Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London/Volume 1/Description of the Natives of King George's Sound (Swan River Colony) and adjoining Country
[The following observations on the Aborigines inhabiting the vicinity of King George's Sound, and which probably apply to all those in immediate contact with our new colony, have been communicated to me by Mr. Nind, the medical officer who accompanied a small settlement or post, established in 1827, on the shore of that harbour, and who remained with it till October, 1829.
From the friendly disposition and frequent visits of the natives during the greater part of that period, opportunities, such as but seldom occur, were afforded of collecting interesting information respecting their customes and manner of life, particularly from some of the more intelligent individuals, who at length became generally resident in the settlement.
Of these opportunities Mr. Nind diligently availed himself, and the following result of his observations appears to me to form an important contribution to the history of the race. A short account of the settlement to which he was thus attached, and of the adjoining country, is prefixed.—R. Brown.]
King George's Sound, the entrance of which is in latitude 35° 6' 20" south, and longitude 118° 1' east of Greenwich, is situated on the south coast, but very near the south-west extremity of New Holland.
It is very conveniently placed for the purposes of refreshment and refit of vessels bound to New South Wales or Van Diemen's Land; and, from the circumstances of the recent establishment of the Swan River Colony, particularly useful, as it affords an excellent harbour—perhaps, indeed, the only really good one in the neighbourhood of this new colony.
It was discovered by Captain Vancouver, in the year 1792; was subsequently visited by Captain Flinders and the French expedition of discovery under Commodore Baudin; more recently by Captain King; and since that period has been frequently resorted to by sealing vessels, for the neighbouring coast to the eastward is fringed with a multitude of rocks and islands, upon which many seals of the black furred species have been found.
The situation and excellence of the harbour, together with the sanguine expectation of finding a good country in the interior, induced the government of New South Wales to form a settlement there; and, accordingly, at the latter end of the year 1826, a party, consisting in all of fifty-two persons, was despatched under the command of Major Lockyer, of His Majesty's 67th regiment, for that purpose. The little expedition sailed on the 7th November, 1826; and after a tedious passage, arrived at its destination on the 25th December following.
From Captain Flinders' account of the place, it will be seen that besides the outer sound, there are two inner basins or harbours which are perfectly land locked, and offering every security for ships. The northern one, Oyster Harbour, is fronted by a bar of sand, on which there is not more than thirteen feet and a half at high water; and within it is so full of shoals–excepting at the entrance, and near Green Island, where small vessels may ride securely at their anchor or be moored to the shore–that there is scarcely water enough for a boat to approach the beach; the greater part being a bank that dries, or nearly so, at low water, excepting in the drains of two small rivers that fall into the head of the harbour, which are navigable for a few miles by small boats.
In the centre of Oyster Harbour is Green Island, a small islet upon which Vancouver sowed many garden seeds; but if they prospered they were probably destroyed by vermin, for future visiters could find no traces of them.
The shoal character of the shores of this harbour therefore offering no inducement to the new colonists to establish themselves in its neighbourhood, they determined upon occupying the shore of Princess Royal Harbour, situated at the back or west side of the sound, into which vessels of a considerable size might enter, and ride at their anchors, very close to the shore, in perfect security.
The party therefore encamped at the base of what they afterwards called Mount Melville. It is on the north side of the harbour, about a mile within the entrance, and close to the spot occupied by Captain Flinders in the year 1801. In many respects the situation proved eligible; but in the most essential thing, good water, it was very deficient. Neither was there any timber found near the place that was serviceable for erecting buildings. And the want of these two important articles was a great drawback to the settlement, particularly in its early days.
The soil in the immediate neighbourhood of the encampment proved to be very unproductive, for on turning it up a few inches beneath the surface, it was nothing but a pure white sand. In the bogs or swamp, however, the subsoil was found to be of a peaty nature. The poverty of the soil, therefore, offering great difficulties for the cultivation of a sufficient supply of vegetables, various spots were selected for the purpose, among which the little islet in Oyster Harbour, Green Island, small as it is, turned out to be the most productive.
So favourable, however, is the clime to vegetation, that where a small supply of manure could be obtained, the crops were not only certain but luxuriant. The vegetables that were raised consisted of peas, potatoes, cauliflowers, cabbage, cucumbers, &c.; melons, pompions, water melons, and maize also succeeded without forcing when the season was warm, but these latter vegetables could not be depended upon.
The island in the Sound produced sowthistles, mallow, and wild celery, which were used by the colonists during an attack of scurvy, and proved to be very serviceable in removing the disease. The sowthistles and celery grew also on the sea-beach.
The general appearance of the country, although of a barren nature, is very picturesque. The hills behind the settlement are studded and capped by immense blocks of granite, and are strewed with a profusion of beautiful shrubs, among which the splendid Banksiæ: grow to a large size, and the Kingia and Xanthorrhœa or grass-tree are abundant.
In some parts the soil is of a reddish hue, and here the trees are more abundant and of larger size. They consist of various kinds of eucalyptus and casuarina (like the swamp oak of Port Jackson). Generally, however, the trees are decayed at the heart, and are therefore unserviceable for building.
The view to the north is over a country in appearance flat, but in reality formed by wooded banks, separated by swampy plains. On the banks, the honey-suckle (a colonial name for a small species of Banksia) predominates.
The plains are covered with a coarse herbage, but no grass grows upon them. At about twenty miles distance, there is a range of hills called by the natives Borringorrup, which are covered with wood, and the timber is of good quality. The ground is rather rocky, but the soil deep and good, producing grass. About twenty miles beyond the Borringorrup range is another, Corjernurruf, which seems to be of a very rugged character. The country is described by the natives as very barren, and covered with salt-water lagoons.
To the west and north-west the country seems to be of a more undulating character and better wooded. The natives also describe it to be more abundant in kangaroo, and that the Banksia and grass-tree are less prevalent. The soil also is stated to be red, and the surface of the country to be covered with short grass.
Between Princess Royal and Eclipse Harbours, the country is formed by undulating downs, interspersed with occasional clusters of trees. The soil is either shallow and red, but not adhesive, or is composed of black vegetable matter, mixed with pure white sand. Here and there upon it is found a kind of couch-grass, but in general the herbage is rushy or heathy.
In all parts of the country there are stagnant pools of water and some of them are of considerable extent. The water is always of a dark colour, and strongly impregnated with a disagreeable vegetable flavour. Some of these lakes are brackish, but ducks, teal, and swans are found upon them.
The prevailing rock in the neighbourhood of the settlement is granite;—the ranges of hills to the northward—Borringorrup and Corjernurruf—are also supposed to be of the same formation. Calcareous rock is found on the sea-coast; and on the low banks, particularly westward, a hard, rugged, and ferruginous stone predominates, on which, where found, the soil is generally of a red colour, but very shallow. The calcareous district consists chiefly of downs.
It is difficult to give any account of the winds or seasons, for they are by no means uniform. The easterly winds generally commence in December, and continue to prevail through the months of January, February, and March: this may be considered the summer. At the commencement of the easterly winds, they are frequently strong, and the weather is showery: as the season advances, northerly winds or calms with fine warm weather may be expected, the thermometer rising to 98°. This will usually continue through March and April, and then the westerly become the prevailing winds, and during June and July are very constant. In August and September south-east winds are often experienced. The months of October and November are generally fine, with occasional showers.
The hot north wind which prevails at Sydney is also occasionally experienced at King George’s Sound; and, during the summer, there is much thunder and lightning. Taking it generally, the climate certainly is fine, and with a sufficiency of rain for all the purposes of assisting vegetation.
