XVI. On the Aborigines of Australia.
By Augustus Oldfield, Esq.
(Read February 9th, 1864.)
[Extracted from Transactions of the
Ethnological Society, vol. 3 (1865), pp. 215-98.]
There can be little doubt but that the New Hollanders are mainly of Malay descent, the physiognomy of Malays and Australians being essentially the same, and their languages, in the opinion of competent authorities, cognate. As even at the present time the Malay proas sometimes visit the northern shores of Australia in quest of the Trepang, there seems good foundation for the supposition that those people colonised the parts bordering on Torres' Straits, and thence spreading southward, in process of time, they peopled the whole Continent. But although the Alfoura must be considered principally of Malay origin, it seems probable that there has been a mixture of Negro blood, for the New Hollander possesses some of the characteristics of both families.
It is probable that in the first instance different hordes of the great Malay family (principally from New Guinea, where the Malay and Negro races seem to have blended) settled on the northern shores of New Holland, and it is necessary further to suppose that these bands of colonists were of many distinct tribes, and that the parts thus peopled were remote from each other, otherwise it would be impossible to account for the great differences in customs and languages observable among the various Australian tribes. These hordes in their subsequent migrations seized on the [p.216] facilities offered for subsistence by the physical conditions of the country, following, to some extent, the lines marking the distribution of plants. Taking peculiar customs as evincing community of origin, we discover that these migrations have seldom taken the direct southward course, and hence, in many instances, these bands of emigrants must have crossed the lines of migration of other hordes, leaving at the point of transit traces of both. This supposition will enable us to account for the diversities in customs of contiguous tribes, as well as for the similarity of usages among very distant ones. Thus we find that the rite of circumcision has travelled from the far north-east to the country a little to the east of Shark's Bay, and thence has taken a south-east direction: the practice of tatooing the chest extends from the mouth of the Murchison south-east towards the Great Australian Bight. The custom of tatooing the back stretches, as far as is yet known, from the country north of Moreton Bay towards the interior in a south-westerly direction. The practice of perforating the septum of the nostrils seems prevalent over the whole Continent, apparently furnishing a proof of the community of descent of all the Australian tribes, but as this custom prevails amongst most savages, too much stress must not be laid on its presence amongst the New Hollanders.
From all the observations hitherto made in Western Australia, it appears that, taking community of customs and similarity of dialects as indicative of identity of origin, the tide of emigration, starting from various points on the western coast, has followed lines trending nearly south-east; thus occupying strips of country possessing the same physical characters as the one from which it started. Thus the tribe located near Lake Longe may be traced thence to the Australian Bight along a strip of country of nearly uniform nature, characterised as being the only known habitat of the Eucalyptus pleurocarpa. In like manner, the Eucalyptus gomphocephala marks the range of another tribe: and probably had attention been paid to this subject, many parallel cases might have been discovered.
Every tribe in Western Australian holds those to the north of it in especial dread, imputing to them an immense power of enchantment, greater bravery, and superior skill in the manufacture and use of arms, and this seems to justify the inference that the peopling of New Holland has taken place from various points towards the north; for it is reasonable to suppose that such superiority would be accorded to the parent-stock by all its offshoots.
It were useless to speculate on the period at which Australia was first peopled, but, judging from the slow rate of increase of the Australian natives, and considering the great extent of country to be inhabited, that epoch must be very remote. One [p.217] fact is certain: the whole Continent from north to south must have been peopled prior to the general introduction of the dog into Australia; for as that animal is certainly not indigenous to New Holland, and moreover was never found in Tasmania, it follows that that island was inhabited before the dingo had had time to spread as far as the shores of Bass's Straits.
Assuming, therefore, that different tribes of the Malay family settled in various points of the northern coasts of New Holland, then spreading southward and carrying with them each its respective customs and language, at length arrived at the southern shores of that vast continent. Here a fresh difficulty arises. Did they reach so far south before or after the disruption of Tasmania from the Main? After so long a journey across a land in which boats of any kind are useless, all knowledge of navigation must long since have been lost among them, so that, to account for the peopling of that island, it is necessary to imagine that parties of four distinct tribes were accidentally carried over, a supposition that seems unfounded, from the consideration of the fact, that those points (the islands in Bass's Straits) which are most likely to have been colonised by such fortuitous means were destitute of inhabitants at the time of their discovery. The art of constructing even the rudest of boats exists only among the most northerly of the Australian tribes, those to the south seldom resorting even to the use of a bundle of bark or of sticks to enable them to cross an arm of the sea; and even in the event of people having been driven from the shore on such a raft, all their efforts would naturally have been made to regain the land they had left, and thus by delaying the time of their arrival at any island of whose existence they would be ignorant, they must have died of thirst, if not of hunger, before they could have reached any southerly land. In fact, in any such emergency it is more probable that at the outset they would rather have endeavoured to regain the land by swimming, than that they should have trusted themselves to unknown seas on such a frail bark, without adequate means to propel and guide it.
From these considerations, it seems reasonable to infer that the colonisation of Tasmania by the Alfouras took place at an epoch anterior to the disappearance of a low sandy isthmus, once connecting that island with the main, of which the capes of the same nature, both on the north and south sides of the straits, are probably the existing remains.
That Australia was inhabited prior to its colonisation by the Alfouru, seems probable from the existence of relics of a civilisation far higher than can be claimed by any tribes of the Malay family. These remains of an extinct civilisation consist chiefly of picture-caves and sculptured rocks, works which the present [p.218] occupants of the soil, far from claiming as their own, ascribe to diabolical agency. As the features and dresses of the figures represented are such as no untutored savage could possibly conceive, and the tools and pigments used are unknown to the existing race, the only just inference we can draw from these facts is, that some more civilised people has been destroyed by the black man, or possibly, in some instances, the two races have blended, a supposition that would enable us in some measure to account for diversities of characteristics found to exist in various localities. The anomalies for which we thus seek to account exist chiefly among the inland tribes, in which we occasionally meet with physiognomies departing widely from the Australian type; and to reconcile these discrepancies, we are driven to suppose that the fact is owing to a mixture of the blood of a pristine race with that of the Alfouru, for had this blending of races been due to the migration of strangers from the sea-board, traces of their presence would be equally perceptible along the lines of their journeyings.
On the western and northern coasts we find the greatest departures from the normal type, and this doubtless is owing to the advent of strangers among them; those shores, bordering on much frequented seas, being more likely to have been visited by such than either the south or east coasts, which were perhaps never visited until European enterprise led the white man to them. The tribes inhabiting the country from the Murchison River to Shark's Bay possess more of the characteristics of the Negro family than do the aborigines of any other part of Australia; and as some of their proper names are similar to those used on the opposite coast of Africa, we may assume that there has been a recent mixture of Negro blood with that of these Western Australian tribes.
That such accidental blending of races should sometimes occur on the shores of much frequented seas is probable from the following facts. At Champion Bay, in Western Australia, I was much surprised to find in some of the old natives features nearly approaching the European type, although those parts had been settled but a very few years. I mentioned this fact to a medical gentleman, who informed me that he had made the same observation, and could account for it in no other way but by supposing that a ship which had sailed from Calcutta to Swan River in the early days of the colony, and had never since been heard of, was lost in these parts, and that some of her people who had escaped had mingled with this tribe, a surmise strengthened by the traditions of the natives, who to this day call Perth (the capital of Western Australia) Ca-cut-ta, having probably mistaken. the place of departure for that of the destination of the rescued people: added to this, they often asserted that in the event of [p.219] the departure of the whites from among them, there were many of their females whom their laws would permit them to eat, they having white blood in their veins. This approach to the European type of features I have also observed among the natives about Geographe Bay, where the unfortunate Dr. Vasse was so cruelly deserted by his inhuman superior. According to the accounts of these natives, this unhappy naturalist lived many years among them, conforming to all their habits, and at length dying a natural death—"self-died" said an old native in return to my question as to the mode of his death. While botanising the country about the Murchison River (1858-9), I was desirous of making a journey to Shark's Bay, and to that end sought of the natives all the information they could give respecting the nature of the country between these two points.
One locality, where water was to be found, was indicated as "the place where the black fellows ate the white fellow"; and, on inquiry, I discovered that it was a man whom they had found wandering in the bush: one perhaps who had escaped death by shipwreck, only to meet a more horrible fate. Another place was "where the black fellows found the white fellow," and in reply to my question whether they ate him also, my informant replied in a mournful voice "No; he was dead, and stank too much." On my suggesting that had he been alive they would have killed and eaten him, he replied in a cheerful voice, "O yes! of course." From these and other instances recorded, it is within the limits of possibility that various parts of the coasts of this continent have been visited by strangers, who to some extent have left behind them traces of their presence either in the physiognomy or the language of the existing races; and this supposition goes far to dispel the mystery that the evident off-shoots of one and the same race should in these respects be so entirely diverse.
With respect to the general form of the cranium of all Alfouras, one thing is apparent—the younger the subject the better shaped is its skull, and it is only in extreme old age that it so nearly approaches the simial type that in mixing with them we feel doubtful whether we have to do with intelligent monkeys or with very much degraded men.
However heated they may be by exercise or the weather, the surface of their bodies always has a cold, clammy feel, and I never could endure their reptile-like touch without a thrill of horror. The amount of blood in their bodies seems much less than that of an European, for though wounded to death they bled but little. The hair of the Alfoura is generally black, glossy, and with a natural tendency to curl; but in some instances it assumes much of the woolliness of that of the negro.
In stature there seems as much variation among these savages as there is among
civilised nations, the mean height being no greater than it is in England. Out
of thirteen Sharks' Bay natives who visited the Murchison in 1859, twelve were
above five feet ten inches in height, while the last, the most lively and
pugnacious of the party, stood only four feet nine inches. In age there seems a
great reduction in stature, for I do not remember to have seen a tall old man.
In general, the women are shorter than the men, and far more slightly built, but
exceptions to this rule are not rare, and in the settled parts where, the law
protecting them, they are not destroyed when they become old and useless, they
become inordinately stout after they are past child-bearing.
Of the absolute numbers of this race little can be said with certainty. Some having seen multitudes attracted to some merry-making, unable to discriminate between hosts and guests, esteem the native population very great; while others, who have travelled thousands of miles through the country, and yet have seen very few, consider it inconsiderable. The truth lies between these two estimates; though, considering the extent of the country inhabited, the latter are nearest to the truth. As might be expected, the fertile parts of New Holland were more thickly populated than the barren—Victoria sustained a greater population than South Australia—the southern parts of Western Australia than the northern parts of the same colony. If the estimated number of the native population of Tasmania be correct, that island sustained a greater relative number of natives than any other portion of New Holland, it having been asserted that at the time of its settlement (1803) it contained a population of 4,000 aborigines. As it would be difficult to indicate forty portions of the Australian Continent, as abounding as that island is in the food necessary for the natives, it may be inferred that the entire aboriginal population of New Holland at no time exceeded 150,000; a number now greatly reduced from various causes. Again, from observations made among the Watchandie Tribe in Western Australia, I conclude that each individual of that tribe draws his subsistence from about fifty square miles of country, and as the district occupied by these people in regard to its capabilities for the support of human life, may be considered as a mean between the more fertile and the more barren portions of Australia, the area of the latter far exceeding that of the former, we may safely estimate that throughout the continent each fifty square miles of country sustains one native, and applying this criterion to the whole area of New Holland, the result shows that the entire native population does not exceed the number assigned.
One of the principal causes of the reduction of the aboriginal population is the
scarcity of the larger kinds of game consequent on the introduction of cattle
and sheep into their country, for the continual tending of the flocks and herds,
the frequent driving of them from place to place, but above all the constant
passage of the stock-drivers, not to speak of the wanton havoc of the Europeans,
all concur to scare the game and eventually to drive it beyond the limits of the
space assigned to the tribe in whose country these settlers have taken up their
abode; added to which, as such settlements are of course located in the most
fertile parts from which the natives draw the chief portion of their vegetable
diet, it very soon happens that the aborigines find a scarcity of food. As the
territorial boundaries of each tribe are as well defined and known as are those
separating any two nations of Europe, they cannot retreat before the white
invader, for to pass beyond their own limits would be to expose themselves to
the hostility of some other tribe. It is true that some means of subsistence are
still open to them, but it must be remembered that the chief of these, fishing,
can only be pursued during the warm weather, and moreover that fish is an
article of which everyone soon tires, especially if there be no other kinds of
food for variation. After suffering hunger for a time, the natives are unable to
resist the temptation of a feast on the cattle of the settlers, and to avenge
their act, indiscriminate slaughter of the guilty and the innocent, of man,
woman and child, has too often been the policy of the Europeans.
The introduction of diseases amongst them has done much to thin their numbers. As they have no idea what treatment such maladies require, it often occurs that they have recourse to such methods as they have found to be beneficial in other cases, so that it often arrives that more deaths occur through the remedies applied than would have happened had the disease been left to take its own course. Thus it occurred in 1861, in which year the measles were fatal to the greater part of the aborigines of South-Western Australia, the mortality being greatly increased by the mode of treatment adopted by them. From some preconceived notions they were of opinion that frequent bathing would cure that disease, and this plan they followed, notwithstanding that the season was wet and cold. About thirty years ago the whole of the Port Davey Tribe (Tasmania) with one exception was destroyed by the small-pox. The only survivor out of a tribe estimated at 1,000, a woman, arrived by a very circuitous route at Bruni Island, and joined the natives located there.
Another great cause of this diminution, not less potent than the bullet and disease, but far more insidious in its action than either, is found in that physical law first detected by Count [p.222] Streletzki, that the native female, having once borne to a European, never bears to one of her own race afterwards. During nearly twenty years' observation I have ever found the Count's statement to be correct, for I have invariably found that where a half-caste child appeared in any family, no child of pure blood, younger than it, was ever to be seen. The half-castes breed indiscriminately with Europeans and aborigines, but I have not been able to ascertain whether the above law applies also to them.
Should the settlements in Australia continue to spread as rapidly as they have done during the last thirty years, and should the same class of colonists as heretofore be the forerunners of a more reputable population, the occult influence alone of this extraordinary law threatens the speedy extinction of the native races; and when the other causes of their diminution are taken into the account, it is certain that this epoch is not far distant. It is estimated that at the time of its settlement, the island of Tasmania contained a native population of 4,000, consisting of four distinct tribes, each possessing a peculiar language and diverse customs. Of this number not half-a-dozen survive, and in a few years the Tasmanian race will become extinct, there being no females capable of child-bearing among them.
Although this proximate disappearance of the Alfouras is to be deplored, still, as it is not to be avoided by any means, it would be useless to waste time and labour in the hopeless task of endeavouring to avert the fate impending over them; the utmost that can be done is to make some efforts to mitigate the rigours of the lot of those whose territories remain yet to be invaded. This hopelessness of averting the extinction of the native races arises from their utter inaptitude to receive, or if received to retain, any amount of education; hence, change in their mode of existence is impossible. The experiment has been made repeatedly, and although some proficiency has been attained in those branches of learning which depend altogether on the memory, all efforts to educate the reason have signally failed. Even the effects of this lowest kind of education are soon effaced when once they are removed from the schools. I have met with several adult natives who, in their youth, had acquired the arts of reading and writing, and though but a few years had elapsed since they had quitted their instructors, all traces of such powers had entirely disappeared.
The education of their morals is as impossible as is that of their reason, the old savage nature eventually breaking forth, even in individuals in whom it was imagined to have been totally subdued. The following instances, out of very many similar ones which have come under my observation, will serve to show how futile is the attempt to raise these people in the social scale.
Many years ago a settler in Western Australia received into his family an
aboriginal child aged only a few days, the mother having been killed while it
was of that tender age. The infant (a girl) was brought up with the children of
her protector, and in after years received the same education as they did, in
which she made great apparent progress, while at the same time she was most
sedulously guarded from contact with any of her own race. As she grew up she was
esteemed a model of virtue, and great hopes were entertained that through her
much might be done to ameliorate the condition of her people. At the proper age
and of her own free choice she was given in marriage to an Englishman, and for
some time all went on well. At length her savage instincts prevailed, and
casting off her civilised dress she eloped with an aboriginal man, submitting to
all the customs of savage life. Her husband followed the pair in hopes of
reclaiming his wife, who, when he overtook them, incited her paramour to kill
Even the half-caste breed evince much of this savage instinct. I have seen a child of this class who had never been in contact with any natives, greedily devour raw kangaroo-flesh, while in other respects she was remarkably dainty in her diet, preferring nicely cooked made dishes to solid meat. This inclination was checked as much as possible, but if opportunity offered she was unable to withstand the temptation, even going the length of robbing the dogs of their half-gnawed, half putrid bones, when they had been fed on that meat.
As was discovered by Dampier two hundred years ago, so is it at the present day, the New Hollanders are incapable of anything like steady, persevering labour, the reward of which is in futurity. Short tasks, the reward of which is speedy, they will certainly perform, but the work done and the pay secured, it is not until again pressed by hunger that they willingly betake themselves to labour. Even when hired as permanent servants the settlers are never certain how long they will continue to work, for after becoming surfeited with the white man's food, their innate propensities resume their sway, and doffing their civilised costume, they are constrained to lead for a time their former vagabond life.
In mental capacity they are pretty nearly on a par, inter se, except that, within certain limits the young are more intelligent than the old. From about the age of eight to that of twenty years their understandings seem on a par with those of uneducated Europeans between the same ages; after twenty their mental vigour seems to decline, and at the age of forty seems nearly extinct, instinct alone remaining. As far as concerns the powers of mind, a lad of ten years is superior to the man of eighteen, a fact due no doubt to the alterations in the form of the cranium in age.
As the result of old age idiotcy is common, but I have never observed any
approach to it in the young, for the reason perhaps that any showing indications
of that disorder would be destroyed in early youth.
A deaf and dumb boy about nine years of age evinced considerable powers of understanding. To test these powers I have often shown him a bunch of flowers, making signs to him to fetch me similar ones, but not the same; an errand which he always successfully accomplished. In all respects he proved of greater service to me than others in full possession of their faculties.
Egotists as these savages naturally are from their mode of existence, they are not altogether devoid of affection, although in some instances it assumes an appearance of cruelty. Sometimes their love of their offspring (male) is excessive, and worthy of imitation even by civilised people, and though we must censure certain of their acts, yet in estimating the character of these barbarians great allowance must be made for the circumstances under which they arise, for while the Alfoura has been taught that such deeds are meritorious, civilised men, whose education should have led them to execrate crime of every shade, are hourly guilty of actions nearly akin to the worst of those committed by these uncultivated hordes; so that an impartial judge would censure the white rather than the black man. There is hardly an outrage perpetrated by the New Hollander to which a parallel may not be found among civilised nations, and it is horrible to consider that, in the latter case, so much barbarism should still lurk amid so great civilisation. In too many instances the Europeans settled among these black men have been but sorry patterns to the latter of the benefits of civilisation, as on all occasions they have proved but too ready to out-Herod Herod in acts of bloodshed and debauchery, in the latter case even going the length of introducing new crimes among a people already but too prone to evil. The colonisation of any already inhabited country by convicts is one of those acts that must for ever cast a shadow of infamy on England. Unfortunately it is now too late to think of averting the evil; persons of that class are found in every new settlement, not only tainting with their vices the uneducated savage, who glories in following the example of the white man, but shedding their baneful influence over all with whom they come in contact.
The New Hollander is selfish from absolute necessity. Dependent for his subsistence on his daily labour, he enjoys but few opportunities for the indulgence of generosity. Most of his fellows are as capable as he is of providing for their sustenance or personal security, and when his turn comes to be incapable of [p.225] so doing, he lies down to die without a murmur. Still it is unjust to impute selfishness as a characteristic of the savage alone: it is equally an attribute of man generally, and this principle may be adduced as the origin of all our virtues as well as vices. No one ever does, or ever did, an action by which good in some form or other is not hoped to be secured to himself; therefore let us not blame the poor black man on account of his selfishness, for we, considering our circumstances, are far more guilty than he.
There was an old Watchandie to whom the name of Monkey had been given by the whites, probably on account of his resemblance to that lively animal, who had a son, a lad about nine years of age, of whom he was excessively fond, always tenderly embracing him and recommending him to the care of others when he went on any expedition too arduous for so young a child. When Monkey returned from the chase, he invariably, first of all, fondly kissed the boy before proceeding to cook the produce of his day's sport, and when the meal was prepared, all the best parts were bestowed on the child. In fact the boy was quite spoiled, claiming as a right all the best parts of the food, and insisting on being carried wherever it was necessary for him to travel. One day, as old Monkey and his son were sitting by the fire, I threw a piece of bread to the former, but as it fell nearer to the lad than to him, he desired his son to fetch it. "Fetch it yourself; I am cold," said the young urchin. Old Monkey grinned and did as he was bidden; whereupon the lad insisted on having the bread, which was cheerfully given up to him.
During the summer of 1858-9 the Murchison was visited by great numbers of kites, the native country of these birds being Shark's Bay. As other birds were scarce, we shot many of these kites merely for the sake of practice, the Watchandies eagerly devouring them as fast as they were killed. One day, a man and woman, natives of Shark's Bay, came to the Murchison, and the woman, immediately recognising the birds as coming from her country, assured us that the natives there never kill them, and that there they are so tame that they will perch on the shoulders of the women and eat from their hands. On seeing one shot she wept bitterly, and not even the offer of the bird could assuage her grief; for she absolutely refused to eat it. No more of these kites were shot while she remained amongst us.
Treachery is a characteristic of all savages, but this quality is merely a phase of the instinct of self-preservation, leading men to endeavour to do the greatest possible mischief to their enemy at the least possible risk to themselves. The strategy of war is founded on treachery, and were the acts of civilised men fairly [p.226] scrutinised and estimated, we should find that this quality besets the intercourse of man with men all over the world.
