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It was just a five-minute encounter, but five minutes Johnny Gaskell will never forget.
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On 16 June 1770, James Cook’s ship was beached for repairs at the mouth of what is now known as the Endeavour River, in Cooktown. Since 1960, this landing has been re-enacted by a cast of costumed characters as part of the annual Discovery Festival.
The ceremony includes a representation of the ways of the Guugu Yimithirr people, the local indigenous tribe that then occupied land around the river estuary.
This photograph, from the 2009 event that marked the fiftieth anniversary of the re-enactment, shows live musket firing — part of the festival’s novel display, along with musical entertainment, a parade and an 18th century garden party.
Festival organiser Vanessa Gillen said the 2010 event marks the first year that the local indigenous people have been truly involved, outside of the re-enactment. “It’s taken a while to get the interest going, but now they’re really into it.”
Vanessa told AG the performers consist entirely of willing locals. In the 2009 re-enactment, Andrew Johansson, cast as James Cook, “went away overnight and came back with his lines perfected in a Yorkshire accent.”
The highlight for 2010, Vanessa said, will be the inaugural corroboree, or Aboriginal ceremonial meeting, that attempts to reflect the indigenous point of view after Cook left.
“One of the elders has had it in his head for a long time,” Vanessa said, “and we’ve helped him put it on paper.”
The chapters have been recreated, rather than passed down through generations, “because when the Lutheran missionaries came in they stopped everyone from dancing,” Vanessa said. The corroboree will take place on Sunday night, 13 June, following the re-enactment.
Home Topics History & Culture Gallery: Honouring Captain Cook in Cooktown
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