In 1990, Marlo Morgan published a book, Mutant Message Down Under, which chronicles the journey of a middle-aged, white, American woman with a group of 62 desert Aborigines, the “Real People”, across the continent of Australia. The author states the book was written after the fact inspired by actual experience.
Mutant Message Down Under quickly attained popularity with the New Age movement in the United States and consequently the book was picked by giant publishing firm Harper Collins. To date over half a million copies of the Harper Collins version have been sold in the United States alone. Ms Morgan has completed many successful tours lecturing on the book in the United States and Europe. In her lectures Ms Morgan speaks of her actual experience with the “Real People” and states she is an Aborigine.
A survey of Aboriginal groups in Central and Western Australia failed to uncover any indication whatsoever of Ms Morgan’s presence in the area or of the existence of the “Real People” tribe. Aboriginal groups believe Ms Morgan’s desert journey to be utterly fabricated and that her book and teaching lack any credibility whatsoever.
It is deeply offensive to Aboriginal people for a white woman to be misrepresenting Aboriginal culture for self-promotion and profit. Aboriginal people are appalled that Ms Morgan’s false message is being accepted as fact by a naive American and European market and are extremely concerned about the resulting long term implications for their culture.
This report details the process undertaken by Aboriginal groups and initiated by their response to Mutant Message Down Under, which has led to a unified voice of opposition to the exploitation of indigenous cultures throughout the world.
Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation was incorporated in 1987. The primary aim of the corporation is to promote Aboriginal drama, dance, writing, painting, sculpture, craft work, music and any other Aboriginal art in Western Australia and abroad.
The initiative to establish Dumbartung reflected the concern of Noongah people to ensure that the Aboriginal community was more in control of the promotion and development of cultural arts in Western Australia.
As one step towards fulfilling this aim, Dumbartung retains many Aboriginal artists on a central register, and approaches through Dumbartung by outside parties have ensured that many artists receive commissions for work, thus broadening their own experiences as artists and creating further opportunities for Aboriginal culture to be promoted with dignity and integrity.
Protecting the integrity of Aboriginal culture is an important function of Dumbartung. It is often called upon to assist artists whose work has been used by parties in breach of copyright. Dumbartung’s office in Perth, Western Australia has a “Wall of Shame” with examples of exploitation of Aboriginal culture, ranging from tourist souvenirs with illegal Aboriginal designs to anthropological reports containing information that should never have been released into the public arena.
Dumbartung is an Aboriginal community based organisation. The membership, committee and staffing management are all Aboriginal people who are responsible for policy development and the direction of the organisation.
Dumbartung first became aware of the book Mutant Message Down Under when coordinator Robert Eggington was asked by an art therapist in Los Angeles for his comments on the self-publication version of the book in early 1990.
Concerned about the content of the book, Dumbartung consistently raised the subject of Mutant Message Down Under at meetings with Aboriginal groups throughout Western Australia during their work. All comments were negative.
As the book Mutant Message Down Under gathered momentum throughout the world and recognition given to the author as a messenger of Aboriginal people and their culture mounted, it became imperative that a united Aboriginal voice needed to be consolidated by Dumbartung to oppose this hoax.
THE WAGLE, CREATED BY MOVEMENT, THE BODY OF WATER NOW KNOWN AS THE SWAN RIVER
THERE ARE SACRED DREAMING SITES AND STORIES REGARDING THIS SIGNIFICANT ANCIENT PLACE
THE DREAMING OF THE BLACK SWAN IS WITHIN THESE SPECIAL WATERS
THIS RIVER FLOWS ITS LIFE ENERGY THROUGH NOONGAH COUNTRY.
The Swan River flows alongside the City of Perth, Western Australia and discharges to the Indian Ocean at the Port of Fremantle. Noongah country is the south west of Western Australia.
The Black Swan name cannot be used in areas where its dreaming and laws cannot be identified, such as the central or western desert areas where Ms Morgan claims to have travelled with the
Real People tribe. Noongah Elders are concerned that the name of Black Swan was used out of cultural perspective, with no respect or recognition of its origins or laws.
As a first step towards a unified Aboriginal response to Mutant Message Down Under and Ms Morgan’s teachings, Dumbartung organised a meeting of Noongah Elders, individuals and organisations to discuss the process of opposition.
The shaded areas on this Language map indicate the areas which meetings were held across Australia to discuss Mutant message Down Under. Four members of the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation travelled extensively to determine whether Marlo Morgan had walked through these areas and boundaries.
No group or individual representing these areas knew or acknowledged Marlo Morgan.
A white, middle-aged, American woman from Kansas City named Marlo is invited to Australia to work in the preventative health field by an Australian she met at a physicians’ conference in California. In Australia she has her palm read and is told that before her birth she agreed to meet someone in Australia for their mutual benefit.
During her work she spends time in every major Australian city. She enjoys the Australian lifestyle. She witnesses a group of Aboriginal youths sniffing petroleum from cans. Later, after hearing that one of the youths has died, she visits the morgue and views the body.
She sets up a company manufacturing flyscreens with a group of 22 Aboriginal youths. The company is very successful and she is not surprised to receive a phone call from a tribe on the other side of the country wishing to meet with her. Without asking any questions and assuming she is about to receive an award, she agrees to the meeting and flies across the country.
She is met outside her five-star hotel by a jeep and an Aboriginal driver named Ooota. After driving for four hours, the jeep leaves the highway and drives along a dirt track for a further two hours. At this time she is in the desert and they arrive at a shed. Two Aboriginal women cleanse her with smoke from a fire and burn all of her possessions. Dressed in a cloth, she enters the shed.
She encounters the rest of the tribe in the shed and undergoes tests. She passes the tests and is obliquely invited to join the tribe in a three month walkabout across Australia. Through the interpreter Ooota, she later learns that the tribe is known as the Real People.
During the walkabout she gains insights on the following members of the tribe in particular: Regal Black Swan Elder, Story Teller, Tool Maker, Secret Keeper, Sewing Master, Bearer of Happiness, great Stone Hunter, Medicine Man, Game Woman, Kindred to Large Animals, Spirit Woman, Kin to Birds, Peace Maker, Healing Woman, Memory Keeper, Time Keeper, Female Healer, Sister to Bird Dreaming, Composer and Dream Catcher.
