Native Tribes of South-East Australia/Chapter 6
The aborigines obeyed their laws and customs from fear of tribal as well as super-natural punishment—Executive power of tribal councils of old men—Jalina-piramurana, Headman of the Dieri—Old men and women both instruct the young people in laws of conduct—Powers and qualifications of Headmen of various tribes—In all tribes men were recognised as having control over their tribes-people and who were obeyed—In some tribes there was a tendency for the office to become hereditary—The term "Headman" is to be preferred to that of Chief—The tribal councils—Punishment of offences—Blood-feuds between the Kurnai clans and with neighbouring tribes.
When an Australian tribe is looked at from the standpoint of an ordinary observer, the conclusion that there is no recognised form of government seems to be justified. Apparently no person, or group of persons, has the right to command, under penalties for disobedience, or who is obeyed by the community. There seems to be no person to whom the whole community yields submission, who has peculiar privileges which are patent to observation, or who is surrounded by more or less of savage pomp and ceremony. All that is seen by a general superficial view of an Australian tribe is, that there is a number of families who roam over certain tracts of country, in search of food, and that while they appear to show a considerable respect to the old men, all the males enjoy such liberty of action, that each may be considered to do what seems best to himself.
A more intimate acquaintance with such a tribe, however, shows that there must be some authority and restraint behind this seeming freedom, for it is found that there are well-understood customs, or tribal laws, which are binding on the individual, and which control him, as well as regulate his actions towards others. I have shown in the chapters on marriages and on the initiation ceremonies that there are stringent laws which regulate the intercourse of the sexes, which relate to the secret ceremonies of the tribe, which restrict the choice of food, and so on; and these laws or customs are enforced by severe penalties, even in some cases by death itself.
It is quite true that many such laws or customs are obeyed without the dread of physical punishment being inflicted for their breach, by any tribal authority, individual or collective. But such laws or customs are obeyed because the native has been told, from his earliest childhood, that their infraction will be followed by some supernatural personal punishment Take, for instance, the universal law of mutual avoidance of each other by the man and his wife's mother. I know of no rule which is more implicitly obeyed. The belief is that some result of a magical nature will follow a breach of this rule, for instance that the person's hair will become prematurely grey. The nearest approach to a personal punishment for this offence, if it can be so called, which I have met with, was in the coast Murring tribes, where any personal contact, even accidental touching of one by the other, was punished by the man being compelled to leave the district, his wife returning to her parents.
This rule of avoidance would properly come within the statement made by Mr. E. M. Curr where he says, "the power which enforces custom in our tribes is for the most part an impersonal one." This impersonal authority must have been either public opinion or a supernatural sanction. According to Mr. Curr, it is "education," that is to say, a blackfellow is educated from infancy in the belief that a departure from the customs of his tribe is invariably followed by one, at least, of many possible evils, such as becoming prematurely grey, being afflicted with ophthalmia, skin eruptions, or sickness, but above all, that it exposes the offender to the danger of death from sorcery. This is undoubtedly true as to such a case as that of the mother-in-law, or as to a breach of the rule that a novice must not receive food from the hand of a woman (Kurnai), or speak in the presence of one, without covering his mouth with the corner of his skin rug or blanket (Yuin), but it does not account for the corporal punishments inflicted for other offences.
I shall detail these cases at length further on, but as an instance will refer to the Pinya, or armed party, of the Dieri tribe, which goes out to kill some man who is considered by the old men of the tribe (tribal council) to have brought about the death of some one by evil magic. Such offences as these are therefore punished by the actual authority of persons in the tribe, and not merely by public opinion or the effect of "education," and it is evident that there must be some executive power by which such offences as these are dealt with and punished.
I shall now show what this executive power is, and how it acts in an Australian tribe.
In the Dieri tribe, as in all others of those kindred to it, the oldest man of a totem is its Pintiaru, or head. In each horde there is also a Pinnaru, who may happen also to be the head of a totem. But it does not follow that the head of a totem or of a local division has necessarily much, or even any, influence outside his totem or division. I remember such an instance at Lake Hope where the Pinniaru was, by reason of his great age, the head of the eagle-hawk totem, but he had otherwise little personal influence, for he was neither a fighting-man, a medicine-man, nor an orator. He was the head of his totem by reason of his age, but was not the Pinnaru of the local division. The Pinnarus are collectively the Headmen of the tribe, and of them some one is superior to the others. At the time when I knew the tribe, in 1862-63, the principal Headman was one Jalina-piramurana, the head of the Kunaura totem, and he was recognised as the head of the Dieri tribe. Subsequently Mr. S. Gason, as an officer of the South Australian Mounted Police, was stationed in the Dieri country for six years, and was well acquainted with this man. He has described him to me as a man of persuasive eloquence, a skilful and brave fighting- man, and a powerful medicine-man. From his polished manner the whites called him "the Frenchman." He was greatly feared by his own and the neighbouring tribes. Neither his brothers (both of them inferior to him in bravery and oratorical power) nor the elder men presumed to interfere with his will, or to dictate to the tribe, except in minor matters. He decided disputes, and his decisions were received without appeal. The neighbouring tribes sent messengers to him with presents of bags, Pitcheri, red ochre, skins, and other things. He decided when and where the tribal ceremonies were to be held, and his messengers called together the tribe from a radius of a hundred miles to attend them, or to meet on inter-tribal matters.
His wonderful oratorical powers made his hearers believe anything he told them, and always ready to execute his commands. He was not by nature cruel or treacherous, as were many of the Dieri, and when not excited was considerate, patient, and very hospitable. No one spoke ill of Jalina-piramurana, but on the contrary with respect and reverence. This is understood when Mr. Gason adds that he distributed the presents sent to him amongst his friends to prevent jealousy. He used to interfere to prevent fights, even chastising the offender, and being sometimes wounded in so doing. On such an occasion there would be great lamentation, and the person who had wounded him was not infrequently beaten by the others.
As the superior Headman of the Dieri, he presided at the meetings of the Pinnarus, sent out messengers to the neighbouring tribes, and even had the power of giving away young women, not related to him, in marriage, of separating men from their wives, when they could not agree, and of making fresh matrimonial arrangements.
He periodically visited the various hordes of the Dieri tribe, from which he also periodically received presents. Tribes even at a distance of a hundred miles sent him presents, which were passed on to him from tribe to tribe.
He was one of their great Kunkis or medicine-men, but would only practise his art on persons of note, such as heads of totems or his personal friends.
He was the son of a previous Headman, who was living during Mr. Gason's residence in the country, and who, although too infirm to join in the ceremonies, gave advice to the old men. He boasted that he had the command of the tribe before his son acquired it. He was believed to be proof against magical practices, such as "striking with the bone."
Jalina-piramurana had succeeded to and indeed eclipsed his father. He was the head of the Kunaura murdu, and boasted of being the "tree of life," for the seed Kunaura forms at times the principal source of vegetable food of these tribes. He was also spoken of as the "Manyura murdul," that is, the plant itself of which the Kunaura is the seed.
I knew Jalina-piramurana when in the Dieri country before Mr. Gason went to it. He was at Lake Hope, (Pando) as I was returning to the South Australian settlements, and, to use the language of the present day, interviewed me, together with a deputation of his Pinnarus, with two requests. The first was, that I would go with him and kill all the "Kunabura-kana," that is, the men of Kunabura; who were "Malingki kana" that is, bad men; the second, that I would tell the white men who were coming up to his country, according to the information sent him by the tribes further down, that they should "sit down on the one side of Pando, and the Kana would sit down on the other, so that they would not be likely to quarrel." I can say also, that he was a courteous blackfellow, with plenty of conversation. He walked with me for some miles on our next day's journey round Lake Hope, and was much amused at my remark, when the horse I was leading suddenly terrified him by neighing close to his ear,—"Wotta yappali yenni, nanto yattana," that is, "Do not fear; the horse is talking."
I observed that there were such Pinnarus in the tribes to the north and north-east of the Dieri, for instance the Yaurorka and Yantruwunta.
When going northward from my depot at Cooper's Creek, on the occasion of my second expedition, I obtained the services of a young Yantruwunta man, who knew the country as far north as Sturt's Stony Desert. He belonged to the small tribal group in whose country my depôt was fixed. My first stage was to a pool of water, from which I could make a good departure northwards. At this place the young man ran away after dark, being alarmed, as he afterwards told me, at the precautions I took for the safety of the party during the night. With my own blackboy I tracked him in the morning to a camp of his tribe at a small pool in the river-bed, about two miles distant. Here the Pinnaru, after satisfying himself that I meant no harm to the guide or to his people, sent two of his men to bring the refugee from the place where he was concealed, and handed him over with an admonition not to run away again. Here was an exercise of authority, and obedience to it.
When in the Yaurorka country I camped for the night near the encampment of one of the small groups of that tribe. Some of the old men, the Pinnanrus of the place, came to visit me, and asked me to go with them to see the Pinna-pinnaru (the "Great-great-one"), who could not come to see me. I went with them and found, sitting in one of the huts, the oldest blackfellow I had ever seen. The other Pinnarus were mostly grey-headed and bald, but he was so old as to be almost childish, and was covered with a grizzly fell of hair from head to foot. The respect with which he was treated by the other old men was as marked in them as the respect which they received from the younger men. They told me that he was so old that he could not walk, and that when they travelled some of the younger men carried him.
Such Headmen as those of the Dieri tribe appear to be found in the neighbouring tribes, but no doubt Jalina-piramurana was an exceptionally able and therefore an unusually influential man.It may be mentioned here that the old men, in their leisure time, instructed the younger ones in the laws of the tribe, impressing on them modesty of behaviour and propriety of conduct, as they understood it, and pointing out to them the heinousness of incest. The old women also instructed the young ones in the same manner.
In the Tongaranka tribe of the Itchumundi nation, authority is in the hands of the Headman and the elders, who have much to say in the management of affairs, such as the allotment of wives, ceremonies for making rain, and such like.
It is said that in the Karamundi nation there were no Headmen, but when anything important had to be settled all the initiated men gathered together and decided what was to be done.
In the Wiimbaio tribe a Headman must have age, personal prowess, talents as a leader, and a clever tongue. If a man had magical powers, he might be feared, but he would not be thereby a Headman. In one of their tribal councils the old men spoke first, after them the younger men, then the old men directed what should be done. There were also meetings of the whole community, who might be camped together. At an assembly of that kind all the men sat in a circle near the camp, old men and young men together, and most of them carried something in their hands, such as a club. At one of these councils, which occurred about the year 1850, one of the oldest men, named Pelican, went into the ring with spear and shield and exhibited an imaginary combat, using his weapons to explain to the young men how to fight. This old man had not any special claim to authority excepting that he was old and skilful in fighting. At times, in the evening, an old man might rise up in his camp, holding his spear or some other weapon in his hand, and make an oration. Once when they feared that another tribe might come up against them, an old man stood up in the evening in this manner and made a speech on the subject.
The Theddora, who lived on the sources of the Mitta-Mitta, Tambo, and Ovens Rivers, were practically extinct by the year 1860, and all I can now say is that they had Headmen, who were called Turki, and whose authority was much of the same degree as that of the Gweraeil-kurnai of the Kurnai tribe.
