Mount Canobolas in snow

Cultural heritage

Because of its prominence, the mountain is of significance to the Wiradjuri people, past and present, and out of respect to traditional owners should be conserved appropriately.

The scenic grandeur of Mt Canobolas must have impressed the indigenous people as its Wiradjuri name clearly relates to the mountain’s visual profile. Canobolas comes from ‘coona’ meaning shoulder and ‘booloo’ meaning two, which the Wiradjuri pronounced Gaanha-bula, no doubt referring to the two prominent peaks now known as Old Man Canobolas and Young Man Canobolas.

As a major Wiradjuri place, Mt Canobolas was an important occupation site used for the sourcing and sharing of food, medicines and tools, and for corroborees and ceremonies particularly relating to men’s business. To the Wiradjuri people Gaanha-bula is a place of spiritual connection through worship of Baiame (the Creator God and Sky Father) and through the dreaming story of Gaanha-bula as one of three feuding brothers. Such dreaming stories are known by some people with a strong traditional connection to Orange, but they are not in the public domain. Wiradjuri elder, Uncle Neil Ingram relates the dreaming story of Gaanha-bula, as follows:

“This story was passed on to me by my Elders:

A long time ago there were three brothers. The elder brother was Gaanha-bula, the middle brother was Wahluu and the younger brother came from Mt Macquarie, near Carcoar. Gaanha-bula is the traditional name for Mt Canobolas. Gaanha meaning shoulder and bula meaning two. Two shoulders. Wahluu is the Traditional name for Mt Panorama. It means young men’s initiation site.

And the story goes like this:

Gaanha-bula and his brother Wahluu both fell in love with a beautiful young woman (Migay). Because she showed more interest in Wahluu, Gaanha-bula became jealous of his brother and challenged him to a spear throwing competition – the winner takes the prize and gets to marry the young woman.

They lined up a target. Gaanha-bula threw the first spear but missed the target. Wahluu then threw his spear but also missed the target, even though he was closer to the target.

On the second throw they both missed the target again. When they had the third throw, Gaanha-bula got awfully close to the target but Wahluu threw his spear and hit the target.

Before Wahluu could turn around to claim his prize, Gaanha-bula hit him in the back of the head with a club (bundi). Wahluu fell to the ground. This made the spirit ancestors angry, they made the ground erupt and lava spill out over Wahluu’s body where he was laying on the ground. This is the shape of the mountain (Mt Panorama) as it stands today.

Gaanha-bula, full of fear, then fled the site and travelled back to his home at Mt Canobolas. The spirit ancestors were angry with him, for killing his brother. They struck him and made the ground erupt and lava poured out over his body where he laid, which is a constant reminder of what happened.

The moral behind this story is not to hold a grudge or jealousy, rage, and anger in your heart and not to commit murder against another person.”

The full text from Uncle Neil Ingram can be accessed here.

Initiation ceremonies (burbung) were once held on Mt Canobolas and scatters of stone tools and engravings can be found near the Old Man Canobolas peak. The Wiradjuri people camped on the mountain during these major ceremonies and the Federal Falls Picnic Area holds information about cultural activities that took place on the mountain. Initiation ceremonies may have continued on the site as late as the 1930s and Mt Canobolas remains an important site of traditional knowledge and significance to the Wiradjuri people.

There is every likelihood that the Wiradjuri people would have had a hand in influencing the vegetation that evolved on the mountain by encouraging species of importance for food and medicine. On the colder tablelands, possum furs were fashioned into cloaks for use during the frigid winter months so some Wiradjuri populations may have lived permanently on the mountain or nearby.

Mt Canobolas – Local Geology and Flora by Orange Regional Museum

Federal Falls Picnic Area and The Walls lookout

  • This area holds information about cultural activities that took place on the Mountain
  • Artefact scatters around the picnic area shows evidence of Aboriginal use.

Mount Canobolas Summit and Young Man Canobolas

  • Significant to initiated men, remains of a man-made structure in the summit area and flakes
  • Scarred tree also on the summit
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