Page:Australian aborigines 1838.djvu/14

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Enclosure 2,
in No. 2.

their fires, prepare and bake their own bread, which, though unleavened, is good and wholesome; they cook their own food; and in April last a portion of them plucked and assisted in curing eight casks of mutton birds on the adjacent islands, averaging in number 2,817, and which will be forwarded to Launceston for sale, on account of the aborigines.

In addition to those salted, 2,079 birds were collected by them for general consumption.

But whilst the performance of the above labour evinces traits of great industry, I have the pleasing task to report that they have become possessed of other acquisitions of a more refined description, and that in addition to their aptitude in the use of the needle, and their proficiency in knitting, they have attained the art of manufacturing French net, under the tuition of Mrs. Clarke, the wife of the catechist, who, together with Mrs. Dickenson, the wife of the storekeeper, has also instructed them in knitting worsted.

The French net is a superior art; several specimens have been manufactured into D'Oyleys, and which, together with specimens of worsted knitting, are herewith forwarded for the information of his Excellency the Lieutenant-governor.

A work of this description is of itself sufficient to prove that those people are not so low in the scale of humanity as they have been represented.

Domestic Economy.

In the domestic arrangements of their dwellings the aboriginal females have made considerable proficiency, and are fully equal in this respect to a large majority of white women, and to many vastly superior; but owing to the fragile property of their present abodes, they are unable to preserve that order and cleanliness I could wish and which they themselves are most anxious to perform. They are, however, looking forward with much interest to the completion of their new houses, when they assure me I shall have no occasion to find fault. Such is the flimsy construction of their present dwellings, that with every gust of wind or shower of rain a part of the arenaceous dirt is thrown down and it requires therefore several sweepings during the day to keep them in anything like a cleanly condition.

Their culinary-utensils, pannicans, dishes, and crockery are, as far as the scanty means of their houses will permit clean and well arranged. Sewing is also an employment in which they have made proficiency. They also wash their own and husbands' linen, cook their own food, and bake their own bread in which they have shown' great aptitude. When supplied with fresh meat, it is invariably boiled and made into soup thickened with flour and seasoned with salt, in which herbs and vegetables are also mixed, and is very savoury. The kangaroo, occasionally procured, is well washed and hung up to roast, after the manner of white persons, whose examples they imitate. Their time is wholly employed in useful labour, harmless amusements, in their attendance at school and religious exercises, and not, as heretofore wandering about the settlement with listless and careless indifference to what was going on; but on the contrary, evince by their general conduct, their prompt attention to instruction, and their persevering industry that they have an interest in the affairs of the settlement, and which it has ever been my aim on all occasions to bring them to participate. They are no longer idle spectators, but actors and ready agents to assist, as far as strength and ability will permit in every useful undertaking.

I have already alluded to their proficiency in useful arts, viz. knitting and fancy net-work, and though from the paucity of their numbers the manufacture cannot be done to any great extent, still in whatever light we view it, whether as a branch of useful industry, or as an amusement, one thing is certain that it displays a precocity of intellect of no ordinary kind, and proves that those whom civilized men despised as beings without mind, are, like all God's creatures perfect in every form, and which only requires the adoption of proper means, when the latent intellect of the degraded savage will be made manifest and be developed.

There are many and numerous incidents that might be cited to mark their improvement in domestic economy; suffice to say, they are not now, as formerly, content to sit upon the ground, but require seats, both as an article of convenience and a preservation from soiling their clothes. Those among them who have knives and forks habitually use them, and which the residue are anxious to possess; they now also confine themselves more closely to their domiciles and not interchanging or crouching under bushes or rolling about in idleness.

The aborigines are becoming cleanly in their persons; they now' perform the necessary ablutions daily, and the greater part of them have shorn beards; they are not now satisfied as heretofore with one garment, i.e. a frock coat but require trousers also and their raiment is in general kept in clean and proper order.

The females are equally as anxious to possess clothes of an European fashion. Several pieces of print bought on their account, and sold at the market, were purchased with avidity and manufactured into gowns; they likewise wear under garments, which they keep in clean and good order. They now evince great desire for domestic comforts and which, though amply supplied, can only be attained by industry and good conduct. Their primitive habits are now all but forgotten: the use of ochre and grease, with which they used formerly to bedaub themselves, is now entirely-abolished. Their nocturnal orgies, i.e. corroberies, which hurt the repose of the settlement and impaired the health of the natives, as adverted to in my previous reports, never occur. Their wild intonations are now superseded by sacred melody i.e. hymns and psalms, in which they greatly excel; but as this will be spoken of under the head of "Sacred Melody," I forbear now to enlarge.

The feuds that existed among the aborigines in their primeval districts are now never thought of; peace and good-humour being their general characteristics and not as