I heard much from the few survivors of one Metoko, who combined the office of Medicine-man and Headman, and thus was the analogue of the Gommeras of the Yuin tribe. Some interesting particulars are given of the tribe by Mr. Richard Helms, from whom I quote. The oldest man of the tribe was recognised as a kind of chief, but whenever an attack on some enemy was planned, the ablest warrior was, as a rule, chosen to lead, and his advice then received the endorsement of the old men.
Some of these old men were known to me by repute, not only from the survivors of the tribe, but also from the Kurnai, Wolgal, and Ngarigo, with whom I was acquainted, and who had known them. The principal one seems to have been the Metoko before mentioned, who, it is said, could, in his character of medicine-man, blow a thread, "like a spider's web," up to the sky and ascend by it. The principal fighting-man was "Kobbon Johnny," that is "Big Johnny," whose native name I never heard. Other Headmen are mentioned in the account of the great Kurnai blood- feud.
In speeaking of the tribal councils, I have described at length the Headmen (Gommeras) of the Yuin. Similarly there were Headmen, who combined the office with that of medicine-man, in the Ngarigo and Wolgal tribes. When the Wolgal went to fight they had no regular leader. Their fights generally commenced with a single combat, and when one or the other was beaten the fight would become general. The old men would direct operations, but in actual fighting the combatants would not be in any state to be controlled.
As to the southern tribes of the Kamilaroi, situated to the northward of Maitland, I have evidence dating back to about 1830. There might be two or three Headmen in each division of the tribe. Their position was one of influence and authority, and depended on the valour of the individual. It was not hereditary, but a man who distinguished himself as a warrior or orator would become a leader by mere force of character, and his son, if valiant, would be very highly thought of. The oldest Headman would be the chief or principal man in the council of elders. He could carry a measure by his own voice, as the Kamilaroi have great respect for age. The Headman had a great amount of authority, and all the disputes among the members of his division of the tribe would be settled by him, such a man being the Headman of his division, not because he was the oldest man in it, but for the reasons stated. In the early days of settlement of New South Wales a white man could not be marked down for death excepting by the voices of the Headmen; and the Bora ceremonies are held by their orders.
In the southern Wiradjuri a Headman is called Bidja-bidja, and, as I have heard him described, is one who "gives orders to people," there being a Headman of this sort in each local division. The Bidja-bidja was always a medicine-man. If, for instance, he were the oldest Yibai, and a medicine-man, he would be the head of the Yibai sub-class; but, assuming that he also became the Headman of the local group, then all the people of that division, not only of this "Budjan" (sub-class), would obey him. Each totem also had its Headman. I have heard the Bidja-bidja spoken of by a term equivalent to "master," this being the analogue of the Biamban of the Yuin. The office of Headman was in a sense hereditary, for a son would inherit the position of his father, if he possessed any oratorical or other eminent ability. But if not, then the son of the brother of the deceased Headman would probably hold the position, and failing him some qualified relative of the same sub-class. But this was with the consent of the community, for the office went in fact by election in each division.
The Headman called his people together whenever it was necessary for them to assemble; for instance, to hold the Burbung ceremonies. At such great meetings of the tribe, matters relating to its interests were discussed, and the course of action as to murders, abduction of women, adultery, or raids on, or by, other tribes were discussed.So far as I have been able to ascertain, there were not any recognised Headmen in the Wakelbura tribe; the strongest and best fighting-men were listened to in a debate, and the aged men held some little authority.
On the other hand, it is said that in the Dalebura tribe the government appeared to be in the hands of Headmen called Bubi-beri. But beyond this I have not been able to learn anything, even from my correspondent, who had exceptionally favourable opportunities of becoming acquainted with his "faithful Dale-buras."
In the Unghi tribe there are no chiefs; such a thing is unknown to them, although a black of more than average courage may be looked upon with greater respect than the rest. They are a community where all are equal; their law is communism; whatever one gets is shared with the others. But it is communism regulated and restricted by recognised rules.
The Headman of the Bigambul tribe was the best fighting-man with the strongest following, but a certain degree of respect was shown to the old men and medicine-men.
In the Kaiabara tribe there were two Headmen, one being of the Kubatine and the other of the Dilebi class, and they ruled their classes respectively. When one of them died, his son, or one of the next-of-kin, inherited the office of the deceased. The Headman wore a band round his arm made of Bunya fibre, as the mark of his office.
In the tribes of the Wotjo nation the oldest man of the local group was its head; and the people, not only of his own totem, but also of others in the same group, listened to, and obeyed him. When two or more local groups were together, their respective Headmen met and talked over matters of importance. The oldest of them was their head for the time, just as the oldest man of a totem is its head. Such a man sent out messengers on matters requiring an assemblage of the totem, or of the people of the local group.
Among the Mukiarawaint some of the heads of totems were also Headmen of local groups, but unless such a man possessed qualifications for the position, some younger man would be chosen in preference to him. When the Headman of a totem died, all the totemites were called together by the man next in age; and not only the men of the totem, but every one—men, women, boys, and girls. The women of the totem who were married were necessarily with their husbands, and were not notified. The assembly was called together in the manner I have spoken of in relation to "messengers."
When all were assembled at the appointed place, they formed a ring, the old men with their wives in the front row, the younger men with their wives in the next, and outside were the young men and the girls to look on, but not to take any other part in the proceedings. These were commenced by one of the elders speaking, followed by other men; finally, the sense of the meeting was taken, and then the old men stated who should be the Headman. The choice being thus made, presents were given to the new head by the other Headmen, who had collected things from their people, such as opossum or other skin rugs or weapons.
If a Headman offended the tribes-people, or was in some respects very objectionable to them, the other Headmen would at some great tribal meeting consult at the Jun or council-place, and perhaps order him to be killed. This probably would be carried out under the personal direction of one of them.
I was not able to learn of an instance where a son necessarily succeeded his father in this office. As the totems were scattered over the whole of the country, and as there was a Headman in each local division, the men of totems other than his had to obey him as to general matters, while they had to obey the head of their own totem in matters relating to it. This will be brought out in speaking of the ordeal by combat in this tribe.
When important matters are discussed by the old men of the Jupagalk tribe, a fire is made at the Jain, or meeting-place. Here they would talk over such cases as that of a man who had approached a woman who was of too near Yauerin (flesh) to him, and whom he could not therefore marry. The Jajaurung call the Jain, Ulambara.
The office of Headman was, in the Gournditch-mara tribe, hereditary, and when a Headman died, his son, or failing him a near male relative, became Headman. This was, as the Gournditch-mara say, the law of the tribe before the white men came to the country. He had the power of declaring hostilities against other tribes, and when he did so the tribes-people followed him. He settled all quarrels and disputes, and when he had done this no one questioned it. When forays had been made on some neighbouring tribe, and spoil had been taken, he divided it, taking the best for himself. The men of his tribe were obliged to provide him with food, and to make presents to him, such as skin rugs, stone tomahawks, flint knives, weapons, etc.
This tribe is one of those which Mr. Dawson described in his work before quoted.
As to those tribes, Mr. Dawson says that every tribe has its chief, who is looked on in the light of a father, and whose authority is supreme. He consults with the best men of the tribe, but when he announces his decision, they dare not contradict or disobey him. If a chief leaves home for a short time he is always accompanied by a friend, and on his return is met by two men who conduct him to his Wuurn (hut). When a tribe is moving from one part of the country to another, the chief, accompanied by a friend, precedes it, and obtains from the next chief permission to pass, before his followers cross the boundary. When approaching a friendly camp the chief walks at the head of his tribe; a strange chief approaching a camp is met at a short distance by the chief, and invited to come and sit down; a fire is made for him, and then he is asked where he comes from and what is his business.
When a chief dies, the best male friend of the deceased is appointed to take charge of the tribe until, at its next great meeting, the succession is decided by the votes of the chiefs. The eldest son is appointed, unless there is some good reason for setting him aside. Failing him, the office goes to the deceased chief's eldest brother, or to his younger brothers and their successors.
I have quoted from Mr. Dawson in his own words, but if the word "Chief" is replaced by the term "Headman," his description falls in with much that I have said as to the office of Headman in the Wotjobaluk and other tribes of Western Victoria. But in the tribes described by Mr. Dawson, the succession by the eldest son seems to have been much more established, and as he had such exceptional opportunities of observation, from nearly the settlement of the State, I accept his account as accurate.
The Wurunjerri serve as an example of the practice of the tribes which formed the Kulin nation. The old men governed the tribe, and among them there were men called Ngurungaeta. If a man was sensible and, as Berak put it, "spoke straight," and did harm to no one, people would listen to him and obey him. Such a man would certainly become a Ngurungaeta, if his father was one before him. It was he who called the people together for the great tribal meetings, sent out messengers, and, according to his degree of authority, gave orders which were obeyed. Such a man was always of mature age, and possessed of some eminent qualities, for which he was respected.
At an expiatory combat he could put an end to it, if he thought that enough had been done. There is a passage in the life of Buckley which bears on the powers of the Ngurungaeta. He says, "I had seen a race of children grow up into women and men, and many of the old people die away, and by my harmless and peaceable manner amongst them had acquired great influence in settling their disputes. Numbers of murderous fights I had prevented by my interference, which was received by them as well meant; so much so that they would often allow me to go among them previous to a battle and take away their spears and waddies and boomerangs." This shows that Buckley had, by reason of age and consideration, grown into the position of a Ngurungaeta or Headman. So far as my inquiries have gone, I have not been able to find out that such an interference by a Ngurungaeta, as spoken of by Buckley, would be ineffective. The Kulin would not have refused to obey such an interference, unless in a case where public opinion happened to be very strongly divided and one side were against him. In the case of ceremonial ordeals and expiations, as I shall have occasion to mention later on, such interference by a Headman has been effectual in staying the hands of his own men, and apparently those of the other side also.
Among the Kulin there was a Headman in each local group, and some one of them was recognised as being the head of all. Some were great fighting-men, others were orators, and one who lived at the time when Melbourne was established, was a renowned maker of songs and was considered to be the greatest of all.
If a Headman had a son who was respected by the tribes-people he also would become a Ngurungaeta in time. But if he were, from the native point of view, a bad man, or if people did not like him, they would get some one else, and most likely a relative of some former Headman, such as his brother or brother's son.
A Headman could order the young men of the camp to do things for him and they would obey him. He might, as I have heard it put, say to the young men, "Now all of you go out, and get plenty of 'possums and give them to the old people, not raw but cooked." Similarly the wife of the Ngurungaeta could order the young women about.
Each Headman had another man "standing beside him," as they say, to whom he "gave his words." This means that there was a second man of somewhat less authority, who was his comrade, or rather "henchman," who accompanied him when he went anywhere, who was his mouthpiece and delivered his orders to those whom they concerned. When the Headman went out to hunt with his henchman, or perhaps with two of them, if he killed game, say a wallaby, he would give it to one to carry; if he killed another, the other man would carry it, and it was only when he obtained a heavy load that he carried anything himself.
The account of these Headmen given by William Thomas, who was Protector of the Blacks in the early years of the settlement of Port Phillip, falls into line with the particulars which I have given. I have condensed his statements as follows: "Each tribe has a Chief who directs all its movements, and who, wherever he may be, knows where all the members of the community are. The Chief, with the aged men, makes arrangements for the route each party is to take, when the tribe, after one of its periodical meetings, again separates.