She learns to communicate by hand signals and mental telepathy. She also learns the arts of transformation and illusion and the secrets of Dreamtime. She is given the names Travelling Tongue and Two Hearts by the tribe.
She introduces the tribe to gravy, jumping rope, teeter-tottering, a Texan line dance called Cotton-Eyed Joe, waltzing and square dancing.
Towards the end of the walkabout she is told it is her turn to lead the tribe. She does so for two and a half days without water in temperatures above 100°F. She finally leads the tribe to water after abandoning her western, left-side brain ways and using telepathy to request help from the tribe.
At the end of the journey she undergoes rituals to enable her to enter a sacred site. She is told that she has made an agreement before birth to meet another, Regal Black Swan Elder, and to work together for their mutual benefit. She is surprised to hear this as it is the same information given to her by the palm reader. She is told by Regal Black Swan Elder that the tribe has elected to die out, by practising celibacy, because they are upset with the way the world is going. He tells her that she has been chosen as their Mutant messenger to tell her kind that they are going.
After staying at the sacred site for a few days, she leaves most of the tribe and only a small portion of the original group accompanies her to the edge of a city. On the way, she loses a dilly bag stocked with grasses, oils and powders, her headband and small gifts for her grandchildren in a flash flood.
Upon reaching the city, she borrows money for a phone call, telephones her office and asks them to wire money, walks to the telegraph office to collect the money, takes a taxi to a shop and purchases clothes and personal items, goes to a market and buys fruit and juice and goes to a motel. She does this wearing the same piece of cloth she has worn for over 120 days, with uncombed hair, bare feet that look more like a hoofed mutation than human appendage and with offensive body odour.
The next day, dressed in western attire, she catches a plane and returns to her rented property. She tries to speak to people about the tribe and her experience but it falls on deaf ears. She finishes her health-care project and leaves Australia.
Back in America, she writes about her experiences and begins speaking about it wherever she is invited. The response is mixed. She discusses making a movie about her experiences with Roger from Hollywood.
The self-publication version of Mutant Message Down Under was published under a non-fiction label as a true account of Marlo Morgan’s experiences in Australia.
The Harper Collins published version has been labelled fiction. Marlo Morgan declares the fiction label is only to protect the innocence of the tribe that she journeyed with from any form of identification and exploitation and to protect the secret location of their sacred site. She identifies no Australian by birth name or tribal language name. She identifies no city, town or suburb by name, only the continent, Australia.
In the following ways and despite the fiction label, Marlo Morgan leads the reader to believe that the Harper Collins version of Mutant Message Down Under is her true story:
1. The disclaimer, signed by M.M., states “This book is a work of fiction inspired by actual experience”. In the section from Author to Reader, which comes before the disclaimer, it is stated that “This was written after the fact inspired by actual experience”. The section is signed by “Travelling Tongue” that is either the name given to Marlo Morgan by the Real People tribe or a fictional character. Because the section is entitled from Author to Reader, the reader believes that Travelling Tongue is Marlo Morgan. As a result, the reader believes the statement “This was written after the fact inspired by actual experience”.
The reader does not follow the line of thought that because M.M. has stated the book is fiction, Travelling Tongue, as a character in the main body of the book, is fictional, consequently the from Author to reader section must also be fiction and that the statement “This was written after the fact inspired by actual experience” must therefore be fiction as well.
2. The central character in Mutant Message Down Under is an American woman whose first name is Marlo, has a daughter Carri and a son, a friend called Jana and an Aunt Nola. So has Marlo Morgan. The reader is introduced to these facts after reading the acknowledgments and dedication.
A reader who has purchased the book after learning about Marlo Morgan either through the media interviews, attending one of Marlo Morgan’s lectures or watching Marlo Morgan on the Oprah Winfrey show would also be aware that both Marlo Morgan and the central character Marlo are over fifty years of age, are from Kansas City, are divorced, have bleached hair, are plump, have worked as an acupuncturest, have grandchildren, entered the Mrs America contest as Mrs Kansas and was born in Iowa.
It would certainly come as no surprise to learn that Marlo Morgan has a sister named Parci, her daughter’s cat is named Zuke, her mother’s name is Georgia Catherine and she attended St Agnes High School.
3. Finally, Elder Regal Black Swan, the fictional leader of the Real People tribe is quoted in the front pages of the book along with American Chief Seattle, Cree Indian Prophecy and Marlo Morgan, again leaving the reader to believe that Elder Regal Black Swan does exist.
Without the above three points and with a fiction label Mutant Message Down Under would not have become a best seller. The success of Mutant Message Down Under is solely a result of the reader’s belief that it is Marlo Morgan’s true story. Mutant Message Down Under was not marketed as a novel and, despite the fiction label, no-one reads it as a novel.
Marlo Morgan has used the fiction label to avoid examination on the authenticity of her claims. However, many non-Australian readers of the book have accepted her depiction of Australia and Aboriginal culture as a true one.
Indeed, for many readers, Marlo Morgan’s depiction of Aboriginal culture is the only one they have. That is why Aboriginal groups are so concerned.
For reasons outlined above, and according to the self-publication version, this report will treat Mutant Message Down Under as a true account of Marlo Morgan’s journey with the Real People.
Marlo Morgan is a white American woman, who resides in Kansas City, Missouri, United States of America. She is a 59 years old divorced mother of two children.
Marlo Morgan claims to have visited Australia in 1986, 1990, 1991 and 1993 (Australian Article). In 1990 she wrote a book entitled Mutant Message Down Under, and unable to find a publisher, financed the publication of the book herself. Mutant Message Down Under was marketed as a true account of Marlo Morgan’s three month walkabout across the centre of Australia with an Aboriginal tribe known as the “Real People”. Her daughter illustrated the initial self-publication version and her son became the president of the family company responsible for the marketing and publishing the book. This family company has gone to produce by-products of Marlo Morgan’s teachings, such as audio-tapes of lectures, oils that she claimed healed her feet during the walkabout and other related commodities.
