Page:The aborigines of Australia.djvu/172

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USES OF THE COO-EE. 159

hunting excursions, calling together the dispersed members of the same families, or regaining the haunts of men when an individual or a party may have lost the beaten path or strayed into the depths of the primeval forest, far from village or hut, still it must not be imagined that to those commonplace uses alone is the coo-ee applied. It has already been shown that some of the most deadly encounters which have taken place between the aborigines and the Europeans originated in the usurpation by the latter of the freshwater streams, creeks, and lagoons of the former. The banks of the rivers and other freshwater reservoirs were, to all intents, the homes of the aborigines, and accordingly these places they defended with that tenacity and boldness which attachment to home could alone inspire; and it has been observed by various explorers and travellers that tribes of blacks, otherwise frank and hospitable in their intercourse with the whites, have evinced considerable coolness and a lurking hostility whenever a body of the latter have approached suddenly or unceremoniously the banks of a creek. On these occasions it has not unfrequently happened that the whole tribe, with the exception of a patriarch who would come forward to hold parley, have remained seated close to the water, each individual preserving a sullen silence and keeping his weapons within reach of his hand, while the women and children would remain motionless at a short distance behind. Now, a jealousy of any encroachment on their water