NOTES ON THE ABORIGINES OF COOPER'S CREEK.
(By Alfred W. Howitt, F.G.S., P.M. and Warden of the Goldfields at Bairnsdale.)
A GREAT central chain of Salt Lakes extends from the Flinders Range northward. Into these lakes flows the surplus water of Cooper's Creek. The Aborigines living on these waters and extending to the eastward on the various watercourses may be said to be numerous, when the nature of the country is considered. I estimated them at about 1,200. They are divided into tribes; and again subdivided, and I am inclined to think that every lake and permanent water may be regarded as having its sub-tribe. I am acquainted with four tribes. The Deeries, who live at Lake Hope (Bando Pinna; or the Big Lake); the Yantruwunter, who live at Cooper's Creek proper; and two other tribes who live towards Lake Lipson (Bando Patchaditti); and Sturt's Desert (Murda Pinna, or the Big Stones).
The natives living at Strezelecki's Creek are called the "Tingatingana" blacks, from the native name of the creek; they are, I believe, a subdivision of the Deeries, and have a very bad name. Perhaps it is worse than they deserve, for all the misdeeds done by blacks on the border are laid to the charge of the Tingatingana blacks.
The language is the same from Sturt's Desert down to Flood's Creek, in the Barrier Ranges; and from the chain of Salt Lakes eastward, I know not how far up the rivers.
A small family of the Yantruwunter go from the end of Strezelecki's Creek down to Flood's Creek, and there meet natives of the Darling back country. I think that the native mentioned by Sturt as coming to his camp (I think at Fort Grey) was probably one of this family. Capt. Sturt mentions that he made signs of great waters to the west or north-west, and also represented the paddling of canoes; I think this really represented the hauling in of a net or "Yamma." I have seen such a pantomime, but I never saw a canoe or any place where bark for a canoe had been stripped in Central Australia. This small tribe meets the Darling natives as I have said, and some of them have spoken to me of them derisively as being so ignorant as to call a snake "fire." The Yantruwunter call fire "Touro.'" The Darling blacks use the same word for "snake"—for instance, on Burke's track there is a swamp called "Tourowato," meaning "To catch hold of a snake;" or, in the broken English of the tame blacks, to "Man-em-snake." "Wattoley" is to take hold of anything.