Following considerable success of the self-publication version, particularly with the New Age market, an agent representing Marlo Morgan put to auction the publishing rights of Mutant Message Down Under. The giant US publishing company Harper Collins paid a reported $3 million for the rights and embarked on a $300 000 marketing campaign.
Mutant Message Down Under was listed in the top 5 best sellers in the US for 26 weeks and to date, the Harper Collins version of the book, has sold over half a million copies in the United States alone. Mutant Message Down Under has been translated into all the major European languages and has a worldwide distribution. Marlo Morgan has embarked on several highly popular lecture tours on Mutant Message Down Under in both the United States and Europe. The movie rights to the book have also been sold. Following the success of the first book, it is understood that Marlo Morgan is in the process of having published a second volume entitled “The Last Farewell”.
A meeting of Noongah Elders, individuals and heads of Aboriginal organisations was held at the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation on 29 March 1995.
The book, Mutant Message Down Under, was workshopped, dealing specifically with the content of Marlo Morgan’s storyline.
Tapes from one of Marlo Morgan’s lectures in the United States were played at the meeting to indicate the seriousness of her claims.
The Noongah people discussed many issues relating to the long term implications of the book on Aboriginal culture and the false and distorted information it portrays, as well as the current momentum of the book overseas.
The primary outcomes of the Noongah meeting were as follows:
1. The Noongah voice unified to oppose Marlo Morgan’s journey with the “Real People” tribe in Mutant Message Down Under as a hoax.
2. Legal action to be undertaken to cause the withdrawal of the book from sale in Australia and to prevent Marlo Morgan continuing her lecture tours on the book.
3. Endorsement was given for Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation to coordinate Aboriginal response to Mutant Message Down Under and to later represent the united Aboriginal voice.
Outlets for the united response to include media interviews, an international press statement, a comprehensive report to statuary authorities and lecture tour of the United States by members of Dumbartung.
4. Representatives of Dumbartung to meet with as many Aboriginal communities and groups as possible, particularly those in the Central Western Desert regions, to obtain their responses to the book and to ascertain if any of these groups had, or know of, any contact with Marlo Morgan or the “Real People” tribe.
5. Dumbartung to feedback information on their progress to Aboriginal groups.
With respect to Point 2 of the above, Dumbartung has entered into discussions with a leading Melbourne barrister regarding legal action to have the book Mutant Message Down Under, as well as the audio lecture tapes on Mutant Message Down Under, withdrawn from sale in Australia. Legal action is also sought to have Marlo Morgan banned from lecturing on Aboriginal culture. The barrister involved in discussions has recently won a high profile compensation case for Aboriginal artists whose designs were being used illegally on rugs manufactured in Vietnam. This is the first case in which a successful conviction against the exploitation of Aboriginal culture has been recorded.
The process of coordinating a unified Aboriginal response to Mutant Message Down Under, as required under Points 3, 4 and 5 above, is described in Section 2.0 of this report. The response itself is presented in Section 3.0.
Dumbartung’s aim was to meet with as many Aboriginal communities and groups as possible to obtain full community endorsement and ownership of the opposition to Mutant Message Down Under and the teachings of Ms Morgan.
Bureaucracies deal with all forums of society through impersonal policies either existing or inappropriately developed. However Aboriginal people since the beginning of time have dealt with the same forums through the expression of dance, music and storytelling. More importantly it is within the campfire environment all discussion is raised, issues are dealt with and information is distributed. This is the forum ownership is endorsed to allow information to be given to whomever a particular group or community may choose.
This information is not openly accessible to the International community or non-Aboriginal people for any purpose and especially not for the purpose of generating monetary interest regardless of the degree a person may claim they are Aboriginal.
Regional meetings were held in Alice Springs, Fitzroy Crossing, Adelaide and Darwin with surrounding Aboriginal groups and communities, to access a wide ban of Australia, stretching from north to south, for this report MAP. As Ms Morgan claims to have crossed Australia from west to east, meeting with Aboriginal communities and groups from north to south would expose any evidence of Marlo Morgan's past presence in the area.
Always the appropriate Aboriginal protocol was maintained. This protocol existed before white colonisation and adherence to the protocol continues today. Primary points of protocol are:
At the Noongah meeting in Perth, two Elders, one male and one female, were selected to travel with two Dumbartung representatives.
It was important for the woman Elder to attend to discuss the women’s business described in detail by Marlo Morgan, with women community members. It is unimaginable for women’s business to be discussed by men or by women in the presence of men.
The involvement of the Elders reinforces the authority of the Eldership. Elders have a prominent role in inter-community relationships and within communities are held in great value and respect as holders of oral tradition and wisdom.
Under Aboriginal protocol, a person does not enter another person’s tribal boundaries without permission. Before the meetings, an information pack was sent out to each community or group. The information pack included a copy of the self-publication version of Mutant Message Down Under, copies of media articles, a cassette of aspects of Marlo Morgan’s lectures in Los Angeles and community response forms. Permission was gained for the meeting and a right of passage cleared.
This relates to the right to use knowledge offered by an Aboriginal community in good faith, in a way that will not cause offence or distress to the community or its individual members. The knowledge is not to be removed from the ownership of the individual to whom it has been offered, unless a privilege of right has been granted by the community.
The Dumbartung representatives ensured individuals, community Elders and Aboriginal organisations gave them permission to reproduce their comments on Mutant Message Down Under.
The meetings between Dumbartung representatives and various members of Aboriginal groups and communities took the form of workshops, The format of each workshop was as follows:
1. Opening statement of appreciation by Dumbartung representatives for the opportunity to enter the community.
2. Briefing on the outcomes of the Noongah Meeting held in Perth on 29 March 1995 including the endorsement of the Dumbartung trip by Noongah Elders.
3. Brief history of Mutant Message Down Under from the self-publication version to the sale of the movie rights and proposed follow-up book including its best seller status. Marlo Morgan’s lecture tours and differences between the self-publication and Harper Collins version.