The natives of King George’s Sound differ little in their general appearance from the Aborigines of the neighbourhood of Sydney. They are of middle stature, slender in their limbs, and many of them with a protuberant abdomen.
The only article of dress used by them is a cloak of kangaroo skin, reaching nearly to the knee; it is worn as a mantle over the shoulders, and is fastened at the right shoulder with a rush, by which the right arm is left free and disencumbered. They are seldom seen without their cloaks, which in rainy weather are worn with the fur outwards; some of them, however, are so scanty, that the wearer may be almost considered in a state of nudity, particularly the children, for their cloak is but a mere strip of skin. The larger skins, which are procured from the male kangaroos, are appropriated to the women.
The mode of preparing the mantles is as follows:—the skins are pegged out upon the ground to dry, and are then cut into the proper shape with a sharpened stone; with the same instrument the inner surface is scraped away until the skin becomes soft and pliable; it is afterwards rubbed over with grease, and a sort of red ochreous earth, which they also use to paint the body. The skins thus prepared are stitched together with the sinews of the animal, which are drawn from the tail.
The other articles of dress are the noodle-bul, or waistband, armlets, and head-dress. The noodle-bul is a long yarn of worsted spun from the fur of the opossum, wound round the waist several hundred times. A similar band is also worn occasionally round the left arm and the head.
The single men, who are called man-jah-lies, ornament their heads with feathers, dogs' tails, and other similar articles, and sometimes have the hair long, and bound round the head. The women use no ornaments, or noodle-buls, and wear their hair quite short; but the girls have sometimes a fillet of worsted yarn round the neck, which is called a woortill. Both sexes smear their faces and the upper part of the body with red pigment (paloil) mixed with grease, which gives them a disagreeable odour. This they do, as they say, for the purpose of keeping themselves clean, and as a defence from the sun or rain. Their hair is frequently matted with the same pigment. When fresh painted, they are all over of a brick—dust colour, which gives them a most singular appearance.
When they are in mourning, they paint a white streak (kaingin) across the forehead and down the cheek bones. The women put on the white colour in large blotches.
Painting the body, with the natives of this part of the country, is not, as in New South Wales, a sign of war. It is considered by them merely as an ornament, and is never neglected at their dances, or when they visit neighbouring tribes. It is a very general practice at those seasons of the year when they can procure fat from fish or animals; but there are some individuals, we have remarked, who very seldom use it.
They have the same practice amongst them as at Sydney, of cutting gashes on their body, and raising an elevated cicatrix. It is done chiefly on the shoulders and chest; and is both a distinguishing mark for different tribes, and an honorary distinction. The septum of the nose is also perforated, through which a feather or other substance is worn. Ornaments of dress, however, are not considered as marking the man of authority, for they are only worn by the young single men. The cicatrized wounds on the body are the marks of distinction, and even these are tribual more than personal.
Every individual of the tribe, when travelling or going to a distance from their encampment, carries a fire stick, for the purpose of kindling fires, and in winter they are scarcely ever without one under their cloaks, for the sake of heat. It is generally a cone of Banksia grandis, which has the property of keeping ignited for a considerable time. Rotten bark, or touchwood, is also used for the same purpose. They are very careful to preserve this, and will even kindle a fire (by friction, or otherwise) expressly to revive it.
Their weapons consist of spears of two or three kinds, which are propelled with a throwing-stick (mearu). They have also a knife, stone-hammer, and a curl, or a curved flat weapon similar to the boomerang of the New South Wales natives.
The spears (keit) are made of a long slender stick about the thickness of a finger, of a heavy, tough quality. They are scraped down to a very fine point, and are hardened and straightened by the assistance of fire. Those intended for hunting and fishing, called maungull, are barbed with a piece of wood fastened on very neatly and firmly with kangaroo sinew (peat), and the ligature covered with gum obtained from the grass tree. They are about eight feet in length. The war spears are longer and heavier, and are armed, for five or six inches from the point, with pieces of sharp stones fixed in gum, resembling the teeth of a saw, the stones increasing in size, the smallest being at the point. Each man carries from two to five spears.
The throwing-stick (meara) differs considerably in shape from those used at Sydney, being much broader. It is about two feet long, and four inches wide, narrowing at each extremity. At the handle is fixed a piece of gum (wank), in which is inserted a sharp-edged stone (tockil), which is used to scrape the point of the spear when blunted by use. At the outer end of the meara is a small wooden peg (mert), which is inserted into a hole at the end of the spear, and by which it is propelled. The meara is also used at close quarters in their fights.
The hammer (koit) is made with a lump of gum, having two stones imbedded in it, stuck on to the extremity of a short stick. It is used in climbing trees, in throwing at and killing animals, in breaking down grass-trees, and for the common purposes of the axe or hammer.
The knife (tăăp) is a stick with sharp-edged stones fixed in a bed of gum at the end, and for two or three inches down the side, forming a serrated instrument.
A short stick, which they call towk, is also used for throwing at or striking small animals, such as the quernde and tamur, the former resembling the bandicoot and the latter the walloby, or brush kangaroo of New South Wales.
The curl, or boomering, is seldom used as a weapon, nor are they so expert in the use of it as the New South Wales blacks. The natives, however, say, these instruments are more common in the interior. They are used for skinning the kangaroo, and also for amusement.
Their wigwams (tourloits) are merely composed of a few small twigs stuck in the ground, and bent over in the form of a bower, about four feet high, and five or six wide. Sometimes two are united. They also thatch them slightly with the leaves of the grass tree. In rainy weather they are roofed with pieces of bark, upon which stones are placed, to secure them from being blown away; but they afford a miserable protection from the weather. They are generally erected in a sheltered spot near water, with the back towards the prevailing wind, and a fire is kept burning constantly in the front. One of the huts contains several individuals, who lie covered in their mantles, huddled together, in a crowded state: the dogs also are admitted to a share of their bed.
An encampment rarely consists of more than seven or eight huts; for, except during the fishing and burning seasons, at which times large parties assemble together, their numbers are generally small, and two or three huts suffice. The number of individuals, however, seldom exceed fifty. The huts are so arranged as not to overlook each other. The single men, have one to themselves—the children sleep with the women in a large hut near the husbands. These encampments generally consist of near relatives, and deserve the name of families rather than of tribes.
Those families who have locations on the sea-coast quit it during the winter for the interior; and the natives of the interior, in like manner, pay visits to the coast during the fishing season. Excepting at these times, those natives who live together have the exclusive right of fishing or hunting upon the neighbouring grounds, which are, in fact, divided into individual properties; the quantity of land owned by each individual being very considerable. Yet it is not so exclusively his, but others of his family have certain rights over it; so that it may be considered as partly belonging to the tribe. Thus all of them have a right to break down grass-trees, kill bandicoots, lizards, and other animals, and dig up roots; but the presence of the owner of the ground is considered necessary when they fire the country for game. As the country does not abound in food, they are seldom stationary, removing, according to the time of the year, to those parts which produce the articles of provision that may be in season. During the winter and early spring they are very much scattered; but as summer advances they assemble in greater numbers.
It is at this season that they procure the greatest abundance of game. It is done by setting fire to the underwood and grass, which, being dry, is rapidly burnt. The manner in which these burnings are performed is as follows:—
With a kind of torch made of the dry leaves of the grass tree, they set fire to the sides of the cover by which the game is enclosed and cannot escape. The hunters, concealed by the smoke, stand in the paths most frequented by the animals, and with facility spear them as they pass by. On these occasions vast numbers of animals are destroyed. The violence of the fire is frequently very great, and extends over many miles of country; but this is generally guarded against by their burning it in consecutive portions. The women also kindle fires, but only for the purpose of taking bandicoots; they sometimes, however, accompany the men at the larger firings for kangaroos, or walloby.
