman.

John Hunter (Gamilaraay) often met with Ian and points out that Ian was accepted by the Murri community and belonged to the Emu Clan, (Gambuu Dhinawan Dhii) and his Murri name was Gumbadhina, meaning ‘hard foot’.

Willy Willis and Mrs West ‘Goodjabar’ shared Guwamu information, Ginny Rose (Ian refers to her as Mrs G Rose) and Greg Fields shared their Yuwaalayaay, which has only a few words which are different from Yuwaalaraay. Mrs Rose’s Aboriginal name was was Dhaaygaliyaawaay, meaning ‘rising up’ to commemorate her birth during the floods of that period.

Ian’s Yuwaalayaay material was published as Yuwaalayaay, the Language of the Narran River (available here). The original documents in the Mitchell also include Muruwari and Guwamu, but only the Yuwaalayaay was published. (The original material is available online MLMSS 709; https://collection.sl.nsw.gov.au/record/YRlZolgn/QagoaKALJ0J6A. There may be more Yuwaalayaay in the materials at Ian’s home.)

Ian spent many hours reviewing the publication, including making corrections to the archived material. A few years later he also generously did a thorough review of the Gamilaraay Yuwaalaraay Yuwaalayaay Dictionary proof.

Senior Gumbaynggirr man Gary Williams, who was in constant contact with Ian, commented that Dhanggati and Gumbaynggirr people will sorely miss him. He was mentored through cultural kinship as a child by Harry Kelly, and when staying in those areas, Ian made a point of listening carefully to the elders, was trusted and was told a lot. He had a prodigious memory, remembering detailed conversations, for instance. On more than one occasion when I asked Ian about something his mildly frustrated reply was: I told you about that 20 years ago. Listening to him talk about the people at Goodooga was a unique opportunity to hear what he had heard all those years ago, and similarly for the North Coast. Ian kept the rules of cultural learning and would never overstep the teachings of his elders.

He also recorded a large amount of information about Aboriginal rock art in the Sydney area:

https://hikingtheworld.blog/indigenous-rock-art/australian-aboriginal-anthropologists/ has

Ian McHutchison Sim

Ian Sim started his career as a trainee surveyor, working as a trainee in Bangate (in the Goodooga area in central NSW) where he notated the Euahlayi language. Sim eventually become an officer of the State Planning Authority. Between 1960 and 1983, Sim recorded a large number of Aboriginal sites in and around the Sydney basin.

Sim was awarded an Order of Australia for service to community history, in particular the preservation and recording of Aboriginal rock art and engraving sites in NSW, as well as recording material in Yuwaalayaay and other languages. A prolific recorder, by 2016 Sim had recorded 264 sites, with his unpublished material now archived by the AHIMS as the ‘Sim Collection’.

  • I.M. Sim, Records of the Rock Engravings of the Sydney District in Mankind. Groups 103-174 (Feb 1962, May 1963, Nov 1963, Nov 1965, Nov 1966, Jun 1969)

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