Page:Journal of the Royal Geographical Society of London, Volume 1 (2nd edition).djvu/60

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40
Description of the Natives of King George's Sound

ment for our amusement. They usually strip themselves entirely; but when before us they had their cloak fastened round their loins, leaving only the upper part of the body exposed. The face was painted red; and on the arms and body were various figures, painted with a white colour. White pigment is usually an emblem of mourning, but it is used in the dances, from its being the most conspicuous colour at night. Their mulgarradocks (doctors) and old men never dance.

A fire is kindled on a clear spot, behind which is seated an old man, and in front the dance is performed, as if towards him. They keep the same step, which is varied from time to time; sometimes stooping and grunting, and moving their heads sideways, in most grotesque attitudes.

I think their dances vary, and are in some instances intended to represent the chace and killing of animals; for at times during the dance they cry out warre, wait, toort, &c. Whilst they are dancing they have green boughs in their hands, which they in turn advance and deposit with the old man behind the fire. At some of their dances they have their spears, and at a certain part represent killing one of their party; after which the spears are, like the green boughs, delivered to the old man, who the whole time is seated on the ground, looking very serious, and turning his head about as if to inspect and give directions to the dancers, and pulling or stroking his beard with either hand alternately.

There is neither elegance nor activity displayed in their dancing; on the contrary, it is ludicrous, and may be symbolical. I do not think the women dance with the men, nor am I certain that they ever dance, although some of the natives have informed me they do at their own fires. The noise made by them whilst dancing cannot be considered as musical, or intended as such. Each man repeats at every jump the words wow wow, the meaning of which I cannot explain. When they drive game from a covert with sticks and a noise, they call it wow-e-niā-tur, the word wow being also then used. At intervals they stop to rest, at the time setting up a loud shout.

These dances only take place when many are congregated together and at peace. During war it would subject them to an attack from their enemy, by exposing the situation of their encampment.

Upon the first formation of the settlement we endeavoured to discover whether they had any chiefs, and for a long time believed they had; indeed, we had fixed upon two or three individuals to whom we supposed that rank belonged. The natives whom we had selected were fine, tall, active men, much painted and ornamented. Their names were Naikennon, Gnewitt, Warti, and Eringool; but we subsequently discovered that they were all single