Page:Dawson - Australian aborigines (1900).djvu/92

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76
AUSTRALIAN ABORIGINES.

them to spear him. None, however, dared to meddle with him. On asking members of his tribe how many lives he had destroyed, the reply was that he took one at almost every meeting. When he was seen approaching a meeting the women wept, as they were certain he would put someone to death before he left. If he received a scratch, or had blood drawn from him, he would kill some person in revenge. The old savage grew quite blind and helpless in his old age, and the natives say, that, instead of putting him to death, which they could easily have done, they left his blindness to punish him for his innumerable murders and cruelties.

Persons accused of wrong-doing get one month's notice to appear before the assembled tribes and be tried, on pain of being outlawed and killed. When a man has been charged with an offence, he goes to the meeting armed with two war spears, a flat light shield, and a boomerang. If he is found guilty of a private wrong he is painted white, and—along with his brother or near male relative, who stands beside him as his second, with a heavy shield, a liangle, and a boomerang—he is placed opposite to the injured person and his friends, who sometimes number twenty warriors. These range themselves at a distance of fifty yards from him, and each individual throws four or five gneerin spears and two boomerangs at him simultaneously, 'like a shower.' If he succeeds in warding them off, his second hands him his heavy shield, and he is attacked singly by his enemies, who deliver each one blow with a liangle. As blood must be spilt to satisfy the injured party, the trial ends on his being hit. After the wound has been dressed, all shake hands and are good friends. If the accused person refuses to appear and be tried, he is outlawed, and may be killed; and his brother or nearest male relative is held responsible, and must submit to be attacked with boomerangs. If it turns out that the man was innocent, the relatives have a right to retaliate on the family of the accuser on the first opportunity.

Should a person, through bad conduct, become a constant anxiety and trouble to the tribe, a consultation is held, and he is put to death. Liars are detested; and should anyone, through lying, get others into trouble, he is punished with the boomerang and liangle. Women and young people, for the same fault, are beaten with a stick.

Long ago the Bung'andætch natives, who inhabited the Mount Gambier district, were looked upon as wild blacks and very malevolent, for they sent lightning and rain to injure the associated tribes. In retaliation, the latter