Wanton cruelty is no attribute of the New Hollanders—that quality pertaining rather to the semi-civilised races of all ages than to the barbarian. The Alfoura never tortures for the express purpose of giving pain and deriving pleasure from the contemplation of the sufferings of others, as has been, is, and will be done by all people boasting of a certain amount of civilisation; and even, in estimating the humanity of highly-polished nations, when we contemplate the enormities every day practised among such, the tragedies and barbarities enacted in their warfare, apart from the actual slaughter of battle, save in respect to the culture of the mind, in what article of morality are they so superior to these savages?
When the Moore River natives first beheld a man on horseback, they conceived the idea that the horse was the superior animal and was carrying away the man to devour him at his leisure; and therefore, for a long time, they kept out of the way of such a terrible beast.
An exploring party in the Champion Bay District were surprised one morning to find that some of their horses had been speared during the preceding night. When fully acquainted with the natives, they were questioned as to what had prompted them to commit such an unwonted outrage (for it is only of late years that they have taken to kill horses and working bullocks—workaman, as they call them): they said, that seeing strangers in their land, they had taken advantage of the night to approach their camp in order to examine them more nearly, but the horses having seen them they were fearful that those animals would inform their masters of the intrusion, and therefore they sought to kill them to prevent such tale-bearing.
When the settlers first moved into the Moore River District they suffered occasionally from the want of provisions. One day an old black came to them begging for some bread, which they refused to give him, alleging, as an excuse, that they themselves were without food. Apparently satisfied with this, the man departed; but towards evening he returned with two kangaroos, which he gave to the whites, promising more on the morrow. As the settlers were busy at the time they did not take further notice of him; but, after waiting a short space, he asked permission to take one of the heads for his supper, and with this he retired perfectly contented; and the next day, and for many days after that, he supplied the party with game, on each occasion only claiming a head of a kangaroo as his share.
When the Watchandies first heard the notes of a flutina the effect on them was remarkable. This instrument was first used [p.227] to scare them as they slept round the fire. At the first horrid, discordant blast they all started from their sleep, and on a repetition of the unearthly sound one and all decamped into the bush, declaring, on the morrow, that they had been roused from their sleep by the screechings of many in-gnas. Afterwards, on hearing it played, they stopped their ears, begging the performer to desist as the noise made them sick. On being asked what caused the sound, they at once pronounced it to be a "Tindoka mya" (native, Cat's horn), and that the sounds were produced by wounding that animal, an operation effected by pressing down the keys, the intensity of the sound emitted being proportionate to the amount of injury inflicted.
On all occasions when thus shown articles which must be entirely new to them, the natives appear remarkably impassive, the most extraordinary production of art merely elicits a click of wonder, and the exclamation, "white fellow!" which to them seems a sufficient explanation of all that surpasses their comprehension.
They are quite unable to realise the most vivid artistic representations. On being shown a large coloured engraving of an aboriginal New Hollander, one declared it to be a ship, another a kangaroo, and so on; not one of a dozen identifying the portrait as having any connection with himself. A rude drawing, with all the lesser parts much exaggerated, they can realise. Thus to give them an idea of a man, the head must be drawn disproportionately large.
RELIGION, TRADITIONS, etc.
The New Holland savage has generally been considered as the lowest in the social
scale, on the supposition that he is totally destitute of any ideas of religion,
but this opinion has probably been more owing to the carelessness of those
making the inquiries, or their ignorance of the language, than to anything else.
It would indeed be surprising if an ignorant race should not impute all
phenomena of which the causes are occult, to the agency of beings more powerful
than themselves; for natural logic would teach the savage as well as the
civilised man that every effect must have an efficient cause, and the former,
unable to assign any proximate cause for such phenomena, would naturally impute
them to beings unseen by themselves, but whose existence is thereby made
As might have been anticipated from these and other considerations, the Alfoura is not one whit behind any other race in the matter of superstition, though he does not, like most barbarous people, impersonify his deities by visible representations, adoring graven images the work of his own hands.
The number of supernatural beings, feared if not loved, that they acknowledge,
is exceedingly great; for not only are the heavens peopled with such, but the
whole face of the country swarms with them; every thicket, most watering-places,
and all rocky places abound with evil spirits. In like manner, every natural
phenomenon is believed to be the work of demons, none of which seem of a benign
nature, one and all apparently striving to do all imaginable mischief to the
poor black fellow.
Heaven (Ca-di-ja) is the abiding place of the two great divinities, Nam-ba-jan-die and Bad-ja-ban-die, of whom the former (if they be not identical, as I suspect,) is the chief, for in speaking of them he is always mentioned first; the former also is sometimes spoken of separately, the latter never. Nam-ba-jan-die sprang from the earth, having had no mother, and as we are told that the black man existed before the world, it follows that he is more ancient than his divinities. Ca-di-ja is represented as a most delightful place, where there is abundance of game and food of all kinds, where there is never any excess of heat or cold, rain or drought; where no malign spirits have any influence; and, finally, where those who are so fortunate as to attain this blessed abode, never again sicken or die, but rioting in abundance, dance and sing for evermore. As in every other religious system, so is it in this—exclusiveness prevails. Ca-di-ja can be attained only by the good, and as these are only to be found among the members of each individual tribe, it results that when the black man enters these realms of bliss he meets none but his departed relatives, consequently wars and quarrels never happen there. If the female go to this happy land it is only as a portion of the man's goods and chattels, even as he is supposed to take his arms, etc, with him, so that it is not unlikely that the woman, that useful drudge, may contrive to creep in after her lord, though I have never heard any mention of her presence there.
It seems a matter of pure accident whether a man reaches Ca-di-ja or not, for all those that are not canonically buried become malign spirits, and are doomed to wander about the face of the earth for evermore; the only gratification allowed them being to do all possible evil to the living. Neither of the deities spoken of are worshipped in like manner as are those of all other religions; if there be any acts of adoration they must be of a very passive character, since no supplications are made to them, nor is any attempt made to propitiate them. Apparently they are of such an exalted nature, that the affairs of this world are beneath their consideration; they take no heed of the black man, either for good or evil. In some of their fables there appears a son of Nam-ba-jan-die, who, under the name of Tar-lo Ton-da performs many wonderful [p.229] actions. As he is always spoken of with but little reverence, he is probably not to be reckoned as a divinity properly so called: neither of the other deities figuring in these fables as this Tar-lo Ton-da does.
There seems to be but one self-existent evil spirit, for to one only do they give a distinctive appellation, and to this one alone do they assign a habitation beyond the world. All the other malign spirits with which the face of the whole land is infested are included under one general name, In-gna, and these are all of human origin, being the souls of departed black-men, and their places of abode are thickets, caves, springs, etc. True it is that the In-gna who, in case of the enchantment to death of any one by an enemy, undertakes the office of putting into execution the will of the enchanter, has a proper name, Mim-mie; but I was carefully cautioned that such name is used by the children only, probably as a word of terror to frighten them into good behaviour.
War-roo-goo-ra, this spirit of evil dwells in the nethermost regions called U-ta, and is the author of all the grand calamities which befal mankind. Excessive and continuous unpropitious weather, thunder and lightning, inundations and tempests, are all imputed to his agency. It is an extraordinary fact that, though prior to the introduction of cattle into New-Holland, the natives could not have been aware of the existence of horned-beasts, this spirit is represented as having long horns and a tail, while the ordinary In-gnas have no horns, but in lieu thereof long upright ears. The native word to express this horned state is bin-die bin-die.
Pouring sand from the hand evokes War-roo-goo-ra, and to revenge his thus being called from U-ta he stops up with shells the ears and anus of the person using this invocation, thereby causing deafness and constipation, a fact no doubt often demonstrated to the satisfaction of the black-man by cunning soothsayers producing in triumph such articles which have been extracted by sorcery from their bodies, where they have been the cause of these maladies.
As in the case of the other deities, the natives do not seek to propitiate this spirit, and when he vents his malignity to the utmost, they rather strive to hide themselves from his fury than to gain his good will. During violent thunder-storms their fear of War-roo-goo-ra overpowers their dread of the subordinate In-gnas, and they seek shelter in the haunted caves to screen themselves from his observation. There, in silent terror, they prostrate themselves with their faces to the ground, waiting until the spirit, having expended his fury, shall retire to U-ta without having discovered the place of their concealment. I was once severely reprimanded by a party of natives for speaking in such [p.230] a juncture, for they declared that if I were not silent War-roo-goo-ra would find out our retreat, and do us all manner of mischief.
Like the beasts of the field, the savage has but one time for copulation in the year, a season marked out by nature, and determined by the abundance of food and the comparative ease with which it is to be procured, as well as by the genial warmth of that season. The assemblage of these conditions is essential to the proper performance of this act in man and beast, and accordingly we find that spring has been accounted the season of love in all ages and in all climates.
About the middle of spring, when the yams are in perfection, when the young of all animals are abundant, and when eggs and other nutritious food are to be had, the Watchandies begin to think of holding their grand semi-religious Festival of Caaro, preparatory to the performance of the important duty of procreation. I am not aware that this feast is observed in other parts of the continent; for, hitherto, I have only detected its observance among the above-mentioned tribe, but probably careful inquiry would show its existence elsewhere; for it is not unlikely that casual observers have confounded it with the ordinary merry-makings.
At the time of the first new moon after the yams are ripe, the Watchandies begin to lay in a stock of all kinds of food, sufficient to subsist them during the continuance of the festival. On the eve of the feast the women and children retire from the company of the men, shouting as they go, "Ow-ee, Ow-ee," and henceforth, until the conclusion of the ceremony, the men are not permitted to look on a female, but sometimes, when their store of food prove insufficient, this law is a little infringed. The men thus left to themselves rub their bodies with a mixture of charcoal, ashes, and wallaby-fat; after which, having dug a large pit in the ground, they retire to rest, not, however, before they are gorged with the good things provided for the occasion. Early next morning they re-assemble and proceed to decorate themselves with a mixture of ochre and emu-fat, dressing their hair with fine shavings and wearing garlands of My-a-lie and A-rum-ba. This beautifying of their persons, with frequent feastings, lasts the whole day, but towards evening the real ceremony begins. They dance round the pit they have dug, shouting, singing, and some few whistling (this they never do in their common corrobories), and thus they continue all night long, each in turn snatching a few moments for rest and gormandising. Every figure of their dances, every gesture, the burden of all their songs, is calculated to inflame their passions. The pit is so dug and decorated with bushes as to represent the private parts of a female: as they [p.231] dance they carry the spear before them to simulate priapus: every gesture is obscene, and the character of the songs in vogue on such occasions may be understood from the following, which may be translated by means of the vocabulary:
"Bool-lie neera, Bool-lie neera,
Bool-lie neera. Wad-a-ga."
At the conclusion of the ceremonies, when, as my informant told me, "Aumanno-maddijubat-wabayadia,"
they place sticks in the ground to mark the scene of their orgies, and
henceforth that is a tabood place, and any looking on it, inadvertently or not,
will infallibly sicken and die. For sometime after the feast the men who have
held it wear shavings in their hair to distinguish them as Caa-ro men.
The traditions of a race whose languages are subject to so great variations as are those of the Alfouras, can have no value as historical monuments; still, as she wing the mode of thought of a barbarous people they are interesting, if not instructive. Perhaps, in no part of the world is there so great a number of dialects, distinct in everything except grammatical construction, spoken by tribes all sprung from the same stock. It would be futile to apply to the various dialects of the aborigines of New-Holland the criterion by which we judge of the affinity of other languages; for even in those words in which, from the universality of the objects they represent, we should have expected some similarity to apprise us of their common origin, there are such extreme differences that it is impossible they can be derived from the same root. Take, for instance, the word water, that absolute necessary for human existence, for it is in such words as these that we expect to find some approach to the parent tongue; yet, as regards the Australian dialects it is in these very words that we find the greatest discrepancies. In the southern parts of Western Australia it is "Mogo" (g guttural); about Swan River, it is "Gab-bie"; at Champion Bay, it is "Ow-a"; while at the Murchison, it is "Ap-pa"; the latter, as I am informed, is the Malay term for that liquid. In fact, so great is the difference between the dialects even of contiguous tribes, that I have found my knowledge of the Watch-an-die dialect totally useless, as a means of communication with a tribe inhabiting a locality only fifty miles from the country of the Watch-an-dies. If these New-Holland dialects are thus variable in space, there is good reason to suspect that they are so in time also, otherwise the differences in the languages of neighbouring and evidently cognate tribes would not be so striking. Variation of language demonstrates variation of modes of thought; hence, as the former varies, the appreciation of the signification of traditions, tales, etc, would also change, and after a time all connection with the original would be lost.
Apart from these considerations, the traditions of all barbarous races, whose
ideas of time and space are very limited, have very little value; for, after a
few ages, traditions, which refer to other lands and people, become associated
with the countries now occupied by them, and are referred to other and less
Without laying any stress on the traditions of the Alfoura, I shall relate a few merely to show their similarity to those of all other savages. The first is the cosmogony of Australians:—
"A very long time ago, before there was any world, the black-men had wings, and having no rest for the soles of their feet, were continually flying about, chasing winged kangaroo and other game. After a time, tiring of this mode of existence, they begged assistance of the stars, and they, in answer to this petition, each sent a contribution towards the formation of a settled place of abode for the blackman. The stars sent rocks, stones, sand, etc.; the moon gave water to form the sea, rivers, lakes, and springs; the evening star sent emu-dung; and the sun contributed animals, plants, etc. Having now a fixed place of residence, the blackman betook himself to the mode of life he now follows, and in process of time his wings being useless, disappeared."
It is a curious fact that the natives in all parts of Australia persist in
asserting that the whites are descended from the blacks, and they generally
close the argument with the unanswerable question,—"If the whites do not come
from the blacks, where could they have sprung from?"
The following account of the origin of the volcanic rocks near Cockle-shell Creek (Western Australia), demonstrates that, unless this be a tradition of an historical fact experienced by their forefathers, they are able to discriminate between rocks which have undergone the action of fire and such as have not.
"Once on a time, the In-gnas, who live underground, being very sulky, to spite the poor black fellows, who seem to have the good-will of no one, made great fires and threw up red-hot stones, fire, etc, and thus burned the whole of that country."
The following curious tradition is current among all the aboriginal tribes from
the Moore River to Shark's Bay in Western Australia, each claiming to be the one
referred to. That the people of the other tribe were white may be looked upon as
a recent innovation which has only arisen since the settlement of the country by
the English; for, as the blacks have evidently lost all remembrance of the race
in question, knowing only that it was distinct from their own, it is but natural
that they should consider it as identical with the only race of which they have
now any knowledge. It is not unlikely that this tradition refers to the pristine
inhabitants of New-Holland, of whose exist- [p.233] ence some traces are still extant; but, in order to elucidate this
point, it would be necessary to compare it with all the similar stories which
are current in other parts of the Continent.
These flood-stories are exceedingly common among all the Australian tribes, proving a fact of which we are cognisant from other sources, that, rainless as the greater portion of that country is, it is subject at certain epochs to excessive rains, which in certain localities cause great inundations. Every one who has travelled much in that land must have observed evidences of former floods in what are now waterless deserts. In some localities these signs of past inundations are comparatively recent, while in others ages must have elapsed since such events have occurred. In 1848, when near the Murrumbidgee, I was particularly struck by the evidences that the plains around the township of Gundigai had been under water at no very remote period. The land had that even aspect and hardened surface peculiar to soil deposited by water, while in the forks of many trees I remarked collections of brush-wood which had evidently been lodged there by the same agency. I called the attention of some residents to these facts, assuring them that the town was built in a very insecure situation, and that sooner or later, it would suffer from floods. Of course this warning was unheeded, but unfortunately the prediction was verified, for a few years since Gundigai was swept away by an inundation, with great loss of life and property. A settler on the Irwin, in Western Australia, has been repeatedly warned by the blacks of the insecurity of the spot on which he has built his house and premises, and although they are one hundred feet above the bed of the river, and at the very least fifty feet above the height attained by the greatest inundation caused by that river hitherto experienced by the whites; yet, from the appearance of the plains in that neighbourhood, there can be no doubt but that the country for many miles around is subject to floods, and some day the value of the caution will be properly estimated.
The western Australian rivers, Irwin, Hutt, Murchison, Gascoign, Glenelg, etc, which drain immense areas of level country, are liable to inundations in the fore part of summer, which proves that the interior parts of New Holland are subject at certain epochs to very heavy spring rains, the floods caused by these being a long time ere they reach the settled parts near the coast. In 1857 the effects of the summer flood of the Murchison were felt at Col-lail-ya seventeen days before they were perceptible at Oo-lin-yur-ra, a direct distance of forty miles only. The same inundation brought from the interior a species of fish hitherto unknown in the lower parts of the Murchison, proving that towards the sources of that river there must exist permanent pools of [p.234] fresh water; for as the floods subsided and the pools in the lower part resumed their saline character, these fishes all died. The greatest floods have but little effect in changing the waters of these pools, the fresh water from the interior apparently rolling over the saline without much disturbing it, the only perceptible difference in the quality of the water being due to the filling up of the pools by the fresh water of the flood, as the pools are emptied by evaporation they resume their former saline condition. As to the time elapsing between these inundations, the same law seems to obtain as that ruling periods of drought in other parts of the continent; they seem to occur every five, seven or nine years, while the periods of the greatest floods probably embrace centuries.
Sir George Grey, most likely from having seen the Glenelg in a state of summer flood, ranks it as the second in importance of the Australian rivers, a position to which it is by no means entitled, for the extent of country drained by it being (comparatively) very limited, and none of it being of any great elevation, it is impossible that the river as he found it (half a mile broad, with a swiftly flowing current six feet deep) could have been in a permanent state.
Having premised so much on the floods of New-Holland, I now proceed to relate the legend which has given rise to the foregoing remarks:
"A long time ago, there were two tribes living on the banks of a large river, one (blacks) inhabiting the southern side, and the other (whites) residing on the opposite shores. For many years the two tribes were on very amicable terms, intermarrying, merry-making, and fighting with each other, and so it continued, until by and bye a change in the sentiments of the northmen took place. These whites were evidently the superior of the two races; for they were more powerful, athletic, and agile than the blacks, and made better spears, boomerangs, and other arms, and, what is of greater importance, could use them more efficiently than the poor southmen, as the latter learned to their cost. At length, proud of their superiority, these northmen refused to hold any intercourse with their southern neighbours, save and excepting in the matter of fighting, in which diversion the advantage was always on the side of these insolent whites. Things continued in this state for a vast number of years, till one day it began to rain, and poured incessantly for many months, and the river overflowing its banks the blacks were forced to retire before the rising waters, and in this way they were driven far away from their own country. The flood was as long in ebbing as it had been in rising, and thus it was long ere they regained their old hunting-grounds, as they had to follow the subsiding [p.235] waters; but arrived there, what was their astonishment to find, in the place of the fordable river they had left, that the impassable sea rolled to the north of them, and that their late haughty neighbours had entirely disappeared, and were never again seen or heard of by the blackman."
Like the uninstructed in all ages and of every nation, the Australian aborigines
are exceedingly superstitious, imputing to spiritual agency every occurrence the
cause of which they cannot appreciate, and seeking relief from suffering rather
from the supposed powers of the enchanter, than from the efficacy of the herbs
and minerals around them. Disease and death, ill-success in hunting, loss of
personal property; in fact, most of the misfortunes which can befal a man, are
all attributed to the power which hostile tribes possess over the spirits and
demons which infest every corner of the land; and it is a remarkable fact, that
all tribes impute the greatest amount of this power to those residing north of
themselves, holding them in great dread, although it is questionable whether the
Menang (southmen) are not fiercer and more expert in the few arts practised by
these savages, than are the Yaberoo (northmen).
The name given by the Watch-an-dies to this power of enchantment is "Bool-lia" (Moolgar in the southern parts of Western Australia), and various are the methods of eliciting this essence from the bodies of the different individuals claiming the privilege of its possession. There seems to be no other source of this Boollia than the human body, and to develope it various manipulations are performed. Some procure it from the left arm by frequently passing the right hand down it, after each pass placing the essence so collected in the left hand, which is held tightly closed, being only opened to receive each fresh quantity of Boollia collected. Others develope it from the stomach by violent, lateral, and alternate thrusts on that part, both hands being employed; but the left is still kept shut to receive the essence as it is obtained by the operator. A very favourite locality for the development of this power is that from which the Tasmanian natives imagined that the soldiers (by enchantment of course) drew the fire, noise, and smoke which they put into their muskets, from seeing them put their hands behind them to procure cartridges. In all cases this Boollia is passed from the operator to the person to be acted on by frequent light tappings of the hand containing the essence, the enchanter at the same time making a hissing sound much resembling that made by a galvanic battery in action.
When a blackman feels unwell, he at once applies to that individual in whose Boollia he has the greatest faith, and this person, in consideration of a certain reward, undertakes his cure. That [p.236] payment is expected and made, I am confident, for having given to a native a silk pocket-handkerchief as a reward for some botanical specimens he had procured for me, seeing him without that article, I asked what he had done with it, when he told me that he had given it to another native for having made Boollia to cure him of the tooth-ache. On another occasion, the same individual applied to me to ease him of the head-ache, and I, having performed such manipulations as I had seen others make use of, was so fortunate as to effect an instantaneous cure, for which he proffered in payment some yams, and appeared much gratified at seeing me eat them.
Those who are the greatest adepts in this art of charming away diseases, often produce a stone or a shell which they assert has been drawn by their enchantment from the sick man's body, where it has been the cause of his illness. I have seen this trick performed several times without being able to detect the imposture, though it was to that end that I witnessed it, having taken especial care that no such objects were at hand, while both patient and operator were in a state of perfect nudity. The New-Hollanders possess the comfortable assurance that nearly all diseases, and consequently deaths, are caused by the enchantments of hostile tribes, and that were it not for the malevolence of their enemies they would (with a few exceptions) live for ever. Consequently, on the first approach of sickness their first endeavour is to ascertain whether the Boollia of their own tribe is not sufficiently potent to counteract that of their foes. Should the patient recover, they are, of course, proud of the superiority of their enchantment over that of their enemies: but should the Boollia within the sick man prove stronger than their own, as there is no help for it, he must die, the utmost they can do in this case is to revenge his death.
