Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/29
THE ABORIGINES OF AUSTRALIA.
procured in very small quantities; the straggling streams interspersed throughout their journey were, in many instances, altogether destitute of fish, and where the finny tribes existed small quantities only were to be procured from the niggard waters; numerous wild animals, it is true, scampered along the plains, or concealed themselves in the thick underwood, while some wild birds of a tempting aspect were present in the wilds; but these were only to be procured by the exercise of considerable skill, industry, and patience. Hence the scarcity of the necessaries of life at once pointed out the inconvenience of proceeding in large numbers, and hence the division of the wayfaring multitude into numerous tribes must have followed almost immediately after their first entrance into the wilderness, each division placing itself under the guidance of a leading spirit, some redoubtable warrior or hoary sage, on whose prowess or judgment they had learnt to rely, and in whose protection and guidance they felt secure. Here was the origin of these infinitesimal divisions into which the sable population of Australia is found divided. The numbers of individuals of which these tribes generally consist have been variously estimated. Some authorities have mentioned tribes numbering as many as a thousand men. The general tendency of our information on these matters, however, is opposed to the belief that any of the aboriginal tribes are numerically so large and powerful as these numbers would imply. It is very doubtful, indeed, whether