An Account of the Tribes of South Australian Aborigines
INHABITING THE COUNTRY
AROUND THE LAKES ALEXANDRINA. ALBERT, AND COORONO,
AND THE LOWER PART OF THE RIVER MURRAY:
THEIR MANNERS AND CUSTOMS
AN ACCOUNT OF THE MISSION AT POINT MACLEAY.
BY THE REV. GEORGE TAPLIN,
MISSIONARY TO THE ABORIGINES, POINT MACLEAY, SOUTH AUSTRALIA.
[Extracted from Woods' The Native Tribes of Australia, 1879, 1-156.]
|Chap. I.||The Narrinyeri, or Tribes of Aborigines Inhabiting the Lakes Alexandrina and Albert, and Lower Murray ................||1|
|Chap. II.||Social Customs—|
|Section 1—Marriage ........||10|
|Section 3—Initiation to Manhood, called Nanunbe ... ... ...||15|
|Section 4—Funeral Rites ..............||18|
|Chap. III.||Sorcery of various kinds—|
|Section 1—Ngadhungi .............||23|
|Section 2—Millin .............||26|
|Section 3—Keilyeri, or the Poison Revenge ...........||29|
|Chap. IV.||Tribal Customs—|
|Section 1—Chiefs—The Tendi—Ngia-ngiampe ..............||32|
|Section 2—Games and Amusements .................||37|
|Chap. V.||Weapons—Manufactures—Taking Game—Cooking—Diseases—Medical Treatment .........||40|
|Chap. VI.||Relationships—System of Kinship .................||48|
|Chap. VII.||Mythology ...............||55|
|Chap. VIII.||The History of the Mission at Point Macleay .................||66|
|Chap. IX.||The Primitive Condition of Mankind .............||119|
|Chap. X.||Language .......................||123|
|Chap. XI.||(Supplementary). Illustrative Anecdotes, &c. ..............||133|
|Chap. XII.||The Future of the Aboriginal Races, and Feasibility of Christian Missions to them .........||145|
|Appendix.||The Wreck of the Maria ..............||151|
PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION.
When I came to this colony in 1849, my attention was
attracted by the camps of Aborigines on the Adelaide Park Lands, and I felt a
desire to try to do something for their spiritual and temporal welfare; but
years were to pass away before that desire could be gratified.
Twenty years ago I was led to take up my residence near what is now the town of Port Elliot. The natives came about our house from the neighbouring camps, and I soon found that both men and women were useful and friendly. A severe winter came on, when food was scarce, and I felt it my duty to go to the native worleys. which were close at hand, and see if I could do anything for their inhabitants. I found that I could do very little indeed, but I think that a bond of sympathy and kindly feeling was created between myself and the natives. Notwithstanding the personal helplessness which I felt, I was constrained from that time to earnestly, and I think prayerfully, consider if anything could be done for their welfare.
In 1858 I heard that an association for the purpose of befriending the Aborigines had been begun by some good people in Adelaide. I wrote to the honorary secretary, stating my views of the steps which ought to be taken if we would do our duty to this people, but nothing came of it at that time. Twelve months after, I was led again to write to the committee of the Aborigines' Friends' Association, and I was soon after appointed to be their missionary agent. The results which, by the grace of God, flowed from that appointment will be seen in the following pages.
I think it has been now proved that the Aborigines of Australia are not
altogether in a hopeless case. We may hope that the Gospel of Christ will be
the means of saving a remnant from extinction. I
am sure that if such a result is likely to be brought about, it will rejoice the
hearts of many of their kind-hearted friends in these colonies. Weak and
insufficient as the instrumentality employed has
been—and I have often wondered why it was used, and why some abler servant of
Christ had not been chosen—yet, feeble as it has been, surely the end proves
that the excellency of the
power was of God.
The writer would take this opportunity of gratefully acknowledging the generous assistance which he has received during the fourteen years of his missionary work from the various honorary officers of the Aborigines' Friends' Association of this colony. He feels that he cannot too highly estimate the value of the aid which their wise counsel and sympathy have afforded him.
Great credit is also due to the Aborigines' Department of the South Australian government for the humane consideration which it has always shown for the wants of the natives.
The writer would also acknowledge the valuable help which he has received from the Rev. F. W. Cox, who kindly revised the following pages, and to whom it is to be attributed that they contain no greater defects than appear thereon.
Point Macleay, March 31, 1873.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
After the first edition of "The Narrinyeri" was exhausted, the author received
many inquiries for copies from persons who take an interest in the Aborigines.
This led him to the conclusion that a
second edition might meet with acceptance, especially as the first found a kind
and indulgent reception, as he cannot help thinking, beyond its merits. There
cannot be any doubt that the
benevolent interest in the welfare of the natives which has been manifested in
past years, both by the public and the press, has not abated. There is therefore
a great deal to encourage us to
venture upon another edition.
The reader will find that some additions have been made to the book. An account has been given of the Aboriginal Council, called the Tendi, by which the clans of the Narrinyeri are governed. Some friends of the Mission complained that the history of the Mission at Point Macleay was too short, and expressed their desire that more incidents had been related. An attempt has been made to supply this deficiency by inserting some extracts from the author's diary.
It may not be inappropriate to state that the Aboriginal Native Church of Christ at Point Macleay maintains its numbers to the present date, and that its members continue to exhibit growth in Christianity and civilisation. It is the desire and prayer of the author that many such churches may arise to glorify the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that these pages may be honoured by being employed to encourage Missions for this purpose.
Point Macleay, April 12, 1878.
THE POWER OF THE LETTERS USED IN SPELLING NATIVE NAMES.
The sounds of the letters are adopted from the orthography recommended by the Royal Geographical Society. The consonants are to be sounded as in English, except that g is invariably hard. The vowels are to be sounded, for the most part, as in the following English words: a as in father; e as in there, they; ai has the sound of long i; i as in fatigue; o as in old; ow as in cow, now; u as in rude; and oo as in moon. Ng at the beginning of native words is very common, and the best rule for pronouncing it is that given by Dr. Livingstone, i.e., to say the word as if there was an i before the ng, but to give as little of the sound of the i as possible. Dl and ny are also found at the beginning of words, as dlomari (fog), nyrippin (washing), nyringkin (warming oneself); in both of these the y has a consonantal sound.
The Narrinyeri, or Tribes of Aborigines inhabiting the Lakes Alexandrina and Albert and Lower Murray.
The people who are described in the following pages call themselves "Narrinyeri." The name is evidently an abbreviation of Kornarrinyeri (from kornar, men, and inyeri, belonging to), and means ''belonging to men." They take great pride in this designation, and call other nations of Aborigines wild black-fellows, while they say, "we are men." These Narrinyeri occupy a tract of country which would be included within lines drawn from Cape Jervis to a point about thirty miles above the place where the River Murray discharges itself into Lake Alexandrina, and from thence to Lacepede Bay. They are divided into eighteen tribes, and each is regarded by them as a family, every member of which is a blood relation, and therefore between individuals of the same tribe no marriage can take place. Every tribe has its ngaitye or tutelary genius or tribal symbol in the shape of some bird, beast, fish, reptile, insect or substance. The reader who is not sufficiently interested may skip the following names of the tribes1 of an obscure race of savages. Some, however, may like to know them, and for such I write them.
|Name of Tribe.||Locality.||Ngaitye|
|1. Welinyeri||River Murray||Black duck, and black snake with red belly.|
|2. Lathinyeri.||River Murray||Black swan, teal, and black snake with grey belly.|
|3. Wnnyakolde||River Murray||Black duck.|
|4. Piltinyeri||North-eastern shore of Lake Alexandrina||Leeches, catfish (native pomery).|
|5. Korowalle||North shore of Lake of Alexandrina||Whip snake.|
|6. Karatinyeri||Point Malcolm, entrance to Lake Albert||Wild dog, light colour.|
|7. Kangalinyeri||Lake Albert River||Wild dog, dark colour.|
|8. Mungulinyeri||Lake Albert||Mountain duck (chocolate sheldrake).|
|9. Kanmerarom||McGrath's Flat, on the Coorong||Mullet called Kanmeri.|
|10. Ngrangatari||Lacepede Bay||Kangaroo rat.|
|11. Pankinyeri||Lake Coorong||Butter fish (native Kunide).|
|12. Tararom||Mundoo Island, Lake Alexandrina||A kind of coot called Turl.|
|13. Langundi||Sea-mouth of the River Murray, south side||Tern, a small kind of gull.|
|14. Kaikalabinyeri||Lake Albert, south shore||Bull Ant; a kind of water weed called by natives Pinggi.|
|15. Kondolinyeri||Peninsula on north-west side of sea-mouth of the River Murray||Whale (native Kondarli).|
|17. Raminyeri||Encounter Bay||Wattle Gum.|
|18. Pangoratpalar||Milang||Musk duck.|
The Narrinyeri had for their neighbours the Adelaide and Murundee blacks, called
"Wakanuwan" and the Tatiara natives, a cannibal tribe, called ''Merkani."
The Narrinyeri formed a sort of confederacy, and however the different tribes might quarrel among themselves, they always presented a united front to the neighbouring natives. In 1849 I saw a battle where about 500 of the Narrinyeri met some 800 of the Wakanuwan, and it was very evident that if the conflict had not been stopped by the colonial authorities the Narrinyeri would have signally defeated their opponents. They bore a special enmity to the Merkani because these latter had a propensity for stealing fat people and eating them. If a man had a fat wife, he was always particularly careful not to leave her unprotected lest she might be seized by prowling cannibals.
The history of these Aborigines is involved in obscurity.2 Their traditions make
it seem probable that they came down the Hurray and Darling Rivers to reach
their present place of abode. The
only event which they relate as occurring before the coming of the white people
is the prevalence of a terrible epidemic which came down the Murray some fifty
or sixty years ago and greatly
thinned their numbers.
I know several men who remember the arrival of Captain Sturt; and they tell of the terror which was felt as they beheld his boat crossing the Lake Alexandrina.
A memorable occurrence was the appearance of a couple of stray bullocks, from some runs in New South Wales probably. They were first seen in the neighbourhood of Lake Albert. The natives concluded they were brupar (or demons), and decamped from their presence in great terror. They named them wundor-wityeri—that is, beings with spears on their heads; and they have called homed cattle by the same name ever since.
The Narrinyeri at the mouth of the Murray were probably the cause of the death of Captain Barker, the discoverer of the plains of Adelaide. He incautiously left his party on one side of the river and swam to the other; he was never after seen or heard of.
In the year 1840 a vessel called the Maria was wrecked at Lacepede Bay. The crew and passengers escaped to the shore, [p.4] and brought with them a great many articles of value. A portion of the cargo appears to have been landed, and, it was at the time believed, a large amount in gold coin.3 The natives gathered round the shipwrecked people, and were asked by signs and a few words of English to conduct them to the whaling settlement at Encounter Bay, a distance of about 120 miles. They consented, and the whole party started off down the Coorong. They must have carried with them their most portable articles of value. As they went along the number of Narrinyeri in their escort increased. There belonged to the shipwrecked party several women and children. I could never ascertain the exact number who escaped from the Maria, but I have heard amongst the natives that there were twenty-five. I think it likely that it was never exactly known. When they came to that spot on the Coorong which is parallel with the head of Lake Albert the natives had become covetous of the goods and clothing of the poor people whom they were guiding, and dark designs began to be entertained by them. In pursuance of their murderous plan they told the white people that they must now cross the Coorong. When they had put about half of them over the water in their canoes they told them to march on, thus dividing them into two parties. Then the natives quietly placed a man behind each victim as they walked, and at a signal every one was knocked down with a heavy club and soon dispatched. It was a [p.5] horrible crime. The poor souls had inarched above eighty miles from the wreck—toiled along wearily day after day through the wild and dreary waste, longing for the sight of the European faces which they were never to see! Their tracks were afterwards discovered and followed, and it could be seen where the children had got tired and had been carried by their loving friends; and then all were foully murdered! The murderers stripped them of their clothes, and thrust some of the bodies into wombat holes, and others they buried in the sand. A woman told me only a few weeks ago that she assisted in burying in the sand of the Coorong what may have been a mother and two daughters, for she said it was an elderly woman and a young woman, and a little girl. Another woman was found thrust into a wombat hole, and with her was a family Bible with the names of the family to which it belonged and their births, deaths, and marriages written therein. The spoils of the slaughtered people were of little value to the Narrinyeri. I was told by a woman who was then the wife of a shepherd on the runs on the Adelaide side of the Lakes, that she saw in the possession of the natives large and small silver spoons, rolls of silk, and clothing of all kinds. The crime was quickly made known to the authorities in Adelaide. Very soon sufficient particulars were gathered, and the whole affair came out. An expedition then started under Major O'Halloran to avenge the crime and punish its perpetrators. They marched to the Coorong by way of Encounter Bay, swam the Murray at its mouth, and immediately came upon traces of the murders. They rapidly passed on and found a camp where large quantities of clothing and other articles made it evident that these were some of the guilty parties. Two of the most ill-looking and ferocious men were seized and hanged by the neck in trees without further ceremony, and two others were shot. I knew an old native named Pepeom who was one of those who attempted to withstand the advance of the whites. He was a tall and powerful savage. He suddenly came out from behind a bosh with a heavy spear, and proceeded to aim it at Major O'Halloran as he rode by; but the Major was too quick, and [p.6] dashed at him before he could throw. He turned to flee, but before he could escape, the sabre of his pursuer entered his buttock, and he fell disabled to the ground. He carried the scar with him as long as he lived. The Narrinyeri never forgot the punishment they received for the murder of the passengers and crew of the Maria.
A man who is now a member of the Church at Point Macleay told me that his father used to relate to him the particulars of the affair. He said that Major O'Halloran's party rounded up the blacks in the camp, and seized some men and marched them off to some trees. The white men then made signs to the rest of the natives to look at those trees, and suddenly they saw their countrymen hauled up to the limbs by ropes fastened to their necks. They gazed for a minute at the horrid sight, and then the whole party broke up and ran in every direction. Some of them fled above twenty miles in their terror before they stopped. They never afterwards touched the bodies, but left them hanging until they dropped from the trees.
The Lake Albert tribe murdered, about 1844, a man named McGrath, at a place afterwards called McGrath's Mat. McGrath, who was going overland with cattle, got some of the native young men to conduct him round Lake Albert. Afterwards he wished them to continue to guide him beyond the boundaries of their tribe, and upon their refusal tried to persuade them to do as he wished. This somehow awoke the suspicions of the old men, and they attacked and murdered him. The perpetrators of the deed were punished.
The Narrinyeri were always a daring and restless people, and used to give some trouble to the authorities by their depredations and sheep-stealing. One of the first troopers of the police stationed on the Murray told me that when they went there they never dared to go to the river for a bucket of water, although it was only a few hundred yards from their huts, without pistols in their belts. The same man told me that on one occasion a native had been very insolent to him, and at last provoked him to such an extent that he kicked him out of the hut. A short [p.7] time after, he was just awaking from sleep at the dawn of the morning, and as he opened his eyes he saw the same native standing by his bedside with an axe in his hand as if about to strike. At once the trooper's hand silently moved towards the pistol under his pillow, and the clear dick-click as he cocked it was heard. With the greatest coolness the native said in an indifferent tone, "Whitefellow, why do you leave your axe outside?—by-and-by somebody will steal it;" and, depositing the weapon by the bed, he made his exit from the hut. The trooper was careful the next night to see that there was such a fastening to his door as would prevent another visit under such extremely suspicious circumstances.
Another story occurs to me, which, with the reader's permission, I will tell. A rather notorious blackfellow had been sheep-stealing. Two police officers set off on horseback in pursuit of him. As they came round the side of a steep hill by the Lakes they saw their man down by the shore. Knowing that horses would be of no use in the swamp they tied their steeds to a tree, and, taking their weapons, pursued on foot. Rushing amongst the polygonum bushes, one of them came suddenly on the native, who rushed at the trooper and knocked him down. The officer, as he lay on his back, tried to kick him off, so as get a thrust at him with his sabre, which he held in his hand; but, in doing so, stuck the point of the weapon into the toe of his own boot, and could not extricate it. While this was going on, the other trooper, hearing the call of his comrade, clambered over the derse polygonums, and just at this juncture came up behind the native. He shouted at the blackfellow, and he left his first antagonist and turned to meet the other. A horse-pistol was presented, the trigger pulled, and off it went, the fire scorching the native's breast; but he did not fall and die as might have been expected, so the trooper seized him and led him to the spot where their horses were tied. There it was found that the bullet which ought to have killed the native had been shaken out of the pistol by the jolting of the horse, and was discovered in the bottom of the holster.
One more story, illustrative not of the fierceness and savagery of the
Narrinyeri, but of more attractive traits of character, faithfulness, and love.
Many years ago, some white sealers on Kangaroo
Island stole from the mainland near Cape Jervis three native women, and took
them to the island. When the prisoners had stayed with their captors a few weeks
they began to cast about for
means to get back to their husbands and friends. At last they found a small
to the sealers. It would only hold two. Now, two of the women
had no children, but the third had an
infant at the breast; so the two childless lubras took the dingy and started
for the mainland, and reached it in safety. The poor mother left behind with her
babe must have pined sadly for her
country and friends; but nothing was heard of her for some time. One day the
natives found her body on the beach just above high-water mark; with her baby
tied to her back. She had swum
Backstairs Passage, and then, in a state of utter exhaustion, crawled up the
shore and died!
I have related these anecdotes of the Narrinyeri because I want to enable the reader to have some idea of the people whose customs are described hereafter. I wish to try to make them live in his imagination. Perhaps I have not succeeded very well; but, at any rate, I have used what materials I had in making the attempt.
In appearance the Narrinyeri are by no means such a bad-looking race as some have represented Australian Aborigines to be. It is true you can find ugly old men and women amongst them, and so you can amongst Europeans. Unfortunately for aboriginal ugliness, it has no means of concealing itself such as are found in civilised nations. There are amongst the Narrinyeri many good-looking and well-proportioned specimens of the human form. The cast of countenance is different from the European, but often by no means wanting in regularity and even beauty. Many of the middle-aged and young men have quite a dignified bearing, with an air of freedom altogether different from low-class Europeans. They are very independent [p.9] in their manner; and, while they freely ask for what they want, take it, when granted, as from equals. Amongst themselves there is a great deal of a sort of courtesy. They live in their camps without much disagreement. Custom is rigidly observed, and this contributes to maintain peace amongst the members of the tribe. Of course quarrels will arise, and bad men and women try to domineer and act unjustly, but yet not so much as might be expected.
The Aborigines have suffered from the advent of Europeans perhaps more than they have gained. Their country has been occupied, and the game nearly exterminated. The reeds of which they used to build their houses, and the grass on which they used to sleep, have in many cases been made useless to them. The skins with which they used to make rugs, and the bark with which they made canoes, have been almost destroyed. Their present condition, therefore, is not to be taken as a fair representation of what they were in their natural state; and we must not expect to find amongst their broken and scattered tribes many of those good qualities which they used to possess as savages.
There are now three classes of natives—the old blacks, who hold fast all the customs of the tribes; the natives who have imitated the worst vices of Europeans and become drunkards and gamblers (these have neither religion nor morality, and are utterly lawless); and, lastly, the Christian natives, who are every year increasing in numbers, and are the healthiest of their race.
The Narrinyeri exhibit no signs of becoming extinct just yet.4 There are plenty of children amongst them; and the tendency of Christian civilisation, when adopted in its entirety, is to make them more vigorous and long-lived.
According to many authorities, marriage amongst Australian Aborigines consists
in the forcible abduction of a female from her tribe, and has no particular
ceremony connected with it. Our
scanty knowledge of the whole of the Australian tribes would scarcely warrant us
in saying that this was the case with the majority of them. The Narrinyeri are
certainly an exception. Although the
consent of a female is not considered a matter of the first importance, as,
indeed, is the case in many uncivilised nations, yet it is always regarded as
desirable. There is also some ceremony in their
marriages. To show that this has always been the custom I will quote the Rev. H.
E. A. Meyer, who resided with them before they had much intercourse with
Europeans. He says—"They are
given in marriage at a very early age (ten or twelve years). The ceremony is
very simple, and with great propriety may be considered an exchange, for no man
can obtain a wife unless he can
promise to give his sister or other relative in exchange. The marriages are
always between persons of different tribes, and never in the same tribe. Should
the father be living he may give his
daughter away, but generally she is the gift of the brother. The person who
wishes to obtain a wife never applies directly, but to some friend of the one
who has the disposal of her, and should
the latter also wish for a wife the bargain is soon made; thus the girls have
no choice in the matter, and frequently the parties have never seen each other
before. At the time appointed for the
marriage the relations on both sides come and encamp about a quarter of a mile
from each other. In the night the men of one tribe arise and each takes a
fire-stick in hand. The bride is taken by
the hand and conducted in the midst, and
appears generally to go very unwillingly; the brother or relation who gives her
away walks silently and with downcast looks by himself. As soon as they approach
the camp of the other tribe the
women and children of the latter must quit the hut, which upon this occasion is
built larger than their huts usually are. When they arrive at the hut one of the
men invites them to take their places,
but before they sit down the bride and bridegroom are placed next each other,
and also the brother and his intended wife if it is a double marriage. The
friends and relations then take their places
on each side of the principal parties. They sit in this manner silent for a
considerable time until most of them fall asleep. At daybreak the brides leave
the hut and go to their nearest relations and
remain with them until the evening, when they are conducted to their husbands by
their female friends, and the tribes then separate and go to their own
districts. When married very young, the girl
is frequently away from her husband upon a visit to her relations for several
months at a time, but should she remain the man is under obligation to provide
her with animal food (providing
vegetable food is always the duty of the females), and if she pleases him he
shows his affection by frequently rubbing her with grease to improve her
personal appearance and with the idea
that it will make her grow rapidly and become fat. If a man has several girls at
his disposal, he speedily obtains several wives, who, however, very seldom agree
well with each other, but are continually quarrelling, each endeavouring to be
the favourite. The man,
regarding them more as slaves than in any other light, employs them in every
possible way to his own advantage. They are
obliged to get him shell-fish, roots, and eatable plants.
Now I have but little to add to these statements. It is regarded by the females as very disgraceful not to be given away in exchange for another. A young woman who goes away with a man and lives with him as his wife without the consent of her relatives is regarded as very little better than a prostitute. She is always open to the taimt that she had nothing given for her.
When a man has a sister or daughter whom it is his right to give away, he will
often sell that right to a man who wants a wife for either money, clothes, or
weapons, and then the purchaser will give
the woman away in exchange for a wife for himself. A woman is supposed to
signify her consent to the marriage by carrying fire to her husband's wurley,5
and making his fire for him. An
unwilling wife will say, when she wishes to signify that she was forced into
marriage with her husband, "I never made any fire in his wurley for him.'' In
case of a man having two wives, the elder
is always regarded as the mistress of the hut or wurley.
Marriages always take place after dark, and are generally celebrated with a great deal of dancing and singing. I know that, on some occasions, amongst a certain class of natives, a great deal of licentious revelry will take place, but this is not always the case. I have known as well-matched and loving couples amongst the Aborigines as I have amongst Europeans.
One singularity of their courtship is, that the suitor always tries to make out that he marries the damsel because she very much wants him to do so. When a couple are fond of each other they generally manage to get married, if not too nearly related. The aversion of the natives to even second cousins marrying is very great. They are extremely strict in this matter. The first inquiry with regard to a proposed marriage is, whether there is any tie of kindred between the parties, and if there be it prevents the match, and if the couple should cohabit afterwards they will be always looked upon with dishonour; in short, the Narrinyeri are exogamous, and never marry in their own tribe. A man's children belong to his tribe, and not to their mother's. This is remarkable, as it is so contrary to what is said by certain anthropologists to be the rule in savage tribes. A man's sons always inherit their father's property.
Mr. Meyer says—''When a woman is near her confinement she removes from the
encampment with some of the women to assist her. As soon as the child is born,
the information is conveyed to
the father, who immediately goes to see the child and to attend upon the mother,
by carrying firewood, water, &c. If there are unmarried men and boys in the
camp, as there generally are, the
woman and her friends are obliged to remain at a distance in their own
encampment. This appears to be part of the same superstition which obliges a
woman to separate herself from the camp at
certain times, when, if a young man or boy should approach, she calls out, and
he immediately makes a circuit to avoid her. If she is neglectful upon this
point, she exposes herself to scolding, and
sometimes to severe beating by her husband or nearest relation.
"If the child is permitted to live (I say permitted, because they are frequently put to death) it is brought up with great care, more than generally falls to the lot of children of the poorer class of Europeans. Should it cry, it is passed from one person to another and caressed and soothed, and the father will frequently nurse it for several hours together."
Infanticide appears to have been very prevalent among the Aborigines before the commencement of this colony. I have been assured by Narrinyeri that at that time more than one-half of the children born fell victims to this atrocious custom. One intelligent woman said, she thought that if the Europeans had waited a few more years they would have found the country without inhabitants. She herself had destroyed one infant. I know several women who have put to death two or three each of their new-born children. The details of this practice disclose the most horrible cruelty. The babe was generally deprived of life as soon as it was born, before parental love could assert its power and save it. A red-hot ember from the fire was stuffed into each of its ears as far as it could be thrust, and then the orifice closed by filling it with sand. After a few cries of agony [p.14] the child became insensible, and soon died. In the meanwhile a large fire was prepared, and the body thrown into it and burnt. This appears to have been the most usual method; but sometimes strangulation, or a blow of a waddy, was resorted to with the same intent.
Infanticide is not prevalent amongst the Narrinyeri at the present time. Thirteen years ago one-third of the infants which were born were put to death. Every child which was born before the one which preceded it could walk was destroyed, because the mother was regarded as incapable of carrying two. All deformed children were killed as soon as born. Of twins, one, and often both, were put to death. About one-half of the half-caste infants fell victims to the jealousy of the husbands of their mothers. Many illegitimate children—that is children who were born before their mothers were given in marriage—were murdered.
