Page:Native Tribes of South-East Australia.djvu/364

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338
CH.
NATIVE TRIBES OF SOUTH-EAST AUSTRALIA

The following account of one of these ordeals in expiation was given to me by Berak, who was present at it. So far as I am able to fix the time, it must have been about the year 1840, and the locality was the Merri Creek near Melbourne. It arose out of a belief by the Bunurong who lived at Western Port, that a man from Echuca, on the Murray River, had found a piece of bone of an opossum which one of their tribe had been eating, and then thrown away. They were told that he, taking up this bone between two pieces of wood, had placed it aside until, having procured the leg-bone of a kangaroo, he put the piece of opossum bone into its hollow and roasted it before his fire. He and others then sang the name of the Western Port man for a long time over it, until the spear-thrower fell down into the fire and the magic was complete. This news was brought down to the Bunurong and some time after the man died. His friends did not say anything, but waited till a young man of the Echuca tribe came into the Western Port District, when they killed him. News of this was passed from one to the other till it reached his tribe, who sent down a messenger to the Bunurong tribe, saying that they would have to meet them near Melbourne. This was arranged, and the old men said to the man, "Now, don't you run away; you must go and stand out, and we will see that they do not use you unfairly." This message had been given in the first instance by the Meymet[1] to the Nira-baluk, who sent it on by the Wurunjerri to the Bunurong. It was sent in the winter to give plenty of time for the meeting, which took place on the Melbourne side of the Merri Creek. The people present were the Meymet, whose Headman had not come with them, the Bunurong with their Headman Benbu, the Mt. Macedon men with their Headman Ningu-labul, the Werribee people with the Headman of the Bunurong; finally there were the Wurunjerri with their Headman Billi-billeri.

All these people except the Meymet and the Bunurong

  1. The Wurunjerri called the tribes about the junction of the Goulburn and Campaspe Rivers with the Murray by the name of Meymet, as they called the Gippsland natives Berbira, thus distinguishing both from the Kulin, who were their friends.