[From the National Library of Australia's 'Bringing them home oral history project']
Bessie Ejai born 1930, under boab tree in Derby, W.A. talks about her early years on Sunday Island Mission, after being sent there by her father to avoid being removed by welfare; her family background, Chinese Aboriginal; her father's early years: grandfather's country; routines at Sunday island Mission as a child (1930s), getting fish, bush food, collecting trochus shell; Wotjulum mission on coast north of Derby as a child, life there; Wotjulum people and visitors (1930s); the decision to leave and return to Sunday Island; WWII at Sunday Island and Bulgin (Hunter's Creek); return to Derby Aboriginal Reserve; the community asking to return to their homes and Sunday Island; the start of One Arm point as a community; her children being born on Sunday Island; bush food and trochus collecting; closing Sunday Island, opening One Arm Point (1970), Cyclone (1971); her response to the stolen generation apology; language and singing as a child in Bardi; her family connections and country; Native Title claim.
Ejai discusses the Warwar language; Bungarun (Leprosarium); WWII on Sunday Island, working for the armed services; creating artefacts and objects for sale, cloth, shell, bangles, spoons, forks, carving animal shapes; Boab nut carving and sales; housing at Derby; being employed at Native Welfare as cleaner; children in United Aborigines Mission (UAM) dormitory; her bush name and family members who share the name, naming from animals; Missionary Hadley; working for rations at Cygnet Bay; the contemporary access to Cygnet Bay and changed landscape; law, culture and Christianity; contemporary grog, marijuana, sins; cyclones; the need for people to tell their story for future generations to understand their families; childhood visits to Cockatoo Island and Yampi Sound area on mangrove rafts; canoes brought from Kunmunya to Sunday Island; Chinese tailor Derby and Kimberley towns; Mr Wing at One Arm Point trading clamshell to China.
Prepared by: Debra Rosser
Created: 22 August 2012, Last modified: 8 December 2014