This terrible crime of infanticide is covered up and concealed from the observation of the whites with extreme care. The bush life which they lead affords every facility for so doing. I was myself for some time in ignorance that it existed to such an extent as it does. Only very intimate acquaintance with the natives led me to discover its prevalence. I remember two instances of it. In one, the mother hated the child, because she had been given in marriage to its father against her will; therefore, with the assistance of another female, she murdered it in the most brutal manner. The other was an illegitimate child of a girl called Pompanyeripooritye. I was informed of the birth, and got the nearest relatives to promise that the child's life should be spared. But an old savage, named Katyirene, a relative of the reputed father, was offended at this forbearance, so he set the wurley on fire in which the mother and infant were lying, and very nearly accomplished the destruction of both. I soon after found that the child was suffering and pining from some internal injury, and in about forty-eight hours it died. I have no doubt that foul play was the cause of its death, for it was a fine healthy child when it was newly born.
But it must not be concluded from these facts that the Narrinyeri are incapable
of affection for their children. Only let it be determined that an infant's life
shall be saved, and there are no bounds
to the fondness and indulgence with which it is treated. Its little winning ways
are noticed with delight, and it is the object of the tenderest care. I have
known men nurse their children for hours at
a time in the absence or sickness of the mothers, and capital nurses they are
too. I have seen a man transported with the wildest rage, and fell everybody
within reach of his kanape, because he
saw a slight spot of blood caused by an accidental blow on the forehead of his
baby boy. I remember a man and woman being plunged in the deepest grief by the
death of an infant. This child was
born before the next older could walk, and consequently ought by native custom
to have. been destroyed. But being preserved through my influence, its parents
became most devotedly attached
to it, and I think I never saw more real sorrow than was manifested by them at
When native children are first born they are nearly as white as Europeans. It is difficult for an inexperienced person to tell whether they are half-caste or not. The sign by which this may be known, is a smutty appearance in the pure aboriginal infant just on the upper part of the forehead, as if a smutty hand had been laid there.
Children are suckled by their mothers till they are two or three years old.
Girls wear a sort of apron of fringe, called kaininggi, until they bear their first child. If they have no children, it is taken from them and burned by their husbands while they are asleep. I have known girls have children when only fourteen years of age.
SECTION III.—NARUMBE, OR RITES OF INITIATION TO MANHOOD.
Among the Narrinyeri, boys are not allowed to cut or comb their hair from the
time they are about ten years of age until they undergo the rites by which they
are admitted to the class [p.16]
of men. They are taught to believe that disease will be the result if they break
this rule. For some few weeks I had been persuading a boy to cut and comb his
hair, offering as an inducement the
gift of new clothes; at last, after a great deal of hesitation, he did as I
wished, and I gave him the clothes. Afterwards his mother reproached me for
advising her son to take such an imprudent step,
and I observed that the lad seemed nervous. On that very day he became ill, and
I have no doubt that his illness was caused solely by superstitious fear of the
result of having his hair cut. Of
course, the old people will point to this as an instance of the dangerous
effects of breaking native customs. We can scarcely comprehend the power of
imagination over the mind of a savage.
The boys also are forbidden to eat thirteen different sorts of game; and it is said that if they eat them, they will become prematurely grey. I have no doubt that the original object of this custom was, the making of a provision for the old people and women; for the game which is forbidden to the boys is easily obtained and is nourishing food. If, therefore, they were allowed to partake of it, such animals would probably soon be exterminated, for the whole tribe would feed on them to the neglect of those animals which are more difficult to obtain; so a regulation has at some time or other been made to prevent the boys from eating them; and thus these animals are preserved to the old people and women. By this means, also, they are made sure of getting some of the spoils of the chase carried on by the young men and boys, who do not hesitate to kill such animals if they get a chance, but never eat them themselves, always reserving them for the old people.
When the beard of a youth has grown a sufficient length he is made narumbe, kaingani, or young man. In order that this ceremony may be properly performed, and the youth admitted as an equal among the men of the Narrinyeri, it is necessary that members of several different tribes should be present on the occasion. A single tribe cannot make its own youths narumbe without the assistance of other tribes. This prevents any tribe [p.17] from increasing its number of men, by admitting those who have not yet arrived at the proper age, and thus prevents them from making a claim for a greater number of women than their proper share—an important consideration where every tribe has to obtain wives from those which are adjacent—as they never intermarry in their own tribe, all the members of which are regarded as of the same family.
Generally two youths are made kainganis at the same time, so that they may afterwards during the time that they are narumbe assist each other. They are seized at night suddenly by the men, and carried off by force to a spot at some little distance from the wurley, the women all the time resisting or pretending to resist the seizure by pulling at the captives, and throwing firebrands at their captors. But they are soon driven off to their wurley and compelled to stop there, while the men proceed to strip the two youths. Their matted hair is combed or rather torn out with the point of a spear, and their moustaches and a great part of their beard plucked up by the roots. They are then besmeared from the crown of their heads to their feet with a mixture of oil and red ochre. For three days and three nights the newly-made kainganis must neither eat nor sleep, a strict watch being kept over them to prevent either. They are allowed to drink water, but only by sucking it up through a reed; the luxury of a drinking vessel is denied to them for several months. And when, after the three days, the refreshment of sleep is permitted, they are not allowed a pillow—a couple of sticks stuck in the ground crosswise are all they must rest their heads on. For six months they are obliged to walk naked or with merely the slightest covering round their loins. The condition of narumbe lasts until their beards have been pulled out three times, and each time have grown again to about the length of two inches, and during all that period they are forbidden to eat any food which belongs to women, and also from, partaking of twenty different kinds of game. If they eat any of these forbidden things it is thought they will grow ugly. Only the animals which are the most difficult to obtain are assigned for their sub- [p.18] sistence; this appears to be for the purpose of making them expert hunters. Everything which they possess or obtain becomes narumbe, or sacred from the touch of women; even the bird hit by their waddy, or the kangaroo speared by their spear, or the fish taken by their hook, even when these instruments are used by other hands than their own, is forbidden to all females.
They are not allowed to take a wife until the time during which they are narumbe has expired; but they are allowed the abominable privilege of promiscuous intercourse with the younger portion of the other sex.
Any violation of these customs is punished by the old men with death; sometimes inflicted by millin, i.e., witchcraft, but often by more violent and certain methods.
I think it is evident that all these rules for the narumbe are intended as a means of making the men of the tribe hardy, by exposing them to privation and suffering. I know, however, that at present the effect is precisely the reverse. The health of many young men is utterly destroyed, and many even come by their death from the barbarous ordeal which they are forced to undergo. A lad works about a farm or station, and is clothed and fed there until he is sixteen or eighteen years of age, and then he is seized by his relatives and forced to undergo the exposure and cold inseparable from the life of a narumbe; partly induced to acquiesce by the consideration that if he does not submit he will not get a wife; and partly bribed by the offer of licentious indulgence. The consequence usually is that he gets disease of the lungs, which either weakens him for life or causes his speedy death.
SECTION IV.—FUNERAL RITES.
The Narrinyeri point out several stars, and say that they are deceased warriors
who have gone to heaven (Wyirrewarre). There are Wyungare, and Nepalle, and the
Manchingga, and several
others. Every native expects to go to Wyirrewarre after
death. They also believe that the dead descend from thence, and walk the earth;
and that they are able to injure those whom they dislike. Consequently, men who
have been notorious in life for a
domineering and revengeful disposition are very much dreaded after death. For
instance, there is Earungpe, who comes in the dead of night, when the camp fire
has burned low, and like a rushing
wind scatters the dying embers, and then takes advantage of the darkness to rob
some sleeper of life; and it is considered dangerous to whistle in the dark, for
Earungpe is especially attracted by a
whistle. There is another restless spirit—the deceased father of a boy whom I
well know—who is said to roam about armed with a rope, with which he catches
people. All the Narrinyeri, old
and young, are dreadfully afraid of seeing ghosts, and none of them will venture
into the scrub after dark, lest he should encounter the spirits which are
supposed to roam there. I have heard some
admirable specimens of ghost stories from them. In one case I remember the ghost
was represented to have set fire to a wurley, and ascended to heaven in the
The Narrinyeri regard the disapprobation of the spirits of the dead as a thing to be dreaded; and if a serious quarrel takes place between near relatives, some of their friends are sure to interpose with entreaties to the contentious parties to be reconciled, lest the spirits of the dead should be offended at unseemly disputes between those who ought to be at peace. The name of the dead must not be mentioned until his body has decayed, lest a want of sorrow should seem to be indicated by the common and flippant use of his name. A native would have the deceased believe that he cannot hear or speak his name without weeping.
But the most direct way in which the reverence of these people is shown for the dead is in their funereal ceremonies. When a man dies they conclude at once that sorcery has been the cause of the mournful event, and that either ngadhungi or millin must have been practised against him. The first night after a man has died his nearest relation sleeps with his head on the corpse, [p.20] in order that he may be led to dream who is the sorcerer that caused his death. The next day the corpse is elevated on men's shoulders on a sort of bier called ngaratta. The friends of the deceased then gather round, and several names are called out to try if the mention of them produces any effect on the corpse. At last the nearest relative calls out the name of the person of whom he has dreamed, and then an impulse towards him on the part of the dead body is said to be felt by the bearers, which they pretend .they cannot resist, and consequently they walk towards him. This impulse is the sign by which it is known that the right name has been called out.
The deceased, still lying on the ngaratta, is then placed over a slow fire for a day or two, until the outer skin blisters. This is removed with the hair, and all the apertures of the body are sewed up. It is then rubbed over with grease and red ochre, and set up naked on a sort of stage inside the wurley in a sitting position. A great lamentation and wailing is made at this time by all the relations and friends of the dead man. They cut their hair off close to the head, and besmear themselves with oil and pounded charcoal. The women besmear themselves with the most disgusting filth; they all beat and cut themselves, and make violent demonstrations of grief. All the relatives are careful to be present and not to be wanting in the proper signs of sorrow, lest they should be suspected of complicity in causing the death. A slow fire is placed under the corpse, in order to dry it. The relations live, eat, drink, and sleep under the putrefying mass until it is dried. It is then wrapped up in mats and kept in the wurley. During the time in which it is drying the female relatives relieve one another in weeping before the body, so as to keep some women always weeping in front of it. All this has very much the appearance of idolatry. The smoke rising around the red sitting figure, the wailing women, the old men with long wands, with a brush of feathers at the end, anointing it with grease and red ochre—all these contribute to give one this impression of the whole scene. When any one leaves the wurley where the body is for a few days, they are [p.21] expected to stand before it and weep and wail on their return. However they manage the requisite amount of crying I never could imagine. For one minute a woman will appear in the deepest agony of grief and tears; a few minutes after, the conventional amount of weeping having been accomplished, they will laugh and talk with the merriest. I feel persuaded that fear has more to do with most of these exhibitions than grief.
But the spirit of the dead is not considered to have been appear
relatives have avenged his death. They will kill the sorcerer who has caused it
if they can catch him; but generally they
cannot catch him, and often do not wish it. Most probably he belongs to some
other tribe of the Narrinyeri. Messengers pass between the tribes relative to
the affair, and the friends of the accused
person at last formally curse the dead man and all his dead relatives. This
constitutes a casus belli. Arrangements are forthwith made for a pitched battle,
and the two tribes meet in company with
their respective allies. The tribe to which the dead man belongs weep and make a
great lamentation for him, and the opposing tribe sets some fellows to dance
about and play antics in derision of
their enemies. Then the whole tribe will set up a great laugh by way of further
provocation. If there is any other cause of animosity between the tribes
besides the matter of avenging the dead
there will now be a pretty severe fight with spears. If, however, the tribes
have nothing but the dead man to fight about, they will probably throw a few
spears, indulge in considerable abuse of
each other, perhaps one or two will get slightly wounded, and then some of the
old men will declare that enough has been done. The dead man is considered to
have been appeased by the efforts
of his friends to avenge his death by fighting, and the two tribes are friendly
again. In such a case the fight is a mere ceremony.
The hair of the dead is spun into a cord, which is made into a headband, and commonly worn by men. They say that thereby they smell the dead, and that it makes their eyes large and their sight keen, so that in a fight they are enabled to see the spears coming, and either to parry or avoid them.
Some years after writing the foregoing the writer came upon the following passage in Ellis's ''Polynesian Researches." Describing similar customs of the inhabitants of Tahiti, he says—"The bodies of the dead, among the chiefs, were, however, in general preserved above ground: a temporary house or shed was erected for them, and they were placed on a kind of bier. The practice of embalming appears to have been long familiar to them; and the length of time which the body was thus preserved depended upon the care with which the process was performed The intestines, brain, &c., were removed, all moisture extracted from the body, which was fixed in a sitting posture during the day, and exposed to the sun. The inside was filled with cloth saturated with perfumed oils, which were carefully rubbed over the outside every day. In the course of a few weeks the muscles dried up, and the whole body appeared as if covered with a kind of parchment. It was then clothed and fixed in a sitting posture; a small altar was erected before it, and offerings of food, fruit, and flowers daily presented by the relatives, or the priest appointed to attend the body. In this state it was preserved many months; and when it decayed, the skull was carefully kept by the family, while the other bones, &c., were burned within the precincts of the family temple."
It is very interesting to trace that similarity between different portions of
the human race, in manners, superstitions, and traditions, which would lead us
to conclude that although oceans may
separate them, yet they belong to the same radical stock. In Dr. Turner's work,
called "Nineteen Years in Polynesia," I observe some remarkable points of
resemblance between the inhabitants of
the New Hebrides and the Narrinyeri. The learned author of the work referred to
gives the following account of a custom prevalent in Tanna and the adjacent
islands—"The real gods at Tanna
may be said to be the disease-makers. It is surprising how these men are
dreaded, and how firm the belief is that they have in their hands the power of
life and death. It is believed that these men
can create disease and death by burning what is called nahak. Nahak means
rubbish, but principally refuse of food. Everything of the kind they bury or
throw into the sea, lest the disease-makers
should get hold of it. These fellows are always about, and consider it their
special business to pick up and burn with certain formalities anything in the nahak line which comes in their way. If a
disease-maker sees the skin of a banana, for instance, he picks it up, wraps it
in a leaf, and wears it all day hanging round his neck. In the evening he
scrapes some bark off a tree, mixes it up with
the banana-skin, rolls it up tightly in a leaf in the form of a cigar, and then
puts one end close enough to the fire to cause it to singe and smoulder and bum
away gradually. When a person is taken
ill he believes that it is occasioned by someone burning his rubbish; and if he
dies, his friends lay it all down to the disease-makers as having burned the
rubbish to the end. The idea is that
whenever it is all burned the person dies. If a
disease-maker was ill himself he felt sure that someone must be burning his
I have abridged the description on account of its length; but the foregoing is the part most to my purpose.
Now, the Narrinyeri of this colony have a similar practice to this nahak-burning prevalent among the Tannese, and their whole community is influenced by disease-makers. This kind of sorcery, by which disease is supposed to be produced, is called ngadhungi. It is practised in the following manner:—Every adult blackfellow is constantly on the look-out for bones of ducks, swans, or other birds, or of the fish called ponde, the flesh of which has been eaten by anybody. Of these he constructs his charms. All the natives, therefore, are careful to burn the bones of the animals which they eat, so as to prevent their enemies from getting hold of them; but, in spite of this precaution, such bones are commonly obtained by disease-makers who want them. When a man has obtained a bone—for instance, the leg bone of a duck—he supposes that he possesses the power of life and death over the man, woman, or child who ate its flesh. The bone is prepared by being scraped into something like a skewer; a small round lump is then made by mixing a little fish oil and red ochre into a paste, and enclosing in it the eye of a Murray cod and a small piece of the flesh of a dead human body. This lump is stuck on the top of the bone and a covering tied over it, and it is put in the bosom of a corpse in order that it may derive deadly potency by contact with corruption. After it has remained there for some time it is considered fit for use, and is put away until its assistance is required. Should circumstances arise calculated to excite the resentment of the disease-maker towards the person who ate the flesh of the animal from which the bone was taken, he immediately sticks the bone in the ground near the fire, so that the lump aforesaid may melt away gradually, firmly believing that as it dissolves it will produce disease in the person for whom it was designed, however distant he may be. The entire melting and dropping off of the lump is supposed to cause death.
The Rev. W. Ellis, speaking of the Tahitians, says—"The parings of the nails,
a lock of the hair, the saliva from the month, or other secretions from the
body, or else a portion of the food which
the person was to eat, this was considered as the vehicle by which the demon
entered the person who afterwards became possessed The sorcerer took the hair,
saliva, or other substance which had
belonged to his victim, to his house, or marae, performed his incantations over
it, and offered his prayers; the demon was then supposed to enter the substance
(called tubu), and through it the
individual who suffered from the enchantment" ("Polynesian Researches," vol.
ii., p. 228).
When a person is ill he generally regards his sickness as the result of ngadhungi, and tries to discover who is the disease-maker. When he thinks that he has discovered him he puts down a ngadhungi to the fire, for the purpose of retaliating; that is, if he has one made of the bone of an animal from which his supposed enemy has eaten. And if he has not he tries to borrow one. Some time ago a blackfellow of my acquaintance, feeling himself unwell, as he supposed from the effects of this sorcery, rubbed himself over with soot in sign of desperation, and then taking his weapons went and fired two wurleys, and challenged the whole family to which he supposed the person who had bewitched him belonged, although he knew that the particular person whom he suspected of being the immediate agent was thirty miles away.
I have seen as many as a dozen ngadhungi in a man's basket, and have been told that one was for a man, another for a woman, another for a boy, and so on, mentioning the parties for whom they were intended. I also heard the man who had them say that when he died he should tell his relations to put them all to the fire, so as to be revenged on the people who may have accomplished his death; for no native regards death as natural, but always as the result of sorcery. Frequently, when a man has got the ngadhungi of another, he will go to him and say—I have your ngadhungi; what will you give me for it. Per- [p.26] haps the other man will say that he has one belonging to the person who asks him the question, and in that case they will make an exchange, and each destroy the ngadhungi. If, however, this is not the case, the man will endeavour to make a bargain with the person who has the ngadhungi, and obtain it from him by purchase. Sometimes he will give money, or spears, or nets, as the price of it. ''All that a man hath will he give for his life." When he has obtained it he destroys it immediately. I believe that there are many of these Narrinyeri who make it their business to look out for anything in the shape of ngadhungi, in order to sell it in the manner above mentioned. Of course, a great deal of imposture is practised by such parties.
It is not necessary that I should specify the particular points of resemblance between ngadhungi and the nahak of the Tannese. I trust that from the description which I have given they will be sufficiently apparent.
A correspondent in the far north of this colony wrote to me in 1862 as follows:—''The Pando and Blanche water blacks have a peculiar superstition. They take the bone of some defunct friend, and it is chewed by two or three of the old men; they then make little graves in the hot ashes, and put in the bone, calling it by the name of some enemy. They believe that when the bone is consumed their enemy will die."
This is another kind of sorcery practised amongst the Narrinyeri. When a man
intends to set out on an expedition for the purpose of taking his revenge, by
means of millin, against any one whom
he dislikes, he marks his face and body all over with white streaks for the
purpose of disguising himself. The concealment obtained by this means is almost
complete: but it is also used for other
purposes besides the above. He then takes his plongge, which is a stout club
with a large conical-shaped knob, and puts it in his basket with a few more
kanake), and generally taking a companion with him, similarly equipped, starts
on his enterprise. They proceed to prowl through the hunting grounds of the
tribe to which the person they seek
belongs, taking care to conceal themselves as much as possible. When they see
their victim alone, they steal noiselessly upon him, and rushing at him,
suddenly strike him a heavy blow on the
head with the plongge, for the purpose of stunning him. Then as he lies there
insensible, they strike him moderately hard with the plongge on the joints of
the legs and arms, on the nape of the
neck, and on the naked chest, the blows not being severe enough to break the
bones, as a touch of the instrument is considered sufficient. In conclusion, they
pull the victim's ears until they crack,
and then leave him to recover as he best can. This last operation is for the
purpose of rendering the person incapable of telling who attacked him. He is now
said to be plongge watyeri, and by the
operation he is delivered over to the power of a certain demon called "Nalkaru."
If he goes into battle, the malignant spirit will be at his ear, and by
whispering in his ear seek to divert his attention
from the proper management of the shield, so that he may receive a fatal wound.
If the victim of the plongge walks into the bush his invisible pursuer, Nalkaru,
will seek to divert his attention
from his path, so that he may tread on a deadly snake. Or perhaps the millin may
produce disease. I have frequently heard men say that they felt the plongge in
their chests. But it is not only on an
expedition for the purpose that millin is perpetrated. Frequently a man will get
up in the dead of night and after warming the plongge at the fire, so that its
cold surface may not awaken the
sleeper, proceed to operate on some unsuspecting occupant of the same wurley,
taking care to do it so gently as not to be felt by the sleeping victim. In this
way the malice of one person against
another is frequently gratified.
The dread of millin is universal amongst the Narrinyeri. I have often tried to argue people out of their belief in it, but in vain. Only adult males are considered able to practise it, and it is regarded as the greatest crime of which an enemy can be [p.28] guilty. Its perpetrator is called Malpuri—a term signifying a murderer by intent. Anybody convicted of millin is generally put to death by the relations of his victims on the first convenient opportunity. The avenger of blood is not very particular who is sacrificed to the desire for revenge; the brother of a guilty person is put to death in his stead without hesitation, if he comes in the way.
I should far exceed my proper limits were I to relate all the tales of adventures connected with millin which I have heard from the natives. I will, however, give a specimen or two:—About fifteen years ago a lad and girl, each of about thirteen years of age, were fetching wood for a white fisherman, who had encamped at Poingully. The greatest part of the tribe to which they belonged were absent at a fight at Piltangk, and only these two, with some old women, had been left at the wurley. In course of their work they had wandered off in search of wood some seven or eight hundred yards from the encampment. All on a sudden the lad discovered that they were being watched by two men, painted with white streaks, who were hiding behind some bushes. Well knowing their purpose, he pointed them out to the girl, and told her to run, at the same time setting her the example. The two fellows no sooner saw that they were perceived than they gave chase. The girl was overtaken and brought to the ground with the plongge by one of the pursuers. The other followed the boy, and nearly caught him; but he saved himself by catching up a stick and holding it with both hands up to the back of his head as he ran to ward off the expected blow, at the same time shouting to the white fisherman for help. Thus he succeeded in escaping, as the pursuer was afraid to approach too near the camp. When the lad arrived he entreated the old women to go in search of the girl, and after a short time they did so, and found her dead; the blow of the plongge had killed her.—A couple of blackfellows discovered that depredations had been made upon the fish which they kept in the usual enclosure, or fishpond, for the subsistence of themselves and families, so they concealed themselves in the neighbourhood, and watched [p.29] for the thief. They saw a man come down to the pond, and begin getting out fish. They made a dash at him, he ran, and one of them threw a barbed spear at him, which stuck in his leg, and stopped him. Pulling out the plongge they stunned him with it, and then operated on him in the usual manner with that instrument. After extracting the spear, probably by passing its whole length through the limb, they left him lying senseless on the lake shore. The next morning they found that he had gone away.
The belief in sorcery makes the Narrinyeri, as a people, less, bloodthirsty than they otherwise would be; for instead of exacting sanguinary vengeance for any injury, they are generally content to use the more secret means of revenge, which ngadhungi or millin affords. And I am certain, from my own observation, that so strong is their conviction of the deadly power of the latter, that any of them who became aware of its having been used upon them, would give themselves up to despair. This is especially true of the women.
On the other hand, although their belief in sorcery renders them less bloodthirsty, yet it has the baneful effect of making them careless of the natural causes of disease. They do not seem to recognise cold, or repletion, or unwholesome food, or contagion, as causes of sickness; and are not careful to use precautions for its prevention. It is enough for them to believe that ngadhungi has been burnt, or millin practised. And in them they find a sufficient cause for every disease, and what would render all precaution useless.
The Narrinyeri abhor the horrible practice of the upper river tribes of taking out the kidney fat of their living enemies.
SECTION III.—NEILYERI, OR THE POISON REVENGE.
There is a horrid method of seeking revenge prevalent amongst the Narrinyeri,
which is not witchcraft, but more deadly in its nature. It was introduced about
sixteen years ago from the
Upper Murray, and has no doubt been the means whereby [p.30]
many a life has been taken. It is called neilyeri. When a heathen native wants a
method of revenge he takes either a spear-head, a piece of bone (often human),
or else a piece of iron, sharpens it
to a keen point, and cuts it a convenient length, generally about six or eight
inches. He then sticks it into the fleshy part of a putrid corpse, and keeps it
there for some weeks. He then takes either a
bunch of spun hair, or feathers, and soaks them in the fat of a corpse extracted
for the purpose. In this he wraps up the point of the short dagger-like neilyeri,
and thus possesses himself of a most
deadly poisoned weapon. Let him only get near his enemy when he is asleep, and a
single prick with the neilyeri will cause him to be inoculated with the virus of
death, and he will be doomed to
horrible agonies and probably death. The effect is exactly the same as when a
surgeon, in dissecting a human body, scratches himself with his scalpel, and, as
we know, produces serious if not fatal
results, called blood poisoning.
The old natives are well acquainted with the virulent nature of the fluids of a corpse; and I have no doubt that they strenuously resist every attempt to make them bury their dead in order to retain this means of revenge in their hands.
I heard of a case some time ago of the practice of neilyeri. A native of Mundoo Island was sleeping in his wurley, when he suddenly felt something prick his foot. He jumped up and saw a man by his foot doing something, and immediately seized him. The fellow burst from his grasp, dropping a small sharp pocket knife as he did so, and escaped; but the assailed person could see in his hand the bunch of spun hair, containing the deadly poison. The intending murderer had pricked his victim a little too sharply with the knife and awoke him; if he had been more skilful he would have just raised the skin sufficiently to draw blood, and then gently dabbed the wound with the venom of death, and departed. Probably the victim would have lost either his leg or his life.