As soon as the fire has passed over the ground, they walk over the ashes in search of lizards and snakes, which are thus destroyed in great numbers, and those which have escaped in their holes are easily discovered.
In the chase the hunters are assisted by dogs, which they take when young and domesticate; but they take little pains to train them to any particular mode of hunting. These dogs appear to have a very fine scent, and draw upon their game like a pointer; after which they spring upon or chase it. They are particularly useful in catching bandicoots, the small brush kangaroo, and the opossum, but for the emu and large kangaroo they are not sufficiently fleet. The owner of a dog is said to be toōrt-a-din, and is entitled to an extra proportion of the game killed. They are also frequently lent out upon consideration of the owner receiving a share of the produce.
The food of the dogs consists of a considerable portion of vegetables, roots roasted and pounded, the entrails of animals, and such bones as are too hard for the teeth of the natives. At some periods it is so scanty as to compel the dog to leave his master and provide for himself; but after a few days he generally returns.
When the owner does not wish the dog to follow, he ties the foreleg to the neck with a band of rushes, and leaves him in a shady place. He frequently carries the dog upon his shoulders. When they are puppies, between six and twelve months old, they are called jimmung,—they are then used to hunt lizards and bandicoots; and previous to this they are consigned to the care of the women. They seldom bark, but bite very sharply, snapping like a fox. They are excellent watch dogs, and will attack strangers.
In the wild state they are sometimes killed by the natives, who eat their flesh, but of the skin no use is made. Upon finding a litter of young, the natives generally carry away one or two to rear. In this case it often occurs that the mother will trace and attack them; and being of a large size, and very strong, they are rather formidable. But, in general, they will stand and look for a few moments, and leisurely retire.
The mode in which they hunt the kangaroo is in small parties, or singly. They select a time when the rain is pouring heavily, or the wind blowing hard, to prevent the noise of their approach from being heard, for the kangaroo is very quick of hearing, and always on the alert. The hunter creeps upon them with the greatest caution, and generally succeeds in approaching them unobserved. They always, if possible, keep the wind in their face, and when one is observed, they take off their cloak, and watching when the animal stoops or turns his back upon them, they hastily advance, keeping a bush between them for concealment. As they approach their prey they move very lightly in a stooping posture, and only at the time when the noise of the wind prevents their footsteps being heard. Should the kangaroo turn round and observe them, they instantly stop and remain perfectly motionless until he resumes his feeding. In this way they approach within a few yards of their prey, and then pierce him with their spears. The instant he falls they run up and dispatch him with their hammers by blows on the head. The first operation is to extract the two front teeth of the lower jaw, which they use to sharpen the spear points; then they seize the tail, and taking the end in the mouth, bite off the tip, and, by pulling, extract the sinews which are inserted in it: these are bound round a stick and dried for use, either for the purpose of stitching the mantles, or tying the barbs on the spears.
Another mode of hunting the kangaroo, when the huntsmen are numerous, is by surrounding and gradually approaching the game until they get sufficiently near to spear them.
They are also sometimes killed in woits, but this plan is more used for the small or brush kangaroo. In this case a portion of the brush is surrounded, and each person begins breaking it down and treading over it, so as to make a complete road all round, carefully stopping the runs of the animals. One or two of the hunters then go in with their dogs, and as the game attempts to pass the clear spot, they are entangled in the brush and knocked on the head. In this way they sometimes kill a great many; it is practised almost entirely in the spring before the burning season eommences, but it requires a number of people, and the whole of the males of the tribe are generally present.
Both the large and small kangaroo are caught in pit-falls, set in wet places. These pit·falls are described by the natives to be covered over with bushes and lightly sprinkled with soil. This method is mostly used in the interior.
The emu is speared chiefly in the winter, at which time they lay their eggs. When a nest is found, the hunters conceal themselves behind a bush near it, and endeavour to secure the male bird first. The female they are pretty certain of, unless she has been disturbed, when she will forsake the nest. Emus, however, are not very often procured by the natives, but, with the kangaroo, are highly esteemed as articles of food. Lizards, also, afford a favourite repast; and, at some seasons, form a considerable portion of their food. There are three species that are eaten—the largest, called munnāar, appears to resemble an iguana found at Sydney; it is long, and generally very lean and lank. At one season, however, it is fat, and very good eating. It makes a hole in the nest of a species of ant, which is a mound of earth four or five feet high, the inner parts consisting of cells constructed of a gummy substance mixed with earth, and is very hard; yet the munnāar burrows from the top nearly to the bottom, and there deposits its eggs, which are the size of a large pigeon’s egg, covered with a thick pellicle as tough as parchment. The eggs are about ten or twelve in number, and adhere together. The ants soon repair the hole made by the munnaar, and the warmth of the nest is sufficient to hatch the eggs. These eggs have an oily taste, and will not easily mix with either warm or cold water, but nevertheless they are very good eating.
The second species of lizard, called wandie, is of a very dark colour, and has a long round tail. It is generally found among rocks, and conceals itself under them; it also inhabits hollow trees or holes in the ground; and is a very lively animal, and quick in its motions.
The third species, or short-tailed youern, has a large head and an enormous mouth, which, when attacked, it immediately opens, and exhibits a purplish coloured tongue; its body is covered with large scales of a grey colour, but having transverse patches of brown. It is very sluggish, and does not burrow in holes, but conceals itself in long grass. They are frequently found in pairs. The female, when pregnant, has two large eggs in her, but I have never seen them when deposited. According to the natives she buries them in the ground very near the surface, and they are hatched by the warmth of the sun. These youerns are frequently found in ants’ nests, constructed of straw or leaves, with minute portions of sand. I do not, however, know if they lay their eggs there, or whether they feed upon the ants.
The snakes which are eaten by the natives are of several kinds, viz. the wackul, norne, docat, &c. The wackul is the common diamond snake of New South Wales, and is not venomous. The worne and docat are much alike, of very dark colour, six and seven feet in length, and their bite generally fatal. There is another species, of a smaller size, and sienna colour, of which although the bite is venomous it seldom occasions death. Other small species occur which are not eaten.
When the natives kill a snake, they are careful to beat its head to pieces before they take it up; they then examine if it has recently eaten, and if it has undigested food in its stomach, they reject it, for, if eaten, they say it would cause violent vomiting. At the spring-time of the year, they live principally upon the eggs and young of birds, chiefly of the parrot tribe, but also of hawks, ducks, swans, pigeons, &c. They are extremely expert at climbing trees, which they do by notching the bark with their hammers, in the same manner as is practised at Port Jackson. Thus they procure opossums, which they trace to their holes by the marks of their claws upon the bark. There are two species, one, the common ring-tail (nworra), and the other, comal. They are not often found in the same districts, the comal living chiefly in lofty and thick woods, whilst the ring-tail is frequently found in swamps and the low brush which surrounds them. The comal is of larger size, and much lighter colour, with a brownish bushy tail: it is also fatter; the fur is longer, of a whitish colour, and is used by the natives to spin into a kind of worsted called by them peteroe, of which the noodle-buls are made. The fur of the ring-tailed opossum is not used. Of both species it is easily detached from the skin.
The comal is frequently hunted with dogs by moonlight, when it is either speared in its flight, or driven into its haunt in some hollow tree. The natives then make a hole and extract it; but should this be too difficult or troublesome, they kindle a torch of grass-tree leaves, and push it into the hole, when, in attempting to escape, the animal is easily taken.
