Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/102

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SPONSORIAL CUSTOM. 89

While, however, it is ascertained that very young infants are, or have been, immolated in the manner described, another custom is known to prevail among the aborigines, which proves that they are not by any means indifferent to the fate of their offspring. This custom bears an affinity to the system of sponsorship practised in the Christian church — the difference being that, in the latter case, the duties imposed generally end with the ceremony, while in the former case the duties are generally strictly exacted and scrupulously performed. Thus, when the father of a family dies, his children are invariably taken under protection by some relative or other member of the tribe, on whom the title of the deceased "Bianna," signifying father or chief, is conferred. On this new guardian devolves the self-imposed duties of hunting and fishing for the sustenance of his wards, directing their movements, protecting them from outrage, training them in the exercises of their people, and in every respect providing for their well-being and safety, until such time as they become capable of depending on their own resources. This custom, the existence of which, in some tribes at least, is established beyond doubt, would imply a knowledge and practice of the social duties among the New Hollanders for which few would be disposed to give them credit who have not attentively considered their character, and observed therein the gleamings of the better traits of humanity.

Among the articles of faith of the aborigines, in