From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been validated.

A Native Encampment, and the Daily Life of the Natives.

The Aborigines of Victoria Dingbat.png

It is necessary for a tribe to move very frequently from place to place, always keeping within the boundaries of the country which it calls its own—now to the spot where eels can be taken in the creeks; often to the feeding-grounds of the kangaroo; sometimes to the thicker forests to get wood suitable for making weapons; to the sea-coast continually for fish of various kinds; and, at the right season, to the lands where are found the native bread, the yam, and the acacia gum. Constantly under the pressure of want, and yet, by travelling, easily able to supply their wants, their lives lack neither excitement nor pleasure. When the head of a tribe, advised by the council of old men, has fixed upon a camping ground at some distance away, notice is given to all the families at early morning. Such things as they require on their journey they carry with them, but property of another kind is secreted in their miams or in the hollows of trees, or under stones, or in some thick patch of scrub. In leaving it they know well that they will find it when they return. Laden with their bags and rugs, and implements and weapons, they wend their way through the forest in small parties: the males generally with the males, the females with the females; and the constant chatter and noise, and sometimes the loud calls of the men, serve to amuse and cheer the tribe on its journey. Picking up what pleases them, observing and noting what they subsequently may require, hunting an opossum, gathering buds or flowers or grubs, or lazily polishing and improving some favorite weapon when there is a halt—men, women, and children find the ramble pleasant enough.

When evening arrives, and the splendid deep blue-purple and rose and yellow tints of the anti-twilight cover the eastern sky, the leader, having well regulated the pace, comes to the site of the new encampment. He stops, throws down his kangaroo rug (Mogra), sticks his spears in the ground, and at once commences important duties. Immediately there is bustle and excitement, running hither and thither, and loud "cooeys" from the young men. The leader quietly and calmly surveys the forest, and seeing some stately tree having bark suitable to his wants, advances slowly towards it. He chops a hole for his foot, takes his tomahawk (Kal-baling-elarek or Karr-geing) between his teeth, and gravely ascends, chopping holes as he proceeds, managing the whole business easily and gracefully. When he has ascended to a proper height, he commences to notch the bark, descends and notches it also in the lower part, cuts the sides, and in a short time removes with some care a large smooth sheet (Koon-toom). Each head of a family in like manner procures bark, no one interfering with his neighbour; and in a short time a number of lean-tos are constructed.