Page:The Aborigines of Australia (1988).djvu/61

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46
THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.

lands were so divided that a certain portion of water frontage was allotted to all the tribes in the district. In like manner the rivers were as far as possible common property.

The extent of the districts into which the country was divided was in general from twenty to thirty square miles, and their occupiers at all times evinced a great deal of jealousy at any violation by the neighbouring tribes of these their hunting-grounds. The passing of a boundary line by the blacks of another territory was considered as an act of hostility against the denizens of the invaded grounds, and wars were frequently the sequence of such transgressions. When the circumstances are considered, and when, from the nature of the country, it is reflected how important it was to the original inhabitants to preserve inviolate their domains, with the animated creatures which formed their greatest wealth, and almost their only resource for a supply of the necessaries of life, it is not to be wondered at that, when driven altogether from their possessions by the advance of the Europeans, they have sometimes resorted to acts of retaliation and reprisal.

The mode of punishment common among the aboriginals for the more grave offences is one which is not without a parallel in some shape among civilized nations. A certain number of spears are ordered to be cast at the criminal, who stands at a stated distance, armed with a small shield, called an elaman. With this he is allowed to ward off the spears if he can; if