4. Brief synopsis of the book.
5. Recording of Marlo Morgan’s lecture tour played to the group.
6. Group discussion on Marlo Morgan’s claims and teachings and the impact of the book on Aboriginal culture.
7. Individual, community Elders and heads of organisations recorded their response to Mutant Message Down Under.
It was not possible for Dumbartung to meet with all Aboriginal groups and communities, however information packs on Mutant Message Down Under were sent out and their comments requested.
Four members of the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation met with the following groups and organisations in the Central and Western Desert regions of Australia.
All of the above groups are community based Aboriginal controlled services.
The meetings held in the Central and Western Desert areas were extremely important as these regions reflect the major focus of Marlo Morgan’s claimed walkabout with Real People.
Many of the people consulted in Alice Springs were Elders and people of importance regarding Aboriginal cultural law.
During these meetings, extreme concern was expressed regarding the misleading, distorted and false concepts Marlo Morgan adopts in her descriptions of Aboriginal cultural practices and values, in particular as it relates to Aboriginal women’s business, was strongly and profoundly refuted by Aboriginal Elders.
The Elders in the Desert Region were also deeply concerned regarding the cultural implications that this book presents especially as it claims that the Real People tribe originally inhabited the coastal areas of the country and was forced to inhabit the central Desert Region of Australia.
The outcome of these meetings was a consolidated and unified voice to oppose Marlo Morgan’s book Mutant Message Down Under as a fabricated fantasy based on lies and deceit.
The four Dumbartung representatives travelled extensively throughout the Northern Region of Western Australia known as the Kimberley. The groups visited were:
This meeting was the first held in the Kimberley. We spoke to women from Derby and outlying communities. Anger and concern was expressed at the way in which Mutant Message Down Under describes women’s business regarding cultural practices.
The group next met with the Director and staff of the Kimberley Land Council based in Derby. The Land Council is represented by many various communities in west and east Kimberley.
Extreme concern regarding the book Mutant Message Down Under was expressed by the Kimberley Land Council.
Full support and recognition by the Kimberley Land Council was offered to Dumbartung regarding the opposition to this book.
The Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Cultural Centre is based in Fitzroy Crossing approximately 250 kilometres east of Derby.
The organisation represents Senior Aboriginal law men and women across the northern region of Western Australia.
The four representatives met with a large number of women representatives of KALACC who expressed extreme concern regarding the issues of Mutant Message Down Under.
The four representatives met with Aboriginal people from the One Arm Point Community. Thirty people attended this meeting ranging from young people to Elders.
One Arm Point Community expressed extreme concern regarding the book’s content. The Chairperson and Senior law men of the Bardi Community offered full support to the Dumbartung campaign.
Magabala Books is a community based Aboriginal publishing house in Broome, WA. The organisation during its inception has published many cultural books written by Aboriginal authors ranging from children’s stories to biographies.
To date, Magabala has not yet identified a book written by a non-Aboriginal person which is as offensive and dangerous as Mutant Message Down Under. Magabala Books was offered rights to publish the book in Australia but it rejected it as being totally inappropriate.
The organisation pledged full support for Dumbartung’s campaign.
Four members carried out a state wide radio interview to all Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley.
The coordinator of Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation attended a series of meetings in the Adelaide area which included the groups listed below:
The following provides outcomes from these meetings.
The ASG is a community based substance abuse intervention program which facilitates Police liaison, education, health referrals, sobering-up and detoxification units and work programmes for alcohol and substance abuse affected Aboriginal people of South Australia.
In response to information sent to Adelaide, the Director of the Aboriginal Sobriety Group expressed the utmost concern for information written or spoken by any non-Aboriginal person about Aboriginal people or culture. Consequently an invitation was given for the Coordinator of Dumbartung Corporation to address various groups in South Australia.
The meeting for the ASG Executive Committee, staff and clients took place at one of the organisation’s detoxification centres and the outcome is listed with other comments in this report.
ACCA has a state wide commitment and responsibility to the care and welfare of Aboriginal families and their children.
The gravest concerns were expressed because of the long term implications that writings such as Marlo Morgan’s Mutant Message Down Under has the opportunity to distort and misinform the wider community in which our young people will grow up.
The distortion of our culture and people in this writing provides ignorance and can only jeopardise and compound alienation through cynicism towards our children.
The Task Force is a nationally recognised Educational facility which provides education at the highest level for Aboriginal people.
The meetings held with both staff and students highlighted the seriousness of subtle incorrect information that filters in continually and still exists through misinformed mediums. Marlo Morgan’s Mutant Message Down Under implies education to an International community but clearly houses all the incorrect information therefore educates to detrimental extents.
The ALRM provides legal support and advice to Aboriginal people and communities throughout South Australia.
The meeting with senior management at ALRM regarding the book reinforces the need Indigenous Australians had for developing their own legal entities. By doing so these agencies have been able to provide support and advice regarding all matters pertaining to injustices imposed on our people since the beginning of invasion, including exploitative writings.
It was evident from the regional meetings that Aboriginal response to Mutant Message Down Under is two-fold. The first response is anger directed at the content of the book, primarily: that the journey, such as Marlo Morgan describes it, could not have occurred; the appropriation of Aboriginal culture and meshing with American Indian culture for the New Age market; the reporting of men’s and women’s business without respect or regard; the audacity of an American white woman speaking for Aborigines and the blatant falsehoods contained within the book.
The second response is a deep concern at the long term implications of Mutant Message Down Under, and books like it, on Aboriginal culture. To date, over a million people have bought and read either the self-publication or Harper Collins version of Mutant Message Down Under. Many in the United States and Europe have believed it. Many people have listened to Marlo Morgan lecture on the book and have believed her. Aboriginal Elders are deeply concerned that the already difficult process for young Aboriginals to regain and own their culture, will be made all the more difficult by the misappropriation and distortion of their culture by Marlo Morgan and others like her.
These are many inconsistencies and falsehoods regarding Aboriginal culture and practices in Mutant Message Down Under. Prime examples are practices employed by the Real People that are totally alien to desert Aborigines. These include:
1. Walking on, instead of around, spinifex clumps. Spinifex does not grow as a plain of grass as implied by Marlo Morgan. It grows in clumps with sand collecting around the roots and it is very easy to steer a path through the clumps.