The natives describe other animals which are found in trees, and are very abundant in the interior, one of which may probably be a species of the flying fox, or vampyre bat; but this animal is not found in the neighbourhood of the settlement.
During the summer and autumn months, the natives derive a large proportion of their food from fish. They have no canoes, neither can they swim, in both of which points they differ materially from all other parts of the Australian continent with which we are acquainted. They can, therefore, only catch those fish which approach the shores, or come into shoal water. They have neither nets, nor hook and line, and the only weapon they use is the spear, with which they are very dexterous. In the mouths of streams or rivers, they take large quantities, by weirs made of bushes, but the most common method is pursuing the fish into shoal water, and spearing them, or as they lie basking on the surface. During calms, they walk over the mud and sand-banks, in search of flat fish, which are easily detected while lying at the bottom. At night, too, they light torches of grass-tree, and thus see the fish at the bottom, apparently asleep, when they very readily spear them. By these methods, vast quantities are taken, but it can only be done in dead calms. Another common method is to sit on a rock, motionless, and occasionally throw into the water pieces of limpet, or other shell-fish, keeping the spear under water until the bait is seized by a fish, when they are almost certain of striking it.
In the autumn, when the smaller species of fish approach the shores in large shoals, they surround them, and keep them in shallow water upon the flats until the tide falls and leaves them, when they are easily speared, and very few escape. For this purpose they use a very small spear, without a barb, and throw it by hand; should it so happen that the tide does not sufficiently fall to enable them to take the fish, they gather bushes, and plant them round so thickly, as to enclose them, when they are speared at leisure.
Fish being very plentiful, they often kill more than is sufficient for present use; in this case, they roast them, and separating the flesh in large flakes from the bones, pack it carefully up in soft bark, in which way it will keep good for several days.
Immediately on killing a large fish, they make a small opening just below the gills, through which they extract the inside. If there be any fat, it is carefully separated: the bowels, liver, &c. they cook and eat.
Although sharks are very numerous, the natives are not at all alarmed at them, and say that they are never attacked by them. Sometimes they will spear them, but never eat any part of the body. Sting rays and maiden rays are also common, but not eaten, though sometimes killed for amusement. On some part of the coast the sting is used to point their spears.
Oysters, and other edible kinds of shell-fish, are to be obtained in large quantities. None of them were eaten by the natives previous to the formation of the settlement; but since its establishment they eat them, after being cooked, and consider them very good food.
It not unfrequently happens that a sickly whale is thrown on shore; upon this they greedily feed, and lay up a large quantity of fat. They also occasionally kill a seal, the flesh of which they esteem highly, and, indeed, when young, it is by no means unpalatable.
The fresh-water swamps abound with a species of cray-fish, called challows, very like those found in rivulets in England. The procuring of these is the employment of the women. In the summer months, when the water is partly dried up, they find them in holes in the ground, a foot or more deep, the entrance being small, but sufficiently wide within for the arm to be thrust to the bottom; they are very abundant, and when boiled with salt, are good eating. The natives roast them in the ashes, and eat them in large quantities.
They also procure and eat the fresh-water tortoise (kilon), and in the season take large quantities of their eggs, which are laid on shore generally on a bank about twenty or one hundred yards from the water, buried in a small hole, and carefully covered up.
Frogs (cooyah), of two or three species, are eaten chiefly at the season of their spawning.
At one season of the year, the natives push or break down the grass-trees, on which, when fallen, a species of cockchafer (pāāluck) deposits its ova, which become large milk-white grubs; and these they eat raw, or slightly roasted. There are also other kinds (changut), some of much larger size, that are procured from rotten trees, bull-rushes, &c.; all of them are white.
Of their pāālucks they are extremely tenacious; the person who breaks down the tree being entitled to its produce. And if robberies of this nature are detected, the thief is always punished. They believe also that stolen pāālucks occasion sickness and eruptions. Yet when hungry, a friend will not scruple to have recourse to the grass·tree of another who is not present; but in this case he peels a small branch or twig, and sticks it in the ground, near the tree. This is called keit a borringerra, and is intended to prevent anger or other ill consequences.
The eggs of ants also form an article of food.
Of the vegetable substances on which they feed, a few kinds only are known. The following, however, are more used than any other, and may be said to form the staple article of diet; they are named by them meernes, tuboc, chocket and tunedong. The meernes, which is the chief article, are scarlet roots, not unlike, in shape and size, tulip-roots. They are mealy when roasted, but of an acrid and unpleasant taste. They roast them in the ashes, and then pound them between two flat stones, rubbing the stones with a ball of earth, to prevent the root adhering to it. When thus prepared, they are mucilaginous, and of a glossy black colour. They may be considered the bread of the natives who live in the neighbourhood of the Sound, but are not found in the interior.
The tuboc is of the tribe Orchideæ: it is very pleasant eating, when roasted. In the early part of spring it throws up a single stem, hollow, and similar in appearance to that of the onion, but is mucilaginous, and sweetish to the taste. This also is eaten. Before the young root comes to maturity it is called chokern, and is eaten raw: the old one is called nāānk.
The chocket is the small bulbous root of a rush; it is very fibrous, and only edible at one season.
The roots of fern, sedge, and other plants, are also used as articles of food; also mushrooms of two species, and another kind of fungus.
When the different species of Banksia first come into bloom, they collect from the flowers a considerable quantity of honey, of which the natives are particularly fond, and gather large quantities of the flowers (moncat) to suck. It is not, however, always to be procured; the best time is in the morning, when much dew is deposited on the ground; also in cloudy but not wet weather.
They describe various kinds of roots in the interior that are eaten by them. One species they call yoke, and say that it resembles our potato, being as large and as well tasted; but it has only one tuber to a stem, and is altogether different in its leaf and appearance.
Another root is carrot-shaped. Rice they call kioc, and say there is plenty; that it grows on a small shrub, and is of a reddish colour; that they shake it out into their cloak, and eat it uncooked.
Bread they call quannert, or marrin, both which names I conceive to denote substances eaten by them that are only to be found in the interior.
A bee is found at King George’s Sound, I have never known a hive near the settlement; but the natives say they sometimes take them, and eat the honey.
I have been thus particular in describing their food, because I conceive that, in savage tribes, it gives rise to most of the peculiarities of their habits and customs. At King George’s Sound they live upon the productions of nature, unassisted by art, varying at different seasons and in different districts, poor in quality, often scanty, and therefore compelling the natives to a vagrant life. The population is consequently far from numerous, and varies in appearance and habits according to the nature of the food in their district. This will naturally occasion numerous subdivisions into tribes and classes, which we find to be the case in an uncommon degree; and there appears to be little bond of union amongst them—they have the same name and district, but nothing else; for, when on friendly terms, they seldom associate together, and their wars appear to be more between individuals or families, than between tribes or districts. They have no general camp or rendezvous, acknowledge no general chief, and associate or disperse as season or inclination leads them. What their meetings in the interior may be, I know not: sometimes, perhaps, they may be large, but I believe that, during the winter, (when the sea-coast tribes go into the interior,) they are in small parties, and much scattered, living upon opossums, bandicoots, and kangaroos, &c. They begin to return to the coast about September or October, and at this season they chiefly subsist on roots. In calm weather, however, they procure a few fish.
As the season advances, they procure young birds and eggs, and their numbers increase. About Christmas they commence firing the country for game, and the families, who through the winter have been dispersed over the country, reassemble. The greatest assemblages, however, are in the autumn (pourner), when fish are to be procured in the greatest abundance. Towards the end of autumn, also, they kill kangaroos, by surrounding them.
