Page:Native Tribes of South-East Australia.djvu/223

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MARRIAGE RULES

The Ya-itma-thang were neighbours on the west to the Wolgal, who were on the upper Murray River and the high Alps, extending to Kiandra. South of them were the Ngarigo, who occupied the Manero tableland.

Both these latter tribes had the two-class system. With the Wolgal the names were Malian (eagle-hawk) and Umbe (crow), and with the Ngarigo Merung (eagle-hawk) and Yukembruk (crow). The law of marriage was that of the tribes with female descent, and a man might marry a woman of any of the opposite totems; and, as was the case with the Omeo tribe, a man's proper wife was the daughter, own or tribal, of his mother's brother.

A characteristic incident occurred at the Black Mountain station on the Snowy River about the years 1855-56. A number of Theddora (Ya-itma-thang) blacks had come across from Omeo and there met a woman, known to me as Old Jenny, of their tribe, who had broken their law by becoming the wife of a man to whom she stood in the tribal relationship of Najan (mother). She had been away for some years, and this was the first time that her own kindred had encountered her. The wife of one of them attacked her first with a digging-stick, but she defended herself so well with the same weapon that the woman had to desist, and her husband continued the attack on Old Jenny, who had divested herself of all but one small garment. He commenced with a club, but finding he could not hit her, changed it for a curved club with which he tried to "peck" her on the head over her guard. After a time he also had to give it up, and they had to make friends with the invincible woman.[1] This is an instance of the manner in which the women are able to defend themselves with their weapon the "yam-stick," being no mean opponents of a man armed only with a club.

In the Wolgal tribe it was usual for a girl to be promised as a mere child to some man of the proper class, he being then perhaps middle-aged or even old. How such a promise might be brought about is shown by the remark which I once heard a Wolgal man say to his wife, "When

  1. J. O'Rourke.