When one of a foreign (and consequently hostile) tribe has made Boollia to compass the death of one of the Watch-an-dies, there is always some malevolent In-gna ready to carry into effect such fatal design, and this spirit (called Mim-mie by the children), coming slyly behind his victim, strikes him with a dowak on the back of the neck, and from the effects of this blow he will inevitably die, unless Boollia be made sufficiently strong to counteract that which has incited the demon to this act: and such, perhaps, is the belief of every other Australian tribe.
In the estimation of these people all graves, every thicket, most caves, and many springs are infested by malign In-gnas of diverse kinds, and all such localities are shunned as much as possible. These spirits, with the exception of those haunting the latter localities, are represented as being of the human form, but having long tails and long upright ears. Most of them are the [p.237] souls of departed black men who, from some cause, have not received the rites of sepulture, and in consequence are constrained to wander about the place of their death. Such as are slain in fight and their bodies left to rot in the sun, or to be devoured by wild dogs, are immediately transformed into In-gnas, while as a natural consequence the spirits of all men not of their own tribe are enrolled in this ghostly army. It is remarkable as showing the low estimation in which the female is held by all the Australian aborigines, that none of these spirits are of that sex, and from this and other considerations we may infer that the New-Hollanders do not believe that the women possess souls.
On account of the number of In-gnas which haunt all graves, the men never approach such localities, the women alone visiting them for specific purposes to be hereafter detailed. I was unable to ascertain whether the ghost of the deceased is among the In-gnas haunting his own grave; but supposing the dead man to have been canonically buried, we are justified in concluding that it is not; still, as the blessed do not enter Ca-di-ja until long after death, it is difficult to imagine what becomes of them in the interim.
Taking a short journey once in company with a Watch-an-die youth named Choe-do-da, I was anxious to visit the grave of a Shark's Bay native, named Bau-bing-a, who having come to these parts for the purpose of merry-making, had recently died. In vain the youth used all his powers of persuasion to deter me from the rash act; in vain he pictured all the horrors I should view, and the evils I should incur by such reckless conduct. I was resolved to go, if only to show him the groundlessness of his fears. Finding me thus determined, as he had not the slightest intention to follow me to what he considered certain death, pointing out the direction in which the grave lay, and at the same time indicating a certain rocky point as our place of rendezvous, he departed, not, however, before he had made a final appeal to my fears; but finding that fruitless, he asked me to observe in what condition was the grave, and also whether the wild dogs had broken into it.
I found the grave one of the rudest I had ever yet seen in these parts: a hole had been scratched in the hard, gravelly soil, the body thrust into it, and stones and logs piled over it. There was a total absence of the customary accompaniments to a grave, a state of things probably due to the fact that the deceased was a stranger in the land, or it may have been that, as his death was imputed to the enchantments of a much dreaded Angaardie man, named Mubino, and had not as yet been avenged, he was not entitled to a canonical burial. The grave was intact, except at the eastern corner, where the dingos had been scratching, but the ground was too hard to allow them to reach the body.
When I rejoined Choe-do-da, I terrified him with an account of all the In-gnas I
had seen; and, finally, as a climax to his horror, I turned towards the grave,
and shouted as loudly as I could, "Baubinga! Coo!" whereupon he ran swiftly
away, nor did I see him again for several days. At our next meeting he bitterly
reproached me for having uttered that name. "What name?" I asked. "The Chockie-man's,"
he replied. "What Chockie-man's?" I demanded. "The dead man's," he answered.
"What was his name?" I again asked; but "I don't know," "I forget," "He had
none," and so on, were the only answers I could get from him when I pressed him
on this point; nor could I induce him by any means to utter the awful sound of a
dead man's name, for by so doing he would have placed himself in the power of
the malign spirits.
Thickets are favourite resorts of In-gnas, and the youth, not yet matriculated, are not permitted to visit their mysterious precincts. This is the case with an extensive and dense thicket called Chu-ang-a, near the mouth of the Murchison, and certainly its impervious character and waterless state are sufficient to render it an object of dread even to Europeans. In this thicket the In-gnas abounded, while in a neighbouring thicket called Whih-ta-ra-ra (perhaps more properly Whit-to-ka-ra, from its abounding in that species of acacia, the seeds of which are called Whit-to by the Watch-an-dies), where there are numerous springs, they are not nearly so plentiful. In no case does a native willingly enter a thicket; for, apart from the fear of spirits, their naked bodies are not adapted for travelling through their dense spiny vegetation.
Many of the watering places are tabood on account of the In-gnas infesting them; but these spirits, although included under the same general name, are different in their nature and origin from the ordinary In-gnas, which never seem to frequent watery localities, perhaps still retaining the black man's aversion to that element. Some of these aquatic spirits have the form of serpents, others of alligators, the latter perhaps a traditionary relic of that northern country from which the natives formerly migrated. Every deep, muddy pool is infested by one of these monsters, whose powers for mischief seem peculiarly active by night; for, if by any chance the natives are obliged to pass by such places after night-fall, they carry bundles of blazing bark in their hands, and shout most lustily, in order to intimidate the spirits residing therein. Some such pools they will not enter for any consideration, even in broad day-light; but such localities are always destitute of aquatic fowl, otherwise their evil repute would not suffice to deter the hunter from sometimes disturbing their solitudes. There was a pool of this character near the Murchison, about which such [p.239] terrible stories were current, that it was shunned even by Europeans. It so happened that a bird, of a kind quite unknown to whites and blacks, was shot and fell into this pool, and to secure so valuable a specimen of Natural History, the most tempting offers were made to the latter to induce them to seek for it. In vain were flour, pipes, tobacco, sugar, clothing, and other coveted objects promised to them: they one and all refused the proffered bribes, alleging that whoever should enter the pool would sink down miles in the mud, and eventually be devoured by a monstrous snake, and thus become an In-gna.
Determined not to be thwarted, two of us resolved to make the trial by ourselves, and, in spite of the warnings of the blacks, we entered the Stygian pool, and to our surprise found, that far from being unfathomable as the natives had asserted, after sinking in the mud a foot or so, we came to a firm bottom, and thus were able to wade over the whole of it. The blacks, who at first had looked on in speechless terror at what they considered our fool-hardiness, seeing that no harm befel us, by degrees ventured into the water, and together we searched the whole place narrowly; but, I regret to say, without success. From this time forth that pool was entirely disenchanted, and I often saw the natives, after this occurrence, cross it by night without any torches or shouting. We used frequently to jeer the blacks on this subject, but they persisted in the assertion that it was formerly in the state they had described, but that we had made Boollia to destroy the monster and raise the bottom. The aborigines avoid a bubbling spring; for there can be no doubt but that this is caused by an underground serpent, which continually spews up the water. In a strange country they will endure great thirst rather than drink from places of whose character they are ignorant, preferring to have a native of those parts to point out what watering-places are not thus haunted. Contact with the whites has done much to abate this superstition; for we find that the south men are far less fastidious on this point than are the north men.
Nearly every cave gives a shelter to an In-gna of the ordinary kind, and such places are only resorted to during violent thunderstorms, and then merely to hide themselves from the fury of a spirit more dreaded than those haunting such localities. Often when travelling with natives I have taken advantage of caves to sleep in, but could never induce them to follow my example, their fear of ghosts leading them to prefer bivouacing round the fire, naked as they were, rather than seek such shelter against the cold night dews of those climates. A person is liable to lay himself open to the machinations of these demons in various ways, but having done so, he can counteract the effects of his inadvertency by peculiar ceremonies. I once mentioned to a [p.240] Watchandie woman the name of a black I had known in the Eastern Colonies. She repeated the name, Uriniah, after me, asking who he was; but on being told that he had been long dead, she became much excited at having thus been cajoled into uttering the name of a dead man, and to counteract the evils resulting from such an act, she spat three times. This, as I afterwards learned, is the counter-charm by which they free themselves from the power of the In-gna, whom they have provoked by the utterance of such a name.
When a native has killed any animal, he immediately breaks the hind legs, for were he to eat of it, not having performed that ceremony, he would be under the influence of some In-gna, who would cause the flesh of such beast to be indigestible, and the death of the careless huntsman would be the result of the omission, This curse does not seem to hang over the flesh of animals slain by Europeans, the whites and all they possess evidently being above the reach of all kinds of Boollia, the natives will partake of the flesh of all kinds of beasts which have been slain by the settlers, asking no questions, for conscience' sake perhaps. One article in the creed of the Watchandies, and probably admitted by every other Australian tribe, and one that tends to incite them to murder, is this: The spirit of the first man slain by anyone, leaving the body of the dead man, enters that of his slayer by the fundament, and taking up its abode in the vicinity of the liver (wee-ka), henceforth acts as the tutelary guardian of his welfare. When any danger threatens the murderer, this warning-spirit (Woo-rie) informs him of it by a kind of scratching or tickling sensation in those regions, thus returning good for evil.
As has been before stated, every tribe ascribes the greatest amount of this Boollia to others situated somewhat north of themselves. The Watchandies esteem the Angaardi tribe to the north-east of them as the greatest proficients in this art of enchantment, and consequently hold those natives in the greatest dread. One individual of that tribe, called Mtibino, they have in such especial awe, that though he is reputed to have caused by his enchantments the deaths of several of their own people, besides some of the Shark's Bay natives, they dare not attempt to avenge their deaths by slaying him, as is the customary mode of procedure in such cases. This man possesses an unlimited stock of Boollia, which he makes manifest by a roaring sound like that caused by rapidly whirling some object attached to a string. It was with the greatest difficulty that I induced a native to tell me the name of the Familiar by whom this dreaded personage is constantly attended, and it was only after having extorted a promise from me never to utter that name, that he consented to [p.241] whisper it to me; and having done so, he spat several times. Dreadful as was the name of this In-gna who executed the malevolent designs of Mulbino to my informant, it did not seem very horrible to me, it being Bool-tha-bat, which merely signifies very many.
The only means by which the Watchandies profess to prognosticate future events is dreams. To dream at all, is, in their estimation, an unlucky omen, and I have seen the whole of the tribe dispirited, because one of their number (after too hearty a supper) had dreamed a dream about a certain kind of owl, which dream the wise men of the tribe declared to forebode an early attack on them by the An-gaur-dies, to evade which, they at once decamped to the southern limits of their territories.
After the evening repast, when the song and story go round, the natives tell each other the most extraordinary tales of the In-gnas they have seen during the day's hunt, giving minute descriptions of them, specifying even three white hairs in the tips of their tails, and in all respects painting them in the blackest of colours. The narrator tells how he fought for hours with the spirit, until hugging it closely (which mollifies its supernatural powers), he killed, and as a climax of wonder, cooked and ate it, notwithstanding which he has made a very hearty supper just now; but then a black man is always ready to eat. The audience receive such tales in perfect faith, merely now and then giving forth a click with the tongue and teeth, a sound indicative of wonder, for they are too polite to utter a word of dissent, even if they do not credit an assertion, never being guilty of such a breach of etiquette except in anger.
DEATH, BURIAL, etc.
The principal malady to which the natives of the northern parts of Western
Australia are subject is consumption, and that, when once set in, speedily
brings them to the grave. Its first appearance is betokened by a listless,
moping habit in the sufferer, who lies basking in the sun, or keeps close within
his hut, apparently careless of everything, A hacking cough, with much
expectoration, soon supervenes: the body begins to waste away, and death ensues
in an incredibly short time. Their liability to this disease arises, no doubt,
partly from their constant exposure to all the vicissitudes of the weather, for
which no adequate provision can be made either by change of occupation or of
clothing: and more particularly to their mode of fishing, passing whole days
together in the water, a mode of existence for which Nature has not adapted the
human constitution; while the heated state into which they work themselves
during their violent night-dances, and the subsequent chill they undergo when,
naked as [p.242] they are, they lie down to sleep on the bare ground without even the
protection of a hut, to screen them from the night dews and cold morning
breezes, must have some efficacy in bringing on this fatal disorder. In the
summer of 1858, thirteen natives of Shark's Bay visited the Murchison for the
purpose of merry-making, and in the short space of three months twelve of them
died of this disease, and the last was far advanced in it when I left those
Premature old age, resulting from the same habits that tend to produce consumption, carries off all that are spared by that disease and the spear, it being questionable whether any one of them, in their natural state, attains the age of fifty years. It is quite possible that a few (and a very few) in the settled parts may attain a greater age; but it must be borne in mind that those causes (change of habit, food, etc.) which have led to this extraordinary longevity of those few, have been fatal to a far greater number. It is only among such tribes as have had little or no intercourse with Europeans that any reliable information can be had, and in seeking such by questioning people whose ideas of number are 1, 2, 3 and many, the difficulties are insurmountable, and it is only by inference that we can arrive at any safe conclusion. By getting the approximate ages of persons at the time of the occurrence of events of which the dates were known to me, I conclude that a man about forty years of age is an old man with decrepitude fast stealing on him.
An apparently old man informed me that he was matriculated into his tribe about the time that Sir George Grey was wrecked at the mouth of the Murchison, and that there might be no doubt as to the identity of the traveller referred to by him, he pointed out the remains of the boats and the well dug by his party in the above locality. This individual mentioned a circumstance not recorded by Sir George Grey: the Watchandies were soon aware of the presence of strangers in their country, but, being fearful of them, kept aloof, not, however, losing sight of them till they were beyond their boundaries. One black man alone had sufficient courage to approach the strangers, and he, with his spear shipped, went to get a nearer view of them. One of the Europeans fired at, but missed him; while another, as the native turned round to see what it was that went whistling past him, shot him dead.
Supposing that the period for matriculation is from fourteen to sixteen years of age, this man could not have been above thirty-six or thirty-eight years of age at the time I received this information from him. A middle-aged man of whom I made inquiry on the subject, told me that he was too young at the time referred to to recollect much about the affair; he only remembered his childish fear of the strangers. At the Oap I have sought inform- [p.243] ation respecting the naturalist of that name, but in the short space of twenty-eight years his existence among them had become a tradition. So also in other parts of the continent I have diligently sought like information by the comparison of dates, and the result has invariably gone to prove that the aborigines are a short-lived race; nor in fact could it be otherwise, for as decrepitude comes on them they become daily less able to provide for their wants and safety, and consequently must soon perish, either from the effects of scanty food or by the spears of their enemies.
I have observed blind, deaf, dumb, halt and withered among the New Hollanders, and it was pleasing to see the care taken of these unfortunates by their comrades. Some of the tribe always remain near them, and when travelling they take especial care to warn them of anything that might do them injury, although it sometimes happens that a false sentiment of mercy induces them to put an end to such unfortunates by the death of the sufferer.
Cutaneous disease, headache, toothache and bowel complaints frequently affect them, and their bodies swarm with vermin. The only remedy, other than the boollia, they appear to make use of, is that of bleeding for the toothache. The southmen bleed in the cheek, the northmen in the gums, to cure that ailment. One case I heard of in which this operation was performed for a wound in the forehead, but it does not seem generally resorted to except in the case of the ailment above specified. Their usual method of treating wounds merely consists in rubbing them with fine earth to stop the bleeding, trusting to Nature and a good constitution for the rest.
A man is sick unto death: the enchanter, having exhausted all his powers of sorcery, and having extracted stones and shells from various parts of the sick man's body, each of which in turn he asserts to have been the cause of the malady; finding his arts of no avail, is at length obliged to acknowledge that the boollia within the patient is stronger than his own, and henceforth the man is left to his fate; or should he prove too tardy in paying the debt of Nature, the others of his tribe anticipate it. No one attempts to alleviate his sufferings or asks after his welfare; for it is evident that the spirits of evil are to have their way with him, and it would be useless to contend with them. According to their superstitious doctrine the dying man is surrounded by myriads of unseen In-gnas who are employed in their fatal office, and for fear of these the living keep aloof. Should the sick man be an unreasonable time in departing this life, his fellows, after due deliberation, depute one of their number to end his woes, and rid the camp of the unwelcome presence of so many evil spirits, and a friendly spear relieves them of their apprehensions; [p.244] but it quite as often happens that the dying man is hurried into a grave without any such merciful intervention.
The following instance of moral courage in an aboriginal, which occurred at the Moore River in Western Australia, is worthy of record, such examples being very rare among them. An old man, evidently at the point of death, lingered so long that the rest of the tribe, apprehensive of the evils likely to befal them by the malevolence of the In-gnas about the dying man, resolved to despatch him, and were about to carry this fatal determination into effect; when, the old man's son, spear in hand, went to his father, and, standing over him, threatened death to the first that offered to molest him. Whether this heroic conduct won the admiration of his fellows, or whether such an unparalleled defiance of their laws surprised and intimidated them, certain it is, that they retired without performing their errand. The son stayed by his father all night, thus braving the fury of the In-gnas as he had that of his comrades. Towards morning the old man breathed his last, and thus relieved his son of any further anxiety on his account. In an almost parallel instance which occurred on the Goulbourne in Victoria, the son was deputed to perform the fatal office and executed it without hesitation.
A curious circumstance occurred some few years since at Cooyinup in Western Australia. One of the Cooyinup natives had killed a man of a tribe known as the Cockatoo natives, and these last, to revenge the death of their comrade, within an hour or so after the occurrence, killed one of the Cooyinup men, burying him by the side of their slain fellow, and then decamped to their own territories. The Cooyinup tribe returning to the place discovered what had been done, but as it was too late to think of taking a fresh revenge that day, they camped at some little distance from the graves, waiting for the morrow to retaliate on the Cockatoo men. During the night the Cockatoo native, who had been buried rather prematurely, came to his senses, and easily raising up the small amount of earth which had been placed over him, crawled out of his grave. Seeing fires and hearing voices he imagined that they were those of his friends, and therefore he advanced towards them, shouting. At this dreadful sound of a voice from the grave, the Cooyinup men at once took to flight, their imaginations conjuring up a host of ghosts and demons in pursuit of them. By-and-bye, finding that none such were following them, they plucked up their courage, and returning with cautious steps towards their fires, and discovering the real state of affairs, their first care was to ascertain whether their own man was also alive; then, as this was not the case, to avenge his death they despatched the poor wretch who had thus once risen from the grave, but this time they left his corpse to be devoured [p.245] by the wild dogs, conceiving it to be useless to bury him, for they were assured that he would not stay long under the ground. The sufferer being relieved of his pains by death, the next thing to be done is to give the corpse the rites of sepulture; this task, like most others of a disagreeable nature, devolving entirely on the females. The following is the mode of burial adopted by the aboriginals throughout Western Australia. A hole is dug in the ground, and the body, forced into a squatting position, placed therein. The earth being replaced, a small hut of rushes, grass, etc., is erected over the grave, and on this are placed the arms and personal property of the deceased, so that when he rises from the dead they may be ready to his hand. For some time after this a fire is daily lighted on the grave, and in proportion to the degree of estimation in which the dead man was held by his friends, so are these fires lighted for a longer or shorter space of time. In some cases such testimonies extend over a few days only; in others, they have been of daily occurrence for three or four years.
Should the deceased have come to his death by the spear of an enemy, it becomes necessary to take the life of some one belonging to that enemy's tribe, in order to have blood-revenge, for if this be not had, the soul of the deceased becomes an In-gna. Or should the wise men of the tribe be of opinion that his death was caused by the enchantment of some one, that individual must be discovered and slain, else, in this case also, the departed soul cannot enter Cadija. It is not true that the New Hollanders impute all natural deaths to the boollia of inimical tribes, for in most cases of persons wasting visibly away before death, they do not entertain the notion. It is chiefly in cases of sudden death, or when the body of the deceased is fat and in good condition, that this belief prevails, and it is only in such contingencies that it becomes an imperative duty to have revenge.
In the case of the death of a man by the hand of any one of a different tribe, it is the duty of every one of the slain man's fellows to kill the slayer, or failing him, some other of his tribe when opportunity offers; and thus, soon or late, revenge is had. On some extraordinary occasions, as when the corpse of the slain man has been dishonoured by being left unburied, or when great treachery has been employed to compass the man's death, all the males of his tribe band themselves together and set off for the country of the slayer. As their object can only be attained by great secrecy and celerity in their proceedings, carrying with them their arms alone, they travel only by night, never losing time even to procure food, trusting to find that on the bodies of their enemies. Once fairly within the domains of the offending parties, they remorselessly slay every one of the hostile [p.246] tribe they encounter, sparing neither age nor sex, the blood-revengers subsisting entirely on the flesh of their victims, which, for want of opportunity to cook it, is eaten raw. By the time the alarm caused by their proceedings is spread over the land and the natives of the country begin to collect to repel the invaders, these last retire pursued by the others, and henceforth there is war between these two tribes. If enchantment has been the cause of the death of any one, it is imperative to discover and slay the enchanter himself, and to do this they proceed as follows:—
The space for some distance around the grave is cleared of bushes, stones, grass, etc., and then carefully swept so as to render the surface perfectly even and uniform. After this it is visited every morning, and narrowly examined to discover whether any living thing has passed over it. In course of time, the tracks of some creature are sure to be detected (even those of a small insect, as a beetle, are held sufficient for the purpose), and the direction taken by this object indicates the whereabouts of the tribe to which the enchanter belongs. The nearest of kin to the deceased man is deputed to go in pursuit of the supposed murderer, and he, armed only with his spear, sets off on his dangerous mission, often having to travel hundreds of miles through the territories of hostile tribes. Following the course pointed out by the tracks on the grave, he travels on till he arrives at a place where there are natives encamped, generally contriving to arrive among them in the evening, and to be in possession of some piece of game; for, as his errand is unknown, the same necessity for secrecy and despatch does not obtain in his case as in that of the blood avengers. At once he fraternises with these strangers, and, sitting down among them, proceeds to cook his supper, of which he partakes but sparingly, throwing morsels to all around, attentively watching the result. Should any one thus receiving a portion of the meat cough or choke while swallowing it, he is at once accounted to be the individual sought after, and henceforth the sole thought of the avenger is to slay him. Taking, however, no notice of the occurrence, he continues to chat with his new-found friends until all retire to rest. Feigning to sleep, he patiently waits until the rest are slumbering, then, stealthily rising, he buries his spear in the vitals of the devoted man, and immediately endeavours to make his escape, in which he is generally successful amid the hurry and confusion of the scene, being also favoured by the darkness. It is curious that though the natives must be fully aware of the errand of the avenger, they still take no precautions to avert the fate of one of their number. Their laws of hospitality certainly require that strangers thus throwing themselves on their mercy should be perfectly unmolested during their [p.247] sojourn among them, but that they should thus submit to the butchery of one of their friends, must be due to that reckless disregard for human life so eminently characteristic of all savages. Whether the avenger escape or not, there is, on one side or the other, another blood revenge to be taken; so that it frequently happens that many are slain on account of one supposed to have been charmed to death. This state of affairs continues until both sides are weary of this system of retaliation, when a proposal for a reconciliation is made by some neutral natives, and being agreed to by the belligerents, they meet at some appointed place to cement their peace by a grand corrobory. On such occasions, it is amusing to observe how very polite and deferential they are to each other, every one striving to give the place of honour, and all the tit-bits at the feast, to his late enemies, all carefully avoiding the slightest reference to past occurrences, and each addressing the other by name in the third person. But it frequently arrives that an ill-timed word on one part or the other arouses their scarcely dormant passions, and a boomerang hurled amongst them, and a cry of "Spears!" "Spears!" are the preludes to a general fight, and a few more victims are immolated at the shrine of superstition, and the tribes separate, hating each other more cordially than ever.