At the dry seasons of the year large districts are abandoned for want of water. They speak much of climbing trees to satisfy their thirst, but I have no knowledge whether it be to procure water from the hollows in the tree, or to extract the sap. I believe they cut a hole with their hammers, and drink, or collect drink in their cloaks, and then carefully close the aperture. In these districts the women climb trees, which is not the case oncoast.
The scarcity of food has occasioned some other customs, which are curious and characteristic. The men and women go out in separate parties, on their respective duties, generally at an early hour in the morning, in companies of two or three together; the women to collect roots or crayfish (challows), and the men with their spears, to procure fish or game. The women carry a waun, a long pointed stick, with which they dig up roots, and which is occasionally used as a weapon. On their backs they carry a bag (cote) made of a kangaroo’s skin, in which they deposit the food they procure: they also carry a fire-stick.
A portion of the roots, or whatever they may collect, they cook and eat, but reserve part for the children and men, to be eaten on their return to their huts. They also get lizards, snakes, and bandicoots, and, in the burning season, set fire to the ground by themselves.
The whole party cook and eat conjointly. They generally go on the open, downy, or swampy land.
The men also go two or three together, unless they have some particular object in view. They are more frequently found on the shores fishing, or in the woods seeking nests, opossums, bandicoots, or kangaroos. When they are successful, they instantly make a fire, and eat a portion of their game. The married men generally reserve a share for their wives. They are extremely jealous of their food, concealing and eating it silently and secretly; yet if others are present they usually give a small portion: they tell me that one-half of what they procure they eat and divide with their companions, and the remainder they keep for the night. The men also collect roots, and sometimes challows, but for these they chiefly rely upon their wives. I have imagined that the classes called Erniung and Tāā-man keep themselves more separate.
They have some superstitious notions in regard to peculiar food for different ages and sexes. Thus girls, after eleven or twelve years of age, seldom eat bandicoots, such food being considered a preventive to breeding; young men will not eat nailoits or warlits (black eagle), or they will not have a fine beard: such food will also influence their success in the chace; and although kangaroos may abound, they will seldom see them, and always miss them when they attempt to spear them. I believe that it is not until the age of thirty that they may eat indiscriminately.
Quails (pourriock or pourrha) are old men’s diet. Plenty of kangaroo is supposed to occasion the women to breed.
Of their children they appear to be very fond, and rarely chastise them; but their treatment of the women is not always gentle, and many of them have spear-wounds in the legs or thighs, indicted by their husbands.
The women are very useful to them, not only in procuring food, but also in preparing their cloaks, building their huts, and other menial offices. They possess few utensils, and those are of the rudest construction: a piece of soft bark, tied at each end, serves for a drinking-cup; the claw of a kangaroo they use for a needle; and through a hollow rush, or the wing-bone of a bird (nweil), they suck the water, when it cannot conveniently be reached with their mouths.
Polygamy is a general practice amongst them, one man sometimes having many wives. Their customs, however, as regards their women, are not only very curious, but also so intricate, and involved in so many apparent contradictions and singularities, that it is probable we have been mistaken in some of them.
The whole body of the natives are divided into two classes, Erniung and Tem or Tāāman; and the chief regulation is, that these classes must intermarry, that is, an Erniung with a Tāāman. Those who infringe this rule are culled Yuredangers, and are subject to very severe punishment. The children always follow the denomination of the mother. Thus, a man who is Erniung will have all his children Tāāman; but his sister’s children will be Erniungs. This practice is common to all the tribes in the neighbourhood, with the exception of the Murram.
The girls appear to be at the disposal of their father, and are generally bespoke in their infancy: even before they are born we have been told to whom they were betrothed, if they prove to be females.
There appear to be some peculiar regulations here, but what they are we could not ascertain. In some instances it happens that the exchange is mutual. The persons to whom the girls are betrothed are not unfrequently men of the middle or an advanced age, and possessing already several wives. They are, however, often more equally matched.
Another custom amongst them is called cotertie: it is confined to boys, and I would compare it to our godfathers; for it seems to be a promise of protection and assistance, and also adopting the boy as a son-in-law.
I do not think they have any nuptial ceremony. At a very early age the girl is brought to her future husband. Attentions and presents are paid more to her father than herself; and, indeed, the trifles she receives are generally transferred to him: these chiefly consist of game, or other articles of food; the father, perhaps, receives a cloak, spears, or other implements. At the age of eleven or twelve years the girl is delivered over to her husband. When a girl is thus, as it were, purchased from her father, the husband is said to be Parn Yockar. Those who steal their wives—a common practice amongst them—are compelled to pay more attention to the female. Sometimes violence is used, and the girl is carried off against her consent; generally, however, in these cases the female is the wife of some old man, and the young couple elope by mutual inclination; even the tribe sometimes are privy to the circumstance. For some time the parties keep aloof, and in the first instance go as far away as possible, and continually change their residence, not daring to show themselves amongst the friends of the injured husband, who makes use of every exertion to recover his wife and revenge the insult. Should the parties evade pursuit, and live together until the female becomes pregnant, mutual friends intercede, presents are made to the husband, and she is released from her first engagement. Thus, running away with a wife is called marr-in-colata. It most frequently happens, however, that the lady is recovered, when she is punished by a severe beating, or more frequently by spearing her through the thigh.
Infidelity is by no means uncommon. The husband keeps a jealous eye on his wife, and on the least excuse for suspicion she is severely punished. The majority of the men are single until past thirty years of age; some much longer. The old men have not only several wives, but of all ages.
This state of things is in some measure compensated by what is called tarramanaccarack: it is, in fact, courting a wife whilst her husband is living, upon the understanding with both parties that she is to be the wife of the lover after the death of the husband. The presents in this case are made to the husband, as well as to the woman; but what she receives she generally divides with him. This practice is done openly, and permitted; but it must be carried on in so decorous a manner as not to occasion scandal to the parties, or jealousy to the husband.
When a man dies, it is usual for his younger wives to reside with their fathers' tribe during the period of mourning, at which time they receive little attention from the men to whom they are subsequently to belong, and would meet with severe punishment were they to go and live with them immediately. Should the parties, however, subsequently run away, not much notice would be taken. It is not unfrequent for the wife to descend among the nearest relatives of her husband; and this arrangement is well understood during his life.
Like other savage tribes, the women suffer little from child-bearing, and even the next day walk out to seek their food as usual. The period of infancy is divided by them into many stages, the names of which I do not recollect. For the first few weeks the child is carried on the left arm in a fold of the cloak, but subsequently is suspended on the shoulders. Until they can run alone they are not clothed. In cases of twins, one of the children is killed; (if of different sexes, the female being preserved;) the reasons assigned for which measure are, that a woman has not sufficient milk for two children, and cannot carry them and seek her food. They suckle them until they are four or five years of age; but long before they are weaned they are instructed in procuring a portion of their food.
A girl of nine or ten years of age has the superintendence of all the little ones who can walk; and she takes them out each with its stick to dig roots in the neighbourhood of their encampment. Should they espy a stranger, they instantly conceal themselves in the herbage, lying as close as a hare in its form. As they get older they accompany the women, and are generally carried astride on their shoulders.
Their dances have been frequently exhibited to us in the settlement for our amusement. They usually strip themselves entirely; but when before us they had their cloak fastened round their loins, leaving only the upper part of the body exposed. The face was painted red; and on the arms and body were various figures, painted with a white colour. White pigment is usually an emblem of mourning, but it is used in the dances, from its being the most conspicuous colour at night. Their mulgarradocks (doctors) and old men never dance.
