Priscilla Major Biography

Born: 13 July 1955 at Dunbar Station, Gulf of Carpentaria

Language Group: Kokoberra

Area: Central Western Cape York Peninsula

Community: Kowanyama

Homeland: Trubanamen- old mission Kowanyama

Totem: Grey pointer shark

Clan Story Place: Lightning and sour yam

Language Name: Ma Cheltrulalie sweet lily root and seeds

Priscilla Major is a traditional woman from the Kokoberra peoples the Central West Coast of Cape York Peninsula. The Kokoberra are the traditional owners for the Mitchell River area including the Aboriginal community of Kowanyama. Priscilla’s ancestral homeland Trubanamen is an old mission rich in custodial connection and spiritual practice. The area contains vast wetlands and cabbage palm forests. These homelands extend three miles out to sea to meet the Morning Glory cloud, known to her family as “Patha werrd”. This unique weather phenomenon is found only in the Gulf region of Australia at certain times of the year.

Priscilla says,

My father’s aunty gave me my language name meaning Sweet Lily root and seeds. I grew up in Kowanyama and I am fluent in speaking the five languages from this area. As a young girl I watched my elders making Cabbage Palm dilly bags and painting themselves up for corroboree. I leant from them. Years later I now hold this knowledge and I am respected as one of the leaders of my community. I have also sat on the Kowanyama Justice Group and I am called on as a cultural advisor for the Kowanyama Land and Natural Resource Management Office. The Kowanyama Primary School also engages me to teach our customs and traditions to school students.

In recent years the Cairns TAFE offered the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Visual Arts Certificate III in Kowanyama. It was at this time that Priscilla enrolled in the course where the recollections and memories of time spent on country with her elders and family became the inspiration of the many beautiful lino prints, paintings and drawings. It was at this time that the cultural knowledge that Priscilla has experienced and retained throughout her lifetime was expressed with the many different mediums that were made available to her.  In recent years Priscilla has exhibited at the Laura Aboriginal Dance and Cultural Festival, as well as the Old Way New May exhibition in Melbourne, and more recently as part of the National NAIDOC Exhibition in Cairns.