Neilyeri was not the invention of the Narrinyeri, it came from the upper river, but one can easily conceive how easily the old [p.31] natives would grasp it as a means of maintaining their reign of terror, now that the power of all sorceries is waning before the enlightenment of the young people. And they are dreadfully afraid of it; the mere pointing of the neilyeri at them makes them feel ill. I think this abominable practice ought to induce the authorities to put down the keeping of dead bodies with a strong hand. Without corpses there could be no neilyeri.
Each of the tribes of the Narrinyeri has its chief, whose title is Rupulle
(which means landowner), who is their leader in war, and whose person is
carefully guarded in battle by the warriors of his clan. The Rupulle is the negotiator and spokesman for the tribe in all
disagreements with other tribes; and his advice is sought on all occasions of
difficulty or perplexity. His authority is supported by the heads of families,
and he is expected always to reside on the hunting
grounds of the tribe. The Rupulle used to possess the right to divide the
animals taken in the chase amongst the other
heads of families, but this is seldom observed now. The chieftainship is not
hereditary, but elective. The deceased chief's brother, or second son, is quite
as eligible for the dignity as the eldest son,
if the heads of families prefer him. For instance, Peter, who is the Rupulle of
the Point Malcolm tribe, was not, I believe, the eldest son of his father, nor
yet the most warlike or athletic, but was
chosen by his tribe for his wisdom, moderation, and good temper. But it is not
always that a tribe exercises its power so discreetly.
When a dispute arises it is generally settled by the stronger party having their way. If it is doubtful which is the stronger, they have a fight with waddies till one or the other is beaten. But the most real authority exercised by the chief and his supporters is enforced by means of witchcraft. If any young men or women attempt a departure from the customs of their forefathers they are immediately threatened with ngadhungi, or millin, and this usually restrains them.
Ngia-ngiampe.—There appears to have existed a sort of traffic between the tribes on the Murray and those near the sea, and a [p.33] curious sort of provision is made for it, the object of which may be the securing of perfectly trustworthy agents to transact the business of the tribes—agents who will not by collusion cheat their employers and enrich themselves. The way in which this provision is made is as follows:—When a man has a child born to him he preserves its umbilical cord by tying it up in the middle of a bunch of feathers. This is called a kalduke. He then gives this to the father of a child or children belonging to another tribe, and those children are thenceforth ngia-ngiampe to the child from whom the kalduke was procured, and that child is ngia-ngiampe to them. From that time none of the children of the man to whom the kalduke was given may speak to their ngia-ngiampe, or even touch or go near him; neither must he speak to them. I know several persons who are thus estranged from each other, and have often seen them in ludicrous anxiety to escape from touching or going near their ngia-ngiampe. When two individuals who are in this position with regard to each other have arrived at adult age, they become the agents through which their respective tribes carry on barter. For instance, a Mundoo black-fellow who had a ngia-ngiampe belonging to a tribe a little distance up the Murray would be supplied with the particular articles, such as baskets, mats or rugs, manufactured by the Mundoo tribes to carry to his ngia-ngiampe, who, in exchange, would send the things made by his tribe. Thus a blackfellow, Jack Hamilton, who was speared at a fight at Teringe, once had a ngia-ngiampe in the Mundoo tribe. While he lived on the Murray he sent spears and plongges, i.e., clubs, down to his agent of the Mundoo blacks, who was also supplied with mats and nets and rugs to send up to him, for the purpose of giving them in exchange to the tribe to which he belonged.
The estrangement of the ngia-ngiampes seems to answer two purposes. It gives security to the tribes that there will be no collusion between their agents for their own private advantage, and also compels the two always to conduct the business through third parties. Sometimes two persons are made ngia-ngiampe to each other temporarily. This is done by dividing the kalduke [p.34] and giving one part to each of them. As long as they retain the pieces they are estranged from each other; but when the purpose for which this was done is accomplished, they return the pieces of the kalduke to the original owner, and then they may hold intercourse with each other again.
I do not, however, think that the natives know the real origin and meaning of this custom. I think it probable that it may have arisen from this circumstance. The natives never marry into their own lakalinyeri, or tribe. Nevertheless it often happens that those who belong to different lakalinyeris are too nearly related to be allowed to marry. Frequently, but not always, in such cases, the custom of ngia-ngiampe is observed, and such near relations are thus prevented from entering upon the marital relation with each other.
The form of government amongst the Narrinyeri was much more complete and regular
than would have been expected amongst such a barbarous people. They actually
have an institution which is
extremely like our trial by jury, and they have had it from time immemorial.
This they call the Tendi. It is the judgment council of the elders of the clan. Every clan has its tendi. The number of the tendi is not fixed; it appears to be regulated by the size of the clan; but it always consists of experienced elderly men. When any member of the tendi dies, the surviving members select a suitable man from the clan to succeed him. This council is presided over by the chief or rupulle of the clan. He is generally chosen for his ready speech, temper, and capacity for authority. The office is not hereditary but elective in the council itself. A seat in the tendi is called "tendi lewurmi," the judgment seat. All offenders are brought to this tribunal for trial. In case of the slaying by a person or persons of one clan of the member of another clan in time of peace, the fellow-clansmen of the murdered man will send to the friends of the murderer and invite them to bring him to trial before the united tendies. If, after [p.35] full inquiry, he is found to have committed the crime, he will be punished according to the degree of guilt. If it were a case of murder, with malice aforethought, he would be handed over to his own clan to be put to death by spearing. If it should be what we call manslaughter, he would receive a good thrashing, or be banished from his clan, or compelled to go to his mother's relations.
All cases of infraction of law or custom were tried thus. A common sentence for any public offence was so many blows on the head. A man was compelled to hold his head down to receive the stroke of the waddy, and would be felled like a bullock; then get up and take another and another, until it was a wonder how it was that his skull was not fractured.
It is this tendi which so often causes natives to leave work suddenly and mysteriously, and go off to some meeting of their people. An interesting trial is to come off, in which, perhaps, they are witnesses, or, at any rate, concerned. I have been at the tendi. I find the following entry in my journal:—
I went to the camp to-day. They were holding the tendi. There are about 200 natives here, and they were nearly all present. It appeared to be a united tendi of two clans which had met to settle some dispute. There were forty-six men present, who took part in the talking, either as councillors or witnesses, I suppose. The tendi took place at a distance from the camp, and was arranged in two parties all decently seated on the ground, opposite each other. On one side was our clan, with King Peter sitting in a very dignified manner at their head as president, and on the other was the Coorong clan, over whom old Minora presided. Several men of the Murray and Mundoo clans sat at the side, between the two parties, and joined in the discussion, apparently as amici curiæ, The matter under consideration was a case of suspected murder. The Point Malcolm clan were accusers, and the Coorong clan defendants. A young man had died under suspicious circumstances; the latter clan asserted the death to have been purely accidental, while the former brought forward witnesses who deposed to reasons for suspecting that certain men of the Coorong had been guilty [p.36] of foul play. I cannot give the natives credit for much order in their method of conducting business. There was a tremendous amount of talk. Sometimes one would speak, then half-a-dozen would all speak together in an excited and vociferous manner, then some friend would interject an exclamation. I could not make out the drift of the discussion. If it had been English it would have been bad enough, but in Native it was incomprehensible. I afterwards heard that the tendi broke up without any decision being arrived at.
I was told by a very trustworthy native a remarkable circumstance connected with the tendi, and the ideas of these people on the subject:—"An old man, the uncle of my informant, who was then a boy about ten years old, was very ill. This was some thirty-five years ago, and before the clan to which he belonged had any intercourse at all with Europeans. During the old man's illness he was assiduously attended by his friends, for he was much beloved. His nephew was continually at his bedside. At last death was manifestly approaching, and the sufferer was being supported in the arms of his friends, who expected every minute to be his last. As he lay there he pointed upwards to heaven and said in the Potauwallin dialect, 'Tand an amb Kiathangk waiithamb,'6 which is to say, 'My tendi—or judgment—is up there.' It was a remarkable recognition of a judgment to come, by one in heathen darkness. My informant, who is a believer in Jesus, said the words of the old man ever after stuck in his memory. He also said it was not uncommon to hear the aged men say that there was a tendi in the heavens for the spirits of those who died."
I am rather sorry that the tendi is not so potent as it used to be amongst the natives. It is still resorted to as an excellent means of discussing and disposing of difficulties, but its penalties cannot always be carried out. I have no doubt that men of the Narrinyeri have suffered imprisonment at the hands of the whites for carrying out the sentence of the tendi in cases where it awarded substantial justice against offenders.
SECTION II.—GAMES AND AMUSEMENTS.
The Narrinyeri dwell in a country where there has always been a stem necessity
to hunt for food. They have not, like the Polynesians, a country which produces
almost spontaneously a
subsistence for the inhabitants. Hence, the amusements of the Narrinyeri have
always consisted in practising those arts which were necessary to get a living.
They have practised spear and
boomerang throwing in order to gain expertness, so as to get game with more
certainty. They showed great dexterity in the use of the reed spear, or kaike;
the shaft of which is a stout reed, and the
point, about a foot long, of hard and heavy wood. It is thrown with a taralye or
throwing stick. I have known a man killed by one of these spears at ninety
yards, and the weapon passed through
his bark shield too. I have known one pass through a thick shield and take a
man's eye out. The principal amusement of youths formerly consisted in
The Narrinyeri have a game at ball. A number of men stand round, and one pitches the ball to another on the other side of the party, and those near try to catch it. The sport gives occasion to a great deal of wrestling and activity.
Another game is a sort of wrestling match for the possession of a bunch of feathers.
At night, what the whites call a corrobery, but which is called by the Narryinyeri, ringbalin, is the favourite amusement.
There are many kinds of corroberies, but the main thing in all of them is the song and dance. Skin rugs are rolled up tightly, and beaten by the fist, as they lie in front of the beater, who squats on the ground. These are called planggi, and the drumming is called plangkumbalin. The men knock two waddies together, these are called tartengk, and this practice is called tartembarrin. By these means they beat time to the song or chant. In most ringbalin only the men dance; the women sit on the ground and sing. The songs are sometimes harmless, and the dances not indecent; but at other times [p.38] the songs will consist of the vilest obscenity. I have seen dances which were the most disgusting displays of obscene gesture possible to be imagined, and although I stood in the dark alone, and nobody knew that I was there, I felt ashamed to look upon such abominations. There are also war dances. I have felt the ground almost tremble with the measured tramp of some hundreds of excited men just before a fight. The dances of the women are very immodest and lewd. The men sit and sing, and the women dance. In Cobbin's Family Bible is a picture, at Luke vii. 32, of the dance of Egyptian women. If it had been drawn for a dance of Narrinyeri women it could not have been more exact. The corrobery of the natives is not necessarily a religious observance; there is nothing of worship connected with it. It is used as a charm to frighten away disease, and also in some ceremonies, but its real character is only that of a song and a dance.
I have often been asked for one of the corrobery songs, and a translation of it. It is exceedingly difficult to get. Their songs consist principally of words descriptive of incidents of travel or hunting or war. I never heard of one which was not of this character. A party will go to the country of another tribe; then one of them, who has the talent, will make up a song, descriptive of what they saw, and the adventures which happened to them. This will be learnt by the others; and they will sing it at the first corrobery in the tribe. At other times a hunting adventure will form the subject of such a song, and, having been learnt, will be sung. Once, when I was coming up in the boat from Goolwa, Captain Jack kept on singing. I asked him what he was singing. He replied about that turkey upon the front of the house at the Goolwa. On making more particular inquiry I found that the said turkey was the gilt figure-head of a ship, representing an eagle, which had been saved from a wreck and fastened up over a shop front in that township. This had attracted the attention of my native friends; and so Captain Jack had set himself to make a song about it, and succeeded in constructing a ditty, which, after a line or two descriptive, broke [p.39] out in a chorus—"the turkey at the Goolwa, the turkey at the Goolwa!"
The following is a song in native:—
Puntin Narrinyerar Puntin Narrinyerar O, O, O
Puntin Narrinyerar O, O, O, O, O
Yun terpulani ar
Tuppun an wangamar
Tyiwewar ngoppun ar O, O, O, O
Puntin Narrinyerar, &c.
Translated this is—"The Narrinyeri are coming, soon they will appear, carrying kangaroos, quickly they are walking."
A NATIVE SONG OR CORROBERY,
On "The Railway Train."
Werentou nar a lew a Kapunda,
Yung in al in a kawil,
Yreyin tyiwewar. Kuldi nrottulun
Pumpundathun tyiwewang a rang taltammolun.
You see the smoke at Kapunda,
The steam puffs regularly.
Showing quickly, it looks like frost,
It runs like running water,
It blows like a spouting whale.
The above is a very imperfect attempt to render the corrobery in English. The idea of the composition seems to be, first to describe the subject, then in the course of the song to multiply descriptive adjectives giving a vivid idea of the scene, and also to throw in any comparisons which may be illustrative, and the whole with abundant interjections of wonder, and gesticulations.
Weapons—Manufactures—Taking Game—Cooking—Diseases—Medical Treatment.
The productions of a barbarous people are always scanty in quantity and inferior
in quality; but they are interesting, and often direct our attention to
materials which would probably be otherwise
overlooked in our plenitude of resources, but which the necessities of the
uncivilised have led them to search out for themselves.
Each tribe of the Narrinyeri has been accustomed to make those articles which their tract of country enabled them to produce most easily. One tribe will make weapons, another mats, and a third nets; and then they barter them one with the other.
They make their weapons from the hard wood which grows in their country. Heavy spears generally come from the Upper Murray natives, and are highly valued. They are made of the hard and elastic miall wood, and are formidable weapons. Some of the spears made by the Narrinyeri are barbed with spicules of flint. They are called meralkaipari, or deadly spears. The commonest spear is the kaike, or reed spear. It is made by fastening a point of hard, heavy wood, about two feet long, to a shaft formed of a stout reed, or else a dried grasstree stick (Xanthorrhoea), called nglaiye. This spear is thrown with the hooked taralye, or throwing stick. I have seen it pierce a dead tree so deeply that it took a very strong pull to extract the point from the wood. Their shields are made of wood or bark of the red gum tree. Their clubs are of wood. The patience exhibited in the cutting of some of them with their rude implements is wonderful.
They make canoes of the bark of the red gum tree stripped off in large sheets.
These sheets are laid on the ground and the sides and ends encouraged to curl up
to the proper shape while it is
drying by being tied with cords strained from side to side and end to end, and
stones are placed in the bottom. But these bark canoes, although handy when new,
soon get sodden and break. They
seldom last more than twelve months.
The Narrinyeri make fishing lines and twine from two kinds of fibre. One is a blue rush which grows in the scrub; the other is the root of a flag or bulrush which grows in fresh water, and is called menungkeri. The rushes or roots are first of all either boiled or steamed in the native oven, and then chewed by the women. A party of them will sit round the fire and masticate the fibrous material by the hour. While they do so, the masses of fibre which have been chewed are handed to the men who sit by, and they work it up, by twisting it on the thigh into hanks of twine, either stout or fine, according to the purpose to which it is to be applied. Others receive the twine as fast as it is made, and make it into nets. They wind the twine on a short stick, which is used as the netting needle. The only measure of the size of the mesh is the finger of the netter, and yet their nets are wonderfully regular. The stitch is exactly the same as ours, but it is taken over and towards the netter instead of under as we do. They make lengths of this net about four feet wide, and tie straight sticks of mallee across it to keep it open, then a number of lengths are tied together end to end, and it is used for catching fish or moulting ducks in the usual way. Most of the wild fowl on the lakes are unable to fly in the moulting season; they then betake themselves to the reeds. A net is put by the natives round a clump of reeds, beaters are sent in to drive out the ducks, which rush into the nets and are captured by scores.
The Narrinyeri were not acquainted with fishing by means of hooks before the white man came. They soon learned to appreciate this method, and made native lines to use with European [p.42] fishhooks. Fish are also caught with the three-pronged fishing spear. This weapon is a slender pole, about fourteen feet long, with three points of sharp bone lashed to its top with twine. Every native carries one in his canoe. The men are very expert in the use of them. They are used in much the same way as our eel spear. A man will stand in a canoe silently watching with uplifted spear until a fish comes beneath, when the weapon is darted down on its back, and it is lifted transfixed from the water.
Wild fowl are caught by means of a long wand with a noose at the end. A native lurks silently amongst the reeds with this in his hand. It looks like a reed. It is slipped over the head of the first unsuspecting duck or other water fowl which comes near enough, and it is dragged to its captor.
The reed spear, before guns were introduced, was employed with considerable effect against the dense flocks of widgeon (native, punkeri) which abound on the lakes. The natives would send the spear into the flying flock and transfix the birds as they flew crowded together. In this manner they killed many.
Before the coming of the whites the natives never had any hot water, because
they had nothing to boil it in. Their vessels at that time were the shells of
the fresh water tortoise (emya), human
skulls with the sutures stopped up with a resinous gum called pitchingga, also
the skins of small species of kangaroo, such as wallabies, stripped from the
animal and made into a skin bottle.
Their method of cooking was either by roasting on the embers, which they do very nicely, and, where they are clean people, very cleanly; and steaming in the native oven. The oven is used in the following manner:—A large fire is made, and into it is thrown lumps of stone about three inches in diameter. Then a hole is made in the ground and a fire kindled in it, which is suffered to burn down to glowing embers. Then the pieces of heated stone are placed on the embers in such a way as to secure a pretty level surface. On the top of this green grass is laid, [p.43] then upon the grass the animal or meat to be cooked, more grass is heaped on the meat, then more hot stones on top of that, and then over all is placed a quantity of earth or sand. As the cooking goes on a smooth pointed stick will be thrust down through to reach the lowest hot stones without touching the food, and then withdrawn; water is then poured into the hole made by the stick to increase the steam below. When the food is supposed to be cooked, the top earth is carefully taken away, then the stones and grass, and there is the meat. I can assure the reader that the savoury smell of meat cooked thus is most appetizing.
The only sweets which the Narrinyeri knew of, before the advent of Europeans, were the honey of the native honeysuckle or Banksia, the honey of the grasstree flowers (Xanthorrhoea), and the manna which falls from the peppermint gum (Eucalyptus); these they used to gather carefully, and infuse them in water, and drink the infusion with great enjoyment.
The Narrinyeri make a great many mats and baskets of different kinds. Most of them are made of rushes, worked together with a sort of stitch. Baskets and mats of various shapes are thus produced. Another kind of mat is made of the bark of the mallee scrub, dried and beaten into a fibrous mass. This is worked together with meshes, and makes a thick durable mat. Sometimes a quantity of the shaggy sea weed, which is found on the shore, is washed in fresh water and dried, and worked into the mat, forming a sort of shaggy nap. Such a mat would be used as a bed.
The Aborigines obtain a great many skins of wild animals, and put them out on the ground until they are dry. Kangaroo and other large skins are used in this state as mats to keep off the damp when camping on damp ground. Opossum skins, after they are dried, are carefully scraped, then scored across the fleshy side with a sharp stone or shell to make them flexible, and, after being cut into squares, sewn together with the small sinews of a kangaroo's tail, and an excellent warm rug is produced. Now-a-days common European thread is used to sew the skins together, but the rugs are not so durable.
The principal diseases to which these tribes of Aborigines are subject are of a
scrofulous nature. The tendency to tuberculosis is seen in childhood in the form
of tabes mesenterica, and sometimes
of hydrocephalus. Towards the age of puberty it is developed as pulmonary
consumption. Sometimes it is carried off before the age of puberty by induration
and ulceration of the glands of the
neck. The above are the most fatal diseases amongst the Narrinyeri; the majority
of deaths are caused by them. The other diseases to which they are subject are
liver complaint, diarrhoea and
dysentery, and, rarely, brain fever. I have never known a case of intermittent
fever amongst them. Of course they are subject to inflammation of the bowels,
kidneys, liver, lungs, and throat. They
have amongst them a skin disease, which they call wirrullume; it resembles
pustular itch,7 but it is not communicable to Europeans; even half-castes seldom
have it, although they may sleep with
persons suffering from it The application of sulphur is a specific against the
wirrullume. I have never known a native to have the measles.8 This disease has
at different times prevailed amongst
the whites, but the blacks, although constantly about the dwellings of those
labouring under it, never caught it. This is remarkable when we remember what
devastation this disease caused in the
islands of Polynesia. I have never known a case of scarlatina amongst the
Aborigines, although it was very prevalent some years ago amongst the whites;
and I have reason to believe that a great
deal of clothing from houses infected by the disease was given to the natives.
The natives are very subject to epidemic influenza, which they call nruwi.
They have a tradition that some sixty years ago a terrible disease came down the River Murray, and carried off the natives [p.45] by hundreds. This must have been small-pox, as many of the old people now have their faces pitted who suffered from the disease in childhood. The destruction of life was so great as to seriously diminish the tribes. The natives always represent that before this scourge arrived they were much more numerous. They say that so many died that they could not perform the usual funereal rites for the dead, but were compelled to bury them at once out of the way. I think that there must have been more than one visitation of this kind, judging from the age of those who are pock-marked.9 The Narrinyeri attribute all diseases to witchcraft; consequently they employ as remedies certain countercharms. A man will mutter a sort of incantation over a diseased person for the purpose of dispelling the malignant influence from which he is suffering. There are amongst the natives certain men who claim to be doctors. Their method of treatment is partly by incantations, mutterings, tappings, and blowings; and parly by vigorous squeezing and kneading of the affected part. The doctor will kneel upon his patient, and squeeze him until he groans with the infliction. This is supposed to press out the wiwini or disease. In cases of rheumatism they employ a sort of vapour bath which is prepared as follows:—They make a fire, and heat stones, as if for cooking; then they make a sort of stage with sticks, and the patient is put thereon Under the stage they put some of the hot stones, and, having first covered up the sick person with rugs, all but his head, and closed in the place where the hot stones are in the same way, they put wet water-weed on the stone, and the steam ascends under the rugs and envelopes the body of the patient. This method of cure is often found very effectual.10
But their methods of treating the sick often appear to us very absurd. I have felt amused and yet sorry when going to the [p.46] wurley to see a sick youth, perhaps, and to find his grey-bearded old father, stark naked, performing a solemn dance before his son, singing and beating time with the tartengk. I have known an old native keep it up for an hour, and, of course, feel convinced that he had done wonders towards restoring his boy to health.
There used to be a class of doctors amongst the natives called kuldukke men. They were great impostors; their impositions and lying became notorious around the lakes. Their method of procedure was by dancing, whistling, incantations, and squeezing the diseased part. They used by sleight-of-hand to produce extraordinary substances from those parts which were afflicted. I knew a white man who for a joke submitted himself to the kuldukkes, in order to cure an attack of rheumatism in the shoulder. The doctors muttered charms, and whistled, and blew, and danced, and at last produced a small piece of the leg of an old chair, which had been kicking about in the back yard for weeks before, and solemnly declared that they had extracted it from the diseased shoulder. These kuldukkes soon ceased to exert influence amongst the natives, and their practice has died out. One circumstance which contributed to this result was the following:—There was an intelligent native at Goolwa, named Solomon. He used to be regularly employed by settlers in that neighbourhood. One day Solomon went to work after breakfast, leaving instructions with his wife to make a couple of dampers for their dinner. This was soon accomplished, and two dampers and a small cake awaited the return of their owner to his mid-day meal. Just then a lot of kuldukke men passed the hut, and looked in rather inquisitively. Presently they told Solomon's wife, who was known to be a superstitious body, that they could see a spirit, the dreadful Melapi, coming across the ocean, and that he would be certain to hurt her husband unless he were driven away. This they offered to do by their enchantments if she would give them one of those dampers. The poor foolish woman believed their story, and one of the dampers was soon devoured. The kuldukkes then began dancing, whistling, point- [p.47] ing spears, and muttering charms in a very energetic manner. In a quarter of an hour they came and said that their strength was insufficient, and that they must have another damper. With a sigh the wife handed over a second fee. They then danced about still more vigorously, and made demonstrations which might fairly be supposed sufficient to frighten a demon; and then they came and told the woman that the mighty deed was done, her husband was safe, the evil spirit had departed; and then they rapidly followed his example. Just then Solomon appeared in sight, ready for dinner. Extremely long was the face which he pulled when he heard the story, and found there was only a very small cake remaining for his meal. With a deeply injured expression, he said to his wife, "What for, you big one stupid, let em kuldukke men cheat you? Him no look out Melapi, him only look out my dinner."
It is remarkable that the Narrinyeri have no idea of poison. Unlike some other Australian tribes they know nothing of any poisonous herbs or plants. They were very much astonished when Europeans showed them how death could be produced by something taken into the stomach; they had never known any person killed in this way before.
The firm opinion of all natives appears to be that death is not natural to man, but is always produced by sorcery.11
For many years I had been aware that the system of relationships amongst the Aborigines was different from ours, and had prepared a table of degrees of kinship: but I had not arranged them into a system. Some few months ago I received the following information in a circular, from the Rev. Lorimer Fison, of Victoria:—
Sydney, March 6th, 1871.
Sir,—About twenty years ago Mr. Lewis H. Morgan, of Rochester, New York,
discovered among the Iroquois Indians an elaborate system of kinship widely
differing from ours. Subsequent
extensive inquiries carried on by this gentleman, under the auspices of the
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, U.S., disclosed the astonishing fact that
this complicated system is in use not only
among all the North American Indian tribes, but also among the Tamil and Telugu
peoples of Southern India, who number some twenty-eight millions.
Having made inquiries among the Fijians and the Friendly Islanders, at the instance of Professor Goldwin Smith, of the Cornell University, I found the system prevailing among all their tribes, and have moreover lately met with unmistakable traces thereof among the aborigines of Queensland.
The chief peculiarities of the Tamilian system may be briefly stated as follows:—
1. I being male, the children of my brothers are my sons and daughters, while the children of my sisters are my nephews and nieces; but the grandchildren of my sisters, as well as those of my brothers, are my grandchildren.
2. I being a female, the children of my sisters are my sons and daughters, while the children of my brothers are my nephews and nieces; but the grandchildren of my brothers, as well as those of my sisters, are my grandchildren.
