Page:Native Tribes of South-East Australia.djvu/242

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
216
CH.
NATIVE TRIBES OF SOUTH-EAST AUSTRALIA

as to the class and totem. The explanation may perhaps be found in the fact that the totems are irregularly distributed. For instance, about Mossgiel the opossum totem is almost extinct, while in other parts of the Wonghibon country its members are numerous, and the emu totem and mallee-hen are correspondingly scarce. Such at any rate was the explanation given by the Wonghi informants, who also said that the action of these two totems is to cause the bearer to change his "budjan" (totem), as then Ipai-willi (opossum) ranks as a Kumbo, and Kumbo-willi as Ipai ; Murri-gurung (bandicoot) as Kubbi, and Kubbi-gurung as Murri. This explanation seems to me to be probable, since we know that the native tribes will resort to rearrangements of the class divisions and totems to meet marriage difficulties, or will even alter the status of relationships of two or more persons for that purpose.

In the Geawegal[1] tribe on the Hunter River (which had the Kamilaroi sub-class names) marriage was ordinarily by gift of the woman, and by consent of both fathers, if the future husband was a boy or youth, and would be arranged years before the time for marriage. Girls were also affianced in childhood to men much older than themselves. Wives were also exchanged by their husbands. Some strong or popular men had a number of wives. Elopement of unmarried girls was occasional, and in such cases the man would have to fight the intended husband or his male relatives. If he proved to be the victor, he kept the girl. She in such cases ran the risk of being beaten by her relatives, or even killed. In the event of female captives being taken, they belonged to their captors, if of a class from which wives might be legally taken by them. If of a forbidden class, my informant thought the captor might make an exchange with some one of the proper class who had a woman at his disposal. The class of the female captive would be known if she belonged to any of the tribes with which the Geawegal were familiar. If the class could not be ascertained, then there would not be any objection to her captor retaining her.

  1. G. W. Rusden.