The following incident, which occurred at Port Gregory in 1857, will give an idea of the method pursued by the natives when thus seeking blood revenge. The Watchandie tribe, then located near U-chu, were visited by a man of the War-ra-na-noo-Ra tribe, who remained with them some days, joining in all their hunting expeditions and amusements. One day, however, one of the Watchandies (to whom the nickname of Carrotty had been given by the Europeans) declined going with his fellows to the chace, whereupon the stranger, pleading fatigue, said he would stay behind also, to keep Carrotty company. The after proceedings were witnessed by a child, who for some cause had not accompanied the women, who had gone forth to dig yams. About noon the girl observed that both Carrotty and the stranger were apparently fast asleep; but, after a time, she observed the latter crawling stealthily towards the Watchandie, and, arrived near him, stand up and hurl his spear into the heart of the sleeping man. She ran off, in the twofold intention of avoiding a like fate and of apprising the men of what had transpired, but ere they could reach the spot, the murderer was secure amongst his own tribe. Poor Carrotty, whose death was unavenged up to the time of my leaving the Murchison, was one of the most intelligent natives yet known, and to him is due a large portion of the vocabulary of the Watchandie tribe hereafter given.
Having never seen the grave of a native woman, I think it [p.248] probable that no ceremonies are performed at the burial of such females who are so fortunate as to die a natural death; for, among the wild tribes, few are suffered to come to such an end, they being generally despatched ere they become old and emaciated, that so much good food may not be lost. It is probable that they are accounted as having no souls, consequently no In-gnas are about them when they die, nor do any such spirits haunt their graves. In fine, so little importance is attached to them, either before or after death, that it may be doubted whether the man does not value his dog, when alive, quite as much as he does his woman, and think of both quite as often and lovingly after he has eaten them.
The graves of children (boys) are frequent, a heap of stones without any of the insignia which adorn the burial-place of the adult, alone marking the spot, and they are not held in such evil repute as are those of the men. In some graves of children at Blackman's Bay in Tasmania, the bones are pressed quite flat on the ground by a large stone placed above them, though doubtless in the first instance this stone rested on the summit of a mound of earth, which has since been washed away by the rains. It is remarkable that all the graves (fourteen or more) in that locality were deficient of the skull, but it must be borne in mind that in all their feasts (cannibal or otherwise), the head is the perquisite of the women, so that in these cases it is probable that the heads had been removed before burial by the females whose duty it was to inter the bodies. It would be interesting to ascertain whether this removal of the head is general among the Australian blacks, and if not so, to what tribes it is peculiar.
By the same law of contrasts which induces the white man to mourn in black, it is natural that the black man should choose white as his symbol of sorrow. When a man dies, all his female relatives of a certain degree of affinity, plaster their foreheads, the tips of their noses, and the lower part of the orbits of their eyes, with pipeclay, thus rendering themselves, sufficiently frightful before, perfectly hideous. At all other times they are not permitted to use any kind of pigment for the purpose of adornment, though I have sometimes seen this law infringed by the native girls in the settled districts. I have never observed the men wearing the symbol of grief: for the death of the female none, either male or female, mourn; though I have sometimes seen a mother with a very little white about the eyes, thus mourning a little for the death of her daughter.
There do not seem to be any peculiar ceremonies appropriated to the entrance into the married state, the mere surrender of the girl by the mother, with the full consent of the rest of the tribe, to her future lord, constituting the whole of the ceremonial. The [p.249] girls are not, as is generally supposed, the exclusive property of the father until he thinks fit to give them in marriage to some of his friends: by the laws of these people the females, from the time of their birth, are appropriated to certain males of the tribe, and not even the parents have power to set aside these obligations. In the case of the death of the male to whom any girl would have legally belonged, the mother has the right of bestowing her on whom she will, but in this case the husband has not such perfect control over her as he would have had had she been his by law. By the death of her legal owner she becomes, to some extent, the property of individuals of a certain degree of relationship to herself, being bound to supply them with a certain amount of vegetable food, and in case of her marriage with another of the tribe, those relations make express stipulation with the intended husband for the due observance of this obligation, otherwise they have power to prevent the marriage. Also, if the girl have brothers, and her mother be dead, she is bound to supply them with food for a certain period; indeed, brothers in general retain the privilege of maltreating their sisters long after these latter have become the property of another.
It sometimes happens that young people, listening rather to the dictates of inclination than to those of law, improvise a marriage by absconding together, thus incurring the enmity of the whole tribe for a brief period of enjoyment; for in such cases death is the inevitable result to the female, while a dreadful punishment awaits the male. The following circumstance which took place in the Champion Bay District in 1858 exemplifies the atrocities which are committed in vindicating the laws of these savages. The perpetrator of this outrage was the brother of him who slew poor Carrotty. A young man of the Warrananooka tribe induced a girl on whom he had no legal claim, to elope with him. As soon as the rest of the tribe were aware of this infraction of their laws, they set out in pursuit, breathing vengeance against the culprits. The sooner to secure their capture, each man went singly to that locality he thought most likely to harbour them; notwithstanding which they contrived to baffle their pursuers for a considerable time. At length, however, one of the pursuers (the individual above referred to) discovered the girl alone, her paramour being absent hunting. She could have escaped from him, but he, throwing down his spear, assured her that he would do her no injury; and she, seeing him unarmed, allowed him to come nearer to her. He then asked a favour of her, which she granted; and after he had satisfied his desire, he ruthlessly killed her with his spear, which he had stealthily trailed to the spot by means of his toes, taking care to keep it concealed among the high grass. To crown this exploit, he and his com- [p.250] panions, who joined him soon after, devoured the body of the slain girl. Up to a late date the male culprit had contrived to evade all pursuit, so that he had not yet undergone the punishment in store for him when caught; and it is to be hoped that the constantly increasing European population of that district will ultimately relieve him of all apprehensions on that score.
It also sometimes happens that a wifeless man induces the wife of another to abscond with him, and in this case too the whole of the tribe set off in pursuit. In vain do the guilty pair, by stepping from tuft to tuft of springy sedge, endeavour to leave no traces of their flight behind them; in vain do they seek the most secluded localities to hide themselves from the enraged husband and the rest of the tribe. It generally happens that after a time they are secured, and in this case the punishment of the woman is either a sound beating from her offended lord, if he is inclined to leniency; or, if he be much incensed against her, she is delivered up to the tender mercies of the other women of the tribe, who seizing and throwing her down, sit upon her body, which they scarify in a dreadful manner with sharp flints, a circumstance that happened not long since at the Moore River in Western Australia. The punishment that awaits the male is not less severe: standing on his right leg with the left one stretched out; there he remains while each male buries a certain number of spears in the calf of the outstretched leg. This he endures with stoic fortitude, though it often happens that, from the number of spears penetrating that part, it becomes a mass of raw, quivering flesh. The only remedy applied is the fine dust used as before stated, and after limping about for two or three days, the culprit is generally perfectly cured.
The woman being thus handed over to her man, the latter is henceforth entitled to the chief part of her services, and also enjoys the almost exclusive privilege of maltreating her; a right which had previously belonged to certain of her blood-relations. While she has to supply him with unlimited quantities of yams and other roots, he does very little towards providing for her wants, merely giving her the offal of whatever game he may have speared, and woe to the poor creature if he, having been unsuccessful in the chase, finds on his return to the camp, that she has been remiss or unfortunate in her search after food, for in such case, sure of a beating, she is lucky if her hungry lord does not make his supper off the tenderest portion of her carcass.
Among a people who, when suffering from famine, are wont to fall back on the only reserve of food available to them, their females, it is not wonderful that at all times the males are in excess of the other sex, and consequently many men of every tribe are unprovided with that especial necessary to their com- [p.251] fortable subsistence, a wife, who is a slave in the strictest sense of the word, being a beast of burden, a provider of food, and a ready object on which to vent those passions that the men do not dare to vent on each other. Hence, for those coveting such a luxury, arises the necessity of stealing the women of some other tribe, and in their expeditions to effect so laudable a design, they will cheerfully undergo privations and dangers equal to those they incur when in search of blood-revenge. When, on such an errand, they discover an unprotected female, their proceedings are not of the most gentle nature. Stunning her by a blow from the dowak (to make her love them perhaps), they drag her by the hair to the nearest thicket to await her recovery. When she comes to her senses they force her to accompany them, and as at worst it is but the exchange of one brutal lord for another, she generally enters into the spirit of the affair, and takes as much pains to escape as though it were a matter of her own free choice.
There is a very extraordinary custom prevailing among the Watchandies (and perhaps among other tribes) whereby a newly married man is not permitted to look on his mother-in-law (abracurra) for a certain space of time. When she approaches he is obliged to retire, and should he not perceive her as she comes towards him, one of his fellows warns him of the fact and of the direction in which she is, and thereupon he retires in the opposite direction, without looking towards her, hiding himself behind a bush or a tree until it pleases her to go away, of which event he is immediately apprised by his comrades. I was not able to learn the origin of this custom, or the penalties entailed on those who infringe it.
Although the abominable practice of preparing immature females for the marriage state by artificial means, as is performed by the aborigines in some parts of the Eastern Colonies, does not obtain in Western Australia; yet in the latter locality they do the same thing by natural means. All the males of the tribe, beginning with the youngest fit for such proceeding, bear their share of the labour; nor is it until pronounced by unanimous consent perfectly qualified for the married state, that she is given up to her future husband. Their mode of copulation is sitting face to face, and at the climax both parties shout lustily.
Fidelity to their lords is not one of the most prominent virtues of the Australian ladies: often of an evening, while the elders, gorged and listless after a hearty supper, are enjoying song and story round the fire, the subdued whistle of assignation may be heard from some neighbouring thicket, and the women, making some excuse, strut off to their younger lovers. I should rather think that the men wink at this little irregularity of conduct; [p.252] for, as they were once young themselves they must know the signification of that whistle as well as do the women.
There seem to be no ceremonies attending the birth of an infant. In such cases the new-born child is buried up to the neck in warm ashes, the only substitute for baby-linen with which these women are acquainted. After this it is placed in a bag made of skins, and for some months is constantly carried at the back of the mother. Every male is bound to visit the place of his nativity three times in the course of a year, but for what specific purpose I could not learn.
MANNERS AND CUSTOMS.
When a youth has arrived at the age of puberty (14-16 years) he is counted as
qualified for admission as a man into the tribe, and the ceremonies attending
this matriculation differ in various parts of the Continent. In some parts of
the Eastern Colonies, the removal of one of the eye-teeth is the distinctive
mark that such matriculation has been duly performed. In the north-eastern
corner of New-Holland, the same is indicated by transverse lines tatooed on the
Among the Watchandies it is by the same kind of marks on the chest; while the neighbouring tribe of Angaardies perform the rite of circumcision to betoken the same. In all parts of the Continent the ceremony is enacted at the same age, and those to be initiated endure much rough treatment at the hands of the women to prove that they are men, inciting them to greater violence by taunts as to the weakness of their sex, and their consequent inability to hurt men. Among the Angaardies, circumcision is performed by means of a sharp flint, and after the consummation of the rite, the youth is forbidden to look on a woman for the space of two or three years, consequently he cannot associate with the rest of the tribe, except with the men when hunting, the women then being absent about their own business. When this time of probation is past, he comes near the general camping-place, makes a good fire, and all his friends go to see him, felicitating him on the termination of his solitary mode of life, and if there be any female on whom he has legal claims, she is at once surrendered to him.
The Watchandies perform the final act of initiation in the following manner: transverse lines are scored on the breast of the youth by means of a sharp flint, and then lying on his left side, a slow fire is kindled close to his breast, the heat of which causes the wounds to gape and the flesh to pout out; so that by the time the operation is completed, the chest is marked by transverse and parallel raised ridges, eight or ten in number.
The practice of boring the septum of the nostrils is common all over New-Holland, and is generally performed after matriculation, [p.253] the instrument used being a fang of the wild-dog. Through this orifice they pass the bone with which they divide their meat, when not otherwise requiring it during a meal; sometimes when in full-dress they place a few gay feathers in the same as an ornament; but on ordinary occasions they merely carry in it a short stick to prevent it from contracting.
As the Europeans encroach on the domains of the aborigines, all these customs gradually disappear, the lads becoming too wise to submit to such torture from which they can now gain no adequate advantage. But in the wild state, a youth before matriculation labours under many disadvantages: if offended by one of his elders, he is obliged to submit to the injury, not being allowed to revenge his quarrel by fighting a man: he is not permitted to visit certain localities, as haunted thickets, to join in their merry-makings, nor to eat the flesh of certain creatures, as snakes. Even after matriculation he is not accounted a perfect man until his beard is sufficiently long to allow of its being thrust between his teeth by his left hand, the right grasping the spear. The beard thus held between the teeth is the symbol of scornful anger, and a determination to do mortal injury to some one, and should a youth before he can show this demonstration, challenge an elder, he is liable to be jeeringly told to "fight with the boys."
As with all savage races, wars are frequent among the New-Hollanders, but as a general rule these are of a trifling nature, very few being simultaneously engaged in fight. A grand battle, in which comparatively many are concerned, is a luxury not often to be indulged in; for the great loss of life consequent on such affairs so weakens and dispirits both parties, that they are glad to patch up a peace on any terms, each striving to mollify the other by the greatness of his concessions. Like most of the extraordinary acts of these people, a grand inroad into the territories of a neighbouring tribe is seldom undertaken unless under the pressure of famine. As the Ura (Bulrush) is not found within the domains of every tribe, it sometimes arrives that, in the summer months when other food is scarce, a tribe whose country does not produce this article of food, will invade the lands of another more fortunate in this respect, and the former coming unexpectedly on small isolated bands of the latter, great slaughter of the invaded tribe ensues. After a time, the injured party having assembled all their force, they endeavour, by a grand battle, to eject their hungry invaders, and if unsuccessful they in turn are constrained to invade the Ura-beds of some other tribe. Unless when thus pressed by hunger the aborigines are not prone to infringe on the rights of others; nor having conquered a tribe do they ever demand any cession of territory, though it does sometimes occur that in such case they stipulate for the right of [p.254] visiting the Ura-beds of the conquered people at the proper season.
As the natives about the Murchison, and also those living hundreds of miles away from that river, possess no boats of any kind, they are only able to traverse deep water by swimming, an art in which they are by no means expert; for the generality of Europeans swim better than they, though under water they often contrived to elude us; but this fact was owing rather to their colour than to their skill. Their mode of swimming is very awkward, their arms being of very little use in propelling them, and as they strike out, they actually grasp the water with their hands, as though they were able to drag themselves forward by so doing. They much admired our mode of swimming, frequently accompanying us to the river merely to watch us, giving forth frequent clicks of wonder and approbation. They dive with great celerity, but cannot remain long under water, and when there seem to lose those instincts of distance and direction for which they are otherwise so remarkable.
One day, a lad came from the river lamenting the loss of his spear, which had sunk as he was endeavouring to kill a fish. Some of the blacks accompanied him to recover the weapon, and we followed to watch their proceedings. After a vast deal of explanation from the lad, each in turn dived in search of the spear, but without success; so that one and all declared that some In-gna must have been implicated in the affair. They had just arrived at this conclusion, and were about to return to the camp, when my companion, after making a few inquiries of the youth, dived down, and after having been absent rather better than a minute, returned to the surface with the spear in his hand, much to the admiration of the black fellows.
The expertness of the aborigines in tracking any living thing in the bush, has often been the theme of wonder. That a man running at full speed should be able to take cognisance of the almost imperceptible marks left by man or beast on very hard ground, at first sight certainly seems marvellous; but considering what is done by Europeans in the same art when in search of strayed horses or cattle, the affair loses much of its mystery. In travelling through the pathless wilds of Australia, one is apt to take notice of every sign that may serve as a guide to water, the way through an apparently impervious thicket, etc.; so that the art of tracking, to a very great extent, is unconsciously acquired. The natives themselves are often at fault. One day I observed a native come in from the bush bearing a large bundle of yams in his hand. These he secreted under a tree, and then went towards the river to quench his thirst. During his absence, I removed the yams to another place, and went to the fire, over which I jumped, [p.255] having taken the precaution of effacing all my tracks by means of a bough which I burned. When the man to whom the yams belonged returned, he was not long before he discovered his loss, and the swept place leading to the fire fixed his suspicion on a black standing there, but who was ignorant of what I had done. Without saying a word, he went to the place where he had left his spear, and returning with it, hurled it at the supposed thief, who, however, contrived to evade the weapon. Thereupon a wordy war ensued, to which I put an end by producing the yams.
However expert the natives may be in tracking in their own country, or in others of the same physical characters, they are quite at fault in a locality the natural features of which are very different from those of their native land, as was exemplified in the case of some New South Wales blacks who were taken to Tasmania for the purpose of tracking bushrangers; for those men were found altogether useless in the dense forests of that island, so unlike the open park-like country to which they were accustomed. In like manner, the credit these people have obtained for their ability to discover water, is equally fallacious. They can point out very unsuspected watering-places in their own country, because such are known to them; but in foreign localities they are less apt at the discovery of water than an European of ordinary sagacity; for the latter is guided by reason, which is less liable to error than instinct, which is the sole guide of the savage.
Their courtesy towards one another on ordinary occasions is commendable. They seldom flatly contradict any assertion made to them. If glaringly false, they sometimes say "Atpida"; but this rather signifies "You are deceived" than "You lie", as I infer from the following circumstance: I was once endeavouring to thread a needle but bungling in the attempt, at every failure, a native who was watching my proceedings, said "Atpida", which word could not, in the present case at least, be translated in the more obnoxious signification. On some occasions I have found this habit of non-contradiction to stand very much in my way when making inquiries of them; for, as my knowledge of their language was only sufficient to enable me to seek information on some points by putting suggestive questions, in which they immediately concurred, I was frequently driven nearly to my wit's end to arrive at the truth. A native once brought me in some specimens of a species of eucalyptus, and being desirous of ascertaining the habit of the plant, I asked, "A tall tree?" to which his ready answer was in the affirmative. Not feeling quite satisfied, I again demanded "A low bush?" to which "Yes" was also the response. I then told the man to indicate with his hand the height attained by the plant in question; but as I had made two opposite assertions, neither of which his sense of politeness [p.256] would allow him to contradict, he first held his hands a few inches from the ground, saying, "Very small", and then spreading them towards the zenith, said, "Very large", thus leaving it an open question; nor was it until I visited the locality inhabited by this species, that I ascertained its exact height.
The government of each tribe is purely republican, no moral superiority of one over another being recognised, all being equally interested in enforcing the observance of their simple laws. Each member is esteemed by the rest only according to his dexterity in throwing and evading a spear. No man claims any peculiar privileges, or seeks to be exempt from the laws which are binding on the others. In great emergencies they deliberate on the point at issue in regular form, and not according to the decision of the majority. The aged are treated with a limited amount of deference; but this only extends to their bearing towards one another: in other respects the old are treated with some degree of contempt, especially in matters of judgment.
A people so entirely engrossed in the important duty of providing for their
subsistence has but little leisure for amusement. Their continual struggle for
existence leaves but little opportunity for relaxation, and accordingly we find
that it is only during the summer months, when food is plentiful, that anything
like systematic amusement is indulged in. Now and then, during the winter, when
the day's sport has been eminently successful, and they are gorged with their
evening repast, they divert themselves with song and story round the fire; but
it too frequently happens, that instead of such amusement, they are fain to
sleep away the calls of appetite. On such rare occasions of riot, play, such as
throwing the boomerang, a kind of pas de deux dance, etc., is indulged in; but
it is only when they hold a grand corrobory that the dance assumes all its
When some gifted individual has invented a new dance (for fashion reigns as imperatively among these savages as it does among the most civilised nations), to make it public, a grand merry-making is resolved on. Having fixed upon some favourable locality for their sport, the men having secured a sufficiency of game, and the women having collected enough of roots, to feast themselves and their friends, they affix kangaroo skulls with a kind of lace-work made of the pith of rushes hanging to them, on trees in such localities that they are most likely to be seen by strangers. This symbol is the card of invitation to the ball, the snout being directed towards the place of amusement, and a few scratches on the bark of the tree indicating the time. Friends and enemies are alike welcome to attend these dances, it being [p.257] understood that all animosity is to be buried during the continuance of the festivities; the laws of hospitality being in full force on such occasions unless it be the unanimous desire for a regular fight.