2. No desert Aborigine adds precious water to cook food. This method of cooking is unheard of in the desert regions. The carcass is cooked, with skin on, in the ground.
3. Desert Aborigines do not collect dung for fuel. It would take forever to collect enough of the small scats of kangaroos and dingoes to cook anything and would be pointless given the availability of dry wood.
4. Also, body-painting designs of flowers and animals, the Elder wearing a stunning full headdress of bright parrot feathers, putting a rock in the mouth to generate water, the sacred site containing statues of wood and stone, smoking from a ceremonial pipe and so on and so on ...
Marlo Morgan confuses her portrayal of Aboriginal culture with many North American Indian concepts. The names she attributes to tribe members, Secret Keeper, Sewing Master, Great Stone Hunter, Game Woman, Kindred to Large Animals, Spirit Woman amongst others, are more in line with Native Indian prophet names. This naming system is irrelevant in non-hierarchical Aboriginal tribes where each person has the same diverse range of skills and functions.
Chapter 18 is entitled “Dream Catcher”, which is an object of indigenous Native American culture. The German edition of Mutant Message Down Under is entitled Traumfanger, which translated back into English means Dream Catcher.
Her descriptions of ceremonial pipe smoking and full parrot feather headdress have no role in Aboriginal culture and are more typical of North American indigenous culture.
A full review of the inconsistencies and falsehoods ane chronicled in an anthropological review. See Stanton Report I follows an extended synopsis of Mutant Message Down Under that includes more of Marlo Morgan’s claims regarding the Real People tribe. The author of the anthropological review is a Western Australian anthropologist who has had extensive contact and experience with Aborigines of the Western Desert area.
This section will continue to discuss the most serious transgressions against Aboriginal culture.
Marlo Morgan states that the “Real People” tribe once lived and survived on the coastline of Australia. And had actually been forced out into the desert by the intrusion of the British. She describes this process in passive terms.
Aboriginal people in the southern regions of Australia did not proceed to take over other lands outside their boundaries even though organised massacres, poisoning of waterholes and other atrocities were committed against them, threatening their very survival.
The overriding Aboriginal law across this country traditionally was that no boundary was entered until the proper procedure of clearance had been granted. The recognition and respect of the boundaries were paramount in maintaining order within each respective tribal group.
Aboriginal people were outraged that Marlo Morgan does not distinguish between men’s and women’s business. Aboriginal law holds severe punishments for women who witness men’s business and vice versa. Traditionally, this is punishable by death.
In Mutant Message Down Under, men’s and women’s businesses are treated as one and the same. For example, male tribe members explain birthing procedures to Marlo Morgan. Birthing is a very sensitive women’s issue and is not discussed by men. It is an issue which Aboriginal women do not dissect or discuss in the public arena. Marlo Morgan describes this and other sensitive women’s business blatantly without any respect or regard for Aboriginal women. Aboriginal women at all the meetings have found this extremely upsetting. The women’s business arrangements and procedures Marlo Morgan outlines are completely untrue. Even if it was a true account, by writing about it, Marlo Morgan would have violated the right of privilege laid down in Aboriginal Protocol.
Aboriginal men were just as outraged at Marlo Morgan’s claims to have witnessed aspects of sacred ceremony and totems. Three comments from regional meetings reflect the depth of anger:
In our traditional law the author should consult Aboriginal people of the book. No woman is allowed to see men’s sacred ceremony and totem. I believe she should die exploiting our culture.
Ben Pascoe, Maningrida Community
Any person who believes this book does not have any idea about Aboriginal law. 1) No women are involved in men’s business. 2) She would be killed if found anywhere near to man sites. That is law.
It is a shame this woman can come all the way over here and say she’s done all these things when I know I as an Aboriginal person can’t even do these things myself.
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Inc
Marlo Morgan claims that the Real People tribe practices the only pure form of Aboriginal culture left in this country and that all other Aboriginal people’s culture has been affected and demeaned by western influences. By being given access to this knowledge by the Regal Black Swan Elder, she is now proclaimed to be the custodial owner and messenger of the Real People tribe, to take this knowledge out to the world in order to save the planet from any further destruction through technology.
Marlo Morgan uses one Aboriginal voice - that of Burnum Burnum - to validate her portrayal of Aboriginal culture and her role as the sole custodian of pure Aboriginal culture.
Aboriginal culture, which has for millennia been protected in ceremony, has been forcibly projected into the world arena by Marlo Morgan.
This report speaks for the majority of Aboriginals, either directly or through membership to organisations and communities, which have pledged their support to Dumbartung and its effort to unify the Aboriginal voice of opposition to Mutant Message Down Under and Marlo Morgan’s teachings.
Aboriginal people have never needed anthropologists, lawyers, doctors or non-indigenous authors to tell their story. Marlo Morgan has taken away the right for Aboriginal people to tell their own story as she saturates the American market with a complete fabrication. She states in a letter to the Editor of the Koori Mail “ ... the world wasn’t listening before, but it is now. My book opens the door to anyone else who wishes to write a different version of who various tribal people are”.
This is in blatant disregard of the nature of the Aboriginal struggle and opposes the human right to tell our story our way.
Marlo Morgan denigrates all Aboriginal people apart from the pure, albeit fictitious, Real People.
During Marlo Morgan’s visit into the sacred site she speaks of the Real People hoarding evidence of western society in this country such as; magazines, computer apparatus, empty Coca-Cola tins, and other items representing the western world. This denigrates all sacred sites. In no Aboriginal tribal areas would a sacred site be used to collect western rubbish.
Marlo Morgan claims that this sacred site in which the Real People granted her permission to enter is the ONLY sacred site left un-destroyed in this country.
This claim is utterly absurd as it indicates that no other Aboriginal tribe across this country has access to or involvement in ceremonial activity of any kind.
In addition she,
Aboriginal culture has always provoked broad interest from a wide range of sources.
These interests can be assessed on multiple fronts such as anthropological studies, scientific research, eco-tourism, commercial purposes, student studies, medical interests, herbalists, alternative religious practitioners, humanitarians, self proclaimed healers, spiritual and psychological refugees.