A fire is kindled on a clear spot, behind which is seated an old man, and in front the dance is performed, as if towards him. They keep the same step, which is varied from time to time; sometimes stooping and grunting, and moving their heads sideways, in most grotesque attitudes.
I think their dances vary, and are in some instances intended to represent the chace and killing of animals; for at times during the dance they cry out warre, wait, toort, &c. Whilst they are dancing they have green boughs in their hands, which they in turn advance and deposit with the old man behind the fire. At some of their dances they have their spears, and at a certain part represent killing one of their party; after which the spears are, like the green boughs, delivered to the old man, who the whole time is seated on the ground, looking very serious, and turning his head about as if to inspect and give directions to the dancers, and pulling or stroking his beard with either hand alternately.
There is neither elegance nor activity displayed in their dancing; on the contrary, it is ludicrous, and may be symbolical. I do not think the women dance with the men, nor am I certain that they ever dance, although some of the natives have informed me they do at their own fires. The noise made by them whilst dancing cannot be considered as musical, or intended as such. Each man repeats at every jump the words wow wow, the meaning of which I cannot explain. When they drive game from a covert with sticks and a noise, they call it wow-e-niā-tur, the word wow being also then used. At intervals they stop to rest, at the time setting up a loud shout.
These dances only take place when many are congregated together and at peace. During war it would subject them to an attack from their enemy, by exposing the situation of their encampment.
Upon the first formation of the settlement we endeavoured to discover whether they had any chiefs, and for a long time believed they had; indeed, we had fixed upon two or three individuals to whom we supposed that rank belonged. The natives whom we had selected were fine, tall, active men, much painted and ornamented. Their names were Naikennon, Gnewitt, Warti, and Eringool; but we subsequently discovered that they were all single men, which accounted for their constantly ornamented appearance. The influence they held over the rest of the natives might have arisen from other circumstances; and we could not discover any individual to whom they gave the supremacy. Naikennon, however, gave out for some time that he was king and captain of the black men. It was a long time before he could be persuaded to visit us, and when he came he was formally introduced by his companions, who talked much about him, and seemed to consider him as superior to them. He was one of the finest looking and best limbed men amongst them, wore his hair tied up in a knob behind, bound tightly round with a string, and his head ornamented on the top with a tuft of white feathers, and a similar badge round his left arm. His chest and shoulders were very much marked with gashes (umbin), and there was much peculiarity in his manners. He talked little, very rarely asked for anything, and, for a great length of time, would neither accompany us on our sporting excursions, nor otherwise render us the little assistance that we were in the habit of receiving from others of his tribe. After a little time, however, both he and his brother, Mawcurrie, became more sociable; and, at last, so partial to our people, as seldom to leave the camp. We had, therefore, a fair opportunity of satisfying ourselves that neither of them possessed any authority over their countrymen.
The individuals who possess most influence are the mulgarradocks, or doctors. Of these they have several grades, differing very materially in the nature and extent of their power, which, like other savages, they attribute to supernatural agency.
A mulgarradock is considered to possess the power of driving away wind or rain, as well as bringing down lightning or disease upon any object of their or others’ hatred. In attempting to drive away a storm of rain, they stand out in the open air, tossing their arms, shaking their clothes, and making violent gesticulations, which they continue for a long time, with intervals, if they are not successful. Almost the same process is used to remove disease; but in this case they are less noisy, and make use of friction, sometimes with green twigs, previously warmed at the fire, frequently making a short puff as if to blow away the pain.
The hand of the mulgarradock is also supposed to confer strength or dexterity, and the natives frequently apply to them for that purpose. The operation consists in simply drawing his hand repeatedly, with a firm pressure, from the shoulder downwards to the fingers, which he afterwards extends until the joints crack.
They do not, however, use friction indiscriminately. In cases of dysentery, for example, to which they are very subject, they administer to the patient the gum of the grass-tree, and sometimes the green stems of the meernes (the red root before mentioned). They have probably many other remedies, for they seem partial to medicines, and will swallow the most nauseous dose to the dregs. The complaints to which they are most subject are those arising from cold, sore throat, and bowel complaints, which are frequently terminated by death, particularly with children.
A young man, standing one day by my fire apparently in good health, fell suddenly on his face senseless, with convulsive twitchings of the face, neck, and arms. I raised him up, and after a few minutes he recovered, and requested I would give him medicine. He told me that such attacks were not uncommon, and wished much to know if we were subject to them. I have seen very few cases of eruptions or boils. Instances of deafness and blindness sometimes occur, but are not common. On the whole they appear to have few ailments. The practice of the mulgarradocks is principally confined to the cure of spear wounds, to which, indeed, comparatively little attention is paid by them. They are very skilful in extracting the weapon, after which they apply a little dust, similar to what is used for pigment, and then bind the wound up tightly with soft bark. In the diet of the sick, however, they are very particular, and the stages of convalescence are marked by the food which they are permitted to eat. At first, roots only are allowed, afterwards lizards, then fish, &c. No cases of deformity have been observed amongst them. Fainting occasions no alarm. They once saw some of our people in a state of inebriety, one of them quite unable to stand; upon which they came to me in great alarm, under strong apprehension that he would certainly die before the following day; adding that black men were sometimes taken so and died. I endeavoured to ascertain the nature of the disease, and think they must have meant a coup de soleil.
The treatment they adopt for the bite of a snake is simple and rational. They tie a ligature of rushes above the part, enlarge the wound with the claw of the kangaroo or the point of a spear, and then suck it, washing it and their mouths frequently with water. Where water cannot be procured, it is considered dangerous to suck the wound. One of the natives (Wannua) was bitten on the finger, and lay ill for a day or two, and some time afterwards appeared thin and unhealthy.
With respect to the divisions and subdivisions of tribes, there exists so much intricacy, that it will be long before it can be understood. The classes Erniung and Tem are universal near the Sound; but the distinctions are general, not tribual. Another division, almost as general, is into Moncalom and Torndirrup; yet there are a few who are neither. These can scarcely be distinguished as tribes, and are very much intermingled. The Moncalon, however, is more prevalent to the eastward of our establishment, and the Torndirrup to the westward. They intermarry, and have each again their subdivisional distinctions, some of which are peculiar, and some general; of these are the Opperheip, Cambien, Mahnur, &c.
What I, however, consider more correctly as tribes, are those which have a general name and a general district, although they may consist of Torndirrup or Moncalon, separate or commingled. These are, I believe, in some measure named by the kind of game or food found most abundant in the district. The inhabitants of the Sound and its immediate vicinity are called Meananger, probably derived from mearn, the red root above mentioned (p. 36) and anger, to eat. It is in this district that the mearn is the most abundantly found; but distant tribes will not eat the mearn, and complain much of the brushy nature of the country—that it scratches their legs. Kangaroos of the larger sort are scarce here, but the small brush kangaroo is plentiful, and grass-trees and are abundant, as is also, in the proper season, fish.
The natives residing on the right, and extending to the coast about North-West Cape, are called Murram. This country, or district, is said to be more fertile, and produces different kinds of edible roots. It affords also more ponds of water, more wild fowl, and more emus.
These tribes are also not universally divided into Erniung and Tem, and frequently infringe the rule. Adjoining them, inland, is the Yobberore. This country appears more hilly and better wooded; but we have had very little intercourse with the natives who belong to it. Next to them is the Will or Weil district, which is a very favourite country, and may probably be named from Weil or Weit (ants' eggs). In this country they mention the existence of a river which is large and deep, extends beyond their knowledge, and is only to be crossed at one spot, over a large fallen tree.
