Page:Native Tribes of South-East Australia.djvu/305

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279
MARRIAGE RULES

married in the same way they were furious at it, and punished her with severity.

The explanation of this extraordinary state of matrimonial affairs is to be found in the deadlock brought about by the widespread system of the Kurnai relationships, the universally held abhorrence of sister marriage,and the practice of exogamy in the local groups only. The prohibition, thus arising out of the prohibited degrees and from locality, rendered it next to impossible for a man to find a woman who was not so related to him that she was forbidden to him as a wife. Where such was the case, and where the consent of the parents and the kindred could not be obtained, recourse was had to the only other alternative, namely, elopement, and the office of the Bunjil-yenjin arose to give sanction to the practice.

This system of elopement continued till as late as 1875, about which time I met two old men in the mountain country between Buchan and the Snowy River in search of the daughter of one of them, who had eloped with a young man from Lake Tyers.

The strength of feeling in the Kurnai tribe against a man speaking to his wife's mother is well shown by an instance which occurred in the Brabralung clan. A man who had become a member of the Church of England was talking to me, as his wife's mother was passing us at a little distance, and I called to her. Suffering at the time from a cold, I could not make her hear, and said to the Brabralung man, "Call Mary! I want to speak to her." He took no notice whatever, but looked vacantly on the ground. I spoke to him again sharply, but still without his replying. I then said, "What do you mean by taking no notice of me?" He then called out to his wife's brother, who was at a little distance: "Tell Mary that Mr. Howitt wants her"; and turning to me, continued reproachfully, "You know very well I could not do that; you know that I cannot speak to that old woman."

A man had always to provide his wife's father, when they were camped together, with a certain share of flesh food, which was called Neborak. I remember that Tulaba on one occasion gave his father-in-law five opossums. Therefore