The ever increasing numbers of non-Aboriginal owned Art Galleries dealing exclusively in Aboriginal cultural arts with export marketing interests are dominantly established in every major city across this country, dealing in commodities ranging from tourist souvenirs to fine art pieces.
In many cases these gallery owners operate without any form of understanding or integrity regarding cultural arts promotion and development.
This has forced a position where the Aboriginal community has stringent and limited recognition and control over our own cultural development.
It is imperative that appropriate staffing and resources be made available to Aboriginal community based cultural centres in order to immediately address the current and further potential for blatant exploitation of our people and our culture.
Aboriginal people have not only the right to ownership of our heritage but are also THE custodians of the oldest living culture in the most ancient land mass on the face of the earth.
The following are a selection of statements received by Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation from individuals and organisation heads on the subject of Marlo Morgan and Mutant Message Down Under.
It is extremely offensive to traditional Aboriginal Elders for a white woman to be passing herself off as a holder of traditional law. It goes against all commonly held cultural beliefs and practices. The Elders believe the book makes a mockery of Aboriginal culture and that no law people would ever, with full and complete knowledge, willingly contribute to such blatant commercialisation of their culture.
Peter Francis, Chairperson
Kimberley Aboriginal Law and Culture Centre
The culture of a people who have shown an ability to survive amid extreme pressures should not be subjected to this type of misinformed writing.
Ernie Bridge, MLA
It makes us very angry to see non-Aboriginal people lying about our culture while pretending to admire it, presenting themselves as experts on subjects that they obviously know nothing about.
Stephanie Bell, Acting Director
central Australian Aboriginal Congress Inc.
This book is a travesty. It does not describe any contemporary traditional community. It provides a totally misconstrued picture of Aboriginal beliefs and ceremonial practices. I am appalled at the prospect that this can be promoted and reproduced as an accurate account of our Elders or law-makers.
Damein Ardon, Director
Pitjantjatjara Council Inc.
It is condescending in the extreme, devoid of any detailed appreciation of Aboriginality, and reflects more of the author’s personal preoccupations and experiences within the North American context than those of Australia.
Dr John E Stanton, Berndt Museum of Anthropology
The University of Western Australia
The Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement fully supports the process of opposition by the Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation based in Perth regarding the book “Mutant Message Down Under” written by American author, Marlo Morgan. This book is a gross misrepresentation of our cultural values and its long-term implications on our culture need to be stopped. Marlo Morgan, we believe, should be banned from lecturing on the content of the book.
Sandra Saunders, Director
Aboriginal Legal Rights Movement
Aboriginal people in Central Australia are frequently required to refute erroneous and unauthorised statements made by non-Aboriginal people about aspects of our culture.
A case in point is the book by an United States author, Marlo Morgan, entitled “Mutant Message Down Under”. The central Land Council believes the content of this book to be fabrication. We believe it lacks any credibility whatsoever. Aboriginal people are concerned that they will be subject to further misunderstanding and humbug from people, particularly from overseas, who have accepted the false message being promulgated by Ms Marlo.
Tracker Tilmouth, Director
Central land Council
As a concerned Aboriginal Organisation actively working toward the recognition of Aboriginal Cultures in Australia, the Aboriginal Sobriety Group Inc. Finds this publication to be offensive, degrading and a total insult.
For any person to make the claim of being custodian of all Aboriginal dreaming is a fabrication of the mind. For a non-Aboriginal to make this claim is ridiculous. For a woman to claim to be a custodian and privy to Aboriginal men’s business is ludicrous.
The Aboriginal Sobriety Group Inc. Supports Dumbartung and the Aboriginal Elders in discrediting this publication and its author, as this publication has no bearing on true Aboriginal Culture and spirituality.
Gary Paynter, Chairperson
Aboriginal Sobriety Group Inc.
The content of this book I believe has been partially adopted from research documentation and partially from a clever and active imagination. There are some crucial points within the book I believe are not consistent with Aboriginal cultural protocol.
Robert Eggington, Coordinator
Dumbartung Aboriginal Council
This is an absolute fraudulent account of Aboriginality. Ill-gotten gains will bring an evil response.
Joan Winch, Director
Never any consultation with Aboriginal people.
Ralph Winmar, Nyungar Elder
In our traditional law the author should consult Aboriginal people of the book. No woman is allowed to see men’s sacred ceremony and totem. I believe she should die exploiting our culture.
Ben Pascoe, Maningrida Community
It is an insult that she could ridicule our people and culture by falsely representing us. Our culture is for our children and grandchildren, it is not to be exploited!
Another very degrading exploitation of us and our culture and we have to stop this for the safekeeping of our culture for our children.
Elizabeth Ellis, Ngaatjatjarra person
Institute for Aboriginal Development
I find this woman totally offensive and rude. It’s typical of American cults to fill the world with rubbish and pollute the minds of innocent and naive people. Something has to be done for our sake and for our children.
Julie Anne Deloras Black
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Inc.
Any person who believes this book does not have any idea about Aboriginal law.1) No women are involved in men’s business.
It is so absurd it couldn’t be true! This book should be the first item included on a national “wall of shame”. Another example of exploitation of the world’s oldest living culture.
This lady sounds false and some of the things I’ve heard sound untrue. She is trying to find something in life. I believe she has found a door opening to the Aboriginals in Australia and that door opening is MONEY.
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Inc.
It is a shame this woman can come all the way over here and say she’s done all these things when I know, I as an Aboriginal person, can’t even do these things myself.
Central Australian Aboriginal Congress Inc.
This person is a classic example of all continuing attempts to exploit the indigenous people and our culture in the filthiest way. I would hate to be her as we Aboriginal people know of the consequences that will come about on her because of her stupidity.
Rob Guest, Project Officer
Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation
A lot of my family and myself come from the edge of the western desert and we never saw her or the people she talks about! Fantasy made to make money.
Warda Dance Group
We believe that this author Marlo Morgan is false. Her teaching is blasphemous, and her comments are derogatory to all Aboriginal beliefs and dreamings. We believe she should be stopped and her books should be withdrawn from all book outlets’ shelves. We believe that she is exploiting our Aboriginal people to enrich her own purse, while our Aboriginal people are left with nothing.