3. All my father's brothers are my fathers, but all my father's sisters are my aunts.
4. All my mother's sisters are my mothers, but all my mother's brothers are my uncles.
5. The children of my father's brothers are my brothers and sisters, so also are the children of my mother's sisters; but the children of my father's sisters and those of my mother's brothers are my cousins.
6. I being male, the children of my male cousins are my nephews and nieces, but the children of my female cousins are my sons and daughters.
[Note,—These relationships are reversed in the North American Indian system, and this is the only important point whereon that system differs from the Tamil,]
7. All the brothers of my grandfathers and those of my grandmothers are my grandfathers: all their sisters are my grandmothers.
8. There is one term for my elder and another for my younger brother; be also for my sisters, elder or younger. Hence there is no collective term by which I can indicate all my brothers, or all my sisters, unless I be either the eldest or the youngest of the family.
Upon reading this it was at once suggested to me that here was the key to the
system of relationships among the Narrinyeri. Upon referring to my table, drawn
up years before, and also making
inquiry amongst the most intelligent natives, I found that their system agreed
with the Tamilian in most particulars.12
The following is the system of relationship amongst the Narrinyeri:—
1. I being male, the children of my brothers are my sons and daughters, the same as my own children are; while the children of my sisters are my nephews and nieces. The grandchildren of my brothers are called maiyarare; while the grandchildren of my sisters are called mutthari.
2. I being female, the children of my sisters are my sons and daughters, the same as my own sons and daughters are; while the children of my brothers are my nephews and nieces; consequently it is common to hear a native address as nanghy, or my father, the man who is his fathers brother, as well as his own father; and as nainkowa, or my mother, the woman who is his mother's sister, as well as his own mother.
3. All my father's brothers are my fathers, but all my father's sisters are my aunts. But my father's elder brothers have the distinguishing title of ngoppano, and his younger have the title wyatte. These terms would be used in the presence of my own father. The name for aunt is bamo.
4. All my mother's sisters are my mothers, but all my mother s brothers are my uncles. Wanowe is the word for uncle.
5. The children of my father's brothers are my brothers and sisters, and so are the children of my mothers sisters; but the children of my father's sisters, and those of my mother's brothers, are my cousins. The word for cousin is nguyanowe.
6. I being male, the children of my male and female cousins are called by the same name as the grandchildren of my sisters, mutthari.
7. The brothers of my grandfathers, and those of my grandmothers, and also their sisters, are my grandfathers and grandmothers. Whatever title my father's father has, his brothers have; and so of the sisters of my mother's mother.
8. My elder brother is called geianowe, and my younger brother is called tarte. My elder sister is called maranowe, and my younger sister is called tarte. There is no collective term by which I can designate all my brothers and sisters, whether older or younger than myself.
9. The Narrinyeri make a difference in the termination of relationships, according as they are used in the first, second, or third person. Thus:—
Nanghai, is my father.
Ngaiowe, your father.
Yikowalle, his father.
Nainkowa, my mother.
Ninkuwe, your mother.
Narkowalle, his mother.
Geianowe, my elder brother.
Gelauwe, your elder brother.
Gelauwalle, his elder brother.
Maranowe, my elder sister.
Marauwe, your elder sister.
Marauwalle, his elder sister.
Generally the difference in the terminations is nowe for my,
auwe for your, and
walle for his or hers.
A father and child, when spoken of together, are called retulengk; mother and child, ratulengk.
10. The Narrinyeri have words which signify bereaved persons answering to our words widow and widower.
A widower, is Bandi.
A widow, Yortangi.
One bereaved of a child, Mainmaiyari.
One bereaved of a brother or sister, Muntyuli.
These particulars may not be very interesting, but they are important as
indications of the race to which the Aborigines [p.51]
belong. They are also proofs of the precision and nicety of expression to be
found in their language.
The general scheme of relationship being the same as the Tamil and Telugu races in Southern India would go far to make us believe that the Australian Aborigines originally came from India. There seems a probability that their original seats were the East India Islands and the Malayan peninsula, and that they were dispossessed and driven southwards by the Malays; even as the Aboriginal races of India were dispossessed by the invasion of the Aryan tribes.
The subject of relationship is nearly allied to that of names of persons. The Aboriginal method of naming possesses some peculiarities.
A child receives a name as soon as it can walk, to name it earlier is considered unlucky. The name is generally significant of the place of birth, as Rilgewal, one born at a place called Rilge. A name is by no means permanent. A new name will be given on some particular occasion, such as arriving at manhood. Names are dropped and new ones taken if a person bearing the name happens to die. It is also very common for a mother or father to bear the name of a child. This is effected by adding the termination ami for father, or anikke for mother, to the name of the child. For instance, Koolmatinye ami is the father of Koolmatinyeri; and Koolmatinye anikke is the mother of Koolmatinyeri.
The following are significant names of men and women:—
Ngiampinyeri—Belonging to the back or loins.
Maratinyeri—Belonging to emptiness.
Waldaninyeri—Belonging to summer.
There are also dual names borne by single persons, all females; Pombinga,
Property always descends from father to son. A brothers property always is transmitted to the brother's children, in cases where he dies without children of his own.
TABLE OF RELATIONSHIPS.
Description of Relationship.
My father's brother
My mother ...
My mother's sister ...
My father's second wife
My father's sister
My mother's brother's wife
My mother's brother
My father's sister's husband
My son or daughter
My brother's children
My granddaughter ...
My brother's grandson
My brother's granddaughter
My father's brother's son's son ...
My father's brother's son's daughter
My elder sister
My father's brother's daughter (if older than myself)
My mother's sister's daughter (if older than myself)
The relations last mentioned (if younger than myself), also my younger sister...
My elder brother
My father's brother's son
My mother's sister's son
My younger brother and the relations last mentioned (if younger than myself)
My younger brother's son
My brother's daughter
My elder brother's son
My son's wife
My brother's son's wife
My daughter's husband
My brother's daughter's husband
My wife's father
My niece's husband
My sister's son (I being a male) ...
My mother's sister's grandchildren
My sister's daughter
My father's brother's daughter's daughter
My niece's husband (I being a male)
My sister's son (I being a female) ...
My sister's daughter (I being a female)...
I being a female:—
My brother's son
My brother's daughter
My mother's sister's son's sons and daughters... ...
Nanghari, addressed as Ung
My child (I being a male)
My grandchild (I being a male)
My younger sitter
My elder brother
My younger brother
(A title to distinguish them from my own children)
My daughter-in-law. They call me the same
A reciprocal term by which a father-in-law and a son-in-law address each other
A term for a nephew or niece of this kindred
A term to distinguish them from my own children
A nephew or niece of this kindred
Description of Relationship.
|I being a male:—
My sister's son's wife
My sister's grandson
My sister's granddaughter (I being female) ... ...
My sister's grandson (I being a female)
My sister's granddaughter
My father's sister's son's wife (I being either male or female)
My mother's brother's son's wife...
My mother's brother's son's son ...
My mother's brother's son's daughter
My mother's brother's daughter's son
My mother's brother's daughter's daughter
My mother's brother's child
My father's sister's son
My father's sister's daughter
My father's brother's daughter's husband (also my son's daughter's husband)
My father's sister's daughter's husband
My mother's sister's daughter's husband
My wife's brother
My mother's brother's daughter's husband
My mother's sister's son's wife
My father's brother's son's wife
My sister's son's wife (I being a male)
A woman's brother's wife ...
My wife's sister's husband
My wife's sister
My father's father
My father's father's brother
My father's father's sister
My father's mother
Her brother ...
My mother's father
My mother's mother
I being a female:—
My daughter's child
I being a female:—
Also (I being a male) my wife's mother
This is nearest term we have in English
A reciprocal term. No equivalent in English
The following are the words for relationships in Tamil, according to the Rev. E. C. Scudder, of Vellore; Rev. Miron Winslow, D.D., of Madras; Rev. Wm, Tracey, of Madura; and Rev. Mr. Symons, of Bangalore, South India:—
My father—En takappan.
My father's elder brother—En periya takappan (great father).
My father's younger brother—En seriya takappan (little father).
My father's sister—En attal
My father's sister's son, older than myself (I being a male)—En attan, or maitunan.
My father's sister's son, older than myself (I being a female)—En machchan.
My father's sister's son younger than myself (I being a male)—En attan, or maitunan.
My father's sister's son, younger than myself (I being a female)—En machchan.
My mother—Ed. tay.
My mother's elder sister—Ed. periya tay.
My mother's younger sister—En seriya tay.
My mother's brother—Ed. maman. His wife—En mame.
My mother's brother's son—En maitunan.
My mother's brother's daughter—Maittuni, or (I being a female) macchari
My father's father—Ed paddan.
My mother's mother—Ed paddi.
My grandson—En peran. My granddaughter—En pertti.
My elder brother (I being a male or female)—En tamaiyan, or annan.
My elder sister (according as the speaker is male or female)—En akkari, or tammakay.
My younger brother—Ed tambL My younger sister—En tangaichi, or tangay.
My brothers (the speaker being a male)—En annan tambi mar.
My brothers (the speaker being a female)—En sakotherar.
My sisters (the speaker being a male)—En tamakay tangay mar.
My sisters (I being a female)—Ehi sakothackal.
A man's brother's children are his sons and daughters.
A man's sister's children are his nephews and nieces.
The Narrinyeri call the Supreme Being by two names, Nurundere and Martummere. He
is said to have made all things on the earth, and to have given to men the
weapons of war and hunting.
Nurundere instituted all the rites and ceremonies which are practised by the
Aborigines, whether connected with life or death. On inquiring why they adhere
to any custom, the reply is, because
Nurundere commanded it. On one occasion I had an instance of this. I was out
with the tribe on a great kangaroo hunt, at which about 150 natives were
present. On reaching the hunting-ground, a
wallaby, which had been killed on the road thither, was produced, and a fire
kindled by the women. Then the men, standing round, struck up a sort of chant,
at the same time stamping with their
feet. The wallaby was put on the fire, and as the smoke from it ascended, the
hunters, at a concerted signal, rushed towards it, lifting their weapons towards
heaven, and making a loud shout in
chorus. I afterwards learned that this ceremony was instituted by Nurundere, and
it appeared to me very much like a sacrifice to the god of hunting. I have
several times seen it performed since.
Although the natives say that Nurundere made all things, and that he now lives in Wyirrewarre, yet they tell many ridiculous traditions about his doings when he inhabited the earth, as he is at one time said to have done.
He is represented to have been a great hunter, and there were contemporary with him two other remarkable hunters named Nepelle and Wyungare. According to the natives they must have been a mighty race, and the game which they pursued gigantic, for the salt lagoons are the places where Wyungare and Nepelle used to peg out the skins of the immense kangaroos which they killed, and thus denuded them of grass. A mound [p.56] on the Peninsula is still pointed out as the remains of the hut of Wyungare.
Once upon a time, it is said, that Nurundere and Nepelle together pursued an enormous fish in Lake Alexandrina, near Tipping.13 Nepelle caught it, then Nurundere tore it in pieces, and threw the fragments into the water, and each piece became a fish, and thus pohde, tarke, tukkeri, and pommere, different kinds of fish, had their origin. But another sort of fish, tinuwarre (called bream by the whites), was produced in a different manner. Nurundere went to Tulurrug, and there finding some flat stones, he threw them into the Lake, and they became tinuwarre.
Wyungare was a personage who had no father but only a mother. He resided at Rauwoke with his parent, and was narumbe from his infancy, that is, he was made a red man, or kaingani, and was a mighty hunter of kangaroos. Once he was amongst the reeds at Oulawar, drinking water by drawing it up with a reed from the Lake, and Nepelle's two wives passing by saw him, admired his handsome form, and fell in love with him. So they seized the first opportunity to visit his hut, and finding that he was asleep, they made a noise with their feet outside, like two emus running past, and awoke the hunter, who jumped up and ran out expecting to see some game. The two women met him with a shout of laughter, and throwing their arms round him, begged him to take them for his wives, to which he willingly consented. Of course Nepelle was very angry with all parties concerned at being treated so scandalously, and sought them at the hut of Wyungare,14 but they were all absent, so he put fire in the hut, and told it to wait until Wyungare and the two women slept, and then to get up and bum them. In the evening they returned from hunting, [p.57] and laid down and slept. They were soon awakened by the flames of the burning hut, and rushed out of it, but the fire pursued them. For miles they ran along the shore of the Lake, chased by the vengeful element, until they reached Lowanyeri, plunged themselves in the mud of the swamp there, and the fire was unable to reach them. Afraid of the implacable hatred displayed by Nepelle, Wyungare sought a means of escape. He determined to effect this by going up to Wyirrewarre to live there. So he tied a line to a spear, and hurled it at the heavens. It stuck in, and he proceeded to haul upon it for the purpose of raising himself, but found it would not hold, for it was unbarbed. Then he took a barbed spear and repeated the experiment, this time with success, for it held firmly in the sky, and by means of the line attached to it, he pulled himself up, and afterwards the two women. Three stars are still pointed out as Wyungare and his wives. He is said to sit up there and fish for men with a fishing-spear, and when people start in their sleep it is thought to be because he touches them with the point of his weapon. Before his ascent it is related that he took a gigantic kangaroo and tore it in pieces, and scattered the fragments through the scrub, and they became the comparatively small kangaroos which exist now.
To return to the adventures of Nurundere. He had four children by his two wives. Once when he dwelt at Tulurrug two of his children strayed away into the scrub to the eastward, and were lost. Soon afterwards his two wives ran away from him. He pursued them, in company with his remaining children, to Encounter Bay, and there, seeing them at a distance, he exclaimed in anger, "Let the waters arise and drown them." So the waters arose in a terrible flood, and swept over the hills with fury, and, overtaking the fugitives, they were overwhelmed and drowned. At this time Nepelle lived at Rauwoke, and the flood was so great that he was obliged to pull his canoe to the top of the hill (that is Point Macleay); from thence it was transported to Wyirrewarre; the dense part of the milky way is said to be the canoe of Nepelle floating in the heavens. [p.58] Then its owner, by using the same means as Wyungare had done, ascended thither also.
Then Nurundere went up the Coorong in search of his two lost children. At Salt Creek he met with a blackfellow sitting by a fire. This man by some kind of sorcery endeavoured to detain Nurundere from proceeding on his way, at which Nurundere was angry, and they fought. He speared Nurundere in the thigh; but he laughed at the wound, and said it would not hurt him, and in return speared the blackfellow through the body and killed him. Afterwards Nurundere heard a noise in the bush which was near, and upon searching it, found his two lost children, who had been hidden there by the blackfellow whom he had slain.
After these things Nurundere went to Wyirrewarre, taking his children with him.15 The Narrinyeri always mention his name with reverence. I never heard them use it lightly or with levity; and if he invented such clever weapons as the taralye or throwing stick, and the panketye or boomerang, and the curved club called marpangye, I think he deserves their respectful recollection. My own opinion is that he is a deified chief, who has lived at some remote period. The natives regard thunder as the angry voice of Nurundere, and the rainbow as also a production of his.
The legends of Nurundere are fast fading from the memory of the Aborigines. The young people know very little about them, and it is only from the old people that the particulars of them can be obtained.
The following are some legends related by the Rev. H. A. Meyer, in a pamphlet on the manners and customs of the [p.59] Encounter Bay Tribe of Narrinyeri (the Raminyerar), published in 1846. These traditions were much better remembered amongst the natives then than now, and consequently this account is very trustworthy. The above legends were collected by myself eighteen years ago.
Meyer says of the Narrinyeri—
"They do not appear to have any story of the origin of the world; but nearly
all animals they suppose anciently to have been men who performed great
prodigies, and at last transformed themselves
into different kinds of animals and stones. Thus the Raminjerar point out
several large stones or points of rock along the beach whose sex and name they
distinguish. One rock, they say, is an old
man named Lime, upon which women and children are not allowed to tread; but old
people venture to do so from their long acquaintance with him. They point out
his head, feet, hands, and also
his hut and fire. For my part, I could see no resemblance to any of these things
except the hut. The occasion upon which he transformed himself was a follows:—A friend of his, Palpangye, paid
him a visit, and brought him some tinwarrar (a kind of fish). Lime enjoyed them
very much, and regretted that there were no rivers in the neighbourhood that he
might catch them himself, as they
are a river fish. Palpangye went into the bush and fetched a large tree, and,
thrusting it into the ground in different places, water immediately began to
flow and formed the Inman and Hindmarsh
rivers. Lime, out of gratitude, gave him some kanmari (small sea fish), and
transformed himself into a rock, the neighbourhood of which has ever since
abounded in this kind of fish. Palpangye
became a bird, and is frequently near the rivers. The steep hill and large ponds
at Mootabarringar were produced by the dancing of their forefathers at that
place. At the present time it is
customary for two hundred or three hundred natives to meet together at their
dances (or corrobbories, as they are called by the whites). At sunset a fire is
made to give light. The women sit apart,
with skins rolled up and held between the knees, upon which they beat time. The
young men are ornamented after their fashion with a tuft of emu feathers in the
hair; and those who are not painted red ornament themselves with chalk by making circles round the eyes, a
stroke along the nose, and dots upon the forehead and cheeks, while the rest of
the body is covered with fanciful
figures. One commences singing, and if all cannot join (for the songs are
frequently in a different language, taken from some distant tribe) he commences
another song. If the song is known of all,
the women scream or yell out at the top of their voices, and the men commence a
grotesque kind of dance, which to us appears sufficiently ridiculous and
amusing. It is upon an occasion like this
that they represent their ancestors to have been assembled at Mootabarringar.
Having no fire, this dance was held in the daytime, and the weather being very
hot the perspiration flowed copiously
from them and formed the large ponds, and the beating of their feet upon the
ground produced the irregularities of surface in the form of the hills and
valleys. They sent messengers, Kuratje and
Kanmari, towards the east to Koodole to invite him to the feast, as they knew
that he possessed fire. Kondole, who was a large, powerful man, came, but hid
his fire, on account of which alone
he had been invited. The men, displeased at this, determined to obtain the fire
by force, but no one ventured to approach him. At length one named Rilballe
determined to wound him with a
spear and then take the fire from him. He threw [p.60]
the spear and wounded him in the neck. This caused a great laughing and
shouting, and nearly all were transformed into different animals. Kondole ran to
the sea and became a whale, and ever
after blew the water out of the wound which he received in his neck. Kuratje and
Kamnari became small fish. The latter was dressed in a good kangaroo skin, and
the former only a mat made of
seaweed, which is the reason, they say, that the kamnari contains a great deal
of oil under the skin, while the kuratje is dry and without fat. Others became
opossums, and went up trees. The young
men who were ornamented with tufts of feathers became cockatoos, the tuft of
feathers being the crest. Rilballe took Kondole's fire and placed it in the
grass-tree, where it still remains, and can be brought out by rubbing.16
"They tell a number of other stories concerning the origin of the sea, heat, &c., but it will suffice to mention the cause of the rain and the origin of languages.
"Near the Goolwa lived an old man named Kortuwe with his two friends, Munkari and Waingilbe. The latter, who were considerably younger than Kortuwe, went out fishing, and as they caught kuratje and kamnari they put the kuratje, which are not so good as the kanmari, aside for Kortuwe. The old man, perceiving this, commenced a song, Annajeranangh rotjer tampatjeranangk (in the Encounter Bay dialect it would be Ngannang kurclijee tampin—for me they put aside the kuratje), upon which rain began to fall. Kortuwe then went into his hut, and closed it with bushes, and Munkari and Waingilbe were obliged to remain outside and got wet as a punishment. The three were transformed into birds, and as often as Kortuwe makes a noise it is a sign that man will soon follow.
"Languages originated from an ill-tempered old woman. In remote time an old woman named Wurruri lived towards the east, and generally walked with a large stick in her hand to scatter the fires round which others were sleeping. Wurruri at length died. Greatly delighted at this circumstance, they sent messengers in all directions to give notice of her death. Men, women, and children came, not to lament, but to show their joy. The Raminjerar were the first, who fell upon the corpse and began eating the flesh, and immediately began to speak intelligibly. The other tribes to the eastward, arriving later, ate the contents of the intestines, which caused them to speak a language slightly different. The northern tribes came last, and devoured the intestines and all that remained, and immediately spoke a language differing still more from that of the Raminjerar.
"All this happened before the time of Nurunduri, with whose departure from the earth the power of transforming themselves, and making rivers, hills, &c., ceased. As with Nurunduri a new epoch commenced, as much of his history as can be told with decency here follows:—He was a tall and powerful man, and lived in the east with two wives, and had several children. Upon one occasion his two wives ran away from him, and he went in search of them. Wherever he arrived he spread terror amongst the people, who were dwarfs compared with him. Continuing his pursuit, he arrived at Freeman's Nob. Disappointed at not finding his wives, he threw two small nets, called witti, into the sea, and immediately two small rocky islands arose, which ever since have been called Wittungenggul. He went on to Ramong, where, by stamping with his [p.61] feet, he created Kungkengguwar (Rosetta Head). From hence he threw spears in different directions, and wherever they fell small rocky islands arose. At length he found his two wives at Toppong. After beating them they again endeavoured to escape. Now tired of pursuing them, he ordered the sea to flow and drown them. They were transformed into rock, and are still to be seen at low water. Discontented and unhappy, he removed with his children to a great distance towards the West, where he still lives, a very old man, scarcely able to move. When he went away, one of his children was asleep, and, in consequence, left behind. Nurunduri, when he arrived at the place where he intended to remain, missed him, and making fast one end of a string to his maralengk, he threw the other end towards where he supposed his son to be, who, catching hold of it, helped himself along to his father. This line is still the guide by which the dead find their way to Nurunduri. When a man dies, Nnmnduri's son, who first found the way to his father by means of the line, throws it to the dead man, who catching hold of it, is conducted in like manner. When he comes near, the old man, feeling the motion of the line, asks his son who is coming. If it is a man, the son calls all the men together, who by a great shouting, arouse the half stupefied man. When come to himself, he silently and sadly approaches Nurunduri, who points out to him where he is to reside. If he belongs to the Encounter Bay, or one of the Goolwa tribes, he is allowed to live in Numnduri's hut; but if of one of the more distant tribes, at a distance off. Before he goes away to the place pointed out to him Nurunduri carefully observes his eyes. If tears are flowing from one eye only, it is a sign that he has left only one wife; if from both, two; if they cease to flow from one eye while they continue to flow from the other, he has left three wives; and according to the number he has left, Nurunduri provides him with others. Old people become young, and the infirm sound in the company of Nurunduri. This is what the poor uninstructed people believe; therefore no fears about the future, or concerning punishments and rewards, are entertained by them."
Thus far Meyer's account of the legends which he found amongst the natives. I have omitted one or two which were too indecent for general readers.
It is now the opinion of intelligent natives with whom I have conversed, that Nurunduri was the great chief who led the Narrinyeri down the Darling to the country which they now inhabit. They say that there is a tradition that two young men returned back on the track of the tribe, and were never more heard of Nurunduri is represented as having led his sons, i.e., his tribe, down the southern shore of the Lakes, and then turned up the Coorong. There he appears to have met another tribe, coming from the south-east. A battle was fought, and, of course, the Narrinyeri say that they were conquerors. But yet afterwards, Nurunduri led his people towards Encounter Bay, [p.62] and there appears to have resided until his death. There is also a tradition that two warriors afterwards led a party up the Coorong, and established themselves near Mount Gambier.
In addition to the legends before related, the Narrinyeri tell some curious but absurd stories about the animals. For instance, they say that originally the turtle possessed venomous fangs, and the snake had none; so the latter begged the former to make an exchange, offering to barter his own head for the turtle's fangs, alleging, as a reason, that he lived on the shore exposed to the attacks of the black fellows, while the turtle occupied a secure position in the Lake. So the turtle consented to the bargain, and ever since then the snake has had venomous fangs, and the turtle a snake-like head and neck.
It is also said that once the pelicans were fishing in the lake, and caught a great quantity of tukkeri. They carried them to Tipping, and there the magpies (muldurar) said they would find fire and cook the tukkeri for a share of them. The pelicans consented, but soon found that the magpies were taking advantage of their culinary operations to steal the fish. This led to a struggle, and a fight over the dinner, in which the magpies got rolled in the ashes, which gave them their black coats, and the pelicans got besmeared with the silvery scales of the tukkeri, which caused them to have white breasts.
The Narrinyeri are terribly afraid of two wood demons, called Melapi and Pepe. They say that the former assumes any shape he pleases; sometimes he is like an old man, at other times he will take the form of a bird, or a burnt stump, and always for the purpose of luring individuals within his reach, so that he may destroy them. I have several times heard blacks declare that they have seen him.
The natives also dread a water spirit, called Mulgewanke. The booming sound which is heard frequently in Lake Alexandrina is ascribed to him, and they think it causes rheumatism to those who hear it. He is represented as a curious being, half man, half fish, and instead of hair, a matted crop of reeds. I [p.63] have often wondered myself what the noise is really caused by, which they ascribe to Mulgewanke. I have heard it dozens of times, and so have many other persons. It resembles the boom of a distant cannon, or the explosion of a blast. Sometimes, however, it is more like the sound made by the fall of a huge body into deep water. It cannot be the peculiar sound made by the Murray bittern, as I have often beard that too, and it is not at all like the noise in the Lake. At first I ascribed it to people blasting wood on the opposite side, but since then I have been convinced that this cannot be the case. One peculiarity of the sound ascribed to the Mulgewanke is, that although it is sometimes louder than at others, yet it is never near, always distant. I have no doubt but at some time or other the natural cause of it will be discovered, but I have never yet heard the phenomenon explained.