"Besides the Chiefs, they have other eminent men, as warriors, counsellors, doctors, dreamers who are also interpreters, charmers who are supposed to bring or drive rain away, and also to bring or send away plagues, as occasion may require."
Such are Mr. Thomas's statements. He had great opportunities for obtaining information, for, as he says, he was "out with them for months," but it is much to be regretted that he did not place on record the very many facts which he must have seen as to their beliefs and customs, which would have been invaluable now.
The Wurunjerri tribe of the Woëworung-speaking people gives a good example of the manner in which the lesser divisions (clans) were arranged, and of the relation to them of the Ngurungaeta. In order to make clearer what I shall have to say about the Headman, it will be necessary to say that when Melbourne was established, the tribe was divided into three parts. One, called Kurnaje-berring was sub-divided into those who, under their Headman Bebejern, occupied the country from the Darebin Creek to the sources of the Plenty River, and those who, under their Headman Billi-billeri, lived on the east side of the Saltwater River, up to Mt. Macedon. The second division lived about the Yarra Flats, under their Headman Jakki-Jakki, and occupied also the country on the northern slopes of the Dandenong Mountains. The third division was the "real Wurunjerri," who dwelt on the western side of the Saltwater River, and as far as Mt. Macedon, under their Headman Bungerim.
Immediately adjoining the Wurunjerri country, on the west side, was that of the Kurnung-willam who were also Woëworung, and whose Headman was called Ningu-labul, but was named by the white men "Captain Turnbull." He was a great maker of songs, which, as Berak said, "made people glad when they heard them," but when he sang one of them to me, it had the contrary effect, for it made him shed tears. Ningu-labul came of a family of gifted singers, for his father and grandfather had been renowned song-makers, and this, as well as his own poetical power, was the cause of his great authority as a Ngurungaeta, not only in his own tribe, but also in those adjoining. The case of this man shows how headmanship was hereditary in a family, whose members were gifted beyond their fellows.
On the northern side of Mt. Macedon were the Gal-gal-bulluk part of the Jajaurung tribe, whose Headman was known by the white people as "King Bobby," and who was the "partner" of Ningu-labul. If the latter wished to bring people from further north, he sent "his word" to Bobby, who in his turn sent it on by the next near Headman. To the westward of Ningu-labul was the country of the Kri-balluk, whose Headman was a great medicine-man called Doro-bauk mentioned in Chap. VIII.
To the south of the Wurunjerri was a clan of the Bunurong tribe, called the Yalukit-willam, whose Headman was Benbu.
Most of the Headmen were related to each other by marriage, and thus in a family such as that of Ningu-labul, where there was a tendency for authority to become hereditary, there was the germ of a practice which, under favourable circumstances, might have established a privileged family, such as some of my correspondents have spoken of.
In tracing out these connections between the several Headmen, it became clear to me that they exercised much influence in making the Ngurungaetas. Thus it was Ningu-labul, whose influence made Bebejern and Billi-billeri Headmen. The former and other old men made Bungerim a Ngurungaeta.
The right to hunt and to procure food in any particular tract of country belonged to the group of people born there, and could not be infringed by others without permission. But there were places which such a group of people claimed for some special reason, and in which the whole tribe had an interest. Such a place was the "stone quarry" at Mt. William near Lancefield, from which the material for making tomahawks was procured. The family proprietorship in this quarry had wide ramifications, including more than Wurunjerri people. On the one side it included the husband of Billi-billeri's sister, one of the Headmen of the Kurnung-willam, who lived at Bacchus Marsh, and who was named Nurrum-nurrum-biin, that is, "moss growing on decayed wood." On another side it included Ningu-labul, and in another direction Bebejern, the son of an heiress in quarry rights, from whom an interest came to Berak through his father Bebejern. But it was Billi-billeri, the head of the family whose country included the quarry, who lived on it, and took care of it for the whole of the Wurunjerri community. When he went away, his place was taken by the son of his sister, the wife of Nurrum-nurrum-biin, who came on such occasions to take charge, when it may be assumed, like Billi-billeri, he occupied himself in splitting stone to supply demands. The enormous amount of broken stone lying about on this mountain shows that generations of the predecessors of Billi-billeri must have laboured at this work.
When neighbouring tribes wished for some stone they sent a messenger to Billi-billeri saying that they would send goods in exchange for it, for instance, such as skin-rugs. When people arrived after such a message they encamped close to the quarry, and on one occasion Berak heard Billi-billeri say to them, "I am glad to see you and will give you what you want, and satisfy you, but you must behave quietly and not hurt me or each other."
If, however, people came and took stone without leave, it caused trouble and perhaps a fight between Billi-billeri's people and them. Sometimes men came by stealth and stole stone. I have heard Berak speak of such a case, and the manner in which it was met is described further on.Stone tomahawks and axes are made either from water-worn pebbles or pieces split from larger blocks of stone. The former was the practice in Gippsland, where suitable material is very plentiful in the mountain streams. Both
A Kurnai man having found a waterworn stone suitable for his purpose, first of all chipped or pounded the part intended for the cutting edge with a hard rounded pebble, then having brought it somewhat into shape, he rubbed it down on a suitable rock in the bed of a stream until he had produced a good edge. This process was much more expeditious than might be expected. Pieces of grinding-stone which abraded quickly were kept, and even carried from camp to camp for the purpose of sharpening the edge when necessary.
Such methods are also used in Central Australia by tribes inhabiting hilly country, such as the Mardala, to the southward of Lake Eyre.
A side-light is thrown on the position and powers of these Headmen by a passage in Knopwood's account of Colonel Collins' attempt to form a settlement in Port Phillip Bay in the year 1803. A party who were surveying "at the north-west point of the bay" were met by a number of natives, who, on a shot being fired over their heads, "ran away a small distance, but soon approached again with the king, who wore a very elegant turban crown and was always carried upon the shoulders of the men. Whenever he desired them to halt, or to approach, they did it immediately." The fact that he was carried by his men may, however, mean no more than that he was from some cause unable to walk.
In reference to the office of the man for which I have thought the expression "henchman" not inappropriate, it may be observed that he stands a little at one side of, and to the rear of, his principal. The henchman of Ningu-labul was the brother of Berak's father, Bebejan, whose henchman was a man named Winberi. These men seem to have had the same position as "the friend," who, Mr. Dawson says, accompanied the "Chief" of one of the tribes described by him.
In the Yerkla-mining tribe the medicine-men are the Headmen, and are called Mobung-bai, from mobung, "magic." They decide disputes, arrange marriages, and, under certain circumstances, settle the formalities to be observed in combats by ordeal, and conduct the ceremonies of initiation. They cut the gashes which, when healed, denote the class of the bearer, or his hardihood and prowess. In fact, they wield authority in the tribe, and give orders where others only make requests.
In the Narrang-ga tribe the office of Headman was hereditary from father to son, and there was one in each of the four tribal divisions. The eldest of them was most considered. One Headman, who was living in the year 1887, was a man probably over eighty years of age, and therefore was alive before the establishment of Adelaide, and he inherited his office from his father. His son had in that year already some authority in the tribe. Other old men of nearly the same age were unanimous in affirming the above statements as to the Headmanship in this tribe.
According to the account given to me by the Rev. George Taplin, and afterwards confirmed and extended by his son, the late Mr. W. Taplin, there was a Headman in each of the clans, who was called Rupulli. He was the leader in war, and in battles he was carefully guarded by the warriors of his clan. The office was not hereditary, but a Headman was elected by the heads of families, who chose either the son or brother of the deceased Headman as seemed best.
In the Yuin tribe there was a Headman in each of the local divisions. He was called Gommera, and, to be fitted for the office, must be a medicine-man, be aged, able to speak several languages (dialects), be skilful as a fighting-man, and be, above all, able to perform those feats of magic which the Gommeras exhibit at the initiation ceremonies.
Although there were totems, they differed from the totems of other tribes, in so far that they were, as the Yuin say, "more like a Joïa than a name," and there was no totemic Headman, such as those who were found in the Wotjobaluk tribe.
The Gommera was also called Biamban, which may be rendered as "master," and in his particular locality he dictated to his people. All the Gommeras were Biamban, and the greatest was he who could, as the Yuin say, "bring the greatest number of things up out of himself" at the ceremonies.
There was a head Gommera, named Waddyman, who died about 1884 at a great age. His account of himself was that, when a little boy, he was taken by the then head Gommera, and trained by him, so that he might take his place when he died.
The power of these men is riveted on the younger men by the impressive instructions which are given at the initiation ceremonies, as to the implicit obedience to be given to their orders, and also by the apparently supernatural powers which they exhibit thereat. But the Gommeras also admonish their people directly, as when one of them stands up by his camp fire and tells those present about the old laws which they must obey.
When Sydney was established in 1788, the natives of Botany Bay, Port Jackson, and Broken Bay were found to be living distributed into families, the head, or senior, of which exacted compliance from the rest. When the English met with families, they were always accosted by the person who appeared to be the eldest of the party, while the women, youths and children were kept at a distance. The word which in their language signifies "father" was applied to their old men; and when after some time, and by close observation, they perceived the authority with which Governor Phillip commanded, and the obedience which he exacted, they bestowed on him the distinguishing appellation of Be-anna or "father." The title being conferred solely on him (although they perceived the authority of masters over their servants) places the true sense of the word beyond a doubt, and proves that to those among them who enjoyed that distinction belonged the authority of a Chief.
When any of them went into the town, they were immediately pointed out by their companions, or those natives who resided in it, in a whisper, and with an eagerness of manner which, while it commanded the attention of those to whom it was directed, impressed them likewise with an idea that they were looking at persons remarkable for some superior quality even among the savages of New South Wales.
In the Gringai tribe there was a Headman called Nurjain, who must have been an aged man before he was much thought of. The office is said to have been in a certain family, the members of which were either Ipai or Kumbo. Assuming this to have been so, it follows that descent must have been in the male line in this tribe, which is a departure from the Kamilaroi practice. This is not, however, improbable, for, as I have pointed out, male descent is common in some of the tribes of south Queensland, which have the Kamilaroi class names. The medicine-man (Kuratchi) was not necessarily a Headman.
Among the Geawe-gal, the best man in war would be recognised by them as principal adviser, and would have authority by consent of the elders. When the son proved himself a capable warrior, the office has been hereditary, but without such proof, there was no possibility of his being accepted. A Koradji (medicine-man) might be such a leader. In every case, however, the leading or chief man would be only primus inter pares, and be liable to be set aside by the old men, if his directions were disapproved of.
Mr. Dawson, in speaking of the tribes at Port Stephens as they were about the year 1830, says positively that there were no Chiefs, but that there were certain leading characters who had more influence than others among the multitude when assembled. No one was invested with or assumed any authority whatever in the tribe.
In the Kurnai tribe, age was held in reverence, and a man's authority increased with years. If he, even without being aged, had naturally intelligence, cunning and courage, beyond his fellows, he might become a man of note, weighty in council, and a leader in war; but such a case was exceptional and, as a rule, authority and age went together. The authority of age also attached to certain women who had gained the confidence of their tribes-people. Such women were consulted by the men, and had great weight and authority in the tribe. I knew two of them, who being aged, represented the condition of the Kurnai before Gippsland was settled. Together with the old men, they were the depositaries of the tribal legends and customs, and they kept alive the stringent marriage rules to which I have referred elsewhere, thus influencing public opinion very strongly. Possibly the reason for this may have been in part that in this tribe the women take part in the initiation ceremonies up to a certain point.