Next to the Weil district is that of Warrangle or Warranger, from warre (kangaroo), and seems to be of the same character as the Weil, which is chiefly open forest land, with a little short grass, and abounding in kangaroos, opossums, and other animals, as well as many birds, which are not found near the coast.
The Corine district—the name of which may be derived from qūur (which I believe to be the bush kangaroo), an animal I have never seen—is said to be very open and nearly free from wood, to have much fern growing about it, and several large salt-water lakes. Beyond the Corine is a river which, however, is fordable; it falls into the sea.
Although every individual would immediately announce to us his tribual name and country, yet we have not been enabled to trace any regular order of descent. The son follows his mother as Erniung or Tem, and his father as Torndirrup or Moncalon. Beyond this we have not been able to penetrate, for half brothers are not unfrequently different. This would probably be caused by cross marriages. From the same cause also their divisions of relationship are very numerous. Eicher, mother; cuinkur, father; mourert, brother or sister; konk or conk, uncle, &c. &c.
In their marriage, they have no restriction as to tribe; but it is considered best to procure a wife from the greatest distance possible. The sons will have a right to hunt in the country from whence the mother is brought.
They are very jealous as to encroachments on their property, and the land is divided into districts, which is the property of families or individuals. At some particular seasons of the year, however, the young men visit their neighbours in parties, and sometimes travel forty or fifty miles for that purpose. Their stay, which is generally short, is a period of rejoicing and feasting. The visiting, of course, only takes place between friendly parties, yet it is attended with a ceremony denoting peace; and they generally approach their friends a little previous, or subsequent to noonday.
It once occurred to me to be out shooting, accompanied by Mawcurrie, the native before spoken of, and five or six of his tribe, when we heard the cry coo-whie, coō-whie-cā-cā, upon which my companion stopped short, and said that strange black men were coming, and were 'no good,' and wished me to accompany him to attack them. Very soon afterwards, however, he discovered that they were friends, and we walked towards them. They were five or six of the Murram tribe, and were dancing along the path towards us.
Their spears and mearas, or throwing-sticks, were carried by one man; the rest were unarmed. They were painted and greased all over, and each had a band round his forehead, in which was stuck grass-tree leaves, hanging downwards over the face. Each also carried in his hand a green bough.
On meeting, they made several turns in a circular direction, and then severally embraced, by encircling the waist of their friend with their arms, and lifting him from the ground, kissing hands, &c., all of which was invariably returned. The dancing was then renewed, and continued at intervals, after which I left them to themselves. The green twig appears always to be an indication of peace, and is much used at their dances.
When individuals quarrel with each other, it is taken up by the respective families.
When a man is killed, his tribe instantly sets about revenging his death; but they are not particular whether they kill the principal offender or any other of his tribe. This feeling of retaliation is, however, extended much farther, for if a man be killed by accident, by falling from a tree, drowned in the sea, or any other way, the friends of the deceased will impute his death to some mulgarradock of an adverse tribe, and kill an individual belonging to it in retaliation. Also, when a man is seriously ill, and fancies he shall not recover, he will attempt to kill somebody, in hopes thereby of recovering.
In their personal conflicts they use their hammers, throwing-sticks and towks to strike with, and the blows therewith inflicted would doubtless frequently be fatal; but they seem incapable of giving a heavy blow, and strike more like women. They do not use shields, but are extremely dexterous in avoiding the spear.
Their quarrels most frequently arise about their women. For depredations on each other’s ground, or any slight cause, they are contented with spearing through the legs or thighs, and do not attempt to kill each other; and the moment one of the party is wounded, the engagement ceases.
In some parts of Australia they have regular war meetings for the purpose of fighting, but this is not the case at King George’s Sound. Their attacks, when intended to be fatal, are most frequently made at night, and always by stealth. We have more than once witnessed their common rencontres. As soon as the enemy is seen approaching, a shout or scream is set up, and all hasten, armed with their spears, to the spot, approaching them with loud noise, thrusting their beards in their mouths, and making the most hideous grimaces, so that they look as if they were frantic. It seldom happens that more than one or two of each party engages; and during the conflict, the rest frequently endeavour to separate the combatants, so that there is much running about. They throw their spears, standing only a few paces from each other; and their dexterity in avoiding them is really wonderful, although they seldom move from the spot, so that many spears are frequently thrown before one of either party is injured.
During the time of war they either quit their locations and go to distant places, for the safety of the women and children, or else assemble together in great numbers for mutual protection. At these times they seldom kindle a fire, except to cook their food, and very frequently remove their encampment, and use every other precaution for concealment. The single men are most frequently the warriors or the attacking parties. They travel in small detachments of three or four together, and endeavour to leave as little trace of their march as possible, avoiding the regular paths, lest their footsteps be discovered; for, like other savages, the Australians are wonderfully sagacious in tracking by the impressions of the foot. Upon discovering the encampment of their enemies, they wait till night, and then cautiously approach, by creeping on their hands and knees, until they have selected the person they are in search of, and immediately spear him through the body. The party who are thus surprised will instantly fly, without attempting resistance; for during the darkness of the night they cannot discern their friends from a foe, and the light of their fires serves to expose them to the spears of their enemies.
Women and children are alike sacrificed, but we seldom heard of more than one individual being killed at an attack. They are, however, so constantly at war that their numbers must be considerably diminished by it. When an individual falls, there are always some who take upon themselves to revenge his death.
Immediately after the burial, the encampment is broken up, and they quit the neighbourhood for a period, during which time they are cautious not to utter the name of the deceased; and in relating the occurrence, the names of the survivors are alone mentioned, and by the omission of that of the dead his fate is told. Upon inquiring into the cause of this custom, they say it is not good to speak his name, lest they should see his gnoit or ghost.
Their funeral solemnities are accompanied by loud lamentations. A grave is dug about four feet long and three wide, and perhaps a yard in depth. The earth that is removed is arranged on one side of the grave in the form of a crescent; at the bottom is placed some bark, and then small green boughs, and upon this the body, ornamented and enveloped in its cloak, with the knees bent up to the breast, and the arms crossed. Over the body is heaped more green boughs, and bark, and the hole is then filled with earth. Green boughs are placed over the earth, and upon them are deposited the spears, knife, and hammer of the deceased, together with the ornaments that belonged to him; his throwing-stick on one side, and the curl or towk on the other side of the mound. The mourners then carve circles in the bark of the trees that grow near the grave, at the height of six or seven feet from the ground; and lastly, making a small fire in front, they gather small boughs, and carefully brush away any portions of the earth that may adhere to them. The face is coloured black or white, laid on in blotches across the forehead, round the temples, and down the cheek-bones, and these marks of mourning are worn for a considerable time. They also cut the end of the nose, and scratch it, for the purpose of producing tears. During the period of the mourning they wear no ornaments or feathers. It frequently occurs that two individuals bear the same name, and in this case, should one of them die, the other changes his name for a certain period, in order that the name of the deceased should not be uttered.
When a female is interred, her implements are, in like manner, deposited in her grave.
From this trait it would be natural to suppose, that they have a belief of a future state; and I think it cannot be doubted that they have. They have very readily adopted an idea which was held out to them, that after death they would go to the moon; but I do not think this was their prior opinion, for in reply to my inquiry, 'where their fathers had gone?' they pointed westward.