There is another superstition believed in by the Narrinyeri. Every tribe has its ngaitye; that is, some animal which they regard as a sort of good genius, who takes an interest in their welfare—something like the North American Indian totem. Some will have a snake, some a wild dog, some a bird, and some an insect. No man or woman will kill her ngaitye, except it happens to be an animal which is good for food, when they have no objection to eating them. Nevertheless, they will be very careful to destroy all the remains, lest an enemy might get hold of them, and by his sorcery cause the ngaitye to grow in the inside of the eater, and cause his death. I know several persons whose ngaityar are different kinds of snakes, consequently they do not like to kill them; but when they meet with them they catch them, pull out their teeth, or else sew up their mouths, and keep them in a basket as pets. Once I knew of a man catching his ngaitye in the person of a large female tiger snake, and, after pulling out the teeth, he put it in a basket, and hung it up in his wurley. The next morning they found that she had brought forth sixteen young ones. This increase of family was too much for those blacks to whom she did not stand in the relation of [p.64] ngaitye, so they killed them all; and on cutting the mother open afterwards found seven more young snakes inside of her, making twenty-three, in all, produced at one litter.
One day a couple of wild dogs came on a predatory expedition into my neighbourhood, so I shot one of them; and immediately after was reproached very much for hurting the ngaitye of two or three blacks residing here. People are sometimes named from their ngaitye; as, for instance, Taowinyeri, the person whose ngaitye is Taow, the native name of the guana.
It appears to me that the ngaitye of the Narrinyeri is the same as the aitu of the Samoans, but it is not regarded with so much veneration by the former as by the latter. The names are evidently derived from the same original, ngaitye being the same word as aitu, only with the addition of consonants.
The following is Dr. G. Turner's account of the Samoan aitu:—"These gods were supposed to appear in some visible incarnation, and the particular thing in which his god was in the habit of appearing was to the Samoan an object of veneration. It was, in fact, his idol, and he was careful never to injure it or treat it with contempt. One, for instance, saw his god in the eel, another in the shark, another in the turtle, another in the dog, another in the owl, another in the lizard; and so on throughout all the fish of the sea, and birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. In some of the shellfish, even, gods were supposed to be present. A man would eat freely of the incarnation of the god of another man, but the incarnation of his own particular god he would consider it death to injure or eat. The god was supposed to avenge the insult by taking up his abode in that person's body, and causing to generate there the very thing which he had eaten, until it produced death. These gods they called aitu feile, or gods of the house."
The Narrinyeri believe in the power of the dead to influence the elements, of which I once had a proof. A short time after the execution of the murderers of Mrs. Rainberd, we had a gale of wind for several days successively. Upon my remarking upon [p.65] the violence of the weather to some natives, they said it was occasioned by the blacks who had been hanged, who had sent the wind in revenge to try to injure and annoy the whitefellows. "You see," they said, "it blows from their country."
The blacks also have their rainmakers. One old fellow, named Pepeom, professed to be able to change the weather by his incantations; and I have heard him in summer time lay claim to the merit of having caused a welcome shower.
The History of the Mission to the Aborigines at Point Macleay.
In May, 1859, it was resolved by the Aborigines' Friends' Association of
Adelaide to establish an institution for the instruction and evangelisation of
the Lake Tribes of Aborigines. I had been,
about a month previously, appointed as their Missionary Agent. By direction of
the Committee of this Association, I travelled over the country inhabited by the
people whom we wished to benefit,
and after some research and inquiry pitched upon Point Macleay, on the south
side of Lake Alexandrina, as the best spot for our purpose. It is situated on a
peninsula, formed by the lake above
mentioned and Lake Albert and the Coorong; consequently the spot is very much
isolated, being separated from the settlements by fifteen miles of water. It is
a favourite resort of the Aborigines,
who come there to assemblies of the tribes for various purposes.
I now began to prepare a dwelling for myself and family, and in the course of five months got a small house built. While this was being erected I camped out among the natives, leaving my wife and family at Port Elliot. During this time I was led to observe that the Aborigines were composed of a mixture of two races, and my researches into their language have since confirmed the impression. In one class of natives I observed that both males and females were tall and slight, with small features, and usually with straight hair, while the other had broader and coarser features, clumsy limbs, and very curly hair. I have since seen persons of both become true and earnest Christians; I have, however, noticed that when a member of the former class becomes a Christian he is a more intelligent believer than one of the latter [p.67] and that if he becomes an opponent to religion he is a more artful and unscrupulous and dangerous enemy than any member of the other class.
During these five months in which the house was being built, I occupied myself much in going about with and amongst the natives, picking up a knowledge of their customs and language. This led me into much intercourse, not only with them, but also with the white settlers around the Lakes. I was frequently amused by the curious ideas which people had of the best way to treat the blacks. I remember one instance which occurred at this time. I happened to be detained at a shepherd's hut by a contrary gale of wind, which prevented us from pursuing our voyage. My host, who was very hospitable, soon discovered that I was a missionary. A short time before two natives had been arrested for killing one of their tribe. The shepherd strongly expressed his opinion that they ought to be hanged. I ventured to put forward my doubts about the justice of such an extreme punishment, as the crime had been committed in accordance with the native custom to avenge the death of a relative. The shepherd's reply has often recurred to my memory. "I dinna think," said he, "that we ought to care about their customs at a'; we ought to mak' them gie up a' such hathenish practices. Sure, it'n our duty to do a' we can to mak' Christians o' them. Hang them, by a' means, sir; I say, hang them! Sure, it's our duty to mak' Christians o' them." Happily, there are few who would take this method of making Christians.
On the 4th of October, 1859, I took my family up to Point Macleay, and have resided there ever since. The position was isolated enough. At that time our nearest neighbour was five miles off, our next ten miles beyond that, and our next fifteen miles further still. Very often we could not get across the lake for a fortnight in stormy weather. We were thus quite thrown upon the natives for society. There was myself and wife and three little children (the eldest six years of age), and a servant-girl of sixteen. Several times I have left my wife and family while I went away to the other side of the lake and never in [p.68] single instance did they receive insult or annoyance from the numerous blacks who lived upon the place.
On the first Sunday after my arrival I opened the largest room in my house for divine worship, and invited the blacks to attend. A good number came and listened with attention while I read and prayed and tried to address them in simple language from the text, "The Lord is a great God." At that time I knew very little native; but some of the blacks knew a great deal of broken English, and by using their way of speaking, and coming down to their level, I managed to make some of them understand. When I first spoke to the natives about religion, I found that they believed in a god Nurundere, and at first I was inclined to adopt that name in speaking to the blacks for our English word God; but I soon found that Nurundere was only a deified blackfellow whose attributes were gigantic vices. I therefore determined always to use the word Jehovah for our God, and thus avoided the confusion which would have resulted from using the native name.
Our Sabbath worship soon became crowded, and I was heard with deep interest. I went through the chapters of the "Peep of Day" and "Line upon Line," turning them into language intelligible to the blacks, and they came and heard me gladly. And now I began to seek to influence the minds of the natives in favour of civilisation. The great difficulty was to fathom the depths of their ignorance. We have received so much knowledge in early life that we take it as a matter of course that others possess the same. The tribe here had not had much intercourse with the whites. I remember well the first time some of the women heard our clock strike. They listened with astonishment; then inquired hurriedly in a whisper, "What him say?" and rushed out of the house in terror without waiting for an answer.17
I remarked that many things that were interesting to us they only regarded with
stupid wonder. I remember an instance of this. I showed some natives one day a
picture of the interior of a splendid
cathedral, but they could not understand it, and evinced no admiration at all. I
then showed them another view, in the foreground of which was a wheelbarrow.
This they recognised at once, and
went into raptures over it—it was such an exact likeness of our wheelbarrow.
But there was not only ignorance to contend with, but superstition and very active and antagonistic heathenism. I was very soon brought into opposition to the customs of the natives. The first time I came into conflict with heathenism will afford a good illustration of the sort of battle we constantly had to fight. It was on this wise. One day four girls of about sixteen years of age came and begged me to allow them to sleep in my kitchen, because they desired to escape from some relatives who wished to give them in marriage to men whom they did not like. As their mothers seconded their entreaties I consented to let them do so, never thinking any serious harm would come of it. They did this for two nights. On the third night we were all just thinking of going to bed, when a knock was heard at our front door. I went and opened it, and found about a dozen natives, armed with spears and kanikis, standing outside. I asked what they wanted. One of them, Bullocky House Bob, stepped forward, and said that they had come for his daughter, who was one of the girls in the kitchen, named Pompanyeripuritye. And he gave me to understand that they meant to have her. I tried to persuade her father to leave her, but it was of no use; she had to go with them, very unwillingly. Before they left, they said they did not like these girls to sleep in the kitchen, as they might eat some flour out of a bag from which the narumbar had partaken. The narumbar were the youths who were being made young men and, according to custom, were forbidden to eat with women lest they should grow ugly. I tried to assure them there was no danger of this, and they departed. Next morning, just after breakfast, a tremendous hubbub arose at the camps on the hill [p.70] opposite my house. The notion had got abroad that the young women had eaten the flour of the narumbar in my kitchen, and the desecrated youths and their friends had in revenge fired the wurleys and attacked the relatives of the girls, and so a general fight began. I ran up, followed by my wife and a friend who was staying with me, and found that broken heads were becoming rather plentiful. There were about a hundred people earnestly endeavouring to knock each other's brains out. Some were bleeding on the ground, and women were walking over them; others were uttering hoarse shouts and yells of defiance as they flourished their weapons or brought them into contact with their adversaries' heads. Women were dancing about naked, casting dust in the air, hurling obscene language at their enemies, and encouraging their friends. It was a perfect tempest of rage. I felt rather vexed at their foolishness, so I went amongst them and shouted that this fighting must cease. As I stood there, trying by persuasions and commands to stop the scrimmage, my wife saw Dick Baalpulare go deliberately behind a bush at a little distance from me and hurl a heavy spear at my head. It just missed me, going about an inch from the top of my head. I did not see it or know anything about it till afterwards. The women standing near my wife begged her to go home, as the men were going to kill me. However, after a good lot of trouble, I managed to stop the fight and get the natives to go back to their camps. But I found that I was blamed by both parties as the cause of the quarrel, through letting the girls sleep in my kitchen. I gave Dick Baalpulare a good rating afterwards for being such a rascal. I had my revenue on him though, for a snake bit him one day, and I had the pleasure of curing him.
For six months after taking up our abode with the natives my principal work was visitation of the camps, as we had very few facilities for having a school for the children. My usual custom was to go and sit down amongst them and talk about whatever came uppermost, and gradually lead their minds to religious matters. I found that I thus instructed myself in their language [p.71] and customs, while I taught them many truths and exerted an influence against heathenism.
During this period various circumstances occurred which I entered in my journal. Some of them are illustrative of our work. I find the following entries, which may interest the reader:—
1859.—9th November.—This morning, Peter, the chief, or rupule of the tribe, told me that they had caught a white fellow in the night stealing fish from his pound. It will be understood that the natives make enclosures by driving stakes close together into the bottom of the lake, in a circle some twenty or twenty-five feet round, and place the Murray cod which they catch therein, to preserve them alive until the boats arrive with the parties who purchase the fish. To steal fish, then, out of the pound, is like stealing cattle out of a yard. When I heard Peter's story, I got a lot of men together, and put a crew on board the whaleboat, in charge of an Englishman temporarily employed here; and off we started to catch the thief. As soon as he saw us he went off in a dingy to a boat which was anchored a little way from the shore, no doubt intending to escape; but the whaleboat swept round the comer, and he had to surrender. The foolish fellow cried and blubbered, and confessed to having stolen the fish. I put him into the whale-boat, sent him to Goolwa, and gave him in charge to the police. (He afterwards got a month s imprisonment with hard labour.)
While we were thief-taking, that is, I and the Point Malcolm tribe, the Mundoo blacks, who were just starting for the lower Lake, tried to do another sort of stealing. They found Nourailinyeri, a young and very pretty girl, the wife of Henry, Captain Jack's brother, sitting on the shore, so they seized her, and had started off when her husband and friends happened to come back and discovered the abduction. Off they rushed; Captain Jack soon caught her, took her away from her captors, and led her back to the camp. This the Mundoos resented, spears were thrown, and there was a tremendous row. I could not help admiring Captain Jack; he kept his temper excellently, [p.72] and said there should be no fighting on this place. He would not take a weapon in hand, but went and broke all the spears which he could get hold of. The Point Malcolm blacks showed great forbearance, but the Mundoos were very bouncible. One Kaingani, all dripping with grease and red ochre, named Doughboy, especially distinguished himself. I saw him after much vociferous abuse aim and hurl a spear at one of the other side, but as he did so his foot slipped, and he only stuck it in the mud and broke it to pieces, and everybody laughed. After a great scrimmage, in which the old women, as usual, bore a distinguished part, the Mundoos went off to their own country.
30th.—In conversing with the natives to-day I found that a word in Meyer's vocabulary bears a very different meaning from what he says it does. It is the word mutturi, and its compounds. He says it means holy, sacred; whereas I find that it means generous, open-handed, having plenty to give away. I am mutturi when I have plenty of flour to give away. This is rather an important difference, and illustrates how easy it is to make mistakes in learning an unwritten language.
6th December.—Very short of meat, so had to go and hunt for some myself Pretty successful. The people on the run here positively refuse to sell us any meat, so we are compelled to live on fish and game; and, nice as these things are in moderation, one only has to get nothing else for three months to be made to feel a keen longing for beef and mutton.
12th.—Every day's experience shows that the natives are lamentably deficient in one respect, that is in governing their children. The little ones are allowed to do just as they like, and are never corrected. It leads one to see the need of those Proverbs of Solomon, which relate to the duty of correcting children. These heathen never do it. The men think nothing of thrashing their wives, knocking them on the head, and inflicting frightful gashes; but they never beat the boys. And the sons treat their mothers very badly. Very often mere lads will not hesitate to strike and throw stones at them.
18th December.—Visited the camps. It is a curious sight, to sit in the wurley
and watch the natives eat their food. To-day I saw them having a meal. One was
making for herself a large pot of
stirabout. When it was cooked, she took it away behind the rest and began
eating, taking out great mouthfuls of it with a fiat piece of wood, and
devouring it so very hot that I wondered she did
not scald her mouth. All the while the rest were quite aware of her doings, and
would like a share of the mess; but custom and propriety forbid that they should
show it. So one hums a tune,
another chats, and the rest try to look indifferent; but at the same time there
is a ludicrous expression of interest in their faces, and anxiety that the eater
should not devour all the stir-about.
Presently, when the owner of the food had appeased her hunger, she divided what
was left amongst the others to their apparent satisfaction. Then a damper, which
had been cooking in the fire,
was taken out. This was common property. One of the elders of the party took it
and divided it into equal portions with his knife, and pitched the pieces across
to those entitled to a share.
It is regarded as very rude amongst natives for two people to converse together in whispers or an undertone in the presence of other people. What is said must be uttered so that all can hear. A tête-à-tête is very offensive and bad manners.
16th.—I have been told several times lately that a man is living with the natives on the lower lake who says he has come down from heaven. The natives say he was once called Jimmy Myers, and was a well-known blackfellow who died at Hindmarsh Valley. He represents that he died and went to heaven, but was sent back to the earth again. Of course, they regard such a wonderful person with great admiration.
17th.—To-day our boat came from Goolwa, and on board of her is the very man who claims to have returned from heaven. He is a most villainous-looking fellow. He came up to my kitchen very boldly. While he stood there with a lot of blacks around him, I asked him what country he was a native of. He said Africa. I inquired what part of Africa. He answered, "I am a [p.74] Creole from the Cape." I took a picture of Cape Town, and asked him if that was like the place he came from. He replied that it was. All the while the blacks stood round listening and drawing their own conclusions. I told him that the boat should take him to Milang on Monday.
19th.—Last night I heard the impostor, whose name is Armstrong, telling some women and children that he was Jemmy-Myers, who had come back from the other world. He told them a lot of absurd rubbish to make them afraid of him. So we went, and before them all charged him with being an impostor. At last he confessed that he had allowed the blacks to believe that he was Jemmy-Myers. I told him that it might be all very well as long as he was with the friends of that deceased worthy, but if he got amongst Myers's enemies he ran great risk of being knocked on the head. I expostulated with him on his wickedness, and told him that I would do all I could to undeceive the natives. Most of them seem convinced now that he is a liar. The women abhor him. They are quite ashamed to speak of his abominable doings. This miserable wretch has been living on the natives for eight months. I took him to Milang in the boat to-day, and there got rid of him.
We tried to promote the temporal well-being of the blacks. In order to this we did everything possible to procure profitable employment for the able-bodied and industrious. I exerted myself to procure a market for the fish which they caught, and was moderately successful. We also gave employment in fencing and clearing land to the young men But the old people and more barbarous of the natives did not like to see the young men at this sort of work. So violent was their opposition at first that they came down in numbers from the camp and beat the labourers cruelly with their waddies, and forced them to leave their work. They hoped thus to drive the young men from being so much under my influence. They used to say the young fellows would get too much like whitefellows. I have known an industrious man who dared not go out of sight of the white man [p.75] with whom he laboured lest he should fall into the hands of lurking enemies. However, this opposition gradually died away, and some of our greatest opponents became as eager to earn wages as anybody. But there is a party even now composed of men who never work at civilised employments. We also found it necessary to relieve the sick and aged and infirm, who suffered much in those times of scarcity common among a race of hunters. For this purpose the Government granted us a supply of flour and other stores.
I found that infanticide was very prevalent, many infants being put to death as soon as they were born. In order to prevent this we gave to every mother a ration of flour, tea, and sugar until her child was twelve months old. This put a stop to infanticide.
The first death after our arrival occurred in a few months. It was a man in the prime of life, who died of consumption. The blacks performed the usual disgusting funereal rites, and set the body up in a large native hut with one side open at the top. There sat on a stage, tied to posts stuck in the ground, the disgusting object, filling the air with its dreadful stench, the form distended with putrefaction. Around it were wailing women, smeared with filth and ashes, and horrible old men, basting it with bunches of feathers tied to the end of long sticks, until it dripped with grease and red ochre. At intervals in the course of the day parties of men from a distance would come in sight. As soon as they saw the camp, they marched with their spears erect towards it. As they came near, women rushed towards them, and threw themselves on the ground, and cast dust in the air, wailing and crying out, "Your friend is gone; he will speak to you no more," and so on. Then a simultaneous wail would rise from the advancing party until they reached the spot and stood around the corpse. Many such scenes have I witnessed since. On that first occasion, I went to the camp, and, pointing to the sky, I told them that the dead would rise again. They all started, and, looking incredulously at me, said, "No!" I then took the opportunity of preaching to them the doctrine of the [p.76] resurrection of the dead. My words evidently produced an impression.
While dead bodies were being thus dried, it was very trying to one's stomach to have divine worship on Sabbaths. We had to have it in our own house. The little room would be crammed with some forty or fifty blacks. They crowded the room as full as it would pack, and thronged about the open door and window. As they had been living and sleeping in the wurley with a putrefying body, the smell seemed to have been absorbed by their skins, and the odour which arose from my congregation was excessively unpleasant. But yet their attention and earnestness made me feel that I could put up with this in order to teach them. They listened with the most intense interest while I told them the narratives of Holy Scripture. And after the service several would linger behind, and ask questions, and start difficulties. One day, after service, a man named Billy Waukeri said, "How do we know that this Bible is Jehovah's book? Whitefellows tell us plenty of lies; how do we know this is not a whitefellows' lie?" Here was an opportunity to set before them the evidence of the Bible being God's Word, and I was not slow to take advantage of it. In all this there was much to encourage belief that a divine influence rested upon the preached Word, and that in due time fruit would be gathered as the result of such a sowing of the holy seed. And so the
months passed away. Sometimes the tide seemed in our favour, then opposition would arise and prevail for a time, but on the whole there was steady progress.
Very small signs of spiritual life cheer the heart of a missionary to such heathen as these. Circumstances which in civilised communities have no significance are encouraging indications of movement amongst a heathen people. Such an event was the first time a poor dying woman asked me to read to her out of that "very good book"—meaning some translations of Holy Scripture into the native language. How gladly I read and prayed with her, and encouraged her to look to Jesus! There was not much response, it is true; but yet it gave a glimmering [p.77] of hope, and a glimmering is to be hailed joyfully where there has been thick darkness. Since that time I have been at all sorts of deathbeds—dark and gloomy, fearless and horror-stricken, calm and exulting. And I have noticed in some instances, that natives who could speak good English when in health, would entreat that I should read and pray in native when they were near death. It was so much less difficult for them to apprehend it. And, while I have done so, the talk of the wurley would be hushed, and an expression of solemnity manifested in every face; and afterwards warm thanks would be given by the sick man or woman. We cannot stoop too low to save souls. Jesus stooped much lower than we can do to redeem us; and shall we not emulate His example, and try to seek and to save that which was lost? Efforts to make known the gospel do not always show their effects at once; but I have known many instances of people who seemed stolid and hardened at the time that they heard the Word, yet when sickness came upon them and death drew near they called upon the name of the Lord.
But there have been darkly contrasted deathbeds to such as those I have been speaking of; where the dying person has been so imbruted that there was no fear of death. The wants of the flesh have absorbed all attention to the last. On one occasion I was trying to get a woman, whose case, as far as the body was concerned, was hopeless, to think of her soul; but every attempt seemed useless. At last I spoke of the certainty of her death. I said, "We shall die, and so will you." Another old woman who sat near hearing this said, "Ngum pomani? wunyam el takkani ngruwar nunnukki" ("We shall all die? then let us eat plenty of flour"). Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die—that was the idea, evidently.
I had not been more than three months preaching the gospel to the natives before there appeared a token of God's grace in the decision of a young man named Waukeri to become a Christian. The decision was clear and unmistakable. It may not have been very enlightened, any more than that of many others [p.78] who have made the same resolve, but it was a decision adhered to until death. Waukeri had been forcibly seized and compelled to go through the disgusting rites of making narumbe. Before this he had heard me preach and teach for about three months. So he began to refuse to conform to the native customs of the narumbar; he would eat with the women, he would not smear himself with red ochre and grease, and he would not go about in a state of nudity. So one night the old men of the tribe solemnly threatened to kill him for his disobedience. He then came away to our house and asked for my protection. This conduct led me to inquire the reason for his desire to give up native customs, and he declared his resolve to be a Christian; his expression was that he did not mean to serve the devil any longer, but would serve Jehovah. I warned him of the persecution which he might expect, then prayed with him, and commended him to the protection of Jehovah. Now I never specially noticed this young man Waukeri, nor offered him any inducement to take this step. He never went back from his decision. His profession of religion had many faults and inconsistencies, as might have been expected, but still it was maintained amidst difficulties and persecutions and discouragements to the last. When he first became a Christian he set to work to wash off the grease and red ochre with which he was bedaubed from head to foot. He succeeded pretty well with his body, but he could not get the mixture out of his really fine head of hair; so he came for assistance, and my dear wife and her servant-girl set to work and with a tub of hot water and soap gave his head a good scrubbing, and got all the red stuff out of his curls, and restored them to their original glossy black. Waukeri was a really handsome fellow; his face was by no means destitute of comeliness, and his form was of perfect symmetry. He was of a kindly, affectionate disposition, but yet with a great deal of firmness. I heard of several instances in which he showed even to ungodly white people that he was not ashamed of his profession. He died of pulmonary consumption in November, 1864, as I shall hereinafter relate, and I trust found acceptance with Him who will not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking [p.79] flax. I felt this young man's decision at such an early period of my work was the voice of God bidding me go forward.
A little incident occurred in that first year which will give some idea of what missionaries' wives have to do sometimes. One week I had been away from the station, and I left my wife and children and the servant-girl at home. On Saturday, down came the blacks, and asked Mrs. Taplin, "I say, Missis, what we do long a Sunday, no have em chapel?" After some talk she told them to come down at the usual time, intending to have a sort of Sunday school instead of worship. The hour arrived, and to her dismay a perfect crowd assembled, old grey-headed warriors and young men, women and children; they quite filled the room. There was no help for it, Sunday school was out of the question, so my dear partner stood up behind the table and gave out a simple hymn and pitched the tune. This concluded, she read the Scriptures and offered prayer, then gave out another hymn. Now came the crisis; what was to be done? It was soon decided; she took a volume of "Line upon Line," selected a chapter, and made it the foundation of an address upon the subject contained therein, and kept their attention the usual time; then again sang a hymn and offered prayer, and dismissed the people. The natives said afterwards, "My word, Missis, you very good minister." I don't suppose my wife seriously infringed any law of the New Testament by acting thus in such very exceptional circumstances.
Our congregations at first were often strangely dressed. Some would be enveloped in the original opossum-skin rug. Some of the men would wear nothing but a double-blanket gathered on a stout string and hung round the neck clockwise, others with nothing but a blue shirt on, others again with a woman's skirt or petticoat, the waist fastened round their necks and one arm out of a hole at the side; as to trousers, they were a luxury not often met with. To our horror and dismay one Sunday a tall savage stalked in and gravely sat down to worship with only a waistcoat and a high-crowned hat as his entire costume. Of course I sent him out quickly. The women came most of them [p.80] wrapped in a blanket, or else perhaps arrayed in a man's long greatcoat. But yet there was always devout and solemn attention—no levity or want of reverence. I had some trouble to cure them of want of punctuality. I found that they got later and later in their attendance. The bell rang (a hand bell), and the gossip of the wurley or some other thing would delay them; and it got worse and worse. So one morning I had the bell rung, and no one came. I waited ten minutes, and then locked the door, and resolved that if my congregation would not come in time they should stay outside. I then proceeded to hold worship for my own family. Very soon there came a knocking at the door and a muttering outside. I took no notice, but went on with the engagement until the conclusion of our devotions. Then I went and opened the door, and sure enough there was the congregation outside, all standing with rueful faces. I gave them a scolding, and told them that Sabbath time was too precious to be wasted in waiting for them. They begged me to have service over again, but I could not, as it was dinner time, so I advised them all to be present in the afternoon, and I had then a crowded congregation.
Various occurrences took place during 1860, some of which I find recorded in my journal. I will again make a few extracts.