Various are the fashions of these dances: some are imitative of the bounding run of the kangaroo, others of the stalking gait of the emu. One of my sable friends of the Watchandie tribe gained immense credit by the invention of a new dance. Some time before there had been a party of whites at Port Gregory engaged in bay-whaling, and this old man haying visited those parts for the purpose of feasting on whale-beef was then a witness of the manner in which this animal is captured. He at once conceived the happy idea of imitating the proceedings in a dance, and to carry this notion into effect, a grand corrobory was resolved on, the locality chosen for the merry-making being a place on the Murchison River called Y'nia, near to which I was then staying. Such festivities are generally held at the time of full moon; for they are then able to keep up their amusements all night long.
Having arranged bushes so as to form a very good effigy of the whale, the whole party danced round it, driving their spears into the figure, and at the same time singing, "Wha-lo willobola", which diversion they kept up until early dawn, only diversified by occasional feasting on the good things provided for the occasion.
The men alone enjoy these festivities, the women being merely spectators and musicians, singing and keeping time by beating with sticks on their skin-cloaks done up into tight bundles. Sometimes I have observed the women, when apart from the men, perform a kind of waltz among themselves, far more graceful in its measure and figures than the violent dances of the males. It is amusing to observe these sable dandies decorating themselves for these grand corrobories. No petit maître takes more pains and time in adorning himself than do these uncultivated savages, nor when such beautifying is perfected, none could be prouder of the result. The body is smeared with a mixture of grease and red-ochre: the hair, well plastered with the same, is dressed with swan's-down, which by some peculiar manipulation is made to puff out, so that the head is surrounded by a mass of down several inches in depth: and some gay feathers stuck through the nostrils, and not unfrequently in another part of the body, complete the toilette, and happy are they to view the effect of all this finery reflected in a mirror, grinning with delight, and uttering cries of admiration.
One of the songs commonly used by the Watchandies at these merry-makings is this:
of which I can give no explanation. New fashions in songs and dances travel very far, being passed on from tribe to tribe, so that it happens that they get among people who understand neither the origin of the dances nor the language of the songs; so that those seeking information on either are very liable to be deceived. It is thus very seldom that an European is able to attach any meaning to their songs, even though he possesses a tolerable knowledge of the language of the natives among whom he finds them current. Take, for instance, the following song once very fashionable among the Watchandies:
"Pooraman oro tora tono,
Plukman holo! Bum! Bum!
Pooraman oro. Bum! Bum!"
In this song there is not one word of the Watchandie dialect, and it is
doubtless the composition of some one of a southern tribe to which the
catastrophe recorded had occurred. The explanation given of the song is this.
Some poor men (black fellows) were cooking meat in the embers (oro tora tono);
but in order to understand the reasons of the after proceedings, it is necessary
to state (what the poet, the better to enlist our sympathies perhaps, has
omitted to specify) that the meat in question was no other than that of an ox
belonging to some settler, which ox these poor men had surreptitiously speared,
and were now preparing for a regular gorge. While the meat was thus cooking, and
the savoury smell thereof in their nostrils, giving sweet promise of enjoyment
to come, those were at hand who would change this joy into sorrow. Their
proceedings had been watched, and information thereof given to the authorities,
and the energetic policemen, coming upon them unawares, without waiting for any
explanation of this state of things, merely cried out holo! and fired at them
(Bum! Bum!), making great havoc among the poor men.
The Watchandies, seeing me much interested in the genus Eucalyptus, soon composed a song on this subject:
"Toota babeen, Yandre babeen,
Collaille babeen, Warrigeera."
This song has as little meaning as most others of the New-Hollanders, and may
easily be translated by means of the vocabulary.
The tales with which the natives amuse themselves after their supper are rather more interesting than their songs, but in the greater number the chief point turns on some obscenity, a species of wit most readily appreciated by the ignorant of all nations. The three following tales will suffice to give an idea of the literary merits of such compositions in general.
The Story of the Stout Black fellow.—A very long time ago there existed but one
black man, and he was so unfortunate as to have no means for discharging the
residuum of his food after his system had drawn from it all nourishment. In
consequence of this oversight of nature, the longer he lived, and the more he
ate, the more corpulent he became, until at length this stoutness increased to
such an extent that he was unable to walk upright, but was obliged to crawl
about on all-fours in search of food, and to remain in that position while he
cooked it; for he could not even sit down on the ground with comfort. One day,
as he was busily employed in cooking some yams, a native rat (a very cunning
fellow) observed the remarkable posture of the black, and hence conceived the
idea of amusing himself at the expense of that obese individual. Seeing an owl
(who is a very stupid fellow), he called to him to come and join in the sport,
telling that silly bird to take the man's dowak and give him a prod with it in
the rear, the pain of which would cause him to jump into the fire, and it would
be vastly amusing to watch his contortions, and to hear his cries, as he was
burning. The thoughtless owl consented to do as bidden by the wiser rat, who
retired to a safe distance, and having poked the man in the part indicated, was
nearly smothered by the discharge, whereat the rat laughed heartily. The effect
on the man was different from that anticipated; for he did not jump into the
fire. Probably the pleasure he experienced on being thus relieved of such an
accumulation of excrement counteracted the pain of the blow; however that may
be, since that time all black fellows have been in possession of that
safety-valve which removes from their minds the fear of growing inordinately
stout, though they eat ever so much.
It is curious that very many of these stories refer to a time when there was only one man, and from him all the rest are descended. In all their tales and traditions no mention is made of the origin of women, neither have I met with any tales in which females figure. In the following the two chief actors are certainly of the softer sex, but as they are of celestial origin, this forms no exception:
The Story of the Moon and her Daughter.—The moon had been out gathering whitto, and coming home, she found her daughter crying because she was hungry. The moon supplied the wants of her child; but the latter, instead of eating the whitto given to her, kept playing about, and with the hand in which was the seed behind her back, she gave the food to a hungry black fellow who was hidden behind a tree. She then went to her mother crying for more; and the moon, scolding her for having eaten it so quickly, gave her some more seed, which the child again contrived to give to the man; and the same trick was re- [p.260] peated several times. At length she took the black fellow in her left hand, and holding him behind her, presented her right hand to her mother for more whitto, and receiving it, she placed that hand behind her and transferred the man to it, presenting the left hand to her mother for more food. The child continued to act thus for some time, rapidly shifting the black fellow from hand to hand; but at length the moon discovered the cheat that was being practised on her, and crying out "Rat, the whitto belongs to me," she snatched a stick and began to thrash the black fellow soundly. At last he escaped from her, and, by enchantment, changed himself into a rock-kangaroo, and sought refuge in a hole in the rocks. The mother ordered the child to fetch fire to smoke him out of the hole; but the undutiful daughter refused, bidding her mother to fetch it herself. The moon started off to get the fire, but while she was absent, the child called the man out of the hole, and he effected his escape, limping as he went from the effects of the beating he had received. The mother returning applied the fire to the hole into which the black fellow had entered, and after a time listening attentively, she heard a sound as of some one being smothered by the smoke, and therefore made sure that the man was dead. The noise heard by the moon had been emitted from a certain part of her daughter's body, so that she was again deceived by her child. The moon then got a long stick and felt about the hole, but finding nothing, suspected the cheat that had been put on her, and gave the child a good beating.
The Story of the Native-Cat.—Once on a time a native cat (a very fine fellow) came stealthily on a party of black fellows at a place where they had proposed to sleep for the night. After a time these people discovered the presence of Pussey-brother (but without any suspicion of his real nature, he being no less a personage than Tarlo Tonda, the son of Nambajandie, in disguise), and knowing that he must have overheard their determination to stay in that locality for the night, they agreed among themselves to invite him to sleep with them. With this intent they said to him, "Why does not Pussey-brother sleep with us: this is a good place: all other places about here are not fit to sleep in." But the native-cat excused himself as being unworthy of sleeping with them, adding, "By and bye I shall sleep somewhere else, after I have cooked and eaten my yams." At length they overcame all the objections of Pussey-brother, and he lay down to sleep with them. When the black fellows were fast asleep, and to make sure of that he waited till he heard them all snoring, Pussey-brother got up, and having procured some rushes, he set fire to them and burned all their noses as they slept, having first of all taken the precaution of burning all their [p.261] arms. When the black fellows awoke and found that their noses had been scorched, and their arms burned, they were much incensed against Pussey-brother, and seizing spears (we are not told whence these came) they began to hurl those weapons at him, but he, resuming his proper form and snatching a shield, defended himself, grinning at them. The black men could not harm him, for he is Tarlo Tonda the son of Nambajandie; so, waiting until they had thrown all their spears, he in turn began to pick them up and hurl them at his assailants, nor did he desist until he had slain the whole of them. After this exploit Tarlo Tonda returned to Cadija, leaving the bodies of his enemies to be devoured by the wild dogs, that their miserable spirits might wander about the earth for ever, and on this account "the livers of all men were good."
With tales such as these the natives beguile the short time intervening between their supper and sleep: once laid down they are soon lost in forgetfulness, unconscious of every thing unless an overgorge should raise up dreams to scare the whole tribe on the morrow.
ARMS, MANUFACTURES, ETC.
Among the Watchandies and all the neighbouring tribes the spear is the principal
weapon of offence, and by it they procure the greater part of the game on which
they subsist. In the construction of this arm there are minute differences
scarcely apparent to Europeans; but a native, at a glance, is able to declare to
what tribe belongs any spear that may be shown him, if it has been fabricated in
a neighbouring county, or, in the event of its being from some very distant
part, he can at once vouch for the fact.
In the construction of the spear much time and labour are expended; for as it seldom happens that they can procure sticks sufficiently straight for their purpose, they are constrained to take those best adapted to form the weapon in question, and then to exert their skill and ingenuity to fashion them properly.
Having then procured a number of passably straight sticks of the required length, the native returns to the camp, and by means of the sharp flint fixed to the end of his dowak, removes the bark, knots, etc. His next aim is to remove those bends which most interfere with its efficacy as a weapon, and to this end he carefully examines the stick to find the greatest bend, and this discovered, he buries that part in hot ashes, and when thoroughly heated, removing it from the fire, he bends the stick in the required direction, again returning it to the ashes, and again repeating the operation of unbending it, until that twist is removed; at each fresh essay, by a peculiar jerk, causing the stick [p.262] to vibrate (or rather undulate) throughout its entire length; and it is not until this vibration is perfectly even that he considers the weapon as perfect. This perfection attained he next proceeds to point it, the only tool for this purpose being the flint above-mentioned. If intended for fishing, he affixes two barbs just below the point of the spear by means of the tail sinews of the kangaroo, neatly finishing off his work with a coating of Tyalo, the prepared gum of the Xanthorrhoea. The apparatus for throwing this spear is a flat piece of wood, nearly elliptical in shape, but towards the lower end it is gradually tapered off, so as to form a kind of handle by which to hold it. At the other end is a knob raised above the plane of the apparatus, and in this is fixed a wooden peg or the tooth of some animal, which fits into an excavation in the lower end of the spear, and serves to keep it in its place preparatory to being thrown. This apparatus, by adding as it were to the length of the arm, of course increases the force with which the weapon is hurled, and would seem to evince a knowledge of mechanics far greater than is to be found amongst savages; but such discoveries are doubtless the result rather of chance than of design.
The natives about Shark's Bay use a much more powerful kind of spear than is to be found in any other part of the Continent. This weapon, which is there called Pil-la-ra, is from fourteen to sixteen feet long, and with eight to twelve pairs of large barbs formed from the solid wood. To this spear (which is only employed in the capture of large fish, as the porpoise) is attached a rope made of sedges; so that when it is buried in a fish, a number of people together are enabled to draw it ashore. This spear is not thrown by means of the wamra as are the ordinary weapons of the natives; but, being grasped about its centre of gravity, is hurled by the strength of the arm alone. The Watchandies, though so near to the Chockies who use the Pillara, know it by name only, which is the more wonderful seeing that localities proper for its use, and abounding in large fish, are to be found within their territories.
Very much has been said of the dexterity of these people in the use of the spear, and much exaggeration has been indulged in on this subject, doubtless to justify certain acts of the settlers, which acts would appear cowardly were not such extraordinary skill in the use of this weapon imputed to the black man. That men, whose subsistence entirely depends on their dextrous use of this arm, should acquire a certain amount of proficiency in handling it, is but natural: but guided by instinct and conventionality alone, these Alfouras are often at fault. Notwithstanding the agility with which they avoid spears hurled at them by their fellows, I have ever found that, by making a feint, I could [p.263] easily strike them; and so well aware of this were the Watchandies, that after wounding some few of them, not the most liberal offers I could make would induce them to allow me to throw at them. Once we placed a melon at a distance of thirty yards from a mark, allowing all the natives present to throw their spears at it, he first burying his spear in it, to become its possessor. During an hour or more a dozen of them vainly endeavoured to gain the prize, but finding it impossible, gave up the attempt. A gentleman, who prided himself on his dexterity in the use of the native weapons, then entered the lists, and, out of six throws, pierced the melon five times, much to the astonishment of the sable lookers-on. I have often observed the natives spearing at money, etc., placed in the split end of a stick, and though they were often successful in causing the fall of the money, it was never by a direct blow: the spear was thrown rather obliquely; so that some part of it (never the point) struck the stick, and thus gained the prize. A settler who had been an officer in the Austrian chasseurs, was wont, armed only with his sword, to take his stand before half a score of black men, and allow them to throw spear after spear at him: all of which he either parried or cut in twain; and henceforth the Watchandies held that gentleman and his "big knife" in especial dread.
For their safety from spears the natives trust far more to their personal agility than to any weapon of defence, the only one they possess being a kind of shield about three feet in length and six inches broad, with a handle behind, the whole cut out of the solid wood. The surface of the fore-part is curiously grooved, the grooves running in various directions; so that a spear striking the shield does not glance off, but is effectually arrested. I had lately an opportunity of judging of the vast expenditure of time and labour the construction of these shields cost the natives. In 1861, being then employed in collecting specimens of Australian timber for the International Exhibition, I discovered, near Twofold Bay, in New South Wales, a tree of the kind called "stringy bark" (Eucalyptus obliquus, l'Herit.), which at first sight I thought might suit my purpose; but on going to the opposite side of the tree a large excavation in its trunk at once convinced me to the contrary. The cavity in question was ten or twelve feet from the ground, was about five feet long, three feet broad, and about the same in depth, its length not being perpendicular to, but making an angle of about sixty degrees with the horizon, thus following the direction of the grain of the wood. In this cavity was something I could not make out, so piling up logs, etc, I climbed up to it and then discovered that the object which had puzzled me was the rude outline of a native shield. The workman had completed his labour so far, that, by the removal of a few more inches of the [p.264] solid wood, the implement could have been removed from the tree, and the work of finishing and ornamenting it performed at his leisure; but he had abandoned it at this point, probably on account of some imperfection discovered in it, or, quite as likely, he may have fallen a victim to the spear of an enemy ere he could complete the arm that might have saved his life. Some idea of the amount of labour expended on the fabrication of the shields of the New Hollanders may be formed from the consideration that, in digging out the one in question, after allowing liberally for the increase of the tree during the many years that must have elapsed since the native abandoned his work (the genus Eucalyptus grows rapidly only when young, the trees of an avenue of E. Globulus, Lab., growing in their native soil in Tasmania, do not seem to have grown a foot during the last twenty-two years), not less than thirty cubic feet of timber had to be removed, absolutely scraped away, the only tool used being a flint fixed on a stick. The excavation had been made so deep in order to cut the shield from the old wood, and that many years had elapsed I infer from the whole appearance of the affair, and also from the fact that it is many years since the blacks in those parts were under the necessity of working with such an imperfect implement as was evidently the case here, for the wood was absolutely scraped away; had it happened lately, the marks of European tools, especially in the removal of the superfluous wood farthest from the shield, would have been apparent, as I have observed in numerous other instances; for as soon as the natives are aware of the superiority of our tools over their own, they discard the latter, and seek by all means, honest or dishonest, to become possessed of some of ours.
This method of digging out the shields from the solid wood sufficiently accounts for the fact that they are very rare in some parts of New Holland, while in some localities they are quite unknown; for it is not in every part of Australia that trees of sufficient size for this purpose are to be found. The country of the Watchandies is entirely destitute of large timber, consequently very few of that tribe possess shields, only acquiring them by traffic with other tribes.
The boomerang, like the shield, is not in general use throughout Australia; for as its chief value as a means of procuring food obtains in such localities as abound in swamps, much frequented by water-fowl, and such localities are comparatively rare in Australia, this weapon is of little service to the greater number of tribes. Where such birds congregate largely, the boomerang is of essential use; for a great number of them being simultaneously hurled into a large flock of water-fowl, ensures the capture of considerable numbers, but, unless under such circumstances, its value is [p.265] inconsiderable. No native ever attempts to kill a solitary bird or beast by means of the boomerang, for even in the hands of those most expert in its use, its effects are very uncertain. As a weapon of offence its value is still less, for it retains its full power to do mischief during so short a time, and consequently for so short a distance, that, after all, it is rather an instrument of amusement than one of real utility. Sometimes at the beginning of a fight, one or more of these arms hurled horizontally, the plane of the weapon being vertical, serves as a challenge or provocation to battle, and should it strike anyone during its short horizontal flight (for it soon begins to soar upwards), it would inflict a very bad wound; but as the natives are as nimble in avoiding these as they are in evading the spear, it seldom happens that any damage is done. On one occasion I saw a wound several inches in depth inflicted by a boomerang; but then the man throwing it was only a few yards distant from the one who was struck.
Notwithstanding that ingenious theory which refers the invention of the boomerang to the imitation of the falcate leaves of the Eucalypti, it is far more probable that its discovery, as also that of many other mechanical contrivances found among savage races, is the result of pure chance. The savage who seeks to withdraw some animal from a hole in the rocks, would naturally, to save his hands, make use of a stick to remove a heavy stone, nor would he be long in discovering that the longer the stick, the greater power it gave him to effect his purpose, and hence, in process of time, an instinctive knowledge of the properties of the lever would be obtained. The mere discovery of a piece of wood accidentally possessing the qualities of the boomerang, would suffice to give the first rude notions of that weapon, and its perfection would be the result of time and experience. I have repeatedly found small crooked pieces of wood which possessed all the powers of the boomerang; and it is not impossible that a tree struck by lightning might furnish the natives with a perfect one ready made; but, however this may be, that the leaf-theory is not correct is manifest from the following considerations.
The efficacy of the boomerang does not at all depend on the inclination of its arms to each other, its whole efficiency being due to a twist by which the plane of one arm is made to depart from the plane of the other, just as the sails of a windmill are not in the same plane. Out of the many hundreds of these weapons that I have examined, the curvature of no two was the same; in some rare instances there were two or more curvatures, that is to say, one of the arms was again bent, so that it also was a perfect boomerang. In order to give the lateral twist, by which the instrument becomes, as it were, a portion of the thread [p.266] of a screw, the natives proceed in precisely the same manner as they do when removing the bends from their spears, at each new attempt proving the weapon. The only toys observed among the aboriginal children are miniature boomerangs and spears, with which they amuse themselves by the hour together.
The dowak, a stick made of some heavy wood, about two feet long and having a flint fixed at one end, is rather a tool than a weapon, although sometimes used as such in cases of emergency. It is also frequently used as a missile for killing small game, such as snakes, iguanas, etc., oftener still as an instrument of punishment, being hurled at the women on the slightest provocation. When travelling they carry the dowak in their girdle, behind, and fitting into that groove nature has doubtless provided for that especial purpose.
The clubs and wooden swords common among the natives in the Eastern colonies, are not used by any of the Western Australian tribes, nor do the natives of the latter colony when travelling, carry with them such a quantity of arms as do the aborigines of the first mentioned parts. The Watchandie, for example, when on a journey, is content with a spear, wamra, and dowak, the rest of his arms and valuables being left at the head-quarters of the tribe under the especial protection of his Ba-been (friend or chosen companion), and on all occasions when obliged to lay aside his arms for ever so short a time, it is to the care of this individual that he consigns them.
The use of the bow and arrow being totally unknown to the New Hollanders would seem to strengthen the inference that from whatever race or races descended, the separation must have taken place at a very remote period, that weapon being of unquestionable antiquity; for it is not probable that had the first settlers in Australia been acquainted with its use, they would have allowed it to become extinct among them in a country abounding with birds which the present inhabitants are incapable of capturing for want of suitable weapons. It is also remarkable that, though some parts of the coast of New Holland have been visited by people habitually using this arm, it should not have been introduced among the Australians; for, once known, its superiority to the spear would have secured its adoption.
Shallow wooden bowls, of an elliptical form, cut from the solid wood, are used as drinking vessels, as are also portions of a large kind of univalve shell, common on the coasts towards the North.
In the preparation of the flints placed in the end of the dowak they use a small neat hammer made of wood, at the end of the handle of which a flint is also fixed, proceeding in precisely the same manner as used to be followed in making gun-flints. From the accumulation of fragments broken off in the process, to be [p.267] found in such localities as yield the most esteemed kinds, it is probable that such quarries have been worked for an immense period of time. In Western Australia, a species of jade from Shark's Bay is most valued, and next to that, a white flint found in the limestone hills near the mouth of the Murchison.
These flints fit into a cavity formed in the end of the stick, and to keep them firmly in their places, the natives use a cement made from the gum of the Grass tree (Xanthorrhœa). In the manufacture of this substance (called Ty-a-lo by the Watchandies), as in the practice of all their other simple arts, much time and labour are consumed. Having collected a quantity of the crude gum-resin (which being liquefied by the bush fires, is accumulated at the bases of the plants), they return to the camp and proceed to fit it for use. The gum, as collected, is of a dark brown-red colour, very nearly opaque, and exceedingly brittle. The first operation consists in making it sufficiently hot that it may be kneaded by the hands, and this process of warming and kneading, varied occasionally by drawing it into long strings and then making it up into a ball, is continued until the substance entirely changes its appearance, becoming of a bright brick-red colour and perfectly opaque, and in this state also it is rather brittle, and is only used for finishing off the points of their fishing spears. It undergoes no farther manipulation until in immediate requisition as a cement. When required for fixing the flint into the dowak, the peg into the wamra, or for any similar purpose, for which a cement of great tenacity is required, the final operation is as follows:—A sufficient quantity being taken from the mass prepared as above, it is again melted and a quantity of finely-powdered charcoal gradually worked into it, the substance being kept in a nearly fluid state during the whole operation, and applied to the required purpose while in that condition. When cold, it is very hard and tenacious, and almost metallic in its appearance, nor does it again fuse readily after being once perfectly set.