They believe in ghosts, and some will assert that they have seen them. I once showed a boy an anatomical drawing of a full figure, upon which he immediately exclaimed that it was a gnoit; and some of them who had once obtained a glimpse of the drawing, could not be persuaded to look upon it again. They are also very superstitious as regards omens; the noise of the night-cuckoo is supposed by them to portend death.
Of their language we have, as yet, little knowledge; the vocabulary will show that it abounds in vowels, and is by no means wanting in harmony. It differs entirely from that of the natives of the eastern coast; and even tribes very nearly situated differ so considerably, that I do not think at two hundred miles they would at all understand each other. They generally speak rapidly; and when in conversation, not unfrequently break out into a kind of chant, in which they relate such occurrences as at the moment interest them. They have, however, singing, if not songs, among them, perhaps entirely extempore. Their women more frequently sing while by themselves, and their songs are not always decent: they are also said by the men to be very fluent in abuse; and their oratory, as interpreted to us, was sufficiently piquante. At their camps there was always a great noise, but it instantly ceased on the approach of a stranger, till it was ascertained who he was. They seemed at times very merry and good-tempered; had much fawning and flattery: at first they commenced pilfering, but for a length of time depredations were very rare, and numerous articles stolen by strangers were returned.
|Foot||Māāt, or Chen|
|Body, or Flesh||Yarlin|
|Tuft of feathers worn on the head||Wallowinny, or Caccalon|
|String round the throat||Woortil|
|Curled stick, or Bomerang of the Sydney||Curl|
|Wing-bone of a bird, used to suck water through||Knweel, or Nweel|
|Yes||Hōō, Ky, Quāco|
|I cannot||Un Waumb|
|I'll go away||Un Bourloc|
|Come here||Ca wa, U-alla|
|Go away, be off||Bullocō|
|Me or mine||Un|
|I am hungry||Un Urelip|
|I am full||Un Mourert|
|I want||Un Gee|
|I want bread||Quannert un gee, or Marrin un gee|
|I want badly||Urelibup un gee|
|Water to drink||Kaip un āān|
|To eat||Anger, Taā|
|Bread||Quannert, or Marrin|
|Absent, At a distance||Bōcun|
|Let us go away||Bōcun oola, or Wat-oola|
|Much or large||Orpern|
|What, What do you say?||E Nāāw|
|What is your name?||Enoc eēan|
|Bad, Unfit to eat||Wockun|
|Like this, In this way||Ky unera|
|Some time since||Corram |
|Long while since||Corram quatchet|
|Hot or warm weather||Ureler|
|Sleep together||Copil nahluc|
|Gum of grass-tree||Perin|
|Large Ant-hill||Weet, or Weetuch|
|Flint||Pal, Tockil, Coorder|
|Hens of Birds||Nāānk|
|Cry or Call of Birds||Mai|
|Noisy, Scoldng||Wanker wanker,|
|Hurt or Sore||Baruck|
|One who talks much||Mai a poole|
|Deaf||Twank ā toot|
|Dead and Buried||Keppiuc chāānuc|
|Wild Dog||Yaccan toort|
|A Man||Yungur. Also a male kangaroo|
|Young and pretty||Yock prindy|
|Middle aged||Narnacpoll—full bearded|
|Young man||Narnatowaller—beard growing|
|Youth||Narnac poort—no beard|
|Infant at breast||Peep anger|
|Married man||Yock a duck|
|Whites||Torndiller, or Maupern nerran nerran|
|Mother of many||Eecher poole|
|Other stages||Wern a warra|
Kuit a weet
|Seasons, beginning with June and July, or Winter.|
|A few||Kain kain|
|Many||Poole, or Orpern|
|Names of Tribes.|
|Erniung||Tāā man, or Tem.|
|Names of Men.|
|Names of Women.||Names of Places.|
- The number of the colonists, being at first on fifty-two persons, up to the period of departure of the author of this paper in October, 1829, had very little increased. The settlement consisted only of eight or ten buildings, some of which were brick nogged, others of turf, and others of wattle and plaster. The roofs were thatched with rushes or coarse grass. At the commencement it received the name of Frederick Town; but as the appellation has not been adopted in the official documents, it remains uncertain whether it will be continued. At one period, the settlement was expected to be abandoned, but the recent discovery of good land at Géographe Bay, and the favourable account of the interior afforded by Dr. Wilson, now render this improbable.
- A species of parsley (apium prostratum), and another of orach (atriplex halimus, Brown, Prod.), were used by my people. The latter, particularly, afforded us a very good substitute for vegetables. We found no celery; and it seems probable, that the wild celery mentioned above is the plant here described.–P. P. K.
- For a further description and representations of the above-mentioned weapons, see King’s Australia, vol. i. p. 355, vol. ii. p. 138, et seq.
- The huts of the New Hollanders differ very materially among different tribes. Generally they are of very rude and simple construction. At Port Jackson they are merely formed of a strip of bark bent over like the roof of a house, and are scarcely large enough to cover the body. At Port Macquarie, however, they are of similar form to those above described, but of larger size, and, perhaps, neater construction. The form of the huts must depend very much upon the productions of the country. Where the stringy bark, the best suited for this purpose, is easily procured, as is the case at Port Jackson and the south-east coast, it is by far the best material for the purpose, for it affords shelter and warmth, and is impervious to rain. The settlers of the colony of New South Wales have found the utility of it, for all their cottages are roofed, and many are entirely covered in with it. P. P. K.
- The tail is frequently used as an ornament for the arm or wrist, &.c.—See King's Australia, vol. ii. p. 143.
- The want of proper material for the construction of canoes may possibly be the cause of the natives of King George's Sound not possessing the means of navigating. From the shoal nature of Princess Royal Harbour and Oyster Harbour, it is not of so much consequence, since, for the greater part, they can be waded across; still, from the scarcity of food, visits to the islands in the sound, on which seal abound, would be of great advantage, and from the navigating disposition of the Australian Indians, it seems extraordinary that they have not some mode of conveying themselves across the water. The trees of King George’s Sound are not at all adapted to be made into canoes, for they afford no bark that could be used, and are too hard and heavy to be burnt or hollowed out. The natives of the west coast have no canoes, and in a northerly direction from Cape Leuwin, none have been noticed, until at Dampier's Archipelago, on the north-west coast, where the mangrove affords the Indians of that part the means of crossing the sea. It is merely a log, which is sufficiently buoyant to carry two or more people. (See King's Australia, vol. i., p. 43, and the wood-cut in the title page of the first volume.) Farther to the eastward, at Hanover Bay, the mangrove is the only material used (see vol. ii. p. 69) in the shape of a raft. But on the north and east and south-east coasts, the canoes are made of the bark of the eucalyptus, but are of very different construction. On the north-east coast, between Cape Flinders and the Cumberland Islands, the canoes are a hollowed log of a soft pulpy wooded tree (Erythrina Indica), and are furnished with an out-rigger. This canoe is described in vol. i., pp. 220 and 225. Other canoes are described in the first volume, at pages 90, 200, and 202.
- Though not afraid of sharks in the shallow water of either of the harbours, yet in the river connecting the lakes with Eclipse Bay, they are extremely timid, and will not venture on the trees overhanging the banks.
- Hæmodorum spicatum. Br. Prodr., p. 300.
- Probably a species of Thelymitra.
- Nāānk signifies her, or female.
- It may be inferred, therefore, that the interior in more open and the land of better quality; for poor soils are always covered with a scrubby brush, and quite useless for the purpose either of depasturage or cultivation.—P. P. K.
- The above names, strictly, indicate vegetable substances resembling the articles of food expressed, and thence applied to them as they became known. The root quannert, or marrin, (bread,) is probably a gigantic truffle.