13th January.—I went with the whaleboat and crew to get salt at the lagoon, twelve miles up the lake. The wind blew up there fast enough, as it became quite stormy after we started. This salt lagoon must cover about forty acres, and is situated in a gully surrounded by low hills covered with dark trees. It looks like a sheet of snow in the bottom of the valley. The salt is about nine inches thick, and varies in kind and quality. There is not only common salt, but sulphate of magnesia in some places, and a good deal of alum in a liquid form. We got 5 cwt. of salt. I and the blacks had dinner, and then started on our return. The wind and sea were against us. After pulling a mile or two they got tired of the oars, and preferred to strip and tow the boat along the shore in the shallow water. I and Captain Jack walked on the land to lighten the load. There are a great [p.81] many mounds on the shore, covered with mussel shells. They are from ten feet high to four feet. Captain Jack says the blacks made them to bury the dead in at a time of great sickness.18 When we got to Point Malcolm we had a hard job to get across the entrance to Lake Albert, as the wind and water were so rough. However, we faced it and got home soon after dark.
16th.—I asked Waukeri to-day if he prayed to God. He replied that he had tried but found that he could not. I advised him to go and tell God that he could not pray, and ask Him to help him.
22nd.—A good attendance at worship to-day. I spoke of the Bible as the Word of Jehovah. The natives got hold of the idea. After the service Captain Jack and a lot more came round the Bible and looked at it curiously. They asked me to tell them what Jehovah said. I had a long and interesting talk with them.
26th.—I tried to make a poor old sick woman understand the Gospel. I fear I did not succeed, although I spoke very simply. Her senses seemed to be quite deadened with old age and pain. It affects me very much to see the poor old people dying like beasts, ignorant, wretched, and hopeless.
27th.—Most of the men and boys are off to a great duck hunt. They encircle clumps of reeds with their nets, and catch ducks by the hundred. The ducks when moulting are unable to fly, and take refuge in the reeds. I went with some women in the whale-boat to the beds of reeds near Lake Albert passage, and got nine bags of moomoorooke (Murray down) to make beds. Such expeditions give one a good chance for long talks, and thus I am able to gain their attention to instruction.
29th.—Sabbath. I preached this morning on the moral law, and never was heard more attentively by any congregation. There were not quite so many as usual at the service on account of the duck hunt.
30th.—Had some earnest talk with the blacks about my sermon yesterday. They evidently understood it. I pressed it upon [p.82] them personally. I asked one, "Why do you not do as I tell you? It is because you do not think that what I say right and true." "Yes," he said, "I do." "Well, then," I replied, "why not do as I say?" "Ah," he answered, "not yet, not yet." Just what hundreds of white people say.
31st.—To-day I was struck with something Billy Waukeri .said. I had been expostulating with him for persecuting his brother, who is inclined to become a Christian. I told him I should advise Waukeri to break their bad customs.
Billy said, "What for you do that? God told us to do these things."
I asked him, "Where in the Bible did God tell you to do them? There is only One God, Jehovah, and only one Bible."
He answered, "How do you know that Bible is Jehovah s book? Did he give it to you? Did he tell you it? Did not whitefellow make it?"
"No," I replied, "Jehovah gave it to my fathers a long time ago."
"Well," he said, "and our God told my fathers these customs a long time ago, and so we must do them."
The conversation was continued at some length, and I could see that there was more thoughtful opposition to the Divine Word than I expected to find.
17th March.—A great fight at Teringi; several were speared, and one man killed outright. This battle was between five tribes. It caused us a great deal of trouble.
22nd April, Sabbath.—Worship as usual. In the evening I heard that the hut of a shepherd named T-------, which is about a mile off, had been robbed in the absence of himself and his wife. It is supposed that some native is the thief. There is a large number of blacks encamped here now.
23rd.—This morning, quite unexpectedly, police-trooper Morgan arrived. The shepherd, who was here, immediately informed him of the robbery of his hut, so they and I went to the camps on the hill to make inquiries. After we had looked in several wurleys, a man named Kilkildareetpiri called out very [p.83] saucily and defiantly, "Here! you come and look in my wurley." I advised Morgan to do so. He had not looked far before he found the stolen goods. He seized Kilkildareetpiri, but he cried out, "I did not steal them! it was Baalpulare." So the trooper seized Baalpulare by the wrist, that he might handcuff him. As he did so, I stood a little back from the group, and saw old Pelican go up behind Morgan with a net rope in his hands, and proceed to throw it over his head, so as to strangle him. I called to the trooper, who let go his prisoner and turned upon the blacks. At the same instant the shepherd struck up Pelican's arms. Both the white men now drew their revolvers, and the blacks rushed to their heavy spears, which were stuck around the camps. There seemed to be danger of bloodshed. The natives brandished their weapons and danced with rage. Teenminne screamed out, " Oh, Taplin, do stand away! you will be speared." There was abundance of savage threats and yells. I never saw the blacks in such a fury before. The police-trooper took it very calmly. He said it would never do to have bloodshed—he could not justify himself if it took place. At this instant Pelican ran out of the wurley with a gun; he knelt on one knee and was going to present it at the shepherd, when blackfellow Robert sprang at him and knocked it out of his hand. Just at this time Captain Jack and his brother and others ran up from another camp, and began to wrench the spears from the natives who were threatening us. Morgan now thought it wisest to draw off, as the blacks were still very fierce. We went down to my house and consulted as to what had better be done. It was decided to get all the help we could and then try again, so the trooper sent for two stock-keepers and three white fishermen, who were within a few miles. They arrived in the afternoon. Thus reinforced, we went again to the camps, but found that Baalpulare had fled. Then Morgan arrested Pelican for pointing the gun at them. The natives were very much surprised at this, and showed great concern, as he is a leading man. However, he was marched off in handcuffs to my house. In the evening his friends brought Baalpulare, and gave [p.84] him up in hopes of having Pelican released; but, of course, it could not be. Pelican's wife and son wept bitterly, for it turns out he has been in prison before for the killing of a former wife. Strict guard was kept over the prisoners all night.
24th.—To-day the trooper took his two prisoners in a boat to Wellington. (I afterwards interceded with the Government for Pelican, and got him released. Baalpulare got twelve months' imprisonment with hard labour).
14th May.—To-day the foundation-stone of the schoolhouse was laid by my eldest son.
From this time until October we were busy building the schoolhouse. I and the natives burned the lime, raised the stone and cut the thatch. A mason and carpenter built the walls and did the rest of the work.
On the 10th of October, 1860, we finished our schoolhouse and began to have school for the native children therein. We had at intervals taught them before, but now we began a regular school. The natives were ready enough to send their hungry and nearly naked boys and girls, and a wilder lot of pupils teacher never had. They had no notion of cleanliness, were very noisy from having always lived in the open air, were ravenous for the first few weeks from previous short commons, and were as active as monkeys, clambering along rafters, beams, and over walls with the utmost agility. At the same time they were good- tempered and eager to learn. The first step was to have them all well washed with warm soap and water, have their hair cut, and put on clean clothes. Their parents were very adverse to the hair-cutting process for the bigger boys. It is the custom of the natives to let a youth s hair grow from the time he is ten years old until he is sixteen or seventeen—that is until he is made a young man, or narumbe; the consequence is that their heads become a revolting mass of tangled locks and filth. But I insisted that my pupils must have their hair cut, and after some scolding from their mothers I carried the point. Very soon after we began to have school the children voluntarily brought me [p.85] their marbles and playthings on Saturday night to keep for them until Monday morning, so that they might not be tempted to play with them on Sunday. They had heard me explain to them the sacredness of the Sabbath. At first, simple easy reading books were all that we could use, but the more intelligent soon became able to read the Bible. I shall never forget the awe which appeared in their faces when they read the Word of God for the first time. Their reverence for Holy Scripture has continued. I found these children very impressible. They received the truth with simplicity; but the Lord opened the hearts of some more especially to give it admission. Very soon, they, of their own accord, adopted the practice of praying for themselves in their bedrooms before going to bed. I have seen them under powerful emotions while listening to the preaching of the gospel. One Sunday evening I was preaching on decision for God. In the conclusion of my address I said, "I mean to be on the Lord's side: now if any one of you means to be a servant of Jehovah, let him stand with me." As I spoke, a lad of twelve, about half way down the room, taking my words literally, got up and came forwards and stood by me. As he did so his sisters and others sobbed and covered their faces with their hands. That decision was never revoked: that lad is now a sterling Christian man. Thus we were led to feel that the Lord worked with us and gave His Word success. Our schoolhouse consisted of a schoolroom 28 feet by 10, two bedrooms the same size, and a kitchen and storeroom, each 16 feet by 10. We were afterwards obliged to build a larger schoolroom, 28 feet by 32, and make the first into two smaller rooms.
I again make a few extracts from my journals:—
16th November, 1860.—A lot of Lake Albert natives came bringing ten children to put in the school I am sorry that I cannot receive them, as the school is full These natives are all in bad health. One young man—Katyirene—was very ill. I gave him medicine, and hope, by God's blessing, to do him good.
17th.—Katyirene is improving, to the great joy of his relatives, who had given
him up. I am very thankful for it too. I also had a woman brought to me very ill
from having eaten something
poisonous—fungi, I think. To-night, Ponge and Big Jerry came to me to try to
get a girl named Petembitpiri from the school, as the latter wanted to swop her
away to get another wife for himself.
I firmly refused to let her go, and, as she was locked up, they could not get
her. The man, to whom he wishes to give her, has already had two wives on trial,
and has cast them off.
18th, Sabbath.—Worship in the morning and evening. Good attendance in the morning. In the afternoon, a lot of Mundoo blacks went and attacked the Lake Albert tribe. The alleged cause was some insulting expressions which the latter had been heard to utter against the Mundoos. Some of them got some ugly knocks on both sides. One came to me afterwards with a great gash in his hand. His hand was split by the blow of a sharp-edged kanaki.
23rd.—To-day, I discovered a curious mistake which I have fallen into in the native language. I have several times asked if they had any word for sin. They at once said, "yes," "yrottulun," As I was told this by different persons, I used the word. At the wurley this morning, I was talking to Pelican and others about the Judgment, and trying to show that in the prospect of God's judgment we needed to be cleansed from sin: freed from sin. So Pelican asked me if those who would stand at the right hand of the Judge of all the earth would be very fat—bailpuli—as they were not yrottulun. At first, I could not understand what he meant; but afterwards found out that his question arose from my using the word yrottulun. It turns out that this word means "thin," not "sin." Blacks lisp our "th," and say sin for thin. Hence, when I asked for the word for "sin," they gave the one for "thin;" and so I was led into representing that it was hateful to God for men to be thin: that they would be condemned for it. So they came to the conclusion that it was pleasing to God for people to be fat. In fact, I had [p.87] been telling them that all lean people went to hell, and fat people to heaven. I find the right word for wrong-doing in a moral sense is wirrang warrin.
Our daily routine was as follows:—At 6 a.m. in summer and 7 in winter, the bell rang as a signal for every one to get up. From that time until 7.30 was occupied in giving out rations to the aged, infirm, and sick, and weighing out the school rations for the day. At 8.30 I gave the children their breakfast. At 9.15 we had morning prayer, and after that school until 12. Then at 1 p.m. I gave the children their dinner, and at 2 had afternoon school until 3.30. Then the children went off to play, and I had time to write letters and look after any business returning attention. This was the time I gave to translations and visitations of the camps. At 5.30 in winter and 6.30 in summer the children had supper, and immediately after we had evening prayer, and then the children went into their bedrooms and were locked in. At 9 the lamps were taken away, and every one retired for the night. On Saturday nights we gave all the children a complete change of clean clothes. On Sundays we had worship twice, and Sunday school. My wife was matron of the school, and the making and mending of clothes came heavily upon her. After some trouble we got the natives to cook the provisions for the children, and also to act as servants in the schoolhouse. But in about two years I felt quite overworked; it became necessary that I should have some help, and a young man named Alfred Stapley was appointed to assist me, and was for several years my zealous and faithful co-worker; but his physical strength became unequal to the work, and he had to seek other employment.
In 1861 there was u lad of about thirteen years of age in the school named Mokooni; he was of a nice disposition and very intelligent. One day he was taken ill through eating green she-oak apples; and his parents, with my consent, took him to their own wurley to nurse him. I gave him some simple medicine, not anticipating any danger. As the night drew on the lad became [p.88] worse; violent inflammation of the stomach set in. His relatives, in great anxiety, did all they could to relieve his sufferings; but the terrible disease increased. There was the wild wurley on the hill side lighted by the flickering camp fire; at the foot of the hill there stretched away for many a mile the calm waters of the lake, reflecting the stars of heaven in all their glory. There sat the mourning father of the lad, holding him tenderly in his arms, and his mother and aunts sat around ready with any little act of kindness which love might suggest. The fitful light showed how sorrowful and anxious were their faces. The poor boy tossed in his restless agony, and begged that I might be sent for; but his friends did not like to disturb me at midnight. How I wished afterwards that they had fetched me. Suddenly the sick boy began uttering broken, sobbing entreaties, and his aunt Teenminne—whose first serious impressions were gained at that death-bed, and who became a steady and devout Christian woman until she entered God's rest—said to her mother, "Listen! he is not like the Narrinyeri; he prays to Jehovah." Yes, he prayed to Jehovah; and Teenminne told me afterwards that his prayer was like this:—"O Jehovah, you forgive me my sins; me been big one wicked. O Jehovah, forgive me. Jesus been die for me. You been say, when we got big one trouble we must come to you. Me got big one trouble now. Me soon die; very soon die now. O Jehovah, take me to live long a you. No blackfellow can help me now. My father, my mother, no more help me. O Jehovah, take care of me. Me want to live long a you. You take me now." There were a few more sobbing words, and then the poor fellow sank into insensibility, from which he never rallied, and by noon next day he was dead. Surely such a suppliant was heard by the Father of mercies.
The effects of teaching and preaching the gospel became more and more apparent, especially in the young people; insomuch that the old men began to grumble at me because the youthful members of the tribes would not conform to their customs. It is p not always that these customs are cast off from a sense of religious duty. Sometimes a young fellow, hearing that they are [p.89] useless and omission of them harmless, breaks through and sets all at nought. Such men though are generally not good characters. There was one named Tungeriol; he had been made narumbe, but had not been sufficiently initiated to be allowed to marry. Nevertheless he eloped with a girl named Tyearabbe, and lived with her as his wife at a cattle station near. One night, some months after, the old men decoyed him down to a camp away from the protection of the whites, pretending that his crime was forgotten. All on a sudden five of them seized him and smothered him. We could never discover his murderers, although we used every effort to do so. The elders of the tribe began to resort to secret assassination to uphold their power. This they called neilyeri. Only a short time ago, upon examining an unburied skeleton from which the sand had blown away, there was found, stuck fast between the ribs, the bone dagger with which the victim had been killed.
A few more illustrations of our difficulties and struggles from my daily record of the Mission may not be inappropriate.
30th July, 1861.—Had a long conversation with Teenminne and others about the death of Jesus. One of them has been much impressed by a dream. They place great reliance on dreams. To-day three of the older boys, Tippoo, Weellee, and Turtle, left the school because, they said, one of the older girls was unfit to be there, and they would not eat out of the same Hour. This is a pity; they will lose all the good they have got. I spoke to them very faithfully and kindly before they went, but it was of no use. One of their mothers who stood by said, "What for you try to frighten them?"
9th August.—To-day the two girls, on account of whom the three boys left me, went off to the camps and left their clothes. It seems that it is of no use to stand up for the females, they are sure to give way at last. If I had never taken these girls, I should have kept my three boys.
17th August.—Large numbers of natives arrived from the Murray. I hear that a fight is to come off.
18th, Sabbath.—A good attendance at Divine service in the morning. I had
begun service in the evening when a violent quarrel and fight arose at some
camps about 200 yards away, and
there was so much noise that we were obliged to leave off. They kept up the
disturbance until after ten o'clock, when we tried to get some rest
notwithstanding the noise and fighting of these
foolish quarrelsome people.
19th.—At daylight this morning the sound of quarrelling and fighting was the first thing we heard. I felt disheartened. After breakfast I found out the cause of quarrel. Minora heard the people in Captain Jack's camp say something he did not like, so he went and threw a spear right into the wurley amongst the men, women, and children. It stuck through a man's hand who was cutting tobacco. This was about as bad as firing a gun in at the window of a house. Captain Jack jumped up, rushed out, and threw a spear at the other wurley. It struck nobody, but a fierce quarrel ensued. At last, Teenminne said it was wicked to fight on Sunday; and after a while they quieted down. First thing this morning, when Teenminne and Pelican got up, they saw a spear with the point towards them stuck in the ground opposite their sleeping place, as if someone had thrown it at them in their sleep. Pelican in his rage seized a heavy spear, rushed at Captain Jack, and threw it at him, transfixing his leg. Then Captain Jack returned the compliment, and speared Pelican's leg. This ended the row.
21st.—The blacks have been fighting ever since Sunday night until noon to-day. They then decamped, one party going in one direction and the other in the opposite. I am very thankful at this, for the whole affair has worried me incessantly.
10th October.—I have heard that some of the young men at the wurleys have begun to pray regularly, although they are laughed at by their fellows. One of them said he believed that what I preached was true. They get a good deal of ridicule. Maggie Naraminyeri told me that she prays, and that she believes that Jesus has forgiven her. Praise the Lord for all this, to Him be the glory.
23rd November.—To-day Henry, the brother of Captain Jack, became ill. His two
sisters also are ill. A sick family.
24th.—Henry is raving this morning. He was bitten by a small snake on Friday evening, but took little notice of it. He is now in dreadful agonies. Lockjaw has set in, and he is convulsed all over. I fear there is no hope for him. His friends have given him up.
25th.—Poor Henry died this morning. He leaves a widow and child. I am very sorry. He was a fine, intelligent young fellow. I had great hopes of him, as he was of such an inquiring disposition with respect to religion. I have had some very interesting conversations with him, which he himself began.
28th.—This morning Louisa Tuparinyeri, Henry's sister, died. Her death was, perhaps, hastened by the shock of his sudden end. She was a great favourite, and one of whom I cherished hopes of salvation.
29th.—They are drying the bodies of Henry and Louisa. It is such a horrible violation of the sanctity of death. Captain Jack and his relations were crying almost all last night from sorrow at their loss. Poor Louisa! how many times has she sat and listened to the teaching from my lips, and from those of my wife. She drank in instruction eagerly, and, I trust, savingly.
From the commencement of the Mission I was brought into intimate acquaintance with a very notorious blackfellow named Captain Jack. He was a great warrior and sorcerer in his tribe, and a man with much natural ability. If he had lived in a civilised community, and had been educated, I have no doubt he would have distinguished himself He had gained some celebrity among the Narrinyeri from the belief that he had once seen and had intercourse with Brupi—that is, the devil. This gave him great influence. He was a man of undoubted courage and acuteness. He had suffered severely in the battles which he had fought; his head, anus, and legs bore the scars of many wounds. He greatly enjoyed telling of the various fights in [p.92] which he got them. He would narrate these combats with animation and graphic power. On one occasion his tribe was pressed by an enemy of superior numbers. Captain Jack tried to rally his flying comrades, and at last was left almost alone, the mark for a hundred spears. He described with great force how the shower of spears descended on his single shield. However, he got off with very few hurts from this desperate skirmish. This man possessed all the virtues and vices of a savage. He had great physical courage and intrepidity. I never saw him afraid. He was endowed with much power of endurance. He was attached to his friends and country, and very fond of his children. But on the other hand he was greedy, and, like every true savage, dearly liked to take what he wanted from any one weaker than himself without asking leave. He was intensely superstitious, very revengeful, a dreaded sorcerer, and lazy and gluttonous when it was convenient. He attached himself to me, and we became great friends. He could clearly see that much temporal good was to be gained by the natives from our Station, so he desired that his children might be kept at school He often exerted his influence in a very useful manner. He knew that I objected to their fights, and especially on the Station, so I have seen him rush among the combatants and smash spears right and left to prevent them from being used by their owners. He had no objection to a battle at a distance from the location. Very frequently have I sat in his wurley and tried to enlighten his dark mind with the truths of God's Word; but it was all in vain; he never became a Christian. One week he never came to our Sabbath worship, and so afterwards I inquired the reason. He replied that it was useless for him to come, as he found that he could not do what Jesus wanted him to do. I asked what that was. He said, "You tell me I must only have one wife if I serve Jesus. Now my oldest wife, Kitty, is lame, and has only one leg, and my youngest wife, Polongane, is the mother of my children. Which, then, can I give up?" I admitted that there was a difficulty, but persuaded him not to let that stand in the way of seeking religious instruction. Captain Jack had a sister [p.93] named Tuparinyeri. One Sunday morning tli3 lad who rang the handbell for service, after ringing a short, time, ran down to the house and hid himself behind the door. Directly after Tuparinyeri came rushing in with her head and face streaming with blood from some gashes on her head. I inquired what was the matter, and found that the boy in ringing the bell had unintentionally struck it against the forehead of Captain Jack's baby boy, inflicting a slight cut. The father coming up at the moment and seeing the blood flew into a rage. The bell-ringer fled, and so Captain Jack rushed into the wurley to take vengeance on his wife for not taking care of the child, and not finding her, he seized a kanake, and battered his sister about the head in his wild fury until it streamed with blood. I dressed the wounds, and began worship in a rather disturbed state of mind. Next day. Captain Jack came down to try to make it up. I told him I would have nothing to do with him; he might go. He begged me not to be angry. I replied that I would have nothing to say with him unless he asked his sister's forgiveness. This was contrary to all native ideas! he was very unwilling to do so. He proposed that she should stick a spear into his arm, so that his blood might atone for hers; but to ask forgiveness of a woman was too humiliating. However, I insisted upon that and nothing else, and at last he yielded and did as I wished.
Poor Tuparinyeri was afterwards given away through the influence of another brother to an old man who already had two wives, and forced to go with him. She took it to heart and pined away in the miserable life which she led. A young wife in such a case becomes the slave of the older wives. Some time after, she returned to mc wasted and ill from bad treatment. We took her into the house and nursed her until she was well. We also instructed her in the truths of the gospel, and she received them with great eagerness. Truly they are the comfort and hope of the wretched in all countries. As soon as ever Tuparinyeri's health returned she was compelled to go again with the barbarous people to whom she had been given. Very [p.94] soon she came back worse than ever. And then she died. I will extract the particulars of her death from my diary:—
16th December, 1861.—To-day I learned the particulars of Louisa's death. One can get very little about the circumstances of a death amongst the natives until the shock of it has passed off. It appears that Louisa died from the effects of uterine haemorrhage. Directly this began she had a presentiment that she should not recover. She very much wished to be buried, instead of being dried native-fashion, but this wish was not complied with. The day before she died she had a long talk with Teenminne, her sister (Maranowe), who then went about her usual pursuits, and Louisa slept, appearing no worse than usual. In the evening Teenminne went again to see her. She had not long been awake. Looking at her sister, she asked, "What will you do, Maranowe, when I leave you? who will walk about with you?" Teenminne replied, "I must walk about by myself; but why do you speak like this ? You will not die yet—you will live." "No," she said, "I shall not, Maranowe; I shall leave you. I am going to such a beautiful place. I have been sleeping. I thought there was a great wind, and the angels came in the wind to fetch me away. Oh, they were such beautiful ones, and I wanted to go to the beautiful place, all the same as they are. They told me I was to come with them, so I got up. I thought to go, but I awoke and found I was dreaming. Yes, I am soon going away to that beautiful country, Maranowe." Teenminne still tried to persuade her that she had much longer to live, and then left her. Very early next morning she heard them crying at the wurley where Louisa was, and ran over. She was just departing. She knew her dear sister and fixed her eyes upon her in recognition, and then she died. I trust she has reached the beautiful country. My hope for her prevails over my doubts. She was an amiable woman. I trust she hoped in Christ. We have here quite another event than the dark death of the savage, from which he shrinks in speechless horror. Louisa Tuparinyeri died with a Christian's hope, built, I believe, on the true foundation. I long to sec more living Christian natives. I have great [p.95] hope of Teenminne, and all the more as her conduct is so unostentatious.
Captain Jack was sorry for his sister, as he was really much attached to her in his barbarous way. For years he stayed most of his time with me. He was my chief boatman. He would steer the boat through the wildest and darkest night across the wide lake with unflinching courage and skill. At last he was taken ill of brain fever, brought on by drinking spirits after receiving a dangerous and weakening wound in battle. His head had been no doubt much injured by previous blows. In his delirium he sat up and looked around with a smile of defiance, then started to his feet and called for spear and shield. His little son fetched his spear for him, but before he could reach it he sank back exhausted. It was the old fighting spirit strong in death. As the end rapidly approached, he seemed to recollect some of the ideas which he had been taught by us. At last he called to his wife, "Bring the nice clothes, bring the very good clothes, for they are opening the door of the house;" and then he fell back and expired. Towards the latter part of his life he became more opposed to religion than he was when first I knew him. Perhaps he was removed lest he should be an antagonist to Christianity amongst the natives.
On the 14th February, 1861, the Rev. James Reid, of Scotland, arrived, and began to itinerate as a missionary amongst the Aborigines. This he continued to do until he took up his abode at Wellington, from whence he made trips to various places, preaching to natives and white settlers. He was a good but eccentric man. Two natives were converted under his ministry—Allan Jamblyn, and James Unaipon. The former continued faithful unto death; the latter yet lives a sterling Christian. Mr. Reid was unfortunately drowned while crossing Lake Alexandrina in a small boat in a gale of wind on the 24th of July, 1863. His body was found by the natives, and buried at Wellington.
My journals for 1862 and 1863 contain the following entries:—
23nl February, 1862.—Sabbath. Forty-six natives present at worship. There is a much larger number encamped here. [p.96] At night, about eleven o'clock, some natives on the hill began fighting, and kept it up until late; they set the camps on fire so as to have light for the battle. The skirmish was between two parties, one of which is in favour of accepting a challenge sent by the Goolwa and Port Elliot clans, and the other against it. This affair cost me an almost sleepless night.
24th.—The wounded came as usual to have their hurts dressed this morning. One had a nasty bite. Jeltoarinyeri had a horrid gash in his forehead. It seems to have been a scrimmage in which everybody fought with everybody else.