When Gippsland was settled in 1842, there were two principal Headmen who were recognised as their Gweraeil-kurnai, or Great Men. One lived in the northern and the other in the southern part of the district. These men were the recognised leaders. One was a great fighting-man; the other less so, but he was also a great medicine-man. There were also Gweraeil-kurnai in the local divisions, and it is significant that some of these men gave their names to the divisions, of which they were respectively the Headmen. This may be seen on inspection of the table of clans in Chapter II.
How a man gradually increased in influence as he increased in years is shown by the case of the last Gweraeil-kurnai. He was the man Bunbra, whom I shall mention when speaking of the expiatory combats later on in this chapter. I watched this man's career during many years. Since the time of the expiatory combat, in which he was the defendant, the old men, who were successively the leaders of the people, had died off, until Bunbra came to be the oldest man left. The name by which, apart from his English name, he was known, is Jetbolan, or the Liar; but, by reason of age, he finally became the Gweraeil-kurnai. During the same time Tulaba, the tribal son of the former great Headman Bruthen-munji, had also grown into age, and much consideration attached to him in his twofold character, as one of the elders and as being a worthy son of the former Headman. During this time the pressure of our civilisation had broken down the tribal organisation; the white man's vices, which the Kurnai had acquired, had killed off a great number, the remainder had mostly been gathered into the mission-stations, and only a few still wandered over their ancestral hunting-grounds, leading their old lives in some measure, and having apparently abandoned their ancestral customs. When, however, it was decided that the Jeraeil ceremony should be revived for the instruction of their young men, I observed with much interest, that the old tribal organisation arose again, so to say, out of the dust, and became active. Bunbra who, at the time when Bruthen-munji directed the proceedings of the Nungi-nungit against him, was a comparatively young man, and without any consideration in the tribe, was now by reason of his age its Headman, to whom all matters were referred. To him messengers were sent, he gave orders as to the time for assembling, and the others obeyed them. Indeed, without him they would not have moved at all.
At the Jeraeil ceremonies he was the leader, and it was mainly his voice that decided questions which arose and were discussed at meetings of the initiated men. When during the ceremonies two of the novices were brought before the old men charged with having broken some of the ceremonial rules, it was Bunbra who spoke last, and his directions as to them were followed.
In one of the intervals of the ceremonies at the Jeraeil, when I was sitting with some of the old men; they spoke of the old times, and what was very unusual, of the old men who were now dead, and of their great actions. I could understand then how they came to be the Gweraeil-kurnai of the tribe. One of those they mentioned was a man of the Brataualung clan, who in a fight with one of the other clans, ran ahead of his men and broke the legs of some of the enemy with his hands, leaving them to be killed by his followers. So also another man of the Brayaka, who lived near where Rosedale now is, used in wet winters, when the ground was very soft with rains, to run down the old men kangaroos, and thus catch them with his hands, and kill them. Another old hero was Bruthen-munji, whom I have mentioned before. It was said that he ran down one of the Brajerak, at a place now known as Blackfellow's Gully, near Buchan, and held him till his brother, another fighting-man of renown, came up and killed him with his club.
In the Chepara tribe there was a Headman called Kulumba-mutta, that is, "Great Man," and in the Chepara clan of the tribe it was the Kulumba-mutta of it who was superior to any of the other Headmen.
The office of Headman descended to the son; if there were no son, then to the daughter's son; and, failing this, to the brother of the deceased. If a Headman became incapacitated, or for some other reason did not fill his office satisfactorily, the old men would set him aside, and select some one of the above mentioned in his place, but the medicine-man did not necessarily become a Headman.
These instances extend over a great part of the south-eastern quarter of Australia, and they have been recorded either from my own observation or from that of competent correspondents. I have also as in former chapters quoted from certain authors, either because their remarks have a special bearing on the subject-matter in question, or to complete more fully the details of my subject. But in those cases I have exercised my judgment as to the individual value of their evidence, when compared with that of others.
I have shown that there are, and were, men recognised as having control over the tribes-people, and whose directions are obeyed. Such men receive designations which, in some cases, may be translated "Elder" or "Great One." This evidence justifies the conclusion that in other tribes within the area which my evidence covers there were also such Headmen. No doubt, in some tribes, their power and authority have been better established than in others, while in certain of them there is a tendency for the office of Headman to be transmitted from father to son, if the latter be found worthy. But the area to which my evidence refers is but one quarter of the continent, and the investigations of Spencer and Gillen show that, in the Arunta and others of the same group of tribes, there is not such a marked authority attaching to certain leading men as I have found to be especially the case in the coast tribes of south-eastern Australia.
Simply as a question of terminology, it is well to avoid the use of the word Chief, because it inevitably suggests by its associations the hereditary chieftainship, with which we are familiar in some of the South Sea tribes. But the statement of some authors is most certainly erroneous that there are no men who have controlling powers, and that each man may do what is right in his own eyes, without regard to other considerations than retaliation by the individual, or his kindred, who may suffer by his action.
I have chosen the term Headman as being less likely to be misunderstood than that of Chief, which has associations not applicable to the Australian savage. But if we must use the word Chief to imply a person having power to direct the people of his class or tribe, and that his directions or orders are obeyed by them, then I say that the Pinnaru, Gweraeil-kurnai, the Ngurungaeta, and the Gommera are Chiefs. Although when compared with those of well-known tribes in other parts of the world, their power is limited, yet it is an actual power to command, coupled with a certain measure of ability to compel obedience.
Such are the Headmen of certain tribes; but there are other men of mature age who exercise a degree of authority associated with them, and beyond them there is a large group, composed of all "full men," that is, of all the men who have been initiated in the sacred mysteries of the tribe.
The Tribal Council
I have constantly observed in those tribes with which I have had personal acquaintance, that the old men met at some place apart from the camp and discussed matters of importance, such as arrangements to be made for hunting game, for festive or ceremonial meetings, or indeed any important matter. Having made up their minds, one of them would announce the matter at another meeting, at which all the men would be present, sitting or standing round, the younger men remaining at the outside. At such a meeting, the younger the man the less he would have to say, indeed, I never knew a young man who had been only lately admitted to the rights of manhood presume to say anything or to take any part in the discussion. All that they have to do as part of the assembly is to listen to what the elders have to say.
In the Dieri tribe such meetings as these are composed of the heads of totems or local divisions, fighting- men, medicine-men, and, generally speaking, of old men of standing and importance. That is to say, of the men who have been present at the series of ceremonies described in another chapter. The younger men look forward for years to the time when, having been present at the great Mindari ceremony, they will be permitted to appear, and ultimately to speak at the council of men. These meetings are so secret that to reveal what takes place at them is punished by death.
Mr. Gason, speaking of these councils, informed me that it was only after a long time, and when he had learned to speak the Dieri language, that he was permitted to be present at these meetings. The proceedings were directed by the principal Headman, and among the matters which it dealt with were: procuring death by magic, as for instance, "by the bone," murder, breach of the tribal moral code, offences against tribal customs, revealing the secrets of the tribal council, or the secrets of the initiation ceremonies to women or to the uninitiated.
Offences against the moral code would be intercourse with a woman of the same murdu, or who was too nearly related to the accused. Interference with the wife of another man, she being Noa-mara to the offender, would be merely a personal matter to be revenged by the injured husband, or by the kindred in a fight.
When a person had been adjudged guilty of having caused the death of another by magic, he was killed by an armed party (Pinya) sent out by the Headman.
The council also made arrangements for holding the great ceremonies, and on ceremonial occasions it reallotted the several pairs of Pirraurus, as before explained.
Such a meeting was summoned by some old man, instructed by the Headman. If the matter was of importance, he introduced it, and in doing so he adhered to the ancient customs of their fathers. If all were agreed to some course the council separated, if not, then it met at some future time.
Everything relating to the council is kept profoundly secret from those who have not the right to be present at it. As I have before said, Mr. Gason was for over two years unable to obtain permission to be present at it. He sought permission in the broken English usually spoken to the natives by the white men, he tried intimidation, and he tried the effect of presents, without avail. It was only when he had acquired a command of the Dieri language, and a knowledge of their customs, that he attained his wish. The tribe then said that Kuchi must have instructed him; and, as he worked on their superstitions by favouring this idea, the Dieri at length permitted him to attend their council, and assist at their ceremonies, until at length he was accepted as a fully initiated man when any great ceremony was about to take place. My own experience is much in line with that of Mr. Gason. It was only after I became one of the initiated in the Yuin tribe, that I was present at meetings of the old men at places apart from the camp, at which matters of tribal importance were discussed. The meeting-place where these councils are held is called by various names in different tribes. For instance by the Yuin it is Katir-than, Jun by the Wotjobaluk, and Jain by the Jajaurung. In order to announce a meeting, I have seen the leading man pick up a lighted stick from his camp fire, and, looking round at the other men, walk off to the appointed place.
It is well to quote Mr. Gason's own description to me of the proceedings of a council at which he was present:—
I have frequently attended at their councils by invitation, and on occasions they gave me permission to speak. I was thus able to save the life of a man who was charged with having caused the death by magic of another person. Two of the members of the council also dared to speak in favour of their friend, the accused, and they afterwards made me presents of several bags and weapons for my advocacy of him. Three years after, however, he was cruelly killed by order of the council, for an offence which he had not committed, but with which his enemies had charged him.
After the principal Headman has spoken, the heads of totems address the assembly. The manner of speaking is by the repetition of broken sentences, uttered in an excited and at times almost frenzied manner. Those who coincide with the speaker repeat his sentences in a loud voice, but no one comments on what he says until it comes to his turn to speak.
The council always breaks up peaceably, but quarrels sometimes follow it, although the camp is not allowed to know the real cause of disagreements, for the secrets of the council are always kept as sacredly as those of a masonic lodge. The greatest cruelties are threatened against any one who should divulge its secrets, which are many. I have never heard the younger men or the women utter a word which could convey the idea that anything had been communicated to them.
I have often been cautioned not to divulge what I had there heard and seen, nor to repeat to strangers any words uttered there, until they had convinced me that they had passed through the ceremony of Karawali wonkana.
In the Turrbal tribe, as my valued correspondent Mr. T. Petrie tells me, there was no regular council, but the old men met and consulted on such matters as hunting, fishing, or the death of any person. They sent out messengers when the time for making Kippers came round, or when the mullet came in, or the Bunya-bunya fruit was ripe. What he describes is, however, the council of which I speak, and it falls in with other instances. In speaking of the "Bunya tribe," he also says that when the "council" of old men has met, and decided on holding a Bunya feast, they send out two medicine-men as messengers to friendly tribes.
In the tribes within a radius of about fifty miles of Maryborough the old men made up their minds as to the course to be followed in any matter, by having afternoon meetings held in private, a little way from the camp, women and young men not daring to approach within hearing. Those of the old men who choose attend such secret councils, and in the evening they orate, standing in their camps, and some of them make fine speeches.