The clothes worn by the Australian savages consist of a single garment, a sort of cape reaching about half-way down the thigh, and made sufficiently ample to allow of its being wrapped round the body. This garment, which is made of the skins of various animals according to the locality, is worn only during the coldest weather; at other times they all go perfectly naked, excepting that the men wear small aprons attached to their girdles, so as to cover their privates, not for decency's sake, but as a protection to those parts when hunting in the dense waist-high scrubs of that country. The women and children of the tribes near the Murchison seldom wear any clothing at all, even in the most inclement seasons.
The band round the head generally worn by the man is by no means placed there
for the protection of that part of the body from cold or heat, but is merely
intended to keep their long hair out of their eyes when engaged in hunting or
fighting, to which end also they often plaster the same with a mixture of grease
and red ochre.
The girdle is made of the hair of the opossum, and is worn as the means of carrying the apron above referred to; the dowak, also, when not immediately wanted, is often placed in it.
For the adornment of their persons various fashions are adopted according to what each one considers most becoming. Sometimes necklaces, made of the hair of the rock kangaroo, are worn by the men, passed several times round the neck, and laid in fantastic loops on the breast. Sometimes a few feathers placed in the hair serve as an ornament, and crowns and garlands made of flowers or rushes often serve the same purpose. The women never wear any kind of adornment, and even when such are bestowed upon them by the whites, the males immediately appropriate them; many a time I have seen a man esteeming himself most becomingly attired in a woman's gown and bonnet which had been given to his wife.
The natives find the restraint of European clothing very irksome to them, and after having worn it a short time, for novelty's sake, they invariably discard it.
The woman always carries a bag or net, which contains the goods and chattels of her husband, his arms, of course, excepted. I have examined many of these boo-tas, and in all cases their contents were nearly identical. A few packages of pigments, some flints, a piece of ty-a-lo, sedges and kangaroo tail, sinews for sewing, with opossum teeth for needles, some scallop shells for drinking from, and a few other articles indispensable to the existence of the savage, constituted the whole of the riches of these outcasts of nature. This bag, a few sticks for digging up roots, with perhaps a child (in a bag also), make up the load that the female is obliged to carry in all the journeyings of this essentially nomadic race.
What string or rope is required by the natives is formed of the hair of the females, who are annually shorn in order to supply this desideratum. The hair thus procured is plaited into string of various thicknesses, and in the event of a rope being required, many of these strings are twisted together until a cord of sufficient strength is formed.
The New Hollanders, like every other people, are not without a system of commerce, but, from the lack of a circulating medium, this is restricted to one of simple barter, for they merely exchange the natural productions of one country for those of another; but [p.269] it is not unlikely that some articles of traffic in universal demand, such as wil-gie (pigment), in some sort supply the place of money, just as in California the ox-hide used formerly to be the only bank note. The imports of the Watchandies consist of a sort of net for fishing, shell drinking vessels, and a much esteemed kind of flint from the North, boomerangs, shields, red ochre and wooden bowls from the South, and a kind of pipe-clay (used by the women to denote mourning), from the East. In return for these articles, they supply the North men with ty-a-lo (this seems to indicate that the Murchison is the northern limit of the Xanthorrhœa); to the South men they give the beautiful rose-coloured tufts of a species of cockatoo (called by them jack-a-la-ka, probably from the noise it makes), and flints; while to the Eastern men they send flints only. Besides the advantages derived by them from this direct system of traffic, they get some advantage by being the medium of barter between the tribes north and south of them, for as there are very few localities which furnish the much-valued red pigment, there are fewer still that yield the more necessary, and therefore more esteemed, flints. No man can be possessed of too much of either the one or the other, for however much he may have, he is sure soon of meeting some one in want of these articles, and for them he can always get some coveted thing. This pigment with which the natives adorn themselves on all grand occasions, is principally found in the southern parts of the continent, and by their system of barter it travels even to the shores of Torres' Straits. When first procured it is of a dull brown colour, and only becomes bright red under the long-continued action of fire.
Occupying a land pre-eminently unproductive of animals and vegetables fitted to
sustain human life, and each individual being entirely dependent upon his
personal exertions for his daily subsistence, it is not surprising that the
greater part of the time, and the chief energies of the New Hollander, are
devoted to the all-important task of procuring food. The spontaneous vegetable
productions of Australia are very limited in number, and, few as they are, they
are not of a very nutritive nature. One or two species of yam, the corm of the
bulrush, the seeds of a few plants, and the drupes of a still fewer, make up the
sum of the gifts of Flora to the Alfoura; for though they partake of some other
vegetable productions, these do not, as the two first above enumerated, furnish
them with the staple of their food during certain seasons.
During the summer season, the black man riots in comparative abundance, but during the rest of the year, when vegetation is [p.270] dormant, when some kinds of game have retired to winter quarters, and others, through frequent hunting, have become shy, and consequently difficult to capture, and when the fish, having performed their mission, have deserted the rivers, the struggle for existence becomes very severe.
On rising in the morning the first care of the native is to collect the fragments of the last night's meal; these consist chiefly of bones, which he pounds between two stones, chewing or sucking out the marrow or other nutriment there may be in them, and then throwing the bone portions which remain to the dogs, their only share of the game they may have captured. Providence is no virtue of these people; last night, perhaps, they rioted in abundance, gorging themselves to repletion, and wasting the food with reckless thoughtlessness of what might be in store for them on the morrow, careless of everything save present enjoyment. Having finished this very unsatisfactory repast, he takes his arms and sallies forth in quest of whatever may be in season, animals, birds, fish, etc. The dogs invariably accompany the women wherever they go; for, poor, weak starvelings as they are, they would rather be an incumbrance than an assistance to the men when following the chace, as their presence would only serve to scare the game, without there being the remotest chance of their capturing it. From whatever cause it may arise, the dogs belonging to the natives, whether sprung from the dingo or from European stock, seem to assume a cat-like habit in catching their prey, sneaking on their game in the same manner as does the eat, and preferring thus to capture birds and small vermin, rather than aim at more noble beasts. I have known a noble, high-spirited, kangaroo-dog, after he had become the property of a native, in the short space of three weeks assume all the sneaking, cowardly habits of the dogs usually found among the aborigines, avoiding white men whom he had previously well known, and associating only with the native women.
The men set out professedly to hunt the kangaroo and emu, but such noble game seldom falls to their share. As they walk along towards their proposed hunting-ground, every faculty is enlisted in the cause of providing for the day's subsistence; sight, hearing, and even the sense of smell, are all exerted to the utmost stretch in this important duty. Every track left by an animal is attentively studied; if it be fresh they follow it, if old, they wistfully scan the country in the direction of the track; but seeing there no moving thing they go on, for the day is too short and their necessities too pressing to allow them to hunt on speculation only. Now they are on the recent trail of a snake or iguana, a dowak is thrown, and something is secured towards supper, for, however hungry they may be, they never stop to [p.271] recruit their strength. Sometimes as they walk along they will snatch a few berries from a bush, but on no account would they stop to fill themselves with such unsatisfactory food. However, as they walk along they carefully note where berries or roots are to be found, returning for them should they prove otherwise unsuccessful.
Too often the result of a long day's search consists only of a snake or an iguana, but this ill-success arises from no lack of industry on their part. In their search after food, unless very successful at the outset, they generally travel from twenty to thirty miles in the course of the day, never stopping for an instant, unless to examine the whereabouts of animals. When they come to a tree, they examine the trunk to discover whether there be any scratchings, made by opossums in climbing it, and if there be, and they are recent, they carefully scrutinise the tree to find any hole which might serve as a hiding-place for such animals, and having detected such, they mount the tree and draw the beast forth by the tail, knocking it against the trunk to kill it.
Should an individual, in spite of all his endeavours, return to the camp empty-handed, he takes his place at the fire at which the rest are cooking their food, apparently taking no heed of their proceedings. He makes no appeal to their sympathies, nor does he even refer in the remotest manner to his ill-success, but, on the contrary, chats and jokes with them with as much outward unconcern as though he had the hind-quarters of a kangaroo buried in the ashes. As the meal proceeds, first one, then another throws a morsel to him, without speaking to or even looking towards him, which the other adroitly catching, receives without the slightest acknowledgment.
On the other hand, when a hunter has been pre-eminently successful in the chace, depositing his game in some secure locality near to the camp, he returns among his fellows empty-handed, as though his day's hunting had been totally unproductive, taking his place among them and for some time making no reference to his good fortune. After a while, addressing one who has but a sorry supper, or it may be, none at all, he tells him in the most off-hand manner imaginable, to fetch that piece of game he has left in such a place, as though the killing of a kangaroo or emu were a matter of every-day occurrence with him. The other gladly obeys, and when the game is brought all the tribe raise a simultaneous shout of applause, praising his agility and address in the chace above those of all other black fellows past, present, and future. The fortunate hunter then proceeds to distribute the meat with a liberal hand to his comrades, reserving but a comparatively small portion for himself. Many times during the meal [p.272] he is interrupted to narrate over again the circumstances under which his good fortune occurred, having to enter into all the minutiæ of the case, the exact locality, the relative position of himself and the game, and other matters vastly interesting to the huntsman. During the evening compliments are continually showered upon him, and these he receives with great modesty; but, supper being ended and the whole party gathered round the fire amusing themselves with song and story, he may indulge in some such self-laudatory song as the following:
"The kangaroo ran very fast:
I ran faster.
The kangaroo was very fat:
I ate him.
In those parts of Western Australia where the kangaroo and emu are very scarce,
their capture is generally effected by stratagem. Sometimes, during the dry
season, when the greater part of the watering places are dried up, the natives
lie in wait at springs frequented by such game, and spear them as they come to
drink. At other times they stalk the kangaroo, emu, and wild-turkey, carrying a
thick screen of boughs and approaching very stealthily until within spearing
distance, then dropping the screen they do their best to secure the game. The
turkey is a very difficult bird to capture, being very wary, and its habit of
squatting in the high grass with its long neck so bent as to have a great
resemblance to a crooked stick, that even the piercing eye of the black man is
often deceived, increases this difficulty; for it frequently happens that the
bird is aware of the presence of its enemy before he has discovered the
proximity of such a much sought-after delicacy, and once scared all hope of
securing it is lost for the time being.
In some localities where the kangaroo go in large herds, and the country is broken up into deep, narrow valleys, the natives pursue a different method in capturing these animals. In this case the whole of the tribe, or it may be two or more tribes conjoined, are simultaneously employed. The ground being selected, the men lie in wait at short distances from each other, along the valleys, while the women and children, formed into a line, beat the hills above, endeavouring to drive the kangaroo down the valleys, along which the men are stationed. This is generally effected, for as those animals are able to bound most swiftly when going down hill, they instinctively take that direction. As the herd comes thundering down the valley, first one hunter, and then another, steps from his concealment and endeavours to spear one or more, joining in the chase until relieved by the man immediately below him.
In this way the pursuit is continuously kept up until the herd has passed the
last hunter, and then they proceed to collect the results of their labour, which
are generally very great. This kind of chase is one of the most exciting events
to be witnessed among the natives; the continuous loud shouting of the women and
children on the hills above, the thundering sound caused by the rapid bounding
of numerous large kangaroos, and the wild yells of the black men as they rush
from their hiding places and join in the chase, all tend to augment the
This kind of hunting would, of course, be impossible in parts where the kangaroos are very scarce, and of which the surface is very flat and abounding in thickets, as is the case with the lands of the Watchandies and neighbouring tribes. The only method of simultaneous action in hunting that I have observed in those countries, was employed in the chase of small animals frequenting the densest thickets. Taking advantage of the direction of the wind, they fence in a portion of the leeward side of the thicket chosen for their operations. In this fence, which is neatly made of brush-wood, they here and there leave openings at which the men station themselves, armed with their spears and dowaks. All being thus prepared, the women and children set fire to the windward side of the thicket at many points simultaneously, shouting all the while to drive back the game which might otherwise escape by passing through those portions of the thicket which the fire has not yet reached. By their endeavours the whole of the windward side is soon one continuous line of fire, which being carried forward by the wind, the heat and smoke compel all the animals within their range to run to leeward, where, being arrested by the fence, they seek egress at the openings left for the purpose, and are secured by the men stationed there. In this way they procure the necessary food for a perfect gorge at night; but such seasons of abundance do not often occur, for thickets when thus burned require many years to grow again, and to be stocked with animal life.
The Watchandies use but two methods of fishing, of which the principal is by spearing. Wading into the water breast-high, they patiently wait until the fish come near them, for, of course, it would be useless to endeavour to follow their prey. In this way they are able to spear such fish only as habitually swim at or near the surface of the water, those that keep at a greater depth being beyond their reach. The fish they generally seek after is a long, black, scaleless kind, called by them wik-ka, and by the Europeans mullet, though it bears no resemblance to the fish properly so called. When the natives are in quest of these and other fish in the estuary of the Murchison, it is amusing to observe the cool manner in which they treat the sharks, which [p.274] are very plentiful in that locality, and very large and voracious. These monsters never seem to seek to do the black man any injury, merely striving to rob him of the fish he has secured. If, while thus breast-high in the water one of these robbers approaches him, the native with one eye watches the movement of the shark while the other is on the look-out for mullet or tailors. Should the shark approach too near, he gives the would-be thief a prod with the blunt end of his spear, thus warning him to keep at a more respectful distance. It often happens that the native having thrown his spear at a fish, there is a race between him and the shark, the man endeavouring to recover his spear to drive off the shark, and the latter striving to rob him of the bundle of fish at his girdle before he can reach the spear, resulting very often in the discomfiture of the man.
It is surprising that notwithstanding the voracity of the shark in these parts (and they will seize even the blades of the oars as persons are rowing), they never attempt to harm the natives when thus apparently at their mercy; but should the man be accidentally wounded while in the water, the scent of blood rouses all their latent ferocity, and danger is to be apprehended; and from this it would seem that the commonly received idea that sharks will not generally attack black men is founded on truth.
The other mode in which the Watchandies take fish is this; while there is still a small current in the river, a pool is selected from which there is but a little outlet, and in this opening they place bushes and small nets, one man being stationed there to secure the fishes as they become entangled in the bushes or caught in the nets. The rest of the men, trailing large branches after them, gravely wade about the pool stirring up the mud, and the fishes in the pool, to avoid suffocation, make for the outlet, and are there captured.
This method can only be adopted when there is a current, however small, in the river, for then only can the fish strive to leave the disturbed locality by following the stream.
Although the Watchandies do not use any kind of hook for fishing, they have a word to express such an implement, probably borrowed from the Shark's Bay natives, who use such, fashioned out of fish bones; but the Murchison natives are very dexterous in the use of the rod and line, which has been taught them by the Europeans.
The eggs of the ignoro-oo (probably so called from the noise it makes when scared at night), form, during the fore part of the summer, an important article of food for the Watchandies. These birds form their nests in the most impervious thickets, consequently the search after their eggs in the hot weather is one of [p.275] considerable toil. After returning from an expedition of this nature, the natives generally suffer for some time from head-ache and bad eyes, so it is not very often during the season that they care to go in search of these eggs, which are certainly not unjustly esteemed as a very great delicacy.
The ignoro-oo forms its nest in the following manner: Towards the end of autumn the birds scratch a hole in the sand twelve to fifteen feet wide, and four to six deep, placing in it a layer of grass and dead leaves from two to three feet thick, and this done they replace some of the sand. After the winter rains have perfectly saturated the mass of organic matter collected in this nest, the increasing heat of the advancing spring causes it to ferment, and the eggs being laid in the sand that covers it, are hatched by the warmth generated by this process. The young are able to run and shift for themselves as soon as hatched, and are apparently untamable; for some that had been in captivity for two or three years, were quite as wild as those newly captured. From the amount of labour required in the construction of these nests and the great number of eggs taken from each, each one is probably the joint work of a single male and several female ignoro-oos.
The natives, who are generally so fearful of moving about by night, sometimes, at the time of full moon, visit the thickets frequented by these birds for the purpose of spearing them as they roost on the branches. The ignoro-oo is the most gamey of all Australian birds; its flesh is very succulent and well-flavoured, and its weight varies from four to five pounds.
A not unimportant article of food during the early spring is frogs. Towards the end of autumn, the Watchandies dig large shallow pits in the sand plains, which pits in winter become filled with water, and in them the frogs deposit their spawn. These places are visited in the fore part of spring and the young frogs easily secured. They kill and cook these at the same time, merely throwing the creatures on the hot embers, and when they have ceased to show signs of life they are considered as being sufficiently cooked, and are then eaten whole without any further preparation.
In this struggle of the Alfoura for a subsistence, no living thing is considered too insignificant to be used if found in sufficient numbers to alleviate the pangs of hunger. Even ants are made to contribute towards the sustenance of the black man. When no other food is to be had, the natives, naked as they are, and in defiance of the sharp sting of these insects, take their stand at the foot of one of the large ant-hills (six or eight feet high), stamping on the ground and knocking on the sides of the ant-hives. These pugnacious little creatures immediately sally [p.276] forth in myriads to repel the invaders, and swarming up their legs are thence swept by their hands into their mouths.
The items above enumerated form the chief sources whence the
aborigines derive their supply of animal food, but there are very many others
from which they receive collateral assistance, such as the wild dog, the eggs
and young of all sorts of birds, in fine, every animal and reptile found within
their territories. Where food is so scarce it is not wonderful that the rejected
articles are very few. The Watchandies do not eat a kind of rock-oyster common
on the coasts, and were much surprised to see Europeans use them as food,
prognosticating death as the inevitable result of the act. The New Hollanders
generally abstain from eating all substances whose qualities are unknown to
them, and in strange countries will refuse to partake of the flesh of animals
different from those they have been accustomed to, as occurred during the
expedition of R. Austin, Esq., whose native followers refused to eat the flesh of
the red kangaroo, a beast entirely new to them, summing up their objections by
alleging that they could not eat what their forefathers had not been accustomed
to live on.
The fondness of all the New Hollanders for fat is remarkable, considering the warmth of the climate they live under; for though the love of grease is naturally expected among the inhabitants of cold countries, its existence among the Australians admits of no philosophical explanation. To obtain fat of any kind, the Alfoura will go any lengths, even to the slaying of his fellow for the sake of the fat enveloping the kidneys of his victim.
The Fauna of New Holland is peculiarly deficient in animals producing any considerable quantity of fat, the emu alone yielding a sufficiency of this substance to allow the fortunate hunter who has captured one of these birds the necessary for a full meal of this delicacy. About the regions of the tail of this bird, there is a large quantity of oily blubber, which is eaten raw by the natives, who, when gorged even to vomiting, still continue to thrust the fat down their throats, and when so replete as to be absolutely unable to swallow another morsel, they rub their bodies with the oil until nature has a little relieved them of their internal load, when they recommence gorging themselves, often, when all the rest of the blubber is consumed, returning to their vomit to keep up the debauch a little longer.
It is wonderful that with this insatiable craving after fat (a craving which seems nearly akin to that after intoxicating liquors in the drunkard) that the Watchandies and other tribes have not devised methods to capture the sharks, so numerous on their coasts; the oily liver of this fish, one would have thought, would be a grateful delicacy to people of their tastes.
While the men are employed in hunting or fishing, or are
scouring the thickets in search of eggs, the women are performing their allotted
task of collecting whatever vegetable productions may be in season; of course,
while thus occupied, they must frequently capture small animals or find birds'
nests with eggs or young in them, but as such articles never appear at the
evening's meal, it is to be inferred that such are eaten as soon as they are
secured, otherwise it would be difficult to imagine how they keep up their
condition, seeing the scanty allowance they receive from their lords.
The principal article of vegetable diet for the Western Australian natives is a species of yam (Dioscorea hastata) called by the Watchandies ad-ju-co. The roots of this plant are very long, for when the women have dug round them to the full reach of their arms, they always break off the part thus freed, leaving the remainder in the ground, and how much farther it extends it is impossible to ascertain. However, the part thus secured is generally about three feet in length, varying from a half to two inches in diameter; but the Shark's Bay natives assert that in some particular localities in their country (Freycineht's peninsula, for example), these roots attain the thickness of a man's thigh; and that such places, from being the constant resort of great numbers of natives to feed on these yams, are totally devoid of wood fit for fuel, all such having been consumed ages ago in cooking these roots, and that, consequently, visitors to such localities now-a-days are constrained to carry with them the necessary fuel. The labour of extracting these roots from the ground must be very severe, for they grow in a hard red soil, in which the women have to dig with no better implement than a pointed stick. These holes, which render travelling very dangerous in countries where they abound, are from six to eight inches in diameter at the top, the depth being limited to the extent to which a woman can stretch her arms, so as to be able to remove by her hand the soil loosened by the vip-pa (digging-stick). The method of cooking these yams is the same as that practised in preparing every other kind of food, animal or vegetable, for eating, i.e., roasting or baking on hot embers, and when thus cooked they are very mucilaginous, of a sweet flavour, and grateful even to the palate of fastidious Europeans. They are in perfection during the latter part of spring and the fore part of summer, being a little later than the u-ra.
Next in importance after the ad-ju-co as an esculent, stands the u-ra (typha angustifolia, Linn., perhaps, but this is not certain). When in season, the corms of this plant contain a quantity of farinaceous matter; the duty of collecting, as well as preparing these belongs to the women; for the preliminary cooking and after [p.278] manipulation of this kind of food requires more labour than is needed in the preparation of the yams, which the men are satisfied to cook each for himself, while the more arduous task of rendering the ura fit for eating is cheerfully resigned to the women.
About the time that the Typha begins to bloom, the natives begin to assemble at the pools where this plant is abundant, from all parts of their territories. From the fact that many tribes possess several square miles of country entirely occupied by the ura, it might seem that for some time, at least, they might live in plenty, but as only such plants as grow near the drier edges of the pools produce roots fitted for their purpose, the supply is very limited.
