Page:Australian race - vol 1.djvu/349

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288
THE AUSTRALIAN RACE:

Honorable Roger T. Goldsworthy, Colonial Secretary of Western Australia, and the other by Mr. Charles Harper. The contribution of the latter gentleman is inserted, as it is the fullest of the two.

The Ngurla tribe occupy about twenty miles frontage to the De Grey River on each side of its mouth, and their territory extends back for the same distance on both sides. Hence in a rough way their country is a block of forty miles by twenty, with the river running through the middle. The Whites settled this country, I am informed, in 1864, and since that period the tribe, which consists of several hundred souls, has increased rather than diminished in number, the White population—as Mr. Harper says—being a very small one. Since the arrival of the Whites some of the Ngurla wear clothes, but originally they all went naked, a practice which may be considered healthy under their circumstances, as many of them have reached a great age. But though without clothes they are not without ornaments, for the men wear plumes in their hair, and also pearl shells suspended in front from a girdle round the waist. Sometimes they wear shells on both shoulders. The women adorn themselves with small pellets of gum, which they suspend like beads from locks of their hair. Of course in our eyes such a practice is the reverse of improving. On occasions of corroboree the Ngurla (or Ngirla) smear the skin with red ochre; with white clay in time of war; and with charcoal when in mourning. The songs which accompany their corroborees are inspired, they say, by the spirits of their departed kinsfolk. Their weapons are spears of several kinds, some of which are used as lances, and others as missiles launched with the wommera. This instrument is carved, and is much broader on the west coast generally than in other parts of the continent. The tribe have also nets made of the fibre of spinifex, wooden scoops, and conch shells. They cut and carve with shells, and also with flints fixed on to the ends of their wommeras. Their food, besides the birds, animals, and reptiles of their country, consists of