The old men governed the tribe, but also consulted the people on matters which had to be decided. This they did by standing at their fires and speaking to all on the questions under consideration.
As the tribes spoken of by Mr. Aldridge met with the Turrbal at great tribal gatherings, his remarks as to the council of old men illustrates Mr. Petrie's statements, and seem to show, as I have said, that the old men in it met and consulted in secret on matters relating to the tribe.
In the Kaiabara tribe the old men held conferences on all matters of importance, sitting in a circle, with their clubs placed on the ground before them, the younger men being allowed to stand round and listen, but not to laugh or speak. One man at a time made a speech, while the others listened.
The Buntamurra tribe on the Bulloo River, Queensland, hold a council, sitting within a circle of spears stuck in the ground, inside of which the young men must not come, neither must they talk or laugh.
In the Wotjobaluk tribe the old men formed a kind of council, and the oldest man among them was their head. The place where these men met was called Jun, whether it was the meeting-place of the old men of a small local group, or of those of the whole tribe when it met on some great occasion. The younger men are permitted to come to the Jun, but not on all occasions, and, if admitted, are expected to sit near and listen, but are not allowed to take part in the discussion.
The various Ngurungaeta of the Kulin tribes, when they met, decided when the great tribal meetings should take place, and also consulted about matters of tribal importance, such as the initiation of the boys, marriages, etc.
The government of the Narrang-ga tribe is in the hands of the old men who, with the Headmen, form a council which deals with tribal matters, such as the initiation ceremonies, and from time to time meets to discuss something of importance. That this council is formed only by those men who have an inherited authority, is emphasised by the fact that the medicine-men (Gurildra) are not, as such, entitled to be present, nor are the young men allowed to be present at these meetings, unless specially invited. Women are altogether excluded from them. Cases have, however, occurred where men, distinguished perhaps by great oratorical powers, have been invited to join the deliberations of this council. It decides what shall be done in cases of breach of tribal laws, the punishment for some breaches being in olden times, death.
In the Narrinyeri each clan has a council of its elders, called Tendi. When a member of a Tendi dies, the surviving members select a suitable man from the clan to succeed him. The Headman (Rupulli) of the clan presides over this council.
In the Yuin tribe the initiated men assemble, when circumstances require it, at some place apart from the camp, where matters are discussed relating to the tribe. Women or children, that is, the uninitiated members of the tribe, dare not come near the spot. I have been present at such meetings; the elder men sit in the front line, the younger farther off, and the Gommeras usually a little apart from the others, although with them, and take a prominent part in the discussion. I was struck by the restrained manner of the younger men at these meetings.
At other times the Gommeras meet alone, to arrange matters for future discussion in the general meeting of the initiated men.
In the Geawe-gal tribe the old men met in council at night, when the younger men might be present, but were not allowed to speak.
In the Gringai tribe the tribal council consists of the oldest, and as a rule the most intelligent men. Mr. A. Hook once came suddenly upon a group of old men sitting in a circle in deep deliberation, and was told by one of them in a whisper not to tell the other blacks what he had seen.
In the old times the Headmen, and other prominent men of the Kurnai tribe, took an active part in dealing with breaches of tribal customs or native morality. It was by the Gweraeil-kurnai and the other old men that important matters were decided, such as the Jeraeil ceremonies, the arrangement of the Nungi-nungit, and raids on other clans, or neighbouring tribes. But in all cases these men were in touch with the men somewhat younger than themselves, and had probably discussed with them the matters which the elders dealt with.
The elder men of the clan formed a council in the Chepara tribe. This council recognised the Headman of the clan as its head. In momentous proceedings such as the Bora, they were all subordinate to the Headman of the tribe. In this they were analogous to the Yuin, where there was a principal Goummera, who was the leader of the others when they were all assembled together.
Such are the powers that govern the tribe, and I shall now relate the punishments for tribal and individual offences and the manner in which those punishments are carried out.
The Punishment of Offences
When a man dies in the Dieri tribe, it is thought he has been killed by some one through the action of evil magic, for instance, by "pointing with the bone," or "striking with the bone," as it is called, a practice which I have described elsewhere.
When a man has been adjudged by the council to have killed some one by evil magic, an armed party called Pinya is sent out to kill him.
The appearance at a camp of one or more natives marked with a white band round the head, with the point of the beard tipped with human hair, and with diagonal red and white stripes across the breast and stomach, is the sign of a Pinya. These men do not speak, and their appearance is a warning to the camp to listen attentively to the questions they may think it necessary to put regarding the whereabouts of the condemned man. Knowing the discipline of a Pinya and its remorseless spirit, any and every question is answered in terror, and many a cowardly man in his fear accuses his friend or even his relative, and it is on this accusation that the Pinya throw the whole of the responsibility of the death they inflict. When the deed is done, the Pinya is broken up, and each man returns to his home.
A recent instance of a Pinya and its course of action is the following, and it must be premised that under all circumstances the Neyi (elder brother) is the protector of his Ngatata (younger brother). For instance, if there is some trouble in the "fighting place" with a man, his elder brother hastens to it, and calls on the adversary to deal with him. Similarly when a Pinya has judicially condemned some native to death, the penalty of death does not fall upon the offender, but on his eldest brother at that place. In the case referred to, a man with several companions came to a camp near Lake Hope. A man had lately died at Perigundi, from whence they came, and in order that they might be received by the people at Lake Hope, they halted twenty yards from the camp and there gathered the spears and boomerangs that were thrown at them ceremonially by one of the Lake Hope men, they being as usual easily warded off. Then going nearer, they again halted and warded off the weapons thrown, and again moved on, until, being close together, the man from Perigundi and the man from Lake Hope should have taken hold of each other, and sat down together. But the former, not taking heed of the position of the sun and being dazzled by its rays, was unable to ward off the spear thrown at him, which entered his breast, and he died in the night. His companions fled to Perigundi and there formed a Pinya of a number of men, and returned to Lake Hope. The leader of this was a man called Mudla-kupa, who suddenly appearing one evening placed himself before him who had killed the Perigundi man, and seizing his hand announced his sentence of death. An elder brother of this man drew Mudla-kupa to one side, saying, "Don't seize my Ngatata, nor even me, for see, there sits our Neyi; seize him." At the same time he threw a clod of earth in the direction in which the man was. Mudla-kupa now turned to him, seized him by the hand, and spoke the death sentence over him, which he received with stoical composure. Mudla-kupa led him to one side, when the second man of the Pinya came up, and as Mudla-kupa held the man out to him as the accused, he struck him with a maru-wiri and split his head open. The whole Pinya then fell upon him with spears and boomerangs. In order that they should not hear how he was being killed, the other men, women, and children in the camp made a great rustling with boughs and broken-off bushes.
The same Pinya executed about the same time two Pinnarus (elders), who lived at other places. It was reported that they strangled one, and brought him to life again (that is, they allowed him to recover), and the following night they burned the froth which came from his mouth when he was being strangled. It was supposed that this caused his death. In another case the Pinya thrust a spear into the side of the condemned man, so that, as the Kunki (medicine-man) said, "his heart was pierced," and then withdrew it. The Kunki closed the wound with sinew and the man lived for several days before he died. It was then said that the Kunki killed him, brought him to life, and finally killed him again.
As connected with the Pinya, it may be well to state here the manner in which the blood revenge is avoided by the Dieri. When a death occurs which would be followed up by the Pinya as just explained, there is a practice which may be said to act as a sort of peacemaking, in so far that the two parties show that by a respective bartering of goods, they put aside all enmities, and will shed no more blood on account of the man killed, whether by "giving the bone" or otherwise. A late instance of this practice called Yut-yunto at Kopperamana, will show how it acts.
A Lake Hope man, one Ngurtiyilina, who had lived for a long time at Kopperamana, died in the year 1899, a place half-way between there and the Salt Creek. His elder brother was one Mandra-pirnani, much feared for his strength, and the blacks among whom Ngurtiyilina lived sent to him through their Headman a Yut-yunto, a "cord," which being tied round his neck, authorised him to collect articles for barter with them. These were collected from the Kumari-kana belonging to Kopperamana, Kilallpanina, and the surrounding country. When he had collected sufficient articles for barter, messengers were sent out to carry information as to where and when the meeting would take place, Mandra-pirnani with a large following proceeded to the appointed spot, sending off and also receiving messengers by the way. Meanwhile a great number of men and women had collected at the "bartering place," awaiting the arrival of the Yut-yunto-kana and his companions. These had made their last camp a few miles off in order to arrive at the appointed place early in the day.
On the following morning they approached it in a column, with the Yut-yunto-kana as its leader, as if prepared for combat, and the two contingents of the other party, also under their leaders. The men were all armed with boomerang, shield and spear, and fully painted as a Pinya. Those of them who had participated in the funeral feast had a ring of charcoal powder drawn round the mouth. Immediately behind this armed band were the women carrying all the articles provided for barter.The two parties being now near to each other, the leader of the Yut-yunto danced his war-dance, pointing now to the left and now to the right with his spear, while stamping rhythmically with his feet. The leader of the other party now came forward, and, approaching the leader of the Yut-yunto, ceremonially seized the cord round his throat, and breaking it, cast it into a fire. This being done, he said, "Wordari yindi workarai?" (How do you come?) "Yindi tiri workarai?" (Do you come in enmity?) To which the Yut-yunto answered, "Aai! nganai murlari workarai." (Oh no! I come peacefully!) Then the other said, "That being so, we will exchange our things in peace." As a sign of peace, they embraced each other, and then sat down amicably together. While this was going on, the inferior leaders had been dancing their war-dance opposite each other, and the party of Mandra-pirnani was led round by the inferior Headman to the left side of the bartering place, where they sat down behind him. The other party then moved on to it, and sat down behind their Headman. The women of each party crouched behind it, carefully concealing the articles for barter from the eyes of the opposite side.
Now the leader of one of the parties caused one of the articles, a shield or boomerang, to be handed to him. It was passed from the last man to the first, all standing in a row, and each man passing it between the legs of the man in front of him, so that it was not seen until produced to the leader, who stood at the head of the line. He, on receiving it, threw it down between the parties with an important air. Then one of the other side threw on it some article in exchange, for instance, a bundle of cord for tying up the hair. In this way article after article was exchanged, and then the Kumari-kana asked, "Are you peaceable?" In this case the reply, I believe, was, "Yes, we are well satisfied." Each person took the articles he had obtained by barter.
If in these cases the parties are not satisfied, there is first an argument, and then a regulated combat between all the men present.
Men of a Pinya use bunches of emu feathers in a decoration called Kabuluru. The head net is called Kaka-billi. The name applied to emu feathers is Maltara.
These are also used for dance decoration, called either Maltara or Ngaru. The decoration is a large bunch fastened to the head, or single feathers worked into a band which encircles the head. They are not, however, used in decorations which consist mainly of white cockatoo feathers.
The emu dance of the Dieri tribe is called Maltara. In the Molongo dance, which was brought down to the Dieri country from the north-east, bunches of Maltara were worn suspended from the hips (Fig. 15).An instance of what seems to have been the punishment of an offence against the tribe came partly under my own knowledge. On my second expedition I had with me one of the Dieri from Blanch-water, which was at that time the farthest out-station in the far north of South Australia. He accompanied me through the country of his tribe, and beyond it as far as the Diamantina River, and when about where Birdville now is, he ran away fearing, as he told me afterwards, that I was going still farther north. Some time after I returned from the expedition, I learned that he had been killed by an armed party from his own tribe, who chased him for some nine miles before he was overtaken and killed. The reason given for this, was that he had been too familiar with the white men, and served them as guide. This I have mentioned elsewhere.