Having collected a sufficiency of these corms, the woman returns to the camp, and at once buries the whole under the hot ashes. When sufficiently cooked she withdraws them, and seating herself on the ground, she first of all spreads her cloak between her spread out legs, so as to collect all the fragments that might be otherwise lost, and on this garment she places a flattened round stone, and with another similar, but much smaller one, in her right hand, she proceeds to pound the roots singly, after each blow squeezing up the mass with the fingers of the left hand, and thus continues pounding until the substance assumes the form of a coherent cake, about two inches in diameter and one-third in thickness. Having made a sufficiency of these cakes to satisfy the enormous appetites of her lord and the others whom she is obliged by their laws to supply with this kind of food, she proceeds to eat the fragments (which will not cohere though ever so much beaten) collected in her too-ka, and if not then satisfied, she continues pounding and eating until her appetite is appeased, but not bestowing nearly as much care in preparing the cakes for her own use as she did on those intended for others.
The flavour of the ura when thus prepared is not unpleasant, but from the great quantity of woody matter contained in it, it must be very hard of digestion. There are some other vegetable substances eaten by the natives, and as they help to enlarge their otherwise very scanty bill of fare, they must not be altogether overlooked. These are: the tubers of several orchids, the corms of two or three species of Hameodorum, which impart their orange-red hue to the teeth and lips of those eating them; the seeds (wit-to) of various species of acacia;* and, finally, the drupes of certain species of astroloma and other epicridaceous plants.
While we naturally marvel at the total absence from New
Holland of any indigenous fruit worthy of comparison even with the least
esteemed kinds growing spontaneously in the other continents, our wonder becomes
greater from the consideration of the fact that Australia produces
representatives of most of the fruit-bearing orders, and in many instances the
congeners of much-esteemed fruit-bearing plants are present in that land. In the
latter category may be cited Ficus and Morus, the fruit of which is entirely
worthless, and Rubus, of which the fruit is but a sorry substitute for that
produced by its northern congeners, being, like all the native Australian
fruits, very insipid. That this is the inherent quality of those productions and
not in any way due to the nature of the soil or climate, is evident from the
fact that the fruit trees of the older parts of the world, when introduced into
suitable localities in Australia, produce as fine, and in many cases finer,
fruit than they do in their native countries.
That New Holland should produce no indigenous cereal worthy of mention (a kind of millet is eaten in some parts, but the seed is small and contains very little farina), is not surprising; the flour-yielding grasses of civilised man probably being varieties of wild species, developed by long and constant cultivation, as may indeed be the case with many of the fruits of the Northern Hemisphere.
That the common mushroom is not indigenous to Australia, though now so frequent in many parts of that land, may be inferred from the fact that it is not used as food by any of the aboriginal tribes, neither is it to be found in any part of the continent to which cattle have not been introduced. A Watchandie youth being induced, under menace, to eat one of these fungi, which at first he flatly refused to do, declaring that it would make him sick, was so gratified with its flavour, that he immediately set off in quest of more, which procured, he cooked them in the usual way of the aborigines and then made a hearty meal from them.
The only taste of sweets allowed by nature to the Watchandies is obtained by sucking the honey from the flowers of a myrtaceous plant (Calothamnus Oldfieldii, F. Muell.), or by capturing a large kind of mason-bee, tearing it asunder and sucking the honey from its body. These bees are stingless, of solitary habits, and of slow flight; they build their combs (in caves) of mud, there are twenty to thirty cells in each comb, and the honey deposited in them is very rich ; but the natives never seem to seek for it in this state. A number of people simultaneously engaged in the capture of these insects present a very grotesque picture, all running about, now and then bounding upwards and striving [p.280] to catch the bees between their hands, and only occasionally stopping to extract the honied treasure from the captured creatures.
Each native is of course aware of the locale of every watering place to be found within his territory, and also the degree of permanency attaching to each, and hence it might be supposed that they are not liable to suffer any great extremities of thirst; but, as such water-holes and springs are generally few and far between in most parts of New Holland, and the search after food often lures them into totally waterless districts, it frequently happens that they suffer seriously for want of water. While scouring the thickets in search of the eggs of the ignoro-oo they are extremely liable to suffer from the effects of thirst, for this bird frequents only the perfectly waterless thickets, and seeing that it subsists wholly on dry seeds, it is a marvel both to blacks and whites whence it procures the water necessary to its existence, since it has never been observed to visit any known spring for the purpose of drinking; but, perhaps, the heavy night dews peculiar to those climates may help to dispel some part of the mystery.
Sometimes when the natives return from such waterless places, instead of immediately quenching their thirst by drinking, they wallow in the mud for an hour or so, which is perhaps the safest method of renewing the juices of the body when they have been carried off by excessive perspiration.
The following incident will give an idea of the methods pursued by the natives when seeking for water: In the summer of 1859 I was desirous of visiting, in the course of my vocation, a celebrated waterless thicket, about twenty-five miles from the Murchison, and one of the gentlemen with whom I was then residing, volunteered to accompany me, and induced a number of natives to go with us, some for the purpose of carrying a small keg of water, for none was to be found between the river and the thicket Chu-ang-a, others to act as guides into it, for there is but one place at which horses can enter, and the rest merely taking advantage of our journey thither to procure a supply of sticks fit for spears, for the production of which this place is celebrated. The Watchandies took this opportunity of going, under our protection, to a locality otherwise but little visited by them for fear of the Anguardies, who occasionally frequent the same place and for the same purpose, i.e., to procure spears; and it is probable that these latter visit Chu-ang-a quite as seldom as the Watchandies do, for fear of coming in collision with them. Besides this, the thicket is in very bad repute on account of the number and malignity of the spiritual inhabitants imputed to it; so that, as a safeguard from these, our presence was further acceptable.
Starting late in the afternoon, some seven hours ride over a
very heavy sand plain brought us to the verge of the thicket, when we found the
advantage of having experienced guides, for it was of so dense a nature that not
only could not horses enter it, but even a man on foot would have found it
nearly impossible to penetrate it, except with such assistance. As it was, by
following our guides, we penetrated with comparative ease into the mystic
interior of the thicket, camping on a small grassy plain encircled with dense
scrub. It was not until the sun was high on the morrow that we began to
experience the thirst and depression of spirits caused by the stifling heat of
the place. Not a leaf was stirred in the slightest degree by a breath of wind,
and the whole region seemed totally devoid of animal life, even the troublesome
insects, common in other parts, were absent. However, by the assistance of the
small quantity of water we had brought with us, we contrived to get through the
day pretty comfortably, nor did we suffer much from thirst during the next
night. As is usual in these latitudes, and at that season of the year, the
following day was perfectly cloudless and without the slightest breeze, and as
the sun rose higher and higher so did our sufferings from thirst and lassitude
increase. Our horses, of course, suffered equally with ourselves, and their
weakened condition from want of water and food (for they were so thirsty that
they refused to eat the burnt up grass) rendered it useless for us to attempt to
cross the heavy sand plain between us and the Murchison before the cool of the
evening. We now began to make inquiries of the natives as to the existence of
water within any reasonable distance; but they one and all declared that none
was to be found nearer than one day's journey, and thereupon we had once more
relapsed into despondency, when a man told us that he knew of an old native well
some few miles off, and that possibly we might find water there.
As anything was preferable to the state of listless inactivity into which we had fallen, and the trip, at worst, would serve to while away the time which seemed dreadfully long, we all resolved to go upon speculation, for the black fellow was very doubtful whether we should find water there. In due time we arrived at the well, or, rather, where the well had been; for there existed but very slight evidences that the natives at some distant period had dug there for water, but it is doubtful whether they had found any. The aspect of the place was certainly promising—the native broom (Jacksonia scoparia) and the fire tree (Nuytsia floribunda), two very good indications of the neighbourhood of water, grew there in profusion. As it was necessary to dig in order to discover whether water was to be had there or not, the natives set to work in the following manner: One stood in [p.282] the centre of what had once been the well, three others grouped themselves round him, and the rest, formed into a circle, surrounded the other four. The man in the middle, stooping down, began to scoop up the sand with his hands, throwing it backwards between his legs towards those immediately near him, at each effort changing his place, so that he continually circulated round the intended excavation, the direction in which he moved being from east to west. Those outside of him acted in like manner, but did not circulate so quickly, and those in the outer circle did the same, but changed their position very slowly. In this way, the faces of all being towards the centre of the well, they continued to labour until they had excavated a funnel-shaped pit twelve or fourteen feet in diameter at the top and nine or ten feet in depth. They then desisted from their work, and procuring a long stick, which they jagged at one end, they thrust it down several feet in the centre of the hole; but as they found on withdrawing it that the small quantity of sand brought up among the jags was as dry as that on the surface, they declared it useless to make any further efforts, for the water lay too deep to be attainable by digging.
They then held a long consultation as to what we should next do: some were of opinion that we had better return to the thicket where we had left the horses, while others proposed that we should try our fortune at a place some four miles distant, of which the only one of the party acquainted with the locality, gave greater hopes than of the last place tried. On the matter being referred to our arbitration, we gave our decision in favour of the party inclined to go forward, which being acquiesced in by the rest, we again started.
When we arrived at our destination, we found it nearly of the same character as the well we had just left, excepting that the native broom was absent, and the signs of former digging were more manifest. The black fellows acted in precisely the same manner as they had before. When the stick had been thrust in and withdrawn, it was found to be slightly damp, whereupon they redoubled their efforts and soon came upon sand sufficiently moist to cohere when pressed tightly in the hand. It was now no longer necessary to carry the large pit any farther down, as a much smaller hole dug in its bottom would serve our purpose. But now a difficulty arose in the minds of the natives, and one not at all appreciated by us. With them the question now was, in which corner of the larger pit the smaller one should be dug, so as to be sure of finding water? while to us, not so influenced by imagination as they, it seemed perfectly immaterial, for water was evidently to be had by sinking anywhere within the above space, for the whole of it was equally moist. But the black man never [p.283] trusts to chance, he must have a reason, good or bad, to guide him in every action; and, consequently, they at once proceeded to discuss this knotty point in regular form. The first proposition was to dig it on the western side of the pit; for the sea being in that direction it was probable that water would be found towards that quarter; but this plausible proposal was immediately scouted, and its author ridiculed on the ground that though water would be found in the direction suggested, yet, coming from the sea, it would be salt, and therefore unfit for drinking.
The next proposition was to the effect that it should be in the eastern part of the pit, for the reason that the Angaardies dwelling in that direction have plenty of boollia, and can make it rain whenever they please, consequently, they are never short of this element. This proposal seemed to decide the matter, for they were on the point of digging the required hole in the eastern part of the pit, when an old man expressed a fear lest these much-dreaded Angaardies should turn sulky if their rights were thus infringed, and, in revenge, use their terrible powers of enchantment against the Watchandies, and thereupon this idea was at once abandoned.
One sage proposed the north-west, for all the rain came from that quarter, and this suggestion would have been adopted, had not another proposed the south, contending that the whites coming from that quarter must have found plenty of water on their journeys, consequently that desideratum was to be found in the specified direction. This compliment to ourselves carried the day; the hole was dug, the water, not of the purest description, was found, we all took our fill, and some hours after, we joyfully quitted Chu-ang-a.
When the natives wish to procure water from great depths, as from fissures of rocks, they attach a bundle of grass to a string of sufficient length, and lowering the bundle into the water, let it remain there until saturated, then, drawing it up very gently, they shake the drops from it into a large wooden bowl, repeating the operation until they have procured sufficient for a draught.
When a man is seated comfortably near the fire, he is unwilling to move for the mere purpose of getting a drink, and bids his woman fetch his water. If a bowl is not at hand she brings it in the corner of her cloak, which she so holds over one arm as to form a kind of basin. They all drink very sparingly, and are not very careful about the quality of the water, often drinking from a brackish pool rather than take the trouble of going a few yards further to a spring of pure water.
Their method of procuring fire is too well known to need any description. It is very laborious, especially in wet weather, and [p.284] on most occasions, rather than be at the trouble of procuring it by this method, they carry about with them a bundle of smouldering bark wherewith to light their fires when they camp for the night.
As has been before stated, the natives know of but one method of cooking every kind of food, and that the most simple imaginable. A hole is made in the embers by means of a stick or the foot, the substance to be cooked placed in it, and then the embers are replaced. As a rule they eat all kinds of flesh nearly in the raw state. Small animals, birds, fish, etc, are cooked entire and with the entrails within them, and so also are snakes, but the heads of these are removed and thrown away before they are placed in the fire, in which they are coiled up as they are wont to be while alive.
The laws regulating the partition of game among many who have been concerned in its capture, seem perfectly understood and rigidly adhered to. When an emu, dog, or kangaroo has to be divided among eight or ten, one of the eldest makes the division, reserving a large share to himself. No one on receiving his portion poises it, or seems discontented with it, but at once cheerfully walks off to the fire to cook it. On such occasions there is never any quarrelling among them, as is too frequently the case with white men in seasons of scarcity.
One day, as a reward for some specimens brought in by a party of natives, a mess of melons and sugar boiled together was prepared for their delectation and set before them in a large shallow tin dish. Squatting round this, each began to help himself from that portion of the vessel immediately before him, leaving by far the largest space to an old man of the company, none trenching on that portion of the dish in front of another. Towards the end of the feast, there was still a large quantity remaining in the space before the old man, yet none meddled with it, although they could not refrain from evincing their partiality for the savoury mess by rubbing their part of the dish with their fingers and then licking them. At length even this solace was denied them, for the old man, who was certainly the weakest of the party and the least dextrous in the use of weapons, took the vessel in his hands and licked it quite clean. All professed themselves highly gratified with their feast, and proffered to bring in an infinity of botanical specimens on conditions of receiving another such.
When feeding, the female takes her station behind and a little to the left of her lord, and her face turned nearly in the contrary direction to his. There she sits, eagerly watching from the corner of her eyes every mouthful that he takes, but never asking for anything. Now and again the man throws a morsel over his shoulder, which piece of bone or gristle (for it is never of the best [p.285] description), is adroitly caught and greedily devoured by the woman.
There is a curious custom relative to eating prevalent, as far as I have observed, among the Western Australian natives, of which it is impossible to give any reasonable explanation. Should a person when eating drop a morsel of food, any other standing by immediately picks it up, and merely saying "Plokeman," proceeds to eat it. This custom cannot be, as some suppose, derived from the Europeans, who, when quartering a beast, cut off and throw away the small bloody pieces which would otherwise disfigure the meat, and, that hence the natives will call any fragment thrown to them "Blood-man;" for this custom is prevalent among all the tribes in the colony above-mentioned, and is applied to each other as well as to Europeans. Pleading "Plokeman," I have seen one native appropriate the larger share of the supper of another, a thing that certainly would not have been tolerated had there not been some law to warrant such a proceeding.
Cannibalism, among the New Hollanders, has not attained that importance as an institution that it has among other savages whose countries are totally or nearly devoid of game, and when it has been found necessary to sanctify that craving after animal food inherent in man, by throwing the halo of religion over the only means they possess of gratifying it. It is rarely practised in those countries where animal life is abundant; of whatever barbarities the natives of such lands may be guilty, they seldom arrive at this climax of depravity. On the other hand, we find this unnatural appetite to be more prevalent as a country is poorly supplied with animals; thus it attained its greatest importance such in places as the South Sea Islands, New Zealand, etc. The practice is so utterly abhorrent to the human mind, civilised or savage, that, unless as a religious rite, it is never indulged in except secretly; the most debased savage when engaged in the gratification of this unnatural propensity, seeking to screen himself from the observation of his brother barbarian not so employed.
In Australia, holding as it were a middle place between countries abounding in game and those totally devoid of animals, cannibalism forms an exceptional case; for it is only when suffering the extremities of hunger that the New Hollander resorts to it, religious observances having nothing whatever to do with the practice as far as he is concerned. He only resorts to it in the same spirit that has induced hundreds of shipwrecked men to have recourse to it, to save life. In both cases the long endured tortures of hunger overcome man's inherent antipathy to this unnatural food, and it is remarkable, that of all beasts, the domesticated hog alone—that animal so like to man in its anatomy, the [p.286] nature of its flesh, and its omnivorous habits, will feed on the meat of its own species.
During the winter, should it rain continuously for a lengthened period, the natives suffer severely from hunger, for as at such times all game lies close, hunting is out of the question, and at that season there are no vegetable substances fit for food, to be procured. During the continuance of such weather, these people remain within their huts, sleeping the greater portion of the time, and always hoping for a change for the better. This unpropitious state of affairs having continued for some days, the wretched man and his family begin to suffer severely for want of food, and this necessity, at first supported cheerfully, at length becomes intolerable. As his hunger increases he becomes more morose, until at length, all natural feeling having been drowned by the imperative calls of appetite, he seizes one of his children, and kills it by a blow from his dowak behind the neck. In all such cases of child murder, the mother is not permitted to make loud lamentation, else she is beaten: she may, however, express her grief by uttering low, stifled moans, but how great soever her sorrow for the loss of her child may be, it becomes somewhat assuaged when the head of the victim, the mother's legal perquisite in all such cases, is thrown to her, and this she proceeds to eat, sobbing the while. In the first place the man devours all the fatty particles he can find about the body, and then makes a full meal off one of the limbs; the other children, if any, receiving as their share only the entrails, and as under the circumstances it is impossible to make a fire, the flesh is eaten raw and warm.
In other cannibal feasts the entrails and feet are not eaten, the latter for some particular purpose (which I could not discover) being skinned only, and I was unable to ascertain the use to which the former are appropriated. The above account, which I had from an old Watchandie, who doubtless had figured at many of these feasts (but they are very reluctant to confess the fact, all accusing their fellows, while but very few own to have eaten only a very little piece of human flesh), was rendered imperfect by his very anxiety to make it complete, by entering into all the minutiae of the proceedings. He became so excited and energetic, used so many words of whose signification I was ignorant, and imitated so many processes which I could not understand, that I could not get at his meaning. The natives are very apt to get thus excited when striving to explain anything, more especially when endeavouring to make an European understand the point of a story, and they generally contrive to be unintelligible from the very great pains they take to be otherwise.
During the solemn feast of Caaro it sometimes occurs, in spite of the large collection of flesh and roots made beforehand, that [p.287] they fall short of provisions, and as they are allowed neither to hunt nor to look on a woman during the continuance of the festival, they resort to cannibalism to enable them to observe the Caaro properly. The following occurrence, which took place at Zanginnooka, about the year 1850, will exemplify the horrors which are enacted on such occasions:—During the Caaro of that year, the men fell short of food, and to procure some they deputed two of the youngest amongst them to kill a female. These, lying in wait at a watering place, speared the first girl who came to it to drink, only looking at her askance and for a very little while, so that they might violate as little as possible the laws of the Caaro. After they had slain her they retired, leaving the corpse where it had fallen. The mother, missing her child, went to the water hole in quest of her, and discovering what had transpired, made great lamentation, and, with the assistance of other women, buried her daughter. At night, taught no doubt by sad experience, she visited the grave, and finding that the body had been abstracted, at once went to the place where the men were holding their festival, and surprised them in the midst of their cannibal feast. In this proceeding she had little to fear at the time, for as none of the men dared look on a female, who might be in season, let alone touch her, she enjoyed full liberty to lament as loudly as she chose. The men told her to be silent, giving her the head of her daughter as a bribe, and with this she retired, pacified, and the men, resuming their repast, gorged themselves with the flesh of their victim, and finally anointed their bodies with the fat taken from her body.
When a party of natives is out in quest of blood-revenge, as the exigencies of the case do not allow them to stop one moment for the purpose of procuring food, they spare none that cross their path, friend or foe, old or young, male or female, until the object of their mission is attained. In such emergencies they have been known to kill and eat Europeans, but the flesh of such is not so much relished as is that of their own race, being, as they say, "too salt."
The New Hollanders do not, like most savages, seek to carry their revenge beyond death by the mutilation of the corpse of a dead enemy. In some extreme cases, as a precautionary method, they cut off the thumb of the right hand of a foe, and leave his body to be devoured by wild dogs; thus does his soul become In-gna, but from the loss of the thumb being unable to throw the spear, or to use the dowak efficiently, his spirit can do them very little injury.
Although as a rule cannibalism exists among the Alfouras only as an extraordinary means of satisfying hunger, yet some individuals are to be found whose partiality for human flesh is so great, [p.288] that they seek to gratify it at all risks, and having slain an individual, they will remain in the same place until they have consumed the last fragment of the body. Some years ago, two men possessing this depraved appetite, killed a young woman, near Warrananooka (Western Australia), and, having gorged themselves with her flesh, lay down to sleep. In this state they were attacked by a pack of native dogs, and being incapable of defending themselves, were in turn killed and devoured.
In all their cannibal feasts the natives show a decided preference for the flesh of females; whether such is more succulent than that of males, or whether it is due to the small estimation in which they are held, it is difficult to determine, but one fact is manifest, that in all such tribes as are not under the immediate control of Europeans, no female is permitted to attain such an age that she becomes useless to the males, always being slain on some emergency of famine.
As the New Hollander rarely travels after dark, for fear of spirits, they have little to apprehend from the attacks of any of their own race during the night, and consequently the Europeans have always found it an easy matter to surprise them at that time, and have thus been enabled to commit great slaughter among them. So careless are the aborigines after night-fall, that cases are on record of the white man camping within earshot of them, merely waiting until the returning light should give opportunity for an onslaught, yet, notwithstanding that the blacks were aware of the vicinity of strangers (for one of them had a very bad cough, which he was unable to restrain), they made no search, but allowed themselves to be surprised during their morning meal, when many of them were slain.
