Page:Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Volume 1 (2nd edition).djvu/48

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28
Description of the Natives of King George's Sound.

who lie covered in their mantles, huddled together, in a crowded state: the dogs also are admitted to a share of their bed.

An encampment rarely consists of more than seven or eight huts; for, except during the fishing and burning seasons, at which times large parties assemble together, their numbers are generally small, and two or three huts suffice. The number of individuals, however, seldom exceed fifty. The huts are so arranged as not to overlook each other. The single men, have one to themselves—the children sleep with the women in a large hut near the husbands. These encampments generally consist of near relatives, and deserve the name of families rather than of tribes.

Those families who have locations on the sea-coast quit it during the winter for the interior; and the natives of the interior, in like manner, pay visits to the coast during the fishing season. Excepting at these times, those natives who live together have the exclusive right of fishing or hunting upon the neighbouring grounds, which are, in fact, divided into individual properties; the quantity of land owned by each individual being very considerable. Yet it is not so exclusively his, but others of his family have certain rights over it; so that it may be considered as partly belonging to the tribe. Thus all of them have a right to break down grass-trees, kill bandicoots, lizards, and other animals, and dig up roots; but the presence of the owner of the ground is considered necessary when they fire the country for game. As the country does not abound in food, they are seldom stationary, removing, according to the time of the year, to those parts which produce the articles of provision that may be in season. During the winter and early spring they are very much scattered; but as summer advances they assemble in greater numbers.

It is at this season that they procure the greatest abundance of game. It is done by setting fire to the underwood and grass, which, being dry, is rapidly burnt. The manner in which these burnings are performed is as follows:—

With a kind of torch made of the dry leaves of the grass tree, they set fire to the sides of the cover by which the game is enclosed and cannot escape. The hunters, concealed by the smoke, stand in the paths most frequented by the animals, and with facility spear them as they pass by. On these occasions vast numbers of animals are destroyed. The violence of the fire is frequently very great, and extends over many miles of country; but this is generally guarded against by their burning it in consecutive portions. The women also kindle fires, but only for the purpose of taking bandicoots; they sometimes, however, accompany the men at the larger firings for kangaroos, or walloby.

As soon as the fire has passed over the ground, they walk over the ashes in search of lizards and snakes, which are thus destroyed