In the Tongaranka tribe offences against the marriage laws and class rules were punished by death, and the whole tribe took the matter in hand. Individual offences, such as theft, were dealt with by the individual wronged, by spear or other weapon.
In the southern Kamilaroi disputes about hunting-grounds, and trespasses on them, occasioned numerous parleys, which sometimes settled the matter. At one such meeting, some fifty years ago, there were two white men with guns in the camp of the weaker party, who boasted that with their assistance they would kill all their opponents. These declared that they did not care, but would fight. The friends of the white men then advised them to go home, because if any disaster happened in the fight, their lives would be certainly taken for it. They left, and a messenger was sent to tell their adversaries that the white men had gone. It was then decided that an equal number from each side should fight the next day. But after all, this dispute was settled by single combat.In the Wiradjuri tribes there is an assembly of the initiated men, at which the Headmen discuss matters and decide what is to be done. Such matters are, for instance, disputes with other tribes, dealing with tribal offences, and similar circumstances. In cases of abduction of women, adultery, or murder, and where the offender has escaped to his own local division, or to a neighbouring tribe, the course is as follows. If the Headman decide that he is to be killed, the people with whom he has taken refuge are required by messenger to give him up. If they refuse to do so, there is a fight between them. If in this the offender's tribe is routed, no more is done, but the offender is always in danger of being killed, if possible.
There was ordeal by combat in the tribes living within fifty miles of Maryborough (Queensland). A man died, and a relative saw in a dream the person who had killed him by magic. He walked up to this man, who was of another camp, while he was blowing up his camp fire, and striking him on the back of the neck, nearly killed him. The friends of this man then sent a messenger to the offender telling him that "he was afraid to come to their camp." He went and fought with them, one after the other, with club and shield. This case, however, differed from the usual custom, in so far that both men were armed, whilst in the expiatory fights the defendant merely had a shield, to defend himself against the attacks of the aggrieved people.
Among the Buntamurra all offences are punished by the tribe. The relations of the injured man fight and thrash the offender.
When two divisions of the Kaiabara tribe fell out about some man's offence, and his people supported him, a challenge was sent to them. The challenge is vouched for by a boomerang-shaped piece of wood, the two ends of which are coloured white, while the middle is coloured with red ochre, and has a shell tied to one of the ends. If the challenge is accepted by the people to whom it is sent, they keep the stick and shell. If however they do not feel themselves sufficiently strong, and are afraid to meet the other side, they break the shell on a stone, as a sign that they acknowledge themselves to be beaten, and send the stick back.
If two blacks quarrel over a woman, the tribe does not interfere if they are of the same class, and the stronger of the two keeps the woman. But if the men are of different classes, then the tribe interferes and settles the matter.
In the Turrbal tribe individual quarrels were settled by a stand-up fight. Ceremonial combats, and also expiatory combats, arose at the initiation ceremonies, or out of abduction of women, or the belief that a person had been killed by magic. At the ceremonial combats the men were painted black on one side of their bodies and white on the other side. The face was as black as charcoal and grease could make it, except the nose, which was red-ochred.
A man of one of the neighbouring tribes was living with the Wiimbaio, but became suspected. They thought that he might return to his own tribe and take something with him which had belonged to some Wiimbaio person, and by which he might do that person harm. They also thought that he might take away with him one of their women. Therefore he was doomed by the old men, and when out hunting with the other men, they all threw their spears at him and killed him.
In the Wotjobaluk tribe private quarrels were settled on the spot by the parties. If their anger was very hot, possibly in the camp, otherwise in the open near it. Each man would be armed with the weapon called by them the Lai-auwil (the Laiangal of the Wurunjerri), and they would fight till blood was drawn and their anger appeased. The friends would interfere if it seemed likely that their man would be injured or killed. After the combat, if they still remained at variance, some woman, such as the mother or sister of one of them, would go to them, and reason with them, and persuade them to be friends.
When a serious offence occurred and the offender belonged to some one of the other local divisions, the custom was to send a messenger (Wirri-gir) to call on him to come forward and undergo punishment. In such a case, if he were a man of consequence, or if the affair caused much feeling among the people, all the totemites of each of the men assembled under their respective Headmen at the place agreed on.
Such a case occurred in the Mukjarawaint tribe, and was reported to me by a man of the Garchuka totem, whose brother and maternal grandfather had for some matter of personal offence killed a man of the black snake (Wulernunt) totem. They speared him at night, when sleeping in his camp, and escaped, but were seen and recognised by his wife. The relatives of the deceased sent a Wirri-gir to the offenders, telling them to look out for themselves and be prepared for revenge. A messenger was sent in reply saying that they should come with their friends, and that they would be prepared to stand out and have spears thrown at them. There was then a great meeting of the respective totems, the Garchuka being that of the offenders and the Wulernunt that of the avengers.
Having met as arranged, at the time and place fixed, with their respective kindreds, the Garchuka Headman stood out between the opposed totemites and made a speech, calling upon his men not to take any unfair advantage in the encounter. Then he appointed a spot near at hand where the expiatory encounter should take place that afternoon, it being agreed that so soon as the offenders had been struck by a spear the combat should cease. Then the offenders stood out, armed with shields, and received the spears thrown at them by the dead man's kindred, until at length one of them was wounded. The Headman of the Garchukas then threw a lighted piece of bark, which he held, into the air, and the fight ceased. If it had been continued there would have been a general fight between the two totems.
Among the tribes of south-western Victoria, in cases of blood-feud, if the murderer be known and escapes the pursuit of the victim's kindred, he gets notice to appear and undergo the ordeal of spear-throwing at the first great meeting of the tribes.
If he pays no attention to the summons, two strong active men, called Paet-paet, accompanied by some friends, are ordered by the chief to visit the camp where he is supposed to be concealed and to arrest him. They approach the camp about the time when the people are going to sleep, and halt at a short distance from it. One of the Paet-paets goes to one side of the camp and howls in imitation of a wild dog. The other at the opposite side answers him by imitating the cry of the Kuurka (owl). These sounds bring the Chief to the front of his Wuurn (hut) to listen. One of the Paet-paets then taps twice on a tree with his spear, or strikes two spears together as a signal that a friend wishes to speak to him. He then demands the culprit, but as the demand is generally met by a denial of his being there, they return to their friends, who have been waiting to hear the result. If they still believe him to be concealed in the camp, they surround it at dawn, stamping and making a hideous noise to frighten the people. In the meantime the Chief, anticipating the second visit, has very likely aided the culprit to escape while it was dark.
Persons accused of wrong-doing get one month's (sic) notice to appear before the assembled tribes and be tried on pain of being outlawed and killed. When a man has been charged with an offence, he goes to the meeting armed with two war spears, a flat light shield, and a boomerang. If he is found guilty of a private wrong, he is painted white, and his brother, or near male relative, stands beside him as his second. The latter has a heavy shield, a Liangle, and a boomerang, and the offender is placed opposite to the injured person and his friends, who sometimes number twenty warriors. These range themselves at a distance of fifty yards from him, and each individual throws four or five spears and two boomerangs at him simultaneously "like a shower." If he succeeds in warding them off, his second hands him his heavy shield, and he is attacked singly by his enemies, who deliver each one a blow with a Liangle. As blood must be spilt to satisfy the injured party, the trial ends when he is hit.
If the accused refuses to be tried, he is outlawed, and may be killed, and his brother or nearest male relative is held responsible, and must submit to be attacked with boomerangs.
In the Wurunjerri tribe when a man, say a Bunjil, was called on to appear and answer for having killed some other man, say of the Waang class, all the Bunjil men, his kindred, stood at one side, and all the Waang men, the kindred of his victim, at the other, each party under their Headman.The avengers would throw spears at him until he was killed, or so injured that he could no longer defend himself, or until his Headman called out "Enough." 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 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 were onlookers, and each party camped on the side of the meeting-ground nearest to their own country, and all the camps faced the morning sun.When the meeting took place, the women were left in At last a reed spear went through his side. Just then a Headman of the Buthera-baluk who had heard what was to take place, and had followed the Meymet down from the Goulburn River, came running up, and went in between the two parties, shouting "Enough!" and turning to the Meymet said, "You should now go back to your own country." This stopped the spear-throwing; they had had blood, and all were again friends. A great corrobboree was held that night.
Buckley gives an account of a somewhat similar case which happened in his tribe the Wudthaurung, and is worth quoting in this connection.
In speaking of an elopement, he thus describes the expiation which followed it, "At length the young man advanced towards us, and challenged our men to fight, an offer which was accepted practically by a boomerang being thrown at him, and which grazed his leg. A spear was then thrown, but he warded it off cleverly with his shield. He made no return to this, until one of our men advanced very near to him, with only a shield and waddy, and then the two went to work in good earnest, until the first had his shield split, so that he had nothing to defend himself with but his waddy. His opponent took advantage of this and struck him a tremendous blow on one side of the head, and knocked him down; but he was instantly on his legs again, the blood, however, flowing very freely over his back and shoulders. His friends then cried out, 'Enough!' and threatened general hostilities if another blow was struck. This had the desired effect, and they soon after separated quietly."
As a good instance of the manner in which trespasses by a person of one tribe on the country of another tribe were dealt with, I take the case of a man of the Wudthaurung tribe, who unlawfully took, in fact stole, stone from the tribal quarry at Mt. William near Lancefield. I give it in almost the exact words used by Berak in telling me of it, and who was present at the meeting which took place in consequence, probably in the late forties.
It having been found out that this man had taken stone without permission, the Ngurungaeta Billi-billeri sent a messenger to the Wudthaurung, and in consequence they came as far as the Werribee River, their boundary, where Billi-billeri and his people met them. These were the men who had a right to the quarry, and whose rights had been infringed. The place of meeting was a little apart from the respective camps of the Wurunjerri and the Wudthaurung.
At the meeting the Wudthaurung sat in one place, and the Wurunjerri in another, but within speaking distance. The old men of each side sat together, with the younger men behind them. Billi-billeri had behind him Bungerim, to whom he "gave his word." The latter then standing up said, "Did some of you send this young man to take tomahawk stone?" The Headman of the Wudthaurung replied, "No, we sent no one." Then Billi-billeri said to Bungerim, "Say to the old men that they must tell that young man not to do so any more. When the people speak of wanting stone, the old men must send us notice." Bungerim repeated this in a loud tone, and the old men of the Wudthaurung replied, "That is all right, we will do so." Then they spoke strongly to the young man who had stolen the stone, and both parties were again friendly with each other.
At such a meeting all the weapons were left at the respective camps, and each speaker stood up in addressing it.In the Narrinyeri tribe offenders were brought before the Tendi (council of old men) for trial. For instance, if a member of one clan had been in time of peace killed by one of another clan, the clansmen of the latter would send to the friends of the murderer, and invite them to bring him for trial before the united Tendis. If, after trial, he were found guilty of committing the crime, he would be punished according to his guilt; if it were murder, he would be handed over to his clansmen to be put to death by spearing; if for what we should call "manslaughter," he would receive a good thrashing, or be banished from his clan, or be compelled to go to his mother's relations. A common sentence for any public offence was so many blows on the head. I was not informed by Mr. Taplin what he included in the term "public offence."