Once, when travelling near the junction of the rivers Lachlan and Murrumbidgee, darkness overtook us ere we had pitched on a suitable locality for camping. Arrived on the side of a hill where there was plenty of grass and water, we were disconcerted at perceiving, on the face of an opposite hill, very many fires, indicating the presence of a great number of natives. As the blacks in those parts had the character of being very fierce (they had slain many of the neighbouring settlers), and our party was but small and badly armed, we were about to retire, when a shepherd proposed the following plan to scare the savages. Under his direction we each made several small heaps of leaves, brushwood, &c, at certain distances apart, and at a given signal these were all lighted as rapidly as possible. No sooner were they all well a-light, when, as if by magic, all the other fires disappeared, for the natives imagining that some foreign—and therefore hostile—tribe was near to them, quickly decamped, not however going very far, as we afterwards learned to our cost.
When the tribe change their place of abode, they travel in Indian file, the males preceding, along well beaten tracks, leading to their place of destination. In these journeys the women act the part of beasts of burden, carrying all the moveables belonging to themselves and lords. The grand camping place, in which they pass the winter, is always situated in the most sheltered part of their territories. The huts then erected are better built than the temporary shelter put up on their travels, being perfectly water-tight and very warm. The opening of all their huts faces the south-east, a quarter whence wind and rain seldom come, and here they keep all their goods not needed when travelling, spare arms, clothing, &c.: and the settlers, in revenge for depredations on their flocks and herds, often inflict incalculable injury by the destruction of these camps.
Of the grammatical construction of the different dialects of
the New Hollanders I can say but little, for in the greater part of the
sentences I have learned of them, as in the case of their songs, I have failed
to recognise the individual words which convey the same ideas as the translation
given by the natives. If at any time I said to a Watchandie "Toor-da-ma-ta", he,
without any hesitation, fetched wood fit for fuel, yet, in speaking amongst
themselves, they use the phrase "Woot-pa-ring-a", which certainly sounds very
much like English, or else "Woot-pa-ca-ta". "Ar-roo-wan-da", literally
translated, signifies "Where is the pine?" (Actinostrobus australis
word a-roo meaning pine, or it may be, quickly burning wood in general;
yet the equivalent in English to this phrase, is "Replenish the fire."
Take for example the song given at page 258, beginning, "Poraman oro tora tono," the explanation of which, given by the Watchandies, is " Some poor men were cooking flesh in the embers"; but in their dialect "to cook" is "at-toon-da", or "at-too-a", meat or flesh is "to-ro", and embers, such as they cook in, is "ur-ka." From this it will be seen that the only word of the song at all resembling any of the Watchandie tongue is to-ra for to-ro; but as it appears from the appended vocabulary of the Champion Bay natives, that the word to-ra there signifies flesh, it is probable that the song in question had its origin in that district. Hence it will be seen how difficult it is to discriminate between the indigenous words of any tribe and those borrowed from their neighbours, a circumstance that introduces a certain amount of uncertainty into all speculations on the origin and affinities of the numerous New Holland dialects.
That all these dialects have something in common, is manifest from the facility with which the most distant tribes appropriate [p.290] words belonging to either: thus, among the Western Australian natives, we find many words imported from the tribes inhabiting the Eastern colonies in constant use, and properly pronounced and applied, such as kangaroo, wallaby, boomerang, &c, but English words of frequent recurrence they are unable to pronounce properly. Although these dialects are most abundant in various sounds, it is extraordinary that the letter S (and its mute sound, F) is not found in any of them, consequently the aborigines are unable to pronounce any word into which it enters; instead of sixpence saying tic-pent. At the same time it is remarkable that they generally pronounce blood as flood, and flour as blour. F (or PH) they usually replace by P, saying, Pan for Fan. The guttural sound is not uncommon, and both the French and English modes of pronouncing U often occur, as well as a sound expressed in English by oo (as in boon), The E (without any accent) as pronounced by the French is sometimes found, and this sound, to prevent mistakes, is indicated in the appended vocabulary by oe, to be pronounced as it is by the Germans. The broad sound of A predominates in all the various Australian dialects; in that of the Watchandies I have detected the slender sound of the same letter, but in two or three words, as anclo, a rock, and nalgal, to eat. The aspirated H (unless in some few instances following W, as in whitto, whippa, when it is sometimes pronounced) has no place in the Watchandie language, and in English words in which it is found, they generally replace it by GN, saying 'G'nort for horse. This combination frequently occurs, and, if I be not mistaken, G'M' is sometimes, but very rarely, found; thus while one person is persuaded that the Watchandie word for blood is g'nvoba, to me it sounds like g'mvoba.
The natives pronounce the B and P so nearly alike, that it is almost impossible to discriminate between these two sounds, which are sometimes reduced to one that may be elicited by pressing the lips close together and then suddenly unclosing them. Sometimes also B is pronounced so softly as to be scarcely distinguishable from V, as in uba, the sand-plain Casuarina. In like manner D and T are sometimes scarcely to be discriminated. TH as pronounced by us is not unfrequent in the Western Australian dialects, as in the word booltha, money, generally having the softer sound, as in the English word then, but in some cases it is more sharply pronounced even than in our word thin, as in the proper names Yat-thoo and Bet-thie.
The French nasal sound on (expressed in the vocabulary by ong) is common as a termination of names of places, and the combinations ang, ing, ong, and ung (pronounced as in English) before vowel-syllables are very frequent.
In the composition of the names of places, the particle wa
(variously transformed) signifying in possession of, containing, &c, is very
general as a termination, being added to some word denoting a characteristic of
the locality. Thus the word Oo-lin-yur-ra (a place on the Murchison) is
compounded of the word Oo-lin-yu, which signifies a species of swamp tea tree (Melaleuca
nœmatophylla, F. Muell), and the particle
wa transformed into ra for the sake
of euphony, that locality abounding with that shrub. Col-larit-li-a (on the same
river) indicates a place where the Collaille (pronounced as in French) is
common, and Been-da-ri-a is a place where thunder-storms are frequent.
Probably the termination up, so common in the names of places in South-Western Australia, has a like signification as the particle wa, and the same may be inferred of the termination ong so frequent in the names of places in some parts of New Holland; certain it is, however, that Ca-been-yong (the name of a place near the Hill river in Western Australia) signifies a locality where the ca-been, a kind of hawk, is common in summer.
The particle bat generally signifies abounding in possession of, as to-ro-bat, having plenty of food; cul-ly-a gua-bo-bat, an emu with abundance of fat, or a very fat emu. Added to an adjective, it has the force of very; as bool-tha-bat, very many, wo-pa-ta-bat, very sleepy.
Continuance of time, comparison of qualities, etc, is expressed by the repetition of an adverb or adjective conveying the required idea, and not unfrequently by a particular emphasis on the first syllable of such. Thus, jir-rie signifies already or past; jir-rie jir-rie, indicates a long time ago, while jie-r-rie jir-rie (the first syllable being dwelt upon for some time) signifies an immense time ago. Again, boo-rie is small, boo-rie boo-rie, very small, and b-o-rie boo-rie is exceedingly small.
The New Hollanders have no names for numbers beyond two. The Watchandie scale of notation is co-ote-on (one), u-tau-ra (two), bool-tha (many), and bool-tha-bat, very many. If absolutely required to express the numbers three or four, they say u-tar-ra coo-te-oo to indicate the former numbers, and u-tar-ra u-tar-ra to denote the latter. I once wished to ascertain the exact number of natives who had been slain on a certain occasion. The individual of whom I made the inquiry, began to think over the names (he dared not mention them unless as the father of this one, the uncle of that one, and so on), assigning one of his fingers to each, and it was not until after many failures, and consequent fresh starts, that he was able to express so high a number, which he at length did by holding up his hand three times, thus giving me to understand that fifteen was the answer to this most difficult arithmetical question.
These numerical adjectives are always placed after the names [p.292] they qualify, as, indeed, is the case with nearly all words denoting qualities: thus they say wee-ra n-tar-ra, two spears, wik-ka wy ro, bad fish.
There seem to be no inflections to express the conditions of mood, tense, or person of their verbs; for they say gni wingera, I know; neemu wingera, you know. The adverbs seem to supply the place of tenses, and the circumstances under which the speaker then exists are sufficient indications of the mood.
The Watchandies, to express the phrases "I am glad," "I am sorry," say "Wee-ka-quar-lo," "Wee-ka-wy-ro," which literally signify "The regions about my liver are good," and "The regions about my liver are bad," thus assigning to those parts of their bodies feelings which are generally attributed to the heart by other races.
The Watchandies (and the natives about Champion Bay) use a remarkable idiomatic expression when seeking information about persons or things. Instead of asking "Who?" they say "Whose (or What) foot?" Thus, to ask "Who is that?" they say, "Wan-da-ena?" Whose foot or track?" And the same phrase is used to ask "What is that?" or "What is the name of that?"
When the Watchandies wish to express great contempt for another, or to insult anyone in order to provoke him to battle, they use the epithet, bragee boongo-bat, the literal translation of which is "Teeth full of holes," or "Like a net," and simple as this expression seems to us, a black must be very much incensed against one of his fellows ere he utter so opprobrious an epithet. As the Watchandies give a very different translation of this phrase, "An Ingna with a long penis," it is probably an idiomatic expression, the force of which we cannot estimate.
To express the sound of a spear or bullet striking any substance they say toop! The interjection Oh! as an exclamation denoting pain, is not used by the New Hollanders. Amongst the Watchandies the men merely emit a kind of grunt, but the women cry ya-ky! when in suffering.
In giving names to articles of European origin, and in translating English phrases, the natives evince considerable ingenuity. Thus to express the word hat the Western Australians say, "Manga walla," which literally means a head nest, and in like manner a stocking becomes ena booka, which signifies a foot cloak. To translate the phrase the horse with the bell, they say "Gnirt ting-ting-wa," ting-ting for a bell being probably derived from the whites.
In Western Australia there are several words which have either travelled far with whites, or else are common to many different and distant tribes, but I was unable to ascertain which of these suppositions was correct, though I am inclined to believe that the [p.293] former obtains, for the Watchandies, although using these words (at least in their communications with the whites) have another signification attached to one of them, malo (dead) in their dialect denoting a shade or covering.
The following is a list of the words referred to:
|Ma-lo, Dead.||Oo-roo-mool, Estuary of a river.|
|Men-dik, Sick.||Ya-ber-oo, North-man.|
|Boo-ka, Cloak.||Me-mang, South-man.|
|Coo-ta, Bay.||Nal-gal, To eat.|
May-lani, To see, remark, etc.
The New Hollanders are not entirely ignorant of the art of writing; for by means of a few scratches made by the dowak on the smooth bark of a tree, they can inform future passers-by not only who has thus left his mark, but also the direction from which he came, as well as that to which he has gone. In like manner, a few rushes laid in a peculiar way are an indication that a man of a particular tribe has passed by; and possibly a careful study of the natives would lead to the discovery of other methods of inter-communication, some of which in precision of expression must nearly approach the art of writing. From the inspection of a few scratches on a tree, a tuft or two of grass, and a few stones peculiarly arranged, I have known a native suddenly to change the direction of his journey to go to meet his brother at a certain spring and in two days' time, an event which came to pass, although to my certain knowledge he had had no communication with any but myself for several weeks.
NAMES OF PLACES WITHIN THE WATCHANDIE TERRITORIES.
|Wan-yu.||A grassy flat.||Yan-a-rie.||A dry grassy flat.|
|Y'ni-a.||A sandy, bushy hill.||Y'num-ber-roo.||A stony hill.|
|Ca-ra-qua.||A rocky place.||Oo-lin-zur-ra.||A swampy pool.|
|In-die-in-die.||A rocky gully.||Yat-thoo.||A large grassy plain.|
|Bet-thie.||A large pool.||Mal-a-da-ra.||A low hill.|
|Chee-ang-a.||A waterless thicket.||Whit-ta-ka-ra.||A thicket with springs.|
|Yan-gin-no-ka.||A grassy valley.||Yak-in-u.||A spring with fire-trees.|
|Cul-la.||A spring under a hill.||U-chu (u fr).||A swamp near the sea.|
|Been-da-ri-a.||A spring near a thicket.||Col-lail-li-a.||A grassy flat with flooded gums.|
NAMES OF PERSONS.
|Rock Kangaroo.||Wil-lo-ba.||Native Cat.||Tin-do-kat.|
|Forester ditto.||Yow-aa-da.||Opossum.||We-ur-da, or We-zue-da.|
|Boomer ditto.||Jim-aa.||Ring-tailed ditto.||G'na-cul-u.|
|Young ditto.||Yo-er-da.||Bush Rat.||an-din-ry-oo.|
|Kangaroo Rat.||Wath-u.||Dog (wild).||G-'no-ban-o.|
|Dab Chick.||Borl-o.||Red-tailed ditto.||Tin-an-dee.|
|Swamp Hen.||Toen-da or Gal-in-yu.||Scrub Pheasant.||G'now-oo.|
FISHES, REPTILES AND INSECTS.
|Salmon or Tailor.||Wil-lil-ye.||Spider.||Ath-oo.|
|Fishes in General.||Beel-yu.||Snake.||Wa-kie-e.|
|Woody Pear (Xylomelum).||War'-ri- ge-ra,||Dioscorea hastata (yams).||Ad-ju-co.|
|Eucalyptus (Spear-wood).||Too-ta.||Typha angustifolia?||U-ra.|
|Eucalyptus fruticetorum.||Yan-dee.||Trachymene tere.||Ny-ko.|
|Eucalyptus microtheca and E. rostrata.||Col-lail-le.||Jacksonia scoparia.||Woo-ta.|
|Eucalyptus endesmo'ides.||My-al-lie.||Astroloma sp.||Mong-le-ba.|
|Eucalyptus. A variety of the last, but of a different habit, and with larger seed vessels.||Oo-ra-q'nan-die.||Gasuarina (Swamp Gak).||Ya-ju- ar-ra.|
|Eucalyptus erythrocorys.||Il-li-a-rie.||Gasuarina (Sand Plain do.)||U-ba.|
|Grass (Gilba in the South).||O-ro.||Banhsia sp.||Toor-da.|
|Cissiis angustusima.||Man-doo-li-a.||Banksia sp.; also the name given to a comb, from its deeply cut leaves.||Mun-da.|
|Melaleuca nematophylla.||Oo-lin-yu.||Juncus maritimus.||Yeen-ban-u.|
|Actinostrobas australis (Pine).||A-roo.||Acacia sp.||A-rum-ba.|
|Men or People.||Au-man-o.||Forehead.||Mel-lin-g'ner.|
|Old Man.||Po-gar-or.||Arms.||Gu-na or U-na.|
|Child.||Een-der-ie.||Breasts (of women).||E-bee.|
|Sister-in-Law.||Chan-dee.||Foot (or track).||E-na.|
|Head of a man.||Wal-a.||Tatooing on the Chest.||Moo-ra.|
|Head of a beast, &c.||Cok-lee.||Matriculated Youth.||Moo-ra-wa.|
|Eyes and my eyes.||Mee-loo and Melo-tar-ra.||Private parts of Man.||Wab-a or Wab-er-rie.|
|Nose.||Moo-tha.||ditto of Woman.||Wad-a-ga.|
|Hole bored through ditto.||Moo-tha-boon-go.||Hair on the latter.||Bool-ie.|
|Stick to put in it.||Oo-na moor-ka.||Testicles.||Coo-ja.|
|Ears and "My ears."||Oka and O-ka-tar-ra.||Liver.||Mau-ree.|
|Face.||Gnoen-da.||Regions about the ditto.||Wee-ka.|
|Gum of Grass-tree.||Ty-a-lo.||Dung of Wild Dog.||Yan-er-rie.|
|Stick for digging.||Wip-pa.||Seed of Plants.||War-ra.|
|Wooden Bowl.||Bat-tje.||Fat.||G'na bo.|
|Throwing apparatus.||U-ra-ga.||Egg (any round thing).||Wal-a.|
|Throwing stick.||Chuna (u fr.)||Air.||O-rin-o,|
|Contribution of women to ditto.||Dal- ly-er-k-a.||Rain.||Boon-doo.|
|Religious Festival.||Caar-o.||Clouds (South-west).||Yu-ga.|
|Shade or covering.||Ma-lo.||Thunder.||Been-da-rie.|
|String or Rope.||Mat-jee.||Heat.||Too-rie.|
|Net (for carrying effects).||Mo-yar-ra.||Cold.||O-ka-dar-ra.|
|Net (for fishing).||Boon-go.||Rock.||an-do.|
|Sleep or Night's rest.||Bee-ja.||Sand.||Bil-lun-do.|
|Salt.||Nar-rin-yu.||Clod of Earth.||Tur-pa.|
|Dung of Man, Kangaroo, &c.||Oo-na.||The Sea.||Wee-la.|
POINTS OF THE COMPASS.
|Watchandie.||Shark's Bay.||Watchandie.||Shark's Bay.|
|East. An-ga-lo.||Ka-ka-ru-la.||North. E-ra-to.||Yab-ru-la.|
|West. Watch-u (u fr.)||Ward-an-do.||South. E-u-a.||Ko-ban-ga.|
|I.||G'ni.||You and I (together).||G'ni-tar ra.|
|You.||Nee-nee.||Myself, yourself (alone).||Ky-an.|
|Bad.||Wy~ro.||Ripe or cooked.||Chan-ga,|
|Hungry.||Coo-ehe-ra.||Unripe or raw.||G'noy-u.|
|Thirsty.||Wa-jil-o.||Many.||Bool-tha or Bool-la.|
|PREPOSITIONS, ADVERBS, &c.|
|When (also what).||Wan-da.||Indeed!||A-ree!|
|In possession of.||Wa (in composition).|
|To stay in a place.||Nan-up.||To deceive or lie.||At-pi-da.|
|To steal.||Woom-ba.||To bind together.||At-pui-da.|
|To ask questions.||A-ba-la.||To beat or strike.||Wal-le-ra.|
|To call to.||Mee-ra.||Give.||In-gaar-na.|
|To fetch.||Ma-ta.||Go away.||Un-do yoe-kon-da.|
|To copulate much.||Mun-yu.||To go, walk, travel, &c.||Yoe-kon-da.|
|To cook.||At-tu-a, At-toon-da.||Come here!||Cub-ba.|
|To climb.||Mar-do-mar-ra.||To stool.||Yan-da-roo.|
|Stay or stop.||We-da.||To make water.||Woon-do.|
|To eat.||G'nam-ang.||To copulate.||Wab-a-yad-i-a.|
|My head aches.||Wal-a-ta- it-e-chat.||Do not lie.||Mal-yee at-pi-da.|
|Opprobrious epithet,"Teeth full of holes."||Ee-ra-ju bon-go-bat.||I do not know.||G'ni mal-yee wunje-ra.|
|Fool! Stupid (deaf one).||O-ka neer-ra.||I am glad.||Wee-ka gwa-lo.|
|I am sorry.||Wee-ka wy-ro.|
|Where is it?||Wan-da-kan.||I am hungry.||Co-che-ra Po-ka-na.|
|Get water.||Ap-poor ba-ca-ta.||Dig.||E-a-ca-ta.|
|Get wood.||Woot pa-ca-ta.||Come on.||Oo-ra-en-gow-a.|
|Blow the fire.||Bou-hi-ga.||Go to sleep.||G'na-ree-a wan-a.|
|Replenish the fire.||A-roo wan-da?||My wife has run away.||Yal-e-no yeo-kon-o.|
|Let us set off.||Cub ba! yu-ca-ra-e-ga.||My wife is speared.||Yal-e-no o-ma i-a.|
|Let us go wallaby hunting.||Wo-to-e-ga cub-ba.||You are mistaken, or It is not so.||Yu-a-to.|
|Give me some yams.||Aj-ju-ca in- gaan-a.|
VOCABULARY OF THE CHAMPION BAY TRIBE,
Communicated by Dr. R. J. Foley, of Champion Bay.
The following Vocabulary of the Champion Bay dialect may be useful for the sake of comparison. The head quarters of the Champion Bay tribe are distant only one hundred and eighty miles from those of the Watchandies:
|Weo-man-ee.||Stomach or guts.||War-dee.||Table Hill.|
|Wath-a ena?||Whose foot? Who?||E-rin-o.||A river.|
|Eu-da.||The thigh.||Ad-do.||A stone.|
|Wee-da.||The calf of the leg.||Ow-wa.||Water.|
|In-al-lo.||A woman.||U-rin-jo.||A pool.|
|Ky-rna-ra.||A female.||Wee-ge-e.||A bone.|
|Pole-jo-ra.||A woman's name.||G'nun-na-ra.||White Cockatoo.|
|Mo-lang-in-o.||Her husband.||G'noo-le-a.||Black ditto.|
|Noo-gu-te-no.||A woman's name||Gnoo-le-a ber-ree.||Pelican.|
|E-do wang.||The stars.||Yow-ad-do.||Kangaroo.|
|Bo-do wal-lee.||Rainbow.||Wee-re-lah.||Bush rat.|
|Thro-ee.||Hot weather.||Wat-tho.||Kangaroo rat.|
|E-do goo-la.||Summer (good sun).||Arnu war-ra.||Hosmodorum sp.|
|O-to-ro.||The Earth.||Wal-lu-cow-a.||Nut tree (Santalum).|
|Yeg-ga.||A stick.||Ar-da.||Sulky (to pout).|
|Wip-pa.||A stick for digging.||Woo-ma ar-u-a.||To sharpen a wooma.|
|Mid-do.||Hut.||Ou-e-la-da.||To gull or lie.|
|Mou-lo mid-do.||White's house.||Bee-ro-bar-dee.||To flow.|
|Ne-ra.||Throwing apparatus.||We-gar-ra!||Be off! Go away!|
|Oo-to-bat-ta.||Belly-full.||Do-ro e-ja.||Stay here.|
|Tar-u.||Not eatable.||Cow-de-biigk.||To swim.|
|Co-al-lo.||A good thing.||O-ke-jil-lu.||To fight.|
|O-go.||Blunt.||G'n ar-re-a.||To deep.|
|Knack-o-wa.||Good to eat.||Wee-garr.||Far away.|
|Mee-ne.||Red.||Oo-rung-o-wow-kan-a-go.||I saw it with my eyes, or It is the real truth.|
* This wit-to is very pretty, the dark black coat of the seed forming a fine contrast with the bright scarlet of the arillus.