Page:Aboriginesofvictoria02.djvu/249

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231
NOTES AND ANECDOTES.

the crew. He brought them to Fremantle, and informed the proper authorities of what had occurred. The natives made no reference to their having had any previous acquaintance with white men during the time these young men remained with them."

The Herald of the 27th May 1876 adds—"The hospitality of the natives at the north-west towards the crew of the Stefano has been recognised by the Government, and is to be rewarded. The Rosette, Capt. Vincent, takes two bags of flour, one bag of sugar, twelve looking-glasses, one dozen sheath knives, and ten pounds of tobacco, for distribution among the natives at Point Cloates."

Many of the early settlers of Western Australia were much attached to the natives who had so often helped them in their greatest need, with a patience of fatigue, and with intelligence superior to that of the white men, especially in times of flood, when, but for them, many of them would have been ruined. Some of the settlers on the Canning River and in the York district were, at times, almost dependent on the natives for food, and this during a course of years. They would bring them in game, tend their little flocks, help to clear and cultivate the land, and be their messengers and letter-carriers with a cheerful unselfishness and fidelity which were quite exemplary. It was only necessary to understand them and treat them judiciously to make them very valuable allies and helps.

If Messrs. Burke and Wills, on their return to Cooper's Creek, after their daring dash across the continent, had understood the natives whom they found there, and exhibited a friendly bearing towards them, they would, in all probability, have learned from them that the party who had been left in charge of the depôt camp was only a day's journey ahead. A communication would have been opened up, and in the meantime the natives would have sustained them with fish; instead of which, these brave men were driven by hunger to eat some fish-bones which had been left by the blacks, and finally perished from starvation.

Aversion to strangers appears to be the natural result of ignorance. Until recently, when the diffusion of knowledge has become more general, we find that absurdly disparaging notions regarding their neighbours prevailed even among the most civilized nations—as, for instance, it used to be believed, within the last half-ceutury, in England, that one Englishman could beat three Frenchmen. The savage, who has no knowledge of any people beyond a very limited area around his own territory, naturally views strangers with alarm and dislike.

When, therefore, we find that weary travellers, such as Burke, Wills, and King, were unmolested by a large and comparatively powerful tribe, it does not seem too much to assume that these people are not always so treacherous and bloodthirsty as some writers would have us believe. Indeed, as soon as Burke and Wills died, King fraternized with them, and was supported by them until succour arrived.