7th March.—This evening we saw a gigantic bush fire sweeping down upon the station. It was some miles off, so we all turned out and burned a belt round the entire premises. I was much pleased at the alacrity with which the natives worked for this purpose. It was as disagreeable and awkward a job as it usually is, but we put the place in a position of safety; it took us till midnight.
21st.—Last night I observed something out in the bush. At first I took it for a star shining through the trees. I called some boys, and asked them what it was; they said "Wild blackfellow." I laughed, but as I did so I saw the light move about amongst the bushes. I must say I felt queer at the sight. It was evidently carried by some one. As I was alone I did not care to go to see who it was. Early this morning I heard the crackling of burning grass; I ran with some others to the place where the smoke arose, and found flames spreading rapidly. It was coming right down on us before the wind. We beat the fire out, and then discovered in a hollow the embers of a great fire, which had been left by somebody who must have camped there. No doubt it was the person who carried the firestick last night. The blacks say that men of other clans go about in the dark for millin. Twice lately, just in the dusk of the evening, have our school children been chased, until they were close to the school-house, by strange men, probably enemies of their parents.
26th April.—The natives say that if the panpande and palye trees are burned, the ponde (Murray cod) will all go away from [p.97] the neighbourhood. I could not help thinking to-day that a load of firewood which the boys fetched bore witness that superstition was losing its hold upon them. It was composed almost entirely of panpande and palye wood. Three years ago the boys would not have dared to bum such wood, as the old men would have been so angry.
8th June.—This afternoon Boord and Menatowe charged the young men who are working with me with adultery, and demanded that they should leave the place. This charge the accused strenuously denied, and refused to depart. There was a stormy dispute. I believe that the real cause of the dislike of these fellows to the young men is that they showed a police trooper where some ngadhungi were concealed, and he took them away. Hence their threats of vengeance and millin and ngadhungi.
9th.—To-day Boord and Menatowe and their adherents fell upon the workmen and beat them grievously. Four were disabled and one nearly killed. It was an atrocious proceeding. Boord is a great sorcerer, and hates the young fellows because they won't believe in him.
10th.—Boord came and tried to quarrel with me and insulted me this morning. I ordered him off.
11th.—Last night I was aroused from sleep by a loud knocking at my door. On calling out I found it was Boord. He said that his brother was ill at the camp. It appeared that they were all singing a corrobery when this man was suddenly taken ill, and they thought he would die, so they all shrieked and cried for fear. He begged me to go and see him. I hastily dressed and went with Boord, and found that his brother had a slight paralytic seizure. I returned home, sent him some medicine, and then went to bed again.
6th November.—Teenminne arrived to-day. She has been brought from the river in a canoe as she is ill.
7th.—Teenminne is very ill, and evidently has been so for some time. She is much altered in appearance. I have no doubt o( her true piety. She is a lover of prayer. I fear for her. May [p.98] the Lord, if it be His good will, restore her to health. She asked to be taken down to the school-house to be nursed, and so I had her carried down.
10th.—To-day we had to take Teenminne back to the camp; she felt the air too confined in the house. She speaks highly of the kindness of her husband, Pelican.
11th.—Teenminne decidedly better.
18th.—Teenminne's sister is hopelessly ill. I was speaking to her about it to-day. Teenminne said, "She must pray to Jesus; I was very bad, and thought I should die, but I laid hold on Jesus (morokkir yan Jesuse), and I recovered." This was faith. Teenminne is very much against gambling. I believe she has got them to destroy all the packs of cards in her wurley.
3rd December.—Teenminne is still here, and will stay for some time. I am glad of this, as it enables me to watch over her. I am thankful for the work of grace manifested in her. I believe that the Lord has given me this soul. It is all His work. She said the other day, "I not afraid to die. What is die? I think no die, only go to heaven."
4th December.—The schoolboys are glorying in the fact that they have done several things in defiance of native custom, and have received no harm. They have eaten wallaby, and yet have not turned grey. They have eaten tyere (fish), and have no sore legs. They have cooked ngaikunde (fish) with palye, and yet there are plenty more.
10th.—To-day, a woman named Nangowane was severely bitten on the leg by a snake, which twined round the limb while she was getting crayfish in the swamps. I applied the usual remedies. I cauterised the wound, and applied oil and ammonia. I gave her large doses of brandy and ammonia. I gave her 3 oz. of brandy and 120 drops of liquor ammonia fortissimus. Her pulse was very low; but it rose as I gave her at intervals of fifteen minutes ounce after ounce of the medicine. The first two ounces produced no effect The third prevented the sinking. The fourth made her almost drunk. I now knew that she was safe. I am sure that under ordinary circumstances one ounce of [p.99] brandy would have nearly, if not quite, intoxicated this woman, as she is one who never has taken spirits.
6th May, 1863.—Went with the natives to the Coorong, and the Mundoo country.
8th.—Went to Lake Albert on a similar expedition to the last. I was amused at one incident. We camped at night, and the natives made a wurley at my head. I slept soundly enough. In the night the wind changed, so the natives, fearing it might be unpleasant to me, got up and shifted the wurley round without waking me; and when I got up in the morning I found that they had turned the house round.
13th June.—I find that a native named James Jackson has begun, and kept up prayer at the wurleys every night before he retires to rest. He is a quiet, unassuming, industrious little man. He and Teenminne and Waukeri are regarded by all as Christians. May the Lord spread the light.
20th July.—Rev. James Reid arrived from Wellington, where he is residing. He gave an address to the school in the evening.
21st.—Mr. Reid left for Mundoo and Goolwa, in his own boat. I sent our boat and four men with him, to take care of him. He is an unskilful navigator.
26th.—To-day James Unaipon arrived from Wellington. He is in search of Mr. Reid, as they are very anxious, fearing from his not having returned home that something has happened to him. My boat left his boat just at the entrance of the Finniss, on the 21st.
28th.—Towards evening James Jackson was working by himself at the wheat-paddock fence when he saw Jerry and several others creeping about him in the bush. He could see they were bent on mischief, millin probably, so he made off home for safety. They don't like Jackson because of his religion.
29th.—To-day a cutter arrived, which had been searching for Mr. Reid without success. The weather has been very tempestuous. I fear he has attempted to cross the lake and is drowned. In the evening news came that his mast and sail have been found [p.100] on the shore near Paltallock. I went down to Loveday Bay in search, but could find nothing.
31st.—Boat returned from the lower lake. It appears that a native met Mr. Reid at Mundoo Channel on Friday last, and got him to put him across the channel. This man noticed that the boat was very leaky, and expostulated with him about it, saying, "Mr. Reid, by-and-bye you will drown." But he would not listen. The black then baled the boat out for him. He left him, and saw him sail away, and go round Rocky Point. It was very tempestuous. A squall of wind with rain came on, and hid him from the native's sight. He was seen no more alive. I learn that several friends expostulated with Mr. Reid for sailing in such weather.
6th August.—Mr. Reid's boat has been found bottom-upwards at Point Malcolm.
11th.—To-day Putteri found the body of Mr. Reid floating in deep water near Point Malcolm. He put it in his canoe, covered it with a blanket, and brought it here. I had it decently covered and put into our boat, and sent it to Wellington to his friends. The natives expressed great sorrow at seeing it, and behaved most respectfully. The remains were interred next day in Wellington cemetery. Poor fellow! he was a true and loyal servant of Christ, but yet he lost his life through not being sufficiently careful of himself.
The extracts from my journals show that some of the principal troubles of the early years of our Mission were the fights continually arising amongst the natives. There were ceremonial and funereal fights, and casual fights, and the whole were a thorough nuisance. The routine of our school-house would be going on as usual, when all on a sudden there would come the tidings of a fight, and off would go children and servants to the field of battle to see how the little affair came off; or perhaps we would be just thinking of going to bed when there would be a shout and a yell and a blaze of light, and then we would see a general scrimmage going on by firelight. One of the worst [p.101] battles we had lasted at intervals for six days. It arose out of a quarrel between a husband and wife. Solomon Baalpulare had a young wife, Tungkungutte. After she had lived with him some years he brought an older woman home to his wurley as a second wife. Now, a wife amongst the heathen Aborigines has no objection to her husband taking another spouse, provided she is younger than herself; but this woman was Tungkungutte's senior, and consequently mistress of the camp. Solomon refused to listen to his first wife's remonstrances, so she fled to her tribe at Lake Albert. Solomon gathered his tribe and came to Point Macleay and met the other tribe. He demanded his wife; her friends refused to let her return to him. Then they fought, and he nearly killed his wife's brother; indeed, he ultimately died of the wound which he received. But it was all of no use—he could not get his wife back. They fought day after day, until I was sick of the hoarse shouts and yells. At the conclusion Solomon offended some of the second and intruding wife's friends, and so they turned to and gave him a thrashing. This finished the affair. Very few were killed in these combats, but many received dangerous and disabling wounds. Fighting gradually passed away before the influence of Christianity and civilization. The old warriors died; a party grew up and became strong which was opposed to it, and at last it ceased.
In September, 1864, James Unaipon came to reside on this station, and has made this his place of regular abode ever since. He has maintained his Christian profession in the face of many difficulties and persecutions. His coming was most advantageous for us; it gave me what I had long needed—a steady Christian adult native, who would always take the side of truth and righteousness. He became also a nucleus around which those who were impressed by divine truth could rally. There were Christians amongst the blacks, but they were isolated, and had no united communion.
I felt that the time had come to form a Christian society. I began with a bible-class, but soon found that something more was needed. On the 4th February, 1865, I constitute class [p.102] the members of which should be understood to make a profession of faith in Jesus, and to be on trial to see whether they would continue steadfast or not. On the 26th of the same month I baptised three adult natives—two men and a woman. They had for three months made a consistent profession of faith in Jesus. One of them had lived as a Christian for above a year: his name was James Jackson. He died on the 17th of the March after his baptism. I had no doubt of his conversion.
Another of those whom I thus baptised was William Eropinyeri When he embraced Christianity he had two wives—one a young woman who was a Christian, and another who was a girl of fourteen. I told him he must put away the youngest wife. He willingly consented to do so. He was then baptised, and his wife with him. After he had put away his youngest wife the old blacks were very much offended. They began to perceive whereunto this thing would grow; so first of all the father of the girl Tina who had been put away beat her and used her cruelly to compel her to return to Kropinyeri, but he could not succeed in inducing her to do so. Then the heathen natives turned their wrath upon the husband who had dared to break their customs. They lay in wait for him continually, and thus obliged him to go armed. It is a custom of the natives, if they cannot be revenged on an enemy,' to take vengeance on his nearest relative; so one day two of the heathen blacks found the father of Kropinyeri in a solitary place, and beat him almost to death. His son found him and brought him in a helpless condition to the station. Eventually he recovered; but this led the Christian natives to be very cautious about exposing themselves, and they always went armed and in parties after dark in the evenings.
Poor Waukeri, whose name has been mentioned in these pages, fell a victim to that scourge of the natives, pulmonary consumption. He died in firm faith in Jesus Christ.
When the boys who had been in the school grew up to be youths of 16 or 17, we found great difficulty in dealing with them at the first Their education made them superior to their [p.103] fellows, and their pride knew no bounds. Of all failings this is the one into which the blacks fall most readily. This cause of trouble gradually ceased after several successive classes of boys grew up and finished their school life. It was, however, a cause of great annoyance and hindrance at the first. On the one hand the old blacks wanted to make the youths go through the disgusting ceremonies of narumbe, which I felt bound to oppose, and on the other, the young fellows were intoxicated with vanity, conceit, and self-assertion. Three who gave me much annoyance were named Tippoo, Turtle, and Nipper. They were all clever lads. I had hoped that Christian influences would lay hold upon them, but in this I was disappointed. Some extracts from my journal will illustrate some of our trials of patience in this direction:—
11th October, 1804.—To-day, Nipper gave the natives some trouble. He came 'to his father s hut, a large native hut built of logs and reeds, some fourteen feet in diameter, and demanded bread. His mother told him she had none, as the flour was all expended. No uncommon thing with them, as they frequently consume all the bread, and then take to fish and game. So Nipper flew into a rage, and, taking a firestick from the tire, he set the whole camp in a blaze. His mother and two infant children were within at the time, and had a narrow escape from the flames; for a high wind was blowing, and the place ignited like tinder. Spears, clothes, blankets, guns, cooking utensils, and all the various odds and ends of a native camp were burned. Lurundinyeri got severely scorched in trying to save some things. Nangowane received a severe wound in the leg. When the mischief was done, the fellow who had caused it sneaked off, and has not been seen since. The loss in goods to the natives must be some ten or twelve pounds. A serious loss to them.
14th.—Was much abused to-day by two of the young fellows. One of them stood and called me everything he could think of, all the time holding a loaded gun in his hand. I made a rush at him, seized the gun and fired it off, then took the ramrod and [p.104] broke it. I felt that it would not do to let mere boys act in this way without showing that it could not be tolerated.
19th.—To-day I received a Testament from Tewunungge, the aunt of Waukeri. He died at Milang. Before he died he gave it into her charge, begging her to bring it to me. This he did out of reverence for the Word of God. He was a steady, pious fellow. Often he would go away into the bush by himself to read the Scriptures. I marked many passages for him, and he said that he believed and understood them. He was not one to make a noise about his religion, but more inclined to retire from observation.
20th November.—To-day Turtle was very impudent to Mr. Stapley. He not only threatened him, but used such violence—he is a powerful fellow—as to hurt him severely. This arose from my assistant telling him to leave the room where the school children were having their dinner, and where he was behaving badly.
I could select other instances of the same kind. The way in which this came to an end was mournful and instructive. Two of the youths who gave us most trouble went into a rapid consumption and died. One died hopelessly impenitent; the other professed repentance and faith in Jesus. After their decease their brother—the very Nipper who burned the camp—became deeply impressed, and decided to become a Christian. I never saw a clearer case of conversion. Naturally he is a bad-tempered man, but he has exhibited for years a steady Christian life, and is respected by all His infirmity needs our forbearance yet, but I believe he has overcome it very much. Several youths who gave us trouble have become Christians, and are now consistent members of the church.
Fifty-six adult natives have been baptized up to the date when this is written. Of these seven have fallen back from their profession of Christianity.
On the 2nd of January, 1866, we commenced the celebration of the Lord's Supper. Seven of us united for the first Commu- [p.105] nion. Since then the Church of Christ at this Mission station has increased to fifty-five members. There are at this date thirty-nine natives and sixteen whites.19
But to return to the past. After the formation of the church in 1866, it became very desirable to insist upon marriage being solemnised with Christian rites. This was brought about by two of the church members being married by the Rev. John Gardner, of Adelaide, while on a visit to the station. The writer was not at that time empowered to legally perform marriages, as his church and congregation consisted of Aboriginal natives. Had they consisted of the same number of whites, he would have at once received authority. However, this difficulty was got over, and the writer afterwards received power to legally solemnise matrimony. This was of importance, because native marriage was not recognised by law; consequently, if a native Christian had his wife forced away from him by the heathen blacks, he had no legal redress, because he was not legally married. And not only on this account was it of importance, bat also that a check might be put upon divorce, which is easy and common amongst the heathen natives. The introduction of Christian marriage gave sanctity to the nuptial tie, and made it appear more indissoluble. The old heathen blacks saw this, and after the first two marriages they set to work to try if they could not undo them. Amongst the Aborigines it has been often the case that where a young woman has been given in marriage against the wishes of some of her relatives, they have tried to take her away from her husband and give her to somebody else. Laelinyeri had been legally married to Charlotte by the Rev. J. Gardner, as stated above; so a party of the old blacks pretended that they were offended at this, especially an old savage called Fisherman Jack Soon after the marriage, down came the Lower Murray tribe to the station and encamped near. With their usual deceit they pretended to be quite friendly with the newly-married couple, so as to throw them off their guard. [p.106] When they had accomplished this they suddenly seized Charlotte by force in the absence of her husband, and went off rapidly to an island called Towadjeri, on the Lower Lake, about ten miles from the station. There they defied her husband to get her, and declared he should never have her again, as they would give her to another man. Laelinyeri came to me and told his story in great grief, as was natural I could see that a crisis had arisen, and sought, by the help of God, to be equal to the occasion. I got our farm overseer and a friend who was staying with him to go with us, and I and Laelinyeri got into the boat, and we four sailed off down the Lake to Towadjeri. When we got there we anchored, and while we were doing so somebody said, "There is Charlotte on the shore, sitting under a bush." I saw that the girl, suspecting that I was coming to fetch her, had slipped away from her captors, and was waiting for me; so I jumped into the dingy (it would only carry two), and bade Laelinyeri put me ashore. When I got there I saw all the Lower Murray tribe—about sixty men—drawn up in rank about 200 yards off with their fishing spears (ugly three-pronged weapons) in their hands, and trying to look as fierce and angry as they could; but I believed it was all bounce, and walked up the shore, sending Laelinyeri back to the boat for my two friends and my gun. Then I went up to Charlotte and told her to follow me. This she readily and joyfully did, and I led her to where the dingy was again approaching the shore. Just then old Fisherman sprang out of the ranks and began dancing about and swearing at me in native, and whirling his spear round his head, and calling on the other blacks to come and take the girl out of my hands; but not a man moved. Up came the dingy; my friends jumped ashore, in stepped Charlotte, and her husband took her on board the cutter. I now knew she was pretty safe; so we walked up amongst the blacks and began to talk in a friendly way to them, not alluding to the subject in dispute. One of the fellows pointed to my gun and said, "What! you going to shoot blackfellow?" I said, "No; I only want to shoot ducks." We stayed half an hour, and [p.107] then went off to the cutter and sailed for home. That put an end to all attempts to undo legal marriage; it has never been attempted since.20
A short time after, a young man who had never been narumbe, married a young woman in defiance of all native custom. His father and mother declared before me that they would kill the pair of them; but it all ended in threats, and by-and-bye they gladly acquiesced in the marriage.
During 1865-6, we had many cheering tokens of the power of Divine truth. One youth, named David, died, and he evidently was a Christian. My poor friend, Teenminne, continued to hold her faith and love in the Lord Jesus. I find several entries in my journals, showing the growing spirit of devotion and prayerfulness amongst the natives. One young woman, Petembitepiri, was overheard in fervent supplication at night in the camp. The entry of the circumstance in my diary is interesting, for immediately afterwards she went to Lake Albert, and we soon heard of her death. But while the work of grace was going on we did not escape the malice of the enemy. Some of the old natives did all they could to annoy the people who made a profession of religion. They also kept some children from school, and tried to terrify those whom they could not prevent from attending. One night a large stone was sent crashing through the window of the sleeping-room. Another night, some of the children saw a human figure outside their bedroom window; and presently a face was put close to the glass. They shrieked with fear, and imprudently called out a name, supposing it to be that of the intruder; immediately a heavy waddy was dashed against the panes smashing in glass and woodwork.
In November, 1865, the Rev. O. Meissel, Moravian missionary, one of a party consisting of himself, Walder, and Kramer, destined to labour as missionaries in the far north, came to reside with me until the drought which then prevailed should cease. He stayed with us eight months, and was beloved by us all. He [p.108] made himself very useful; for he was rather an accomplished musician. His assistance was valuable, and I wished to retain him with me; but the rules of the Moravian church would not allow this.
In the course of our mission to the natives, nothing has impressed me more than the continual evidence of Divine power. We have taught and preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ; we have tried to persuade men to accept of salvation, and become servants of Christ; but, while we have done so, we have always felt how utterly inadequate were our words to accomplish what we desired.
We could only attribute any good results to a Divine power working with us; overcoming aversion and opposition; changing opinions and habits; winning love and devotion to Christ as Lord. Often, the most unlikely persons, those for whom we did not like to hope, have been the first to show that they had been conquered by the word of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
On 16th November, 1866, Mr. J. A. Ophel became my assistant, and has continued his earnest and efficient labours ever since.
We found it necessary in 1865 to provide employment for those natives who were willing to work, so that they might remain with us and be instructed. We had employed a few before this, but only casually, and to no great extent Our desire now was to produce the wheat required for the station by native labour. A farm overseer was therefore appointed, and a considerable breadth of land gradually brought under cultivation A flock of sheep was also purchased. Our success will be made more apparent by quoting the yearly sales of produce from the farm. They were as follows:—
|1866 .......||198||17||4||1872 .....||276||13||10|
|1867 .......||73||10||4||1873 .....||841||3||1|
|1868 ......||98||12||9||1874 .....||506||9||9|
|1869 ......||314||17||6||1875 .....||645||4||5|
|1870 ........||501||9||8||1876 .....||507||4||7|
It is true that the money thus raised was spent upon the natives; but it is
satisfactory to think that the benefit which they thus received was derived from
their own labour. We have had to endure
the vicissitudes of the seasons, but have great reason to be thankful to our
Father in Heaven for prospering the work of our hands.
The Government of South Australia, in 1865, gave a lease of 730 acres of land to the Institution. Upon this tract our farming operations have been carried on.
I will here give a few more extracts from my journals, showing the state of the Mission in 1867:—
5th June, 1867.—I fear that the number of children amongst the natives is decreasing. I account for this state of things by supposing that it arises partly from drink and partly from prostitution. The former leads to the latter. The tidy virtuous women, who live in the bush, have as many children as they had formerly. The falling-off is on the part of the bad characters who hang about the townships and public-houses.21
6th.—Truly our work is very humbling and dispiriting. There is no romance about it; it is downright hard routine and drudgery. And yet, if Jesus took upon himself the form of a servant, why should we murmur. The waywardness of the Christian natives is a constant trial; they want the most unreasonable things, and are vexed when we must refuse. It is natural to man to like work in which he succeeds, and to work all the harder under the influence of success, but there is little of that here. May God give us help, that we may not be weary in well-doing.
1st July.—A very wet and stormy day. On Saturday night Teenminne had a daughter; she is doing very well. When I went to see her she was sitting up in the wurley, and the cold wind blowing in upon her; all she wanted was half a stick of tobacco, which I gave her. Afterwards I took her into the house and provided for her.
8th.—Teenminne has gone to the camps again. She does not like the close air of
9th.—This morning, at two a.m., some blacks knocked at the door, and begged me to come to Teenminne, for she had burnt her foot badly. I got up and went to the camp, and found the poor woman in agony. One foot is very much burned, the other only slightly. She must have put her foot into the fire in her sleep; and the strangest part of the affair was, that it did not seem to have awakened her. She appeared to be, they said, in a sort of nightmare, instinctively moving her feet from the fire, but she did not become conscious till someone shouted in her ear. The sole of the left foot is roasted off, and the two smallest toes quite consumed. After I had dressed it the pain was so great that she fainted. In the forenoon I dressed the wounds again. The right foot is a little burned. I suspect she had a fit. May the Lord graciously restore our dear friend to health.
25th.—Teenminne's foot is healing slowly. She suffers much from unskilful nursing. She is very patient.
1st September.—Poor Teenminne is very ill. I am at a loss what to do for her. I can only recommend her to the healing power of the Great Physician. O that He would spare her life! it seems so precious to her children, and to our little church and mission. We all love her. I asked her to-day if she was afraid to die. With the calmest and most cheerful expression, she said that she was not. She manifests the firmest confidence in Jesus as the Saviour who died for her.
28th.—To-day poor Teenminne managed to get to our house on crutches, after an illness of three months. I thank God for this; may He grant her perfect restoration to health.
1st November, 1867.—The natives are beginning to arrive, to attend the expected torarin in honour of the Duke of Edinburgh.
7th.—The Goolwa and Murray tribes arrived. There are some fine men amongst them; physically, as symmetrical and well-grown specimens of humanity as one would wish to see, notwithstanding their dark skins.
9th.—Blacks continue to pour in. This morning there was a quarrel amongst the
Port Elliot clan. Then the old enemies, the Murray and Mundoo clans, fell out.
Black Agnes ran away from
her husband, and caused the row. The Mundoo men attacked the Piltinyerar
(Murrays), and so enraged them that it was all I could do to prevent a battle.
Old Teelbarry got excited in the squabble,
and in her rage executed a vehement war dance, displaying amazing activity, to
the intense amusement of everybody. The two clans then sat down and talked over
the affair; mutual explanations
were given and received, and all was settled with nothing worse than a bumped
head, and a woman's leg cut with a boomerang, which of course I doctored. On the
whole, the natives are
10th.—Sabbath. Present at worship, 110 adults, 40 children. The blacks behaved very decorously all day. There was hardly any singing or dancing.
11th.—This morning we served out three days' rations to 400 adults. There are over 500' blacks of all ages here now. It takes all our time to supply their wants. Rations for them have been sent here by the Government, as, of course, it is necessary to provide food for such a gathering of people drawn away from their usual places of abode. The men of the clans practised marching all the morning. At two p.m. all started for Wommeran, .Loveday Bay, five miles from here, where the Duke of Edinburgh is to land. The main body went first, I and the children followed. When we got to Wommeran I found the main body of the natives camped a quarter of a mile back from the Lake in the 8crub; they said they had been ordered by an officer to stay there. Tents for the accommodation of the Duke and suite were pitched on the open ground next to the Lake. A considerable number of European settlers were assembled there. The natives complained of thirst. It was no easy matter to fetch water such a distance for above 400 people. So I went and asked the officer who appeared to be in charge for leave to let the natives get drink. He refused, and I got rather a rough reception from him. We then marched our school children down to the [p.112] lake. They were all decently dressed and carried two flags made for the occasion. The steamers containing the Duke and suite came in sight. The blacks began to murmur at being kept back from the shore. I could see we should have trouble if I did not take the matter into my own hands, so I ordered the natives to march up. They immediately said, "Minister is our master, we must do as he tells us;" and up they came. With a little help we arranged them on each side of the causeway up which the Duke would pass. When he landed, they cheered lustily in good English hurrahs; but afterwards they broke out into their own peculiar native running cheer. The natives had written and signed an address to the Prince, but I could see no one to introduce the bearers of it, so I sent the young men forward by themselves to present it I did not like to go with them lest it might be said that I merely got up the address to obtain personal notice for myself. The address was received by the Prince very kindly. Pantuni read it well. After this there was spear and boomerang throwing and native cheering. In the evening I took the school children home and many of the young men accompanied us. We got home late, as the landing-place is so far from the Mission Station.