Walter S Eatts and Leisha M Eatts
Aboriginal Urban Services
The book is total fiction and the author is a total charlatan! She has offended the Eldership circle of Aboriginal people throughout Australia.
Aboriginal International Friendship Foundation
I've just read the book review article by Wayne Quilliam on ‘Mutant Message Down Under’.
As a Murrie living in Los Angeles, I also agree that this book is an absolute insult to our people.
It was actually given to me to read by a fellow worker here in LA who was absolutely intrigued by this woman’s so-called journey.
On behalf of myself and a few other Murries we want to offer any assistance we can from the United States to Mr Robert Eggington of Dumbartung Aboriginal Corporation in his endeavours to stop Morgan continuing her Media Lecturing tour of the United States and Europe.
Luana Sanders, Los Angeles
Letter to Koori Mail 31/5/95
She does not identify the group’s name thus rendering this book fiction and bull. She draws on other culture and does not depict true Aboriginal culture. The fact that she has mixed with American Indian culture comes across in this book as it draws on their culture more than ours.
Phillip & Mary Cox
The work that she has researched on culture is done for self-promotion. Exploitation at the highest level. She has not learnt about spirituality because the message is delivered in a form of mirage. No evidence, no group name is mentioned. Who is she talking to?
An utter distortion of the truth and disrespect for our culture and continuing the process of cultural genocide.
Manguri Aboriginal Corporation
This is a gross lack of respect and a gross insult to the cultural integrity of all indigenous peoples of Australia. For 200 years we have been exploited, today they rip the skin from our bodies for profit. I demand an international public apology. All books to be removed and burnt.
A M Mansel, Mellukardi Person
Oyster Bay Tribe, Tasmania
This blatant exploitation of Aboriginal culture is intolerable and I believe that fraudulent representation of this kind should be swiftly dealt with in the severest possible manner.
Broome Musicians Aboriginal Corporation
I believe this to be true that she should be restricted from lecturing. As a young Aborigine I feel upset and outraged to hear what I believe to be lies and a woman’s fantasy. As for the Elders it is very upsetting also. This woman owes the Aborigines an apology.
Response from Alice Springs Meeting
This book should be confiscating it is disgusting and not true!!!
Marika Eggington, aged 8
I feel very disturbed at the subject nature of this book - who’s perspective is she propagating? As an Aboriginal woman, I take personal offence at her interpretation of Aboriginal culture and spiritual business - if she is truly looking for spiritual connection to make some sense out of her life then she is going about it the wrong way. She needs to look to her self and her own heart for answers - not exploiting our culture to her own ends.
Deborah Anne Eldridge
In Marlo Morgan’s “experience” she never learnt an Aboriginal value respect. Respect for Aboriginal people, Elders, our spirituality. She just shows what most white people have always done - exploited Aboriginal people, culture and our life.
Fiction loosely based on fact and knowledge about Aborigines that is available to all first year anthropology students. A sad shame if it is accepted as fact and it is representative of the continuing exploitation of Aboriginal people and their culture.
Graeme Leonard Dixon
A very imaginative piece of ‘non fiction’ which draws on the experiences and readings of yet another ‘chrystal muncher’ new age proponent to release and offer salvation to an American market from their spiritual void. Healing of the spirit does not take the path of exploitation of indigenous peoples. Her writings show no respect or understanding of indigenous peoples.
Marlo has not acknowledged who the Aboriginal people were that gave her this information she uses a combination of spiritual cultural concepts eg “Dream Catchers”. She shows in the book her ignorance of Aboriginal protocols, gender issues and the law protocols. Her language and attitude in the tape is oppressive and racist for someone who proclaims to be sensitive to Aboriginal people.
Any person who falsely claims to have legitimately gathered information about Aboriginal culture and/or appropriated intellectual or physical property for their own personal gain and profit in my mind is guilty of exploitation, to the highest degree and displays the ignorance that is the root evil that is destroying our culture.
Why should she make money from something she doesn’t really understand. We ourselves don’t like discussing our ways fro profits.
Having heard of your project regarding the notorious “Marlo Morgan”, I would like to wish you power for your efforts. Monetary profits and respect arising from misinformation are unacceptable and I give total support to any opposition to this kind of behaviour.
I feel quite ashamed of the fact that any person of any race can print such garbage about another culture. There are certain things in Aboriginal culture and sacred religious themes that should not be discussed especially by a white woman. I’m finding out that many white people are trying to find their spirituality by using and defrauding another race. Wake up and smell the roses!!!
All publications of the book should be stopped. She has been detrimental to Aboriginal culture and shouldn’t be allowed to continue as if she is some authority on Aboriginal people and Aboriginal culture.
MUTANT MESSAGE DOWNUNDER
Marlo Morgan claims:
She met a number of white Australian delegates at a physcians conference in Califirnia. Some time later, she received a phone call from the Australian male delegates stating "Ga-dye would you like to work in Austraila for a few years" [p24].
She says that the Australia delegates were extremely impressed with her unique patient education programmes for preventative health. She says since childhood on some mysteriously hidden level, this was a quest she had always dreamed to answer, a journey to Australia.
Whilst in Australia, seated in a cafe waiting for a friend who didnt turn up, she says a young man approached hert. This man, a palm reader, sat down, upturned her palm and began a reading. He said.
"The reason you have come to this place...is destiny. There is someone here you have agreed to meet for your mutual benefit. The agreement was made before either you were born. In fact,you chose to be born at the same instant, one on top of the world and one here, Down Under. The pact was made on the highest level of your eternal self. You agreed not to seek one another until fifty years had passed. It is now time. When you meet, there will be instant recognition on a soul level. That is all I can tell you".
