Stella Pope Duarte

Lessons learned from the “wild people”

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The Aborigines of Australia have much to teach us, most especially one Outback tribe known as the “wild people,” or the “ancient ones.” In 1990, this tribe sent an invitation, sanctioned by their tribal elder, to an American woman named Marlo Morgan. It had been prophesied that, at some point in time, the tribe would share their universal knowledge with a foreigner. Marlo Morgan did not know that her own skills as a medical doctor specializing in natural medicine would be put to the test. The tribe would do something they had never done before; they would permit an American to go with them on a “walkabout.” When Morgan asked where they would walk, Ooota, her interpreter, simply answered, “Across Australia.” 

And so, Marlo Morgan’s journey of three months began, and it is described in splendid detail in her book, Mutant Message Down Under. After her first introduction to the tribe, she stripped off her American clothing in exchange for tribal wraps and burned all her possessions in a fire (including her jewelry, shoes, American Express Card, and even the bobby pins in her hair). Only after the removal of all the materialistic trademarks of an American was she deemed ready to go on the walkabout, as Ooota explains in the following passage from the book:

“My people heard your cry for help. You have been tested and accepted. The extreme honor I cannot explain. You must live the experience. It is the most important thing you will do in this lifetime. It is what you were born to do. Divine Oneness is at work; it is your message. I can tell you no more.”

One of the things I found most interesting in her narrative of the three months Morgan walked through the Australian Outback was the lesson on birthdays. She labored one evening trying to help the tribe members understand what a birthday meant to Americans. She drew a circle in the sand, indicating a birthday cake, and pantomimed blowing out candles; she spoke of the songs and gifts given to the person being celebrated. The tribe could not understand why anyone would  want to celebrate getting older. Morgan was struck by the metaphor of the artificial sweetness of the frosting on a cake as indicative of the artificial way most people live, never discovering who they are, nor what their journey on earth is all about. “If you don’t celebrate getting older,” she asked, “what do you celebrate?” They answered, “Getting better. We celebrate if we are a better, wiser person this year than last. Only you would know, so it is you who should tell the others when it is time to have the party.” 

One of the parties Marlo Morgan attended was that of a woman whose “medicine” in life was to be a listener. Her name was Secret Keeper. No matter what anyone wanted to talk about, they could talk to her — even confess their deepest secrets. She said very little as she listened intently, sometimes cradling a person’s head in her lap. One day, Secret Keeper decided she was ready to be celebrated for the gifts God had given her, and the tribe celebrated. Marlo Morgan even taught the “wild people” how to square dance at the party, singing the tunes for “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” a Texas line dance.

What a beautiful tradition to celebrate people for becoming greater human beings! We have much to learn from the humility of the “wild people.”

Stella Pope Duarte was born and raised in South Phoenix. She began her award-winning career in 1995 after she had a dream in which her deceased father told her that her destiny was to become a writer. Contact her at

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