If a man captured a woman of some other tribe, he would not be permitted to retain her unless she were of the class with which his class married.
At times when there were great tribal gatherings wives were exchanged, but always within class limits. But they also resorted to this practice to avert some great trouble which they fancied was about to come upon them; for instance, they once heard that a great sickness was coming down the Murray, and the old men proposed exchanging wives to ensure safety from it. Yet at all other times men required wives to be faithful to their husbands, unless by their consent and command. In one case two men exchanged wives for a month; this was called Be-ama.
Here we have a survival of the practice of group-marriage, and the Wiimbaio, as I have said, represent the other Maraura-speaking tribes.
The series of two-class tribes which extend up the Murray River from the Wiimbaio have been described by Mr. A. L. P. Cameron, who says that any totem of Mukwara among the Tatathi and Keramin may marry any totem of Kilpara and vice versa, and that descent is in the female line. Girls are very frequently promised when children, and when marriageable are taken to the future husband's camp by the mother or mother's brother. The father has nothing to do with the disposal of his daughter, the reason given being that the daughter belongs to the class of her mother's brother, and not to that of her father. Notwithstanding this, they believe that the daughter is of the father solely, being only nurtured by her mother.
A female captive belonged to her captor if of a class from which he might take a wife. No one was permitted to retain one of the class to which he belonged. In many instances such women were held in common for a time by all the members of the tribe, but subject to the class laws, and were afterwards allotted to those who might lawfully marry them.
As I have before said, the class names Mukwara and
- J. Bulmer.
- Notes on some Tribes of New South Wales, p. 352. A. L. P. Cameron.