MARLO MORGAN CLAIMS:
One evening she witnessed a group, of what she describes as half-caste youths, sniffing petroleum from cans. Later she heard that one of the same youths died that night from inhailing. She later asked herself why she had made no attempt to stop their stupid play. She says she was given permission to veiw the tragic remains of the youth in the morgue. she later asked a friend why nobody was trying to help the Aboriginal youth addicted to petrol sniffing. She says her friend replied by saying:
"You dont understand the Abos. They are primitive, wild, bush people. We have offered to educate them. Missionaries have spent years trying to convert them. In the past they were cannibals. Now they still do not want to turn loose of their customs and old beliefs...Their population is declining by their own free will. They are hipelessly illiterate people with no ambition or drive for success. After two hundred years they still dont fit in. Whats more, they dont try. In business they are unreliable and undependable-act like they cant tell time. Believe me, there is nothing you can do to inspired them".
Marlo Morgan states that this inspired her to arrange a meeting with twenty-two, as she states, half-breed Aborigines.
This meeting was to help establish a company which was to be owned and run by the Aboriginal Youth. She states that the youths "did not wont to be reminded of their dark skin and the difference it represented. They hoped to marry someone of lighter colour and eventually for their children to belend in" [p42]. The Company was very successful at manufacturing flyscreens. "Their bank accounts grew stedily, and we established trust funds for each one" [p39]. She claims that by all standards the company was very successful.
Marlo Morgan claims that owing to the success of the company, it was not surprising that one day she recived a phone call inviting her toa meeting being held by a group of Aboriginal people across the other side of the continent. She claims that:
The call implied it was not just a meeting, it was my meeting. "Please make arrangements toattend," the native voice requested. [p42]
She then shopped for new clothes, purchased a round trip flight, and made hotel reservations. She then envisaged the nature of the meeting.
Waiting outside her five-star hotel for transport to the awards ceremony, Marlo Morgan claims to her surprise instead of a limousine, a battered up four wheel drive was parked with a Aborigine called Ooota who was to be her interpreter. He beckoned her to enter the four wheel drive.
She then thinks to herself how overdressed she is for this type of situation "Oh well. I would rather be overdressed to attend a meeting - my award banquet" [p2].
She then claims tha the jeep travelled approximately 6-7 hours along the highway, onto the beaten track and then finally into the Desert. She alaims the vehicle then stopped at a corrugated tin structure, a shed.
Marlo Morgan claims that two middle-aged Aboriginaal women stood up as they approached the shed. Throught the interpreter Ooota, the women requested that Marlo Morgan be cleansed before she attended the meeting. She was required to strip and to wear the piece of cloth provided. She then tells of a cleansing by smke with one of the women using the wing of a large bleck hawk to fan the smouldering coals. After the cleansing, Marlo Morgan claims that the women began to throw all her possessions, including cloths, money, credit cards and jewellery into the fire. After entering the shed, Marlo Morgan claims:
That there were 62 Tribal people who have never before met a whit person. They could not speak English and their lives were not influenced of changed by the white dominant Western Culture.
The Aboriginal men and women inside the shed had many designs of ochre patterns and wore feathers, ornate headbands and ankle bracelects. Marlo Morgan says that she was subject to a number of tests which the Elder carried out. She says she was scoring a passing mark. One of these test involved a young girl presenting a plate of rocks. Marlo Morgan says that she was instructed to choose a stone from the large quantity, but told to choose it wisely as the rock ahd the power to save her life.
She states that there was nothing outstanding about any of the rocks, so she faked the choice by looking intently at the rocks and then choosing one at random from the top of the pile. She says that she knew she had chosen the right rock by the smiles and grins in the faces of the people. She then states she placed it in between her breasts and promptly forgot about it.
Marlo Morgan then claims the tribe whoch she later refers to as "Real People" left the shed and began walking out into the Desert.
She asked Ooota where they were going. He replied that they were going on a walkabout across Australia which would take three months to complete and that she has been chosen to walk with them. She then told Ooota that she couldnt go, that she had responsibilities, obligations, rent to pay and that if she went missing for three months the the American Government will send out helicopters to look for her.
She claims that Ooota smiled and said:
"My people heard your cry for help. If anyone in this tribe had voted against you, they would not walk this journey. You have been tested and accepted. The extreme hounour I cannot explain. You must live the experience. It is the most important thing you will do in this lifetime. It is what you were born to do. Divine Oneness is at work; it is your message. I can tell you no more"
Marlo Morgan claims she then commenced to walk with the "Real People" across Australia.
She says that her feet became extremely affected by spinifex and sharp stones. She claims at nightfall a woman healed her feet with special oils and healing powers. She then makes the most extraordinary claims yet.
1. That she was granted permission to enter the only significant sacred site in the country and learn the sacred knowledge of its ceremony.
2. Learnt knowledge of bush medicine and foods.
3. The ability and knowledge of
4. Walked barefoot across Australia in 3 months.
5. The purpose and reason of life.
At the end of the Walkabout Marlo Morgan claims that the Elder Black Swan explained to her, the purpose of the journey.
She claims at the final ceremony, she was dressed up to imitate the Kookaburra, an Australian bush bird. She claims that her role was to depict the bird as a messenger, flying to the far corners fo the world. She describes the kookaburra as a pretty bird, a very loud bird and one which seemed appropriate to use. She claims the Elder sat directly across her in a circle of nine people and spoke.
"We, the tribe of Divine Oneness Real People, are leaving planet Earth. In our remaining time we have elected to live the highest level of spiritual life: celibacy, a way to demonstrate physical discipline. We are having no more children. When our youngest member is gone that will be the last of the pure human race".
We are eternal beings. There are many places in the Universe where souls who are to follow us can take on body forms. We are the direct descendants of first beings. We have passed the test of surviving since the beginnings of time, holding steadfast to the original values and laws. It is our group consciousness that has held the earth together. Now we have recived permission to leave. The people of the world have changed and given a part of the soul of the land away. We go to join it in the sky. You have been chosen as our "Mutant Messenger" to tell your kind we are going. We are leaving Mother earth to you. We pray that you will see what your way of life is doing to the water, the animals, the air and to each other. We pray you will find a solution to your problems without destroying this world. There are Mutants on the edge of regaining their individual experience of true beingness. Without enough focus, there is time to reverse the destruction on the plant, but we can no longer help you. Our time is up. Already the rain pattern has been changed, the heat is increased, and we have seen years of plant and animal reproduction lessened. We can no longer provide human forms for spirits to inhabit because there will soon be no water or food left here in the desert".