Page:Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Volume 1 (2nd edition).djvu/57

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37
Description of the Natives of King George's Sound

bandicoots, and, in the burning season, set fire to the ground by themselves.

The whole party cook and eat conjointly. They generally go on the open, downy, or swampy land.

The men also go two or three together, unless they have some particular object in view. They are more frequently found on the shores fishing, or in the woods seeking nests, opossums, bandicoots, or kangaroos. When they are successful, they instantly make a fire, and eat a portion of their game. The married men generally reserve a share for their wives. They are extremely jealous of their food, concealing and eating it silently and secretly; yet if others are present they usually give a small portion: they tell me that one-half of what they procure they eat and divide with their companions, and the remainder they keep for the night. The men also collect roots, and sometimes challows, but for these they chiefly rely upon their wives. I have imagined that the classes called Erniung and Tāā-man keep themselves more separate.

They have some superstitious notions in regard to peculiar food for different ages and sexes. Thus girls, after eleven or twelve years of age, seldom eat bandicoots, such food being considered a preventive to breeding; young men will not eat nailoits or warlits (black eagle), or they will not have a fine beard: such food will also influence their success in the chace; and although kangaroos may abound, they will seldom see them, and always miss them when they attempt to spear them. I believe that it is not until the age of thirty that they may eat indiscriminately.

Quails (pourriock or pourrha) are old men’s diet. Plenty of kangaroo is supposed to occasion the women to breed.

Of their children they appear to be very fond, and rarely chastise them; but their treatment of the women is not always gentle, and many of them have spear-wounds in the legs or thighs, indicted by their husbands.

The women are very useful to them, not only in procuring food, but also in preparing their cloaks, building their huts, and other menial offices. They possess few utensils, and those are of the rudest construction: a piece of soft bark, tied at each end, serves for a drinking-cup; the claw of a kangaroo they use for a needle; and through a hollow rush, or the wing-bone of a bird (nweil), they suck the water, when it cannot conveniently be reached with their mouths.

Polygamy is a general practice amongst them, one man sometimes having many wives. Their customs, however, as regards their women, are not only very curious, but also so intricate, and involved in so many apparent contradictions and singularities, that it is probable we have been mistaken in some of them.

The whole body of the natives are divided into two classes,