12th.—There was a great corroboree (ringbalin) last night at Wommeran in the presence of the Prince and suite. I could not be present.
13th.—I am sorry that the Duke of Edinburgh is not allowed to see the Mission Station. However, we must be content. I should have liked him to see that we are trying to instruct the natives.
14th.—The natives are beginning to leave. After a good deal of trouble the Lower Lake clans got away. I gave to all provisions for the journey.
15th.—The Murray River tribe departed, and so the assembly of the tribes to meet the Prince has come to an end; it has given us all a fortnight s very hard work. The effect will be good. It will enlarge the ideas of the natives, and give them notions of rank and honour and dignity, which it was difficult to make them [p.113] understand before. Poor old chief Peter was so frightened at the affair that he ran away across the scrub and hid himself in the reeds at Ngoingho. He is very ill with the excitement. Some foolish people tried to terrify him.
16th February, 1868.—A horrible event has happened. Old Peter has been insane ever since the meeting of the natives in November. His friends have been very careless of him. To-day, at noon, he seized a tomahawk at the camp, and attacked Kitty and chopped her frightfully. He inflicted nine wounds, some very dangerous, before he was pulled off. It then took six men to hold him. He tried to attack others and injure himself, but was prevented. Kitty's husband brought her here. I sent her off at once by boat to the doctor at Milang. I also informed the police.
17th.—The police have apprehended Peter. It is a relief to know that he is taken. It is dangerous to be near him. It would be terrible to have this poor old mad man roaming about the bush. Poor Kitty lies in a dangerous condition. (Peter was sent to the Lunatic Asylum, and eventually recovered his reason. Kitty recovered from the wounds, but eventually died of shock to the system.)
The Christian natives soon began to find the wurleys very uncongenial to the practice of Christianity. There is no privacy, no security for property, and every hindrance to piety which barbarous heathenism can devise. First of all, James Unaipon and John Laelinyeri built a small stone, thatched, cottage with their savings. Then an excellent lady in Scotland—Mrs. Smith, of Dunesk, a friend of the deceased missionary, the Rev. James Reid—feeling interested in the two converts made by his labours, sent out £40 to be divided between them. They devoted this money to building themselves two stone cottages. Then we erected another cottage ourselves. The natives now began to entertain the idea of building a place of worship. Gradually they raised the sum of £30. Mrs. Smith, of Dunesk, having heard of our desire to build a place of worship, sent us £50 towards it, and £100 for more cottages. We then began to build, and with the [p.114] help of kind friends in Adelaide managed to finish our chapel. It cost £148. We then built more houses, and called the village which thus arose around us Reid Town, in memory of the missionary who lost his life in seeking the welfare of the natives. Our great want at the present time is houses for the Christian natives. Although we have a native stonemason, the demand for houses greatly exceeds the supply.
Two or three more extracts are all I shall trouble the reader with. They relate to the close of the life of one often mentioned in these pages.
11th September, 1869.—Teenminne is very ill. Dysentery has set in. I fear she cannot recover.
18th.—Teenminne has been continually getting worse. Her faith continues unwavering. I often talk and pray with her, and listen to her expression of firm faith in Jesus. She asks me to read to her in the native language, because she feels it fatigue her attention less than English.
19th.—My poor sick friend is gradually sinking. She cannot last long. She begs me to have her body buried and not dried. Of course I promised to comply with her wishes. There is no fear of death, but no raptures—only a sort of anxious waiting for departure, all the while resting on Jesus to bear up against fear.
21st.—To-day, at three p.m., our dear friend Teenmiane departed to her everlasting rest. She was a little delirious this morning, but that passed off; then deafness came on, and the restlessness which precedes dissolution. I prayed with her, but she heard very little. Her husband was attentive and kind to her. She went off at last quite suddenly.
Teenminne was my first friend among the natives. She was a truly excellent woman—kind-hearted, intelligent, faithful, courageous, devout. She was a good loving wife, and a good mother. I feel we have lost a dear friend. To die was gain to her, but grief to us. She possessed more of what we call character than any woman I ever met amongst the natives. She was good-looking for an aborigine, although she had lost an eye in her childhood. There was a cheerful merry way with her which [p.115] won everybody, and her downright good sense was ever conspicuous. My wife says she has lost the only woman she could ever make an intimate friend of amongst the natives.
23rd.—To-day we buried the remains of Teenminne. All the lacks except one or two attended the funeral. It was a solemn season.
The church of Christ at Reid Town increases in numbers. We have much to encourage us. Those for whom at one time we scarcely dared to hope are becoming disciples of Jesus.
Thus Christianity has been winning its way gradually amongst the Narrinyeri, producing the peaceable fruits of righteousness and civilisation. Christian life has led to Christian marriage. Christian worship, Christian homes, and last, not least, Christian burial of the departed. Those who came to us as children have grown up to manhood and womanhood and become heads of families. Some have passed away to the rest of God who came to us painted heathen savages, but were led to sit at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in their right mind. Many other deathbed scenes could be described where natives died in sure and certain hope of a resurrection to everlasting life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I do not think I could produce a better illustration of the power of Christianity than one which occurred some little time back. I have several times mentioned the name of Baalpulare in the course of this narrative. The people bearing this name were a large and influential but extremely superstitious and heathen family of the Point Macleay tribe. The youngest of four brothers who bore this name we called Baalpulare; the next elder was Minora Baalpulare. Now this family was by native law ngia-ngiampe to James Unaipon, consequently they were forbidden to have the slightest intercourse with him, or he with them. One day James came to me and brought a kalduke which he said had been sent to him by Minora Baalpulare upon the birth of his child to show that he wished the same custom to be kept up between their children. James felt that he could not [p.116] agree to this, as he was a Christian; but it would have been risking a quarrel if he had gone and spoken to Minora about it, so he asked me what he had better do. I told him that I would carry back the kalduke and settle the matter. Consequently I went to Minora and told him that as James Unaipon was a Christian, he could not have any more to do with such heathen customs; and I gave him back the plume. The Baalpulares were very much scandalised, and very ill friends with James for a long time after this occurred. Baalpulare the youngest was a gross and licentious savage, and did not hesitate to show his resentment. Some two years after this both Baalpulare and Minora were brought under deep conviction of sin through listening to the preaching of the gospel. In their distress they cast aside all thought of native customs and went to James Unaipon for counsel and comfort. Baalpulare was especially earnest and teachable. He set himself to learn to read with the greatest diligence and considerable success. I could scarcely believe in the change in these men. They applied to be admitted to the Church and baptised. So I put them under a specially long course of probation, and they passed through it with credit. At last they were baptised and became communicants. Here was an instance of the power of Christianity to break down native customs; these men cast aside all thoughts of ngia-ngiampe, and under pressure of religious concern, sought counsel from the very man whom native law forbade them to speak to. And up to this time they are the most intimate friends of James Unaipon.
A passage from my journal will supply another contrast. The quotation is as follows:—
"June 30, 1859.—Camped at Point Macleay. A large wurley is erected close to our camp; Pelican, Teenminne, and many other natives live in it. To-night they had a corrobery—ringbalin, they call it. Two of their songs especially attracted my attention. One of them, the first, began with a low chant, the words being rapidly uttered to a sort of cadence, and frequently repeated. The women all sat on the ground on one side of the [p.117] fires, several of them beating time with the plongge, or native drum, while the men stood on the other side of the fire, beating time with the tartengk—that is, two waddies or kanakis. The scene was indescribably wild. The dark row of seated women, with rolling eyes and gleaming teeth, the play of light and shadow on the rough logs of the wurley, and the eager swaying forms of the men, some of them light and beautifully proportioned youths, and others stalwart and hairy savages. Then the chant rose higher and higher with beat of tartengk and plongge, then sank again to plaintive but rapid minor tones. Then the men's hoarse voices broke in, shouting in time to the chant, and stamping and beating their brandished weapons in the wildest excitement Then the shrillest treble of the women rose above the fierce warlike tones, sounding like an imploring supplication in reply; then the whole concluded with a loud chant in chorus, to the beat of tartengk and drum. The other song was to slower time, and the burden of it was, 'Shall I ever see my country again,' a native utterance of love of birthplace and home. One of the men asked mo if I could write what they sang in a letter."
And now for the contrast. Great has been the effect produced by Christianity upon the natives. I do not mean to say that Christian Aborigines are faultless—far from it They have their inconsistencies, their failings, their falls. As yet religious life is a conflict with them, even as it is with us. But there exists amongst them much earnestness, and they have become more cleanly, more industrious, more moral, through the influence of the Gospel. The change is so great that I can scarcely believe that they are the same people.
One Saturday night, a few weeks ago, I went, as I always do, to take away the lights at nine o'clock, see the children were comfortably in bed, and lock up the schoolroom. It was a soft, still night. When I got down there I stood a moment and listened to the sounds around me. Nobody knew I was there. From the young men's sleeping-room came the sound of voices singing devoutly and with feeling Lyte's beautiful hymn—
"Abide with me, fast falls the eventide."
From my own dwelling rolled the low tones of the harmonium, where my eldest daughter was practising the tunes for the coming Sabbath. From beyond, where the chapel lifted its silent form amidst the darkness, I could hear the sound of a hymn, sung in the native deacon's cottage. There a party of natives had gathered for a Saturday evening prayer-meeting. As I stood there a gentle rain began to fall, and I could not help thinking of—"My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew." Yes, Lord, Thy Word shall be as the rain which cometh down from heaven, and watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud. It doth not return unto Thee void, but accomplishes that which Thou pleasest, and prospers in the thing whereunto Thou hast sent it. And to Thy holy name be all the glory for ever and ever. To sum up the results of the Mission at this place, I may state that at the time when these words are being written there were twelve families living in cottages on the place. Christian homes, conducted with more or less comfort and decency. And I know that in those homes the voice of family devotion is heard morning and evening, led by the head of each family. This has come about by Christian influence, not by any positive command on my part. On the Lord's Day, instead of a wild and oddly-dressed throng of savages, our chapel presents the appearance of a decently-dressed congregation of worshippers. And in the little village around us is carried on that conflict with sin and Satan which shall eventuate in the complete triumph of the Gospel. I should also state that I find that those natives who adopt a thoroughly civilised mode of life are the healthiest of their tribe. The most unhealthy are those who are neither civilised nor savage, but adopt a sort of half-and-half life. The writer feels that the results of this Mission abundantly prove that the Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation of communities as well as individuals. Thanks be unto God, who always causeth us to triumph in Christ. To Him be the glory, and the dominion, and the majesty, and the victory for ever and ever. Amen.
The Primitive Condition of Mankind.
A GREAT deal of controversy has arisen in scientific circles on the subject of
the primal state of mankind. One party has maintained that if man were not
originally developed from the lowest
animals, he must have been created in a state of great barbarism; and others
maintain that the first individuals of our race were placed after their creation
in a state which at once developed
into civilisation. Now, we have in Australia arrived at the knowledge of many
facts relative to the Aborigines which bear directly on the subject under
discussion. Any person who has resided long
amongst the natives and become well acquainted with their habits will have
remarked the singular absence of the faculty of invention which they manifest.
The power of calculation they possess
in a very small measure, but the power to invent seems to have died out
altogether. An Aboriginal will imitate what he sees others do; but it seems
impossible for him to originate a fresh way of
doing anything, or to improve on the method which he has been taught.
Now, some savans have supposed that human languages were developed from the utterances natural to animals. If this were true, we might, therefore, expect to find amongst the natives of Australia a language very little superior to the cries of the beasts of the field. But what do we find?—that they possess a language which is remarkable for the complexity of its structure, the number of its inflections, and the precision with which it can be used. Although the number of words contained in it is comparatively small—probably not more than four thousand—yet they seem to the student to be rather the remnants of a noble language than a tongue in process of development We find the dual number throughout. We also have six cases in each declension of nouns [p.120] and pronouns, and a double set of personal pronouns for the sake of euphony and expression. Verbs are regularly formed from roots consisting either of one vowel and two consonants or of two vowels and three consonants. The names of human relationships are far more copious than in English. In many respects we have niceties of expression which we do not find in our own language; for instance, instead of having only one word for the interrogative and relative "when," they have two. Now, the Aborigines with their present power of invention, if they were only developed from a still lower grade of human nature, could never have constructed this language for themselves. They possess the faculty of learning other languages readily, but anyone who knows them well has found they have really no power to invent language. And this points to the conclusion that they never could have risen to their present state from a lower grade of savage life, but must have descended to their barbarism from a state more nearly approaching civilisation; and their language must be the remnant of what was then in use amongst them. Its inflections have been retained, but its range contracted within the limits of the objects of their present sphere of existence.
The natives possess many customs which are just as manifestly remnants of a higher state of social life as their language. Now, many of their customs are of a most laborious and burdensome character, involving much suffering, and having many curious rites connected with them. But while the natives observe them with great exactness and particularity, they can give no account of their meaning or origin. Now, it is unreasonable to suppose that these customs originated without a cause, that they never meant anything. The right conclusion is that they once had a meaning and an intelligible purpose; but, like many religious ceremonies in our own land, the meaning has died out, and they are now observed only from superstitious ceremonialism. And this conclusion carries with it the further inference that the native must have descended from a higher state of civilisation, when they knew the signification of the customs which they now ignorantly observe. [p.121] The natives also possess weapons which they could not have invented in their present state. The boomerang and throwing-stick for the spear are of this kind. The former even suggested a new idea to scientific men when it was first found amongst them. Their spinning of excellent waterproof twine and their netting also point to a time when they possessed a power of invention which they have since lost. And it is noteworthy that those tribes who, to reach their present seats, must have travelled across the country where there was no fish, and consequently no need of nets, have no idea of making either twine or nets, and cannot learn to do so. These Aborigines are on the shores of the Australian Bight, and in some parts of the south-western comer of the continent, and probably travelled across the centre from Torres Straits to get to the position which they now occupy.
But there are also considerations relating to the present state of these Aborigines which bear even more closely than those which have engaged our attention upon the primal state of man. The condition of this people furnishes ample grounds for the position that man in a state of barbarism, so far from rising towards civilisation, inevitably and invariably goes downwards towards extinction. The intelligent amongst the Aborigines always say that their traditions speak of a time when they were more numerous than they are now, and that their numbers had been decreasing long before the white man came into the country. It would appear, then, that the first comers possessed so much of civilisation as to enable them to increase in numbers, but in proportion as they became more numerous they became more barbarous, until the point was reached where the race began to descend towards its present position. Savage life is fatal to the increase of the human family. Man in this condition lives under the power of his carnal nature, and Holy Scripture says, "If ye live after the flesh ye shall die." Never was there a text more strikingly illustrated than this by the condition of uncivilised man. From childhood to old age the gratification of appetite and passion is the whole purpose of life to the savage. He seeks to extract the utmost sweetness from [p.122] mere animal pleasures, and consequently his nature becomes embruted. And this eager pursuit of sensuality leads to injurious excess and unhealthy intemperance. The Aboriginal eats and drinks with a whole devotion and seriousness which shows that every faculty is absorbed in the occupation. The passions are never restrained, except in so far as custom prescribes, and consequently assume an imperious character; the man is entirely under their sway, and gratifies them to the utmost, although the body should die from the indulgence. And under such circumstances the race decreases in numbers; sensuality leads to infanticide and other atrocities too bad to mention; infant life perishes at an enormous percentage of the births which take place; diseases of a scrofulous type sweep away thousands of victims; and the whole people, unless some external aid comes in, is soon exterminated by mere barbarism. And in case of the Aborigines of these colonies, this result is accelerated through the vices introduced by the white man, and they receive an impulse which gives them an additional impetus towards destruction. Now it is very evident that if this representation be faithful, man never could originally have been created in a state lower than that of these Aborigines, for if he had been, he never, by any course of development accordant with the course of his nature, could have arisen out of it. The only conclusion at which we can fairly arrive is, that man was created with all the powers, faculties, and impulses which would lead him to adopt from the first that state of existence which we call civilisation.
I DO not intend in this chapter to endeavour to make the reader acquainted with
native grammar, but merely to speak of those points of interest in the languages
of the Aborigines which are
worthy of notice.
The Narrinyeri have a language, and do not, as an English farmer once told me he supposed they did, only make noises, like beasts of the field. They have a language, and a highly organised one too, possessing inflections which ours does not.
Their nouns and pronouns have three numbers—singular, dual, and plural. They not only have the cases which ours have, but several others in addition.
The following is the declension of the noun korni, "a man":—
|Gen.||kornald.||of a man.|
|Da.||kornangk,||to a man.|
|Ab.||kornil,||by a man.|
|Exative||kornanmant,||from a man.|
|Ergative||kornanyir or kornald,||with a man.|
|Gen.||kornengal.||of two men.|
|Da.||kornungengun.||to two men.|
|Voc.||kornula.||O two men.|
|Ab.||kornenggul.||by two men.|
|Exative||kornungengun||from two men.|
|Ergative||kornungengun||with two men.|
The following is the declension of the personal pronouns:—
|Caus.,||ngati,||by me.||ngel,||by us two.||ngum,||by us.|
|Voc.,||nginta,||O thou.||ngurla,||O you two.||nguna,||O yon.|
|Caus.,||nginte,||by thee.||ngurl,||by yon two.||ngun,||by you.|
|Nom||kitye,||he, she, it.||kengk,||they two.||kar,||they.|
|Caus.||kil,||by him.||kengk,||by them two.||kar,||by them.|
Personal pronouns are also used in an abbreviated form for the sake of euphony as affixed to nouns. The following is the commonly-used short and euphonised form:—
|Nom||ap p,||L||angal,||we two.||am,||we.|
|Caus.,||atte,||by me.||angal,||by us two.||am,||by us.|
|Nom||ind, inde,||thou.||ungul,||you two.||ungune,||you.|
|Voc.,||inda,||O thou.||ula,||O you two.||una,||O you.|
|Caus.,||inde,||by thee.||ungul,||by you two.||ungune,||by you.|
|Nom||itye atye,||he, she, it.||engk,||they two||ar,||they.|
|Ac,||in ityanian,||him,||enggun,||they two,||an,||them.|
|Caus.||il, ile,||by him.||engk,||by them two.||ar,||by them.|
The genitives, datives, and ablatives of pronouns are firamed by adding the following words to their respective accusatives:—
Genitives, auwe awwurle.
Datives, angk, ungul, anyhr.
The following is the declension of the pronominal adjective kinamue, "of him" or "his":—
|Ab.,||kinanyerilf||by his (causative).|
|Nom.,||hengguna uumril,||theirs (two).|
|Ab.,||kananyiril,||by their (causative).|
The use of this causative form will be seen in the following sentence:—
Lakkir atte ityan wundi ananyiril (I speared him with my spear).
Here the literal rendering is—Was speared by me, him, spear by my.
The declension of other pronouns will be best illustrated by the words "ngangge" (who); "minye" (what).
The interrogatives "who" and "what" are thus declined:—
|nak an angk,||to whom (plural).|
|nautoe, nauuntrle,||whose, or of whom.|
|mengye.||by what (how).|
|mekimbe,||for what (what for).|
|minyandai.||what times (how often).|
|tninyai, tnunyarai,||what number.|
|nonde,||what reason, why.|
|murd.||with what intention.|
The verbs are always formed from roots, which consist invariably of one or two vowel sounds, and two or three consonantal sounds. The tenses are made by participles joined to the roots. For example, let us take the word "lakkin" (spearing):—
|Root,||lak.||to spear or pierce.|
|Past,||lakemb.||speared a long time ago.|
|lakuranib,||for the purpose of spearing.|
|lakilde.||ought to spear.|
Let us take a further example, and give some sentences in which is the word "pettin" (stealing):—
By him it was stolen He stole it recently.
Kil ityan pettir " " "
Thou it stealing You are stealing.
Nginte yan pettin " " "
Pet our ityan.—Steal it.
I will now give two or three sentences in the language:—
When I must at Tip? When must I go to Point Sturt!
Yaral ap our Tipald " " " "
Here to me sugar rice with for Give me some sugar for my rice.
Ak anangk pinyatowe tyilye aldamb. " " " "
Now by me thee sending I send thee.
Hik atte um taiyin " " "
I to me cutting I cut myself
Ngap anagk merildin " "
So I it did. I did so.
Luk ap atye ellir. " "
Enough he has been He has died.
Kunyitre ellir. " "
Up will I to the Wurley I will go to the Wurley.
Loru el up mantagk " " "
I when they me will lift up, then will by me drawing to me all men.
Ngape ungunuk ar an preppani, wunyel atte yultun anangk ngniwar narrinyeri.
I.e.,— I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men onto me.
The principal characteristics of the language are ellipsis, and the abbreviation
of words. A native speaks of going and coming, continually, without using those
words, but short expressions
equivalent. Instead of saying, I will go, he says. Up will I—Loru el ap; and
instead of Come, Mom or Mare el ap—Down will I. A word is often expressed in
the language by a single letter of it being sounded. Hence the word ngum (thee) becomes um, and often merely m, as
Yare matye mitye?—What is thy name? Here the whole word ngumauwe (of thee) is
expressed by the addition
of m to the word atye. Narrinyeri can always express themselves in such an
elliptical style as to puzzle a foreigner, however well he may know their
Proper names of places change their terminations according as the going to, coming from, or being at the place is spoken of; as Tipald, to Tip; Tip angk, at Tip; Tip amant, from Tip. Tip is the name for Point Sturt.
The languages of the nations of Australian Aborigines differ very much. The language of the Narrinyeri is as different from the language spoken by the Adelaide tribe as English is from German. The words of the various languages of Australia [p.128] which most resemble each other are those for the hand, mouth, tongue, and eye:—
|New South Wales, near Sydney||Mutturra||--------------||Tullun||Ngaikung|
|Murundi, River Murray||Peean||Taako munno||Ngantudli||Korlio|
|Blanchewater, South Australia||Mannanyuk||Tiya||Yarley||Minna|
|Kamilaroi, Barwon, Liverpool Plains||Muna mambunya||---------------||Tulle||Mil|
|Dippil, Queensland, Wide Bay||Murra||Tunka||Dunnum||Mi|
As might be expected, the Australian dialects are almost destitute of abstract
terms and generic words. I cannot discover in any of the languages which I have
examined any traces of figurative
expressions. Among the Narrinyeri the poetical kind of speech so much admired by
the Maori is not to be found. I do not know a single phrase worthy to be called
The languages of the Aborigines of this continent divide themselves into two classes. There are distinguished from each other principally by their pronouns. One class has monosyllabic or dissyllabic pronouns, while those of the other are polly syllabic. The following are specimens of the two classes:—
|I.||Thou.||He, She, It.|
|4.||Western Australia (Swan River)||ngadjo||ninni||bal|
|5.||Moorundee (River Murray)||ngape||ngwiru||ninni|
|6.||Moreton Bay (Queensland)||atta; ngai (Dippil)||inta||ningda|
|7.||Kamilaroi (Liverpool Plains)||ngaia||aginda||ngeuna|
Here we observe that the root of the first personal pronoun in the first seven
languages is nga; but in the eighth and ninth we [p.129] have totally different roots. This indication of their being two races of
Aborigines is supported by other facts. A kind of caste distinction has been
found to exist among some which does not exist
in others. The Kamilaroi and Dippil tribes, on the Upper Darling and its
tributaries, were the Aborigines amongst whom this was discovered. The Rev. W.
Ridley was the first to make this known.
Amongst the nations of Aborigines a system of relationship prevails similar to the Tamilian; but it is not universal, and it appears that it is modified by some tribes having originally had a different system. Again, there is a remarkable difference in colour and cast of features. Sir George Grey noticed this in Western Australia. Some natives have light complexions, straight hair, and a Malay countenance; while others have curly hair, are very black, and have the features of the Papuan or Melanesian. It is therefore probable that there are two races of Aborigines; and, most likely, while some tribes are purely of one race or the other, there are tribes consisting of a mixture of both races.
Before closing this chapter on native languages I should like to say that I do not think it would be possible to translate the whole Bible into the Aboriginal tongue without importing into it a great number of foreign words. At the same time, the simple truths of the Gospel can be expressed in it. We can say "Pomir an amb itye, Jesuse ngum ambe;" that is, "Jesus died instead of us."
A few chapters containing the most essential truths of the Bible—such as Creation, the Decalogue, the New Birth, and the Death and Resurrection of the Lord Jesus—have been translated; but the natives are rapidly learning English, and any other means of communicating truth will soon be unnecessary.
In translating Scripture into a barbarous language, we find it almost impossible to render those words ending with ation—such as regeneration, sanctification, justification; but we discover that the truths wrapped up in these terms can be translated by means of the figurative expressions through which the Bible sets them [p.130] forth. The natives readily grasp the meaning as applied to spiritual and moral truth. A washing of the soul is illustrated by speaking of washing the body. Substitution is set forth by various figures; and we are led to see that the metaphorical style of Holy Scripture renders it the better vehicle for the setting forth of truth in the poorest languages.
Narrinyeri Names of Places.
|Native Name.||Meaning.||English Name of Place.|
|The place of large sheoaks
The armpit; the bend of the arm
The place of where
A place belonging to a bird of that name
The lagoon of gulls
The place of cockles
Of many sheoak boughs ...
The points ...
The ancient way
At the house
The place of grey geese ...
The going place
The place of red ochre
The place of millin (sorcery)
The steep hill
The place of bull-ants
The claws of crayfish
|A point at the entrance of Lake Albert.
The head of Loveday Bay.
A point at the entrance to. Lake Albert. The crossing place.
A place on the Peninsula.
Point Macleay Lagoon.
A bay at the head of Lake Albert.
The River Murray.
Some Coorong sandhills.
The Murray mouth.
A spot near Point Macleay, said to be Waiungare's house.
A spot near Lake Albert River.
The crossing-place, entrance of Lake Albert.
An island near the Coorong.
The end of Point Sturt.
Warrin^er, Lake Albert.