Information regarding the Aborigines and their Relics.
It is very desirable that authentic information should be obtained before it is too late from persons who have long resided among the Aborigines and have become conversant with their languages and peculiarities. These Europeans, as well as the natives themselves, are fast passing away, and unless the information be soon recorded, it will be lost for ever.
To the student of languages the native dialects are most valuable, and, if now preserved, might hereafter fill the most critical gaps in the history of mankind.
Some gentlemen now reside in Western Australia who have been more than forty years among the natives, and have made them their especial study. They could, doubtless, supply most valuable intelligence not otherwise obtainable.
The time is near at hand when not only the race itself will have disappeared, but no record will remain of many of their peculiarities, of the traditions of the tribes, of their characters and characteristics, and of the acts of those individuals whose biographies would be useful and interesting as being typical of this family of mankind.
Even now, as we travel through the country, we find but few indications of a previous race having occupied it. Two of these are, the marks cut on trees, which will soon disappear; and the "native ovens," or mirnyongs.
1. The marks on the trees are merely where pieces of bark have been cut out for various purposes, or where notches have been made to assist in climbing; of course, these will soon be obliterated, but, fortunately, the other monuments of a more durable description will remain.
2. These are the mirnyongs, called by the colonists "native ovens." They occur, so far as I am aware, only in the eastern and south-eastern portions of Australia, where the soil is less absorbent and the climate wetter, and in some parts colder, than the sandy territory of Western Australia.
They are what Sir Charles Lyell terms "kitchen refuse heaps," when writing of similar mounds under the peat mosses of Denmark, and are composed of ashes, fine charcoal, fragments of bones, and other remains after cooking and eating.
They are found in the valleys of rivers and creeks, on the margins of lakes and lagoons, just inside the "points of timber" or portions of forest which project into the plains, on rising grounds in the plains, near the sea-shore, and in every locality where fish, game, or food of any description is to be found.
The positions of the mirnyongs have been carefully selected, so that, as far as possible, the occupants may obtain an extensive view of the surrounding country, while they themselves are screened from any passer by.
When a company of natives returns after a day's hunting and foraging, the women take a fresh supply of firewood and stones. These last are sometimes found on the "ovens" in localities remote from where any stones are known to exist. Thus, in the course of centuries, they become large mounds, affording comfortable camping-places as compared with the often wet and scrubby ground