Page:Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Volume 1 (2nd edition).djvu/59

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.
Description of the Natives of King George's Sound

by a severe beating, or more frequently by spearing her through the thigh.

Infidelity is by no means uncommon. The husband keeps a jealous eye on his wife, and on the least excuse for suspicion she is severely punished. The majority of the men are single until past thirty years of age; some much longer. The old men have not only several wives, but of all ages.

This state of things is in some measure compensated by what is called tarramanaccarack: it is, in fact, courting a wife whilst her husband is living, upon the understanding with both parties that she is to be the wife of the lover after the death of the husband. The presents in this case are made to the husband, as well as to the woman; but what she receives she generally divides with him. This practice is done openly, and permitted; but it must be carried on in so decorous a manner as not to occasion scandal to the parties, or jealousy to the husband.

When a man dies, it is usual for his younger wives to reside with their fathers' tribe during the period of mourning, at which time they receive little attention from the men to whom they are subsequently to belong, and would meet with severe punishment were they to go and live with them immediately. Should the parties, however, subsequently run away, not much notice would be taken. It is not unfrequent for the wife to descend among the nearest relatives of her husband; and this arrangement is well understood during his life.

Like other savage tribes, the women suffer little from child-bearing, and even the next day walk out to seek their food as usual. The period of infancy is divided by them into many stages, the names of which I do not recollect. For the first few weeks the child is carried on the left arm in a fold of the cloak, but subsequently is suspended on the shoulders. Until they can run alone they are not clothed. In cases of twins, one of the children is killed; (if of different sexes, the female being preserved;) the reasons assigned for which measure are, that a woman has not sufficient milk for two children, and cannot carry them and seek her food. They suckle them until they are four or five years of age; but long before they are weaned they are instructed in procuring a portion of their food.

A girl of nine or ten years of age has the superintendence of all the little ones who can walk; and she takes them out each with its stick to dig roots in the neighbourhood of their encampment. Should they espy a stranger, they instantly conceal themselves in the herbage, lying as close as a hare in its form. As they get older they accompany the women, and are generally carried astride on their shoulders.

Their dances have been frequently exhibited to us in the settle-