HAD the white settlers paid attention to the local Aborigines, Wodonga may have been a very different city to what it is today — for starters it would be spelt correctly.
Yesterday at Falls Creek, a traditional language dictionary was released by the people claiming historic ownership of the land from Cobram to Corryong along the Murray River and Omeo to Benalla.
The Way Wurru and Dhudhuroa dictionary is the culmination of eight years of research and unlocks the secrets to many local place names.
Wodonga was known to the Dhudhuroans as Wudanga after an edible nut found at the base of reeds.
Yackandandah was known alternatively as Yackandanda, Yakan and Yakanduna — meaning two rocks, one standing on the other.
One of the researchers, Pettina Love, was shocked at how many names of towns, rivers and parishes were borrowed from indigenous traditional languages.
“Of course the difficulty was that people recorded what they heard, so the interpretations were mixed,” she said.
“As it turned out, and what proved to be really exciting, was that the language was really well preserved.
“The moment you went into the records it became apparent that the pioneers had listened to the indigenous people.
“Botanists in particular wanted to note the traditional names because the plants, like the animals, were so different to what (they) knew and understood.”
Ms Love, with Lisa Arnold, used historical societies, town records and state and national libraries as part of their research from their Wodonga office.
“The more we researched the more amazed we were at the level of detail,” she said.
“We then went to the local people in the indigenous community asking how it would be pronounced and put it all into a database.
“Later Thomas Kin-chela compiled it all and here we are today.”
Dhudhuroa spokesman Gary Murray hopes the dictionary will help revive their language and culture.
“We want people to understand their history, our language,” he said.
“The dictionary, with information pre-dating the Bible, reflects our culture, our heritage, our law, customs, beliefs, family and our special places.
“We would like our children to be able to learn our language, the young families to name their children after our traditional names.”
The language is only the seventh of the nearly 40 traditional languages in Victoria to have been documented.