Among the Yuin there was the same practice of expiatory ordeals as among the other tribes I have quoted, and the old men preferred this to armed parties being sent out to exact blood-revenge in a feud. But the kindred of the deceased frequently revenged themselves by lying in wait for the suspected person, and killing him when out hunting alone. This naturally led to reprisals, and thus to complications such as those which caused the great blood-feud in the Kurnai tribe.
An instance is known to me of an expiatory meeting in the Yuin tribe, in consequence of a Moruya man being killed by a man from Bodalla, but I am not aware whether by violence or by magic.
The Bodalla Gommera sent a Jirri (messenger) to the Moruya man, telling him he must come to a certain place and stand out. Meanwhile the men of Bodalla were preparing their spears and heating their boomerangs in hot ashes to make them tough. At the time fixed the man appeared, armed with two shields. As he was charged with killing some one, he had to stand out alone; but if he had been only charged with injuring him, or with having used Joïas, that is, magical charm, without actually killing the person, he would have been allowed to have a friend to help him. His friends with their Gommera stood at one side, a little out of spear range, while the Moruya men and their Gommera were at one side of the friends of the dead man.It having been arranged how many of the fathers and brothers (own or tribal) of the dead man should attack the defendant, the Gommera then told them what to do, and they went forward towards the Bodalla man, who stood alone expecting them. At about thirty yards' distance from him they halted for a while to give him time to prepare himself for defence, then standing in a line facing him, they threw their boomerangs and then their spears at him. He being wounded, his Gommera shouted out "Jin ail," that is, "Enough!" and they ceased. There was no further action in this matter, for blood had been taken.
In certain cases the Gommera took action to punish offences directly. If a man was in the habit of "catching people" by evil magic, the Gommera might say to his young men, "That man is very bad, he is catching people with Joïas, you must kill him." He would then be surrounded at some convenient place and killed. Umbara, in speaking of this, said that he had seen such a man after he had been killed look, with the spears in him, "like a Jannang-gabatch," that is, a spiny ant-eater. If a man killed another of his own local group, or if a man revealed the bull-roarer to a woman, or any of the secrets of the Bunan or the Kuringal, he was killed by the order of the Gommera. In such cases there was no expiatory meeting, even when, as was within the knowledge of my Yuin friends, none of the culprit's kindred was among those who carried out the Gommera's orders. Nor was there any expiation when a man killed one who had murdered his kinsman, the former being of the same local group.
In the Kamilaroi tribes, if serious complaints were made of the conduct of a Murri (i.e. a man), a council of the Headmen might decree his death.
In the Gringai tribe individuals fought a personal quarrel with any weapons nearest at hand, but in cases of serious offences which concerned the tribe, the offender had to stand out, with a shield (Hiela-man), while a certain number of spears, according to the magnitude of the offence, were thrown at him. If he could defend himself, well and good; if not, then he was either injured or killed.
The principal social restrictions in the Geawe-gal tribe were laws which demanded satisfaction for injury done, by the offender submitting to an ordeal. According to the magnitude of his offence, he had to receive one or more spears from men who were relatives of the deceased person; or when the injured person had recovered strength, he might himself discharge the spears at the offender. Obedience to such laws was never withheld; but would have been enforced, without doubt, if necessary, by the assembled tribe. Offences against individuals, or blabbing about the sacred rites of the tribe, and all breaches of custom, were visited with some punishment. Such punishments, or such ordeals, were always coram publico, and the women were
FIG. 18.-TULABA, ONE OF THE KURNAI, AS A WAIT-JURK. present. Not so the adjudication according to which the penalty was prescribed.
Among the Kurnai, when a man had been called upon to appear and submit to an ordeal by weapons, for some death which he had been supposed to have caused by magic, for instance by Bulk, Murriwun, or Barn, he was attended by his kindred and by that branch of the tribe to which he belonged. He was called Wait-jurk, and the aggrieved person, that is, one of the near kindred, was called Nungi-nungit, which also applied to all his kindred who took part in the ordeal. They also were respectively supported by their section of the tribe.
In the proceedings, the aggrieved party and the accused were each at the ordeal accompanied by the Gweraeil-kurnai of their section of the tribe. The proceedings were conducted by the old men according to the ancient traditions, that is, as they would put it, "as their fathers did." An open and level piece of ground was chosen for the meeting. The two bodies of people assembled, facing each other, and some two hundred yards apart. The aggressor stood out in advance of his party, painted with red ochre over his face, with two broad stripes from the shoulders down the breast, where they
FIG. 19.—TANKOWILLIN, ONE OF THE KURNAI, AS A NUNGI-NUNGIT. met horizontal alternating bands of white and red across the stomach as far as the hips on each side. According to the rules, he was only armed with a shield, or in some cases with a club or a bundle of spears in addition. Some men presented themselves to their adversaries, dancing and twirling their shields in a defiant manner, others crouched down awaiting the attack. Beside the Wait-jurk his wife stood, if he had one, with her digging-stick, to help in turning aside or breaking the weapons discharged at him, and at one side of the ground the women sat beating their skin rugs in measured time. The body of people stood behind the women with the old men at hand to observe and direct the proceedings. At a distance of some two hundred yards were the aggrieved, who might be a numerous party, including widely ramifying relationships. These men were painted white in token of their kinsman's death. Each man was armed with his shield, a bundle of spears, several boomerangs, and various clubs used for throwing. Their women sat in front, drumming on their folded rugs, and singing at the same time some song appropriate to the occasion. In a Nungi-nungit, which I saw represented in an alleged case of death by magic, the following song was sung, while the wife of the accused made abusive speeches to the advancing party:—
|Why you||thought||old husband mine|
|to murder||you bad||orphan|
or, freely translated, "Why did you think to murder my old husband, you worthless orphan?" i.e. "person without any kindred."
The ordinary word used for "orphan" is Yetherun but Baia-quung, which also has that meaning, is one of the most offensive terms which can be applied to a Kurnai, and in the old times would require to be expiated by spear-throwing, or other recourse to weapons.
After singing such a song, the women got up and went forward some thirty or forty paces, drumming their rugs as they carried them, and then sat down again and sang. As they walked forward, the men followed them closely, crouching down behind them, as if seeking concealment.
All this time the aggressor was dancing his defiance, and the Nungi-nungit came on by short stages until about sixty yards from him, when the women moved off to one side, leaving them and the Wait-jurk face to face. While the latter continued to dance, or sat crouched behind his shield, the former extended their line in the form of a crescent so as to hem him in. The oldest of the Nungi-nungit now addressed him, with a formal statement, as for instance, "Why did you kill our brother with bulk?" The reply might be, "I never did anything to him; it is all jetbolan" (lies). Then the aggrieved made motions as if spear-throwing, so that the defendant might place himself on his guard. The ordeal then commenced by a shower of spears. The Wait-jurk might be at once transfixed, or his shield be so full of spears as to be useless. If he escaped the spears, he was assailed with a shower of boomerangs, to be followed, if by his skill in defence or by good fortune he was still uninjured, by weapons such as Kunnin being thrown at him.
If it was a case in which the Wait-jurk might be armed with spears, he might throw them, or he might hurl back those of his adversaries, but it was seldom that he had the chance of doing so, if his adversaries were numerous. When disabled, his friends would certainly interfere, or if he had enough of it, he might run to them for security. It not infrequently happened that a Nungi-nungit became a general combat in which men and women on both sides fought furiously. In such fights a woman was not always at a disadvantage against a man armed with a club and shield, for an active woman armed with her digging-stick is a formidable opponent, using her weapon much as a man would do a quarter-staff.
When the Nungi-nungit ended either with the single ordeal of the Wait-jurk or by a general fight, the matter was set at rest and friendly relations were restored. There is a great difference between such legalised fights as the Nungi-nungit and those cases where fights occurred during the prosecution of a blood-feud, without these ceremonies.
The shields used were either the Bamaruk, for turning aside spears, or the Turnmung, which is used in club-fighting.
A good instance of the Nungi-nungit was one in which the man Bunbra, otherwise Jetbolan, was the defendant, and which occurred about the year 1850.A brother of the Tulaba before mentioned awoke in the night and saw Bunbra standing over him, who said that he had come for some fire. The next day the man fell sick, and told his friends that Bunbra had "caught him," that is, that he had placed some magical spell on him. By and by he died, and his male kindred sent a message to Bunbra desiring him to come to a Nungi-nungit. At the time and place appointed he duly appeared, accompanied by many of his clan, the Tatungalung, and also of the Krauatungalung, who were their friends.
The meeting was held on the Tambo River between Swan Reach and Lake King. The two parties faced each other at a little distance, in the manner described, and Bunbra had two shields for his defence, one for use and the other in reserve. The other side were armed with Kunnin for throwing, and boomerangs. It may be mentioned that the latter used in these ordeals are not those which return to the thrower, but the fighting boomerang which does not return. The proceedings commenced by Bunbra saying, "I want to tell you that I did not hurt that poor fellow." The reply was, "You must fight." Boomerangs were then thrown, as my informant said, "like a flight of parrots." Bunbra dodged or successfully warded them off. At last a Kunnin was thrown, which passed through his thigh, but which he drew out, and threw back at his assailants. The women then rushed in between the two parties and stopped the fight, and the feud was at an end.
Sometimes a blood-feud has spread until the whole tribe was involved, and the feud went beyond the power of a Nungi-nungit to heal. Such was one which arose shortly after the settlement of Gippsland, and not only brought in all the tribes on one side or the other, but also the Theddora of Omeo and the Mogullum-bitch of the Buffalo River. It was so much talked of among the Kurnai, even years after, that I carefully traced the course to its end in a battle between the Kurnai clans about the year 1855.When the Gippsland and Omeo natives had become better acquainted with each other, through the white settlers, and were thus more or less friendly, one of the Theddora men named Billy Blew obtained a Brayaka woman for his wife. When on a visit to his wife's people, he ill-used her, and in consequence her father, Kaiung, fought with him and speared him, so that he died. Billy Blew's kindred came down from the mountains and killed Kaiung, together with another Brayaka man, called Lohni, the brother of Bundawal (Bite-spear), mentioned elsewhere. In revenge for this, Jimmy, a man of the Dargo division of the Brabralung clan, the sister's son of Kaiung's wife, killed a man called Johnny. Then Flanner, one of the Bunjil-baul, and other relations of Johnny, finding his skin hanging in a tree at Aitken's Straits, at the Gippsland Lakes, where the Dargo man had hung it, followed him southward and killed him at Erin Vale Station on Merriman's Creek.
