Documenting Indigenous knowledge of honeybees in a multilingual community in northern Australia

SI, Aung - University of Melbourne, School of Languages and Linguistics

The numerous native honeybees of Australia are largely understudied, both from a biological and a linguistic point of view. Local biodiversity and species distributions are not well recorded, and as a result, linguists working on endangered languages in Indigenous communities have been unable to provide precise identifications for honeybee-related words in published dictionaries. Simultaneously, much honeybee-related language and traditional knowledge is slowly being lost from these communities, due to significant lifestyle changes. Here, I present some results of a project to document honeybee-related traditional knowledge in the remote Indigenous town of Maningrida in the Northern Territory, Australia. This highly multilingual community of around 2,000 people is home to over 10 very different languages, each with its own vocabulary and traditions relating to honeybees. I discuss the challenges and advantages of documenting traditional knowledge in such a field situation, and report on Indigenous perceptions of four honeybee species.