Page:Aboriginesofvictoria02.djvu/317

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APPENDIX C.


NOTES ON THE NATIVES OP AUSTRALIA.

(By Albert A. C. Le Souëf.)


The natives are much more numerous in some parts of Australia than they are in others, but nowhere is the country thickly peopled; some dire disease occasionally breaks out among the natives, and carries off large numbers. This was the case among the Goulburn, Devil's River, and Upper and Lower Murray tribes some few years before the country was peopled by the whites;—the small-pox, or some very similar disease, made its appearance, and played havoc among the tribes. But there are two other causes which, in my opinion, principally account for their paucity of numbers. The first is that infanticide is universally practised; the second, that a belief exists that no one can die a natural death. Thus, if an individual of a certain tribe dies, his relatives consider that his death has been caused by sorcery on the part of another tribe. The deceased's sons, or nearest relatives, therefore start off on a "bucceening" or murdering expedition. If the deceased is buried, a fly or beetle is put into the grave, and the direction in which the insect wings its way when released is the one the avengers take. If the body is burnt, the whereabouts of the offending parties is indicated by the direction of the smoke. The first unfortunates fallen in with are generally watched until they encamp for the night; when they are buried in sleep, the murderers steal quietly up until they are within a yard or two of their victims, rush suddenly upon and butcher them. On these occasions they always abstract the kidney-fat, and also take off a piece of the skin of the thigh. These are carried home as trophies, as the American Indians take the scalp. The murderers anoint their bodies with the fat of their victims, thinking that by that process the strength of the deceased enters into them. Sometimes it happens that the "bucceening" party come suddenly upon a man of a strange tribe in a tree hunting opossums; he is immediately speared, and left weltering in his blood at the foot of the tree. The relatives of the murdered man at once proceed to retaliate; and thus a constant and never-ending series of murders is always going on. Not now in Victoria (for the tribes are nearly extinct), but in the more distant part of the country, I have no doubt the same thing is still going on.

I do not mean to assert that for every man that dies or is killed another is murdered; for it often happens that the deceased has no sons or relatives who care about avenging his death. At other times a "bucceening" party