At this point I take up the narrative given of this feud by Bundawal. He said:—
"I had two wives, both from Brt-britta. One of these had been married to the man who killed my brother Johnny at Aitken's Straits. I then collected all the men from Bruthen, Wy-Yung, and Binnajerra, for all my own men had died or been killed, so that there were only boys left. But those others were like my own people. We all sneaked round to Merriman's Creek, where we found a Dargo man, and Flanner speared him. We let him lie there, and did not eat his skin, because he was a Kurnai like ourselves. As he was a friend of the Brayaka, we went up to the Heart to look for them. We found a number of Dargo, Brayaka, and Bratua there, and we fought them; but we were beaten, because they had guns as well as spears, and were helped by two of the black police, and one police trooper. We ran away, and left everything behind us, only taking our spears. We had left our women near to the Lake's Entrance, at Metung, where the wild dog turned the Kurnai into stone. Our enemies and the police followed us as far as Lake Tyers, but they could not cross, and so we escaped. For a long time we were quiet, but at last we went to Manero to get the Brajerak to come and help us. By this time the white men had brought so many Brajerak from Manero and Omeo with them into Gippsland that we and they had become friendly. So we got the Manero men to promise to help us, and we went round the mountains to Omeo with them. There we got Nukong, their Headman, also to help us, and he sent a messenger to the men at the Ovens River and Mount Buffalo to send help, and it was arranged that we should meet them at the Bushy Park Station. When we got back we went to the meeting-place, where the men from the Ovens River and Mount Buffalo met us. We had gone there to get some food, and to see some of the Brabralung and the Dargo men. There could not have been fewer than two hundred of us; at least the white men there counted us, and told us so. From that place we went round the country, looking for our enemies. We sent out four spies in the daytime, while the main body lay concealed in the scrub, and only travelled by night. Sometimes I was one of the spies, and sometimes it was Tankowillin. We went all over the country, even down to the Tarra River, but could not meet our enemies. At length we pretended to be friends and returned to the Mitchell River. We waited a while and then sent to the Snowy River men, who came to us, but the Brajerak from Manero and the Ovens River went home; only a few of the Omeo men stayed to help us.
"While this was going on, the Dargo and Brayaka men had sent Lewin (a message) to me, saying that we would fight, and then be friends. It was decided by the Dargo old men that the fight should take place near Dighton. We went there, and fought, but no one was killed. They were too strong for us, and ran us back to the Mitchell River. We now waited again for a time, and one of the Brataualung brought a message from the Headman at Dargo that we should be friends. It was their custom to do this by sending a spear jagged with quartz with a Bridda-bridda (man's kilt) hanging on it as a token, but the one he sent was jagged with glass. We said amongst ourselves, 'We will pretend to be friends, and wait till by and by.' The spear was carried on farther by way of Bruthen, and up to Omeo, and so round to Dargo. Then we all gathered, but the Snowy River men would not come, for they were frightened, two of their men having been speared.
"Bruthen-munji told us, 'We must send a message to the Dargo men where to meet us, but we must be quick and get to Bushy Park.' We had with us some Omeo men, with their Headman, Nukong. Our Headman was Bruthen-munji.
"On the morning on which we were to fight, we were all ready, and were painted with pipe-clay, because we were very angry at our men being killed, and also to frighten our enemies. They were painted with red ochre, because they had killed our men. We were seated in a long row with our spears ready on the ground. Our women were in front beating on the 'possum rugs.' Nukong was at one end, just behind his row. Bruthen-munji was at the other end of the row, just behind me. It was about noon, and he looked up at the sun and said, 'We will eat first.' The enemy were not in sight, but were not far off. Then a Brabralung man came to us; he was a messenger sent to us; we knew him and he was our friend, and the husband of Old Nanny. He said, 'There are not many of you.' Bruthen-munji replied, 'Never mind, we will see.' He then ordered the women to go back out of danger and made a great speech. He told us that we should beat them. Then we fought, and a Kutbuntaura man was speared and the others ran away. There was a running fight as they ran, leaving all their things behind them. By and by I shot one man, and others were speared. Several women were caught, and some of the Brabralung young men ran down a Brt-britta woman, but could not keep her, because they were too nearly related to her, and as she wanted to have me, her Breppa-mungan gave her to me, and this was how I got my first wife from Brt-britta."
This must have been about fifteen years after the settlement of Gippsland, and it was a little more than fifteen years after that time that Bundawal gave me this account. During that time most of the old men of the tribe had died off, and the tribe itself had been almost broken up.
An instance of revenge for blood occurred almost within my actual knowledge, about the year 1865. The blacks told me of it when it happened, but as it was then supposed to have been in New South Wales, I did not pay any special attention to it. The locality was in the extreme eastern part of Gippsland in the Biduelli country, where there was a small tract of grazing ground surrounded by almost impenetrable scrubs and jungles, excepting one side, where there was forest, through which a bush track led to the settlements in New South Wales. This country is now opened up by tracks cut in various directions, and is partly occupied by settlers, and in a few other places by gold-miners, but at the time spoken of it was a veritable terra incognita, from which a bush track led to the nearest cattle station in New South Wales. Two white men occupied this spot, and had a blackboy from the Yuin tribe as a stock-keeper. Some of the Kurnai of the Snowy River occasionally went to Twofold Bay, to assist in whale-fishing as harpooners. Their road followed the sea-coast, and thus passed within about twenty miles of the tract of grazing country spoken of. A party of Kurnai, thus travelling, were invited by the Yuin boy to visit him, which they did, and he took the opportunity, under the protection of the white men, to shoot one of the Kurnai called Bobuk (water), and to carry off his daughter Bolgan from the midst of the other Kurnai. These escaped to their own country, and the Yuin blackboy kept Bolgan as his wife. The relatives of the murdered man, however, prepared for revenge. Men both of the male and female side formed a party under the guidance of Bobuk's brother, and finding the cattle station where the murder had taken place deserted, they tracked the Yuin to the nearest Station, where they killed him and recovered Bolgan. It was the sister's son who revenged his uncle, after chasing the offender for several miles.
Some years after I went through this country with these men and visited the scenes of this tragedy.
Upwards of fifty years ago, four of the Theddora (Omeo), accompanied by some of the Dargo clan, went on a visit to the Kutbuntaura division of the Brayakaulung, and when there they quarrelled with their hosts and were killed. In revenge some of their tribes-people came down to the low country and killed some of the Brayaka. They returned by way of the Snowy River so as to avoid pursuit, and called on their way home at the Black Mountain Station. It was there observed that they had with them pieces of human flesh, apparently cut from the calf of the leg or thigh, wrapped up in stringy-bark, and hung from the end of their spears. They were taking these trophies to show their people at the Mitta-Mitta River.
With the Chepara, offences, if not trivial, were seriously dealt with; and if a man became insane, or was in the habit of idiotically muttering to himself, they killed him, because they thought that it was Wulle that was influencing him, and that disaster might happen to the camp. The Headman of the division might kill him while he slept in his camp, or he might be told to do so by the superior Headman of the tribe.
If a man showed the bull-roarer to a woman, both were killed by the Bujerum himself; and offenders against tribal law were punished by death.
To the preceding evidence may be added the instances given in another chapter of the punishments inflicted for breaches of the class laws, or for incest. It will be evident that a distinction is drawn between offences which merely affect the individual, and are therefore left for him to redress, and those which may be called tribal offences, such as murder by evil magic, breaches of the exogamous law, or revealing the secrets of the initiation ceremonies. Such offences were dealt with by the elders and their leaders, the Headmen of the tribe.
- Op. cit. vol. i. p. 52.
- Id. p. 54.
- Manyura is Claytonia sp.
- S. Gason.
- J. W. Boultbee.
- J. Bulmer
- Proceedings of the Royal Society of New South Wales, 1895, vol. x. p. 387.
- J. Bulmer.
- C. Naseby.
- J. C. Muirhead.
- R. Christison.
- A. I. P. Cameron.
- J. Lalor.
- Jocelyn Brooke.
- J. H. Stähle.
- J. Dawson. The Australian Aborigines, pp. 5, 6.
- This term was used by the Thagunworung also. The Jajaurung term was Nge-im-etch.
- John Morgan, Life and Adventures of William Buckley, p. 101. Hobart, 1852.
- Letters from Victorian Pioneers, p. 65, Thomas Francis Bride, LL. D., Government Printer, Melbourne, 1899.
- William Thomas says of this man "Bi-li-bel-la-ri was the Chief of the Yarra tribe. He stands foremost, and justly so, as ever having been the white man's friend, generous, frank and determined as he was" (op. cit. p. 70). "The good old Billi-billary" (Impressions of Australia, Richard Howitt, 1845).
- Jurawait is the name of this mountain.
- This is one of those men whose names as Jagajaga appear as grantors in Batman's celebrated deed. My Woëworung, Thagunworung, and Jajaurung informants ridiculed the idea of the marks appended by them to the deed having any meaning, beyond that of imitation of, or compliance with, what Batman showed them.
- Kurnung means "creek," and willam is "camp."
- This name means "shining," as explained to me, "like the sun shining on a smooth stone," that is, reflected from it.
- Letters from Victorian Pioneers, Thomas, p. 70.
- Op. cit. Thomas, p. 70.
- Probably the Mur-rum-Mur-rum-bean, mentioned by Thomas in Letters from Victorian Pioneers, p. 73.
- Journal of the Rev. Knopwood: Historical Records of Port Phillip, p. 92. J. Shillinglaw, Government Printer, Melbourne, 1870.
- As to Winberi, Thomas says, op. cit. p. 74, "the unfortunate Winberi (shot by Major Lettsom's party)."
- D. Elphinstone Roe.
- T. M. Sutton.
- See also The Narrinyeri, by Rev. G. Taplin. Adelaide, 1873.
- Waddyman is a free translation of the term applied to those of the Yuin who live back from the sea, and gain their food mainly by climbing trees for it. A waddy is a "tree," "wood," hence also a "stick," a "club."
- Collins, op. cit. p. 35.
- J. W. Boydell.
- G. W. Rusden.
- Op. cit. p. 327.
- J. Gibson.
- S. Gason.
- Quick Speech.
- H. E. Aldridge.
- Jocelyn Brooke.
- J. H. Kirkham.
- T. M. Sutton.
- Rev. G. Taplin and F. W. Taplin.
- G. W. Rusden.
- J. Gibson.
- S. Gason.
- A weapon shaped like a great boomerang, which is used with both hands like a sword.
- O. Siebert.
- Mandra, "belly"; pirnani, "great."
- Kumari, "blood"; Kana, "men."
- Otto Siebert.
- J. W. Boultbee.
- C. Naseby.
- H. E. Aldridge.
- J. H. Kirkham.
- Jocelyn Brooke.
- Tom Petrie.
- Dr. M'Kinlay.
- J. Dawson, op. cit. p. 76.
- 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.
- J. Morgan, op. cit. p. 63.
- Rev. G. Taplin and Mr. F. W. Taplin.
- There is individual marriage in this tribe, but the relationship terms class a man and all his brothers as fathers of their respective children.
- C. Naseby.
- J. W. Boydell.
- G. W. Rusden.
- The Kunnin is about eighteen to twenty inches in length, in the middle two to two and a half inches in diameter, and sloping to a point at each end.
- A Station near to Sale, and so named because, when it was first occupied, the outline of a heart was found cut in the soil where the Homestead was fixed.
- Old Nanny has been already mentioned. She had great influence in the tribe.
- Mungan is father; Breppa-mungan is some one who is in the relation of father, such as the father's brother or mother's sister's husband.
- J. O'Rourke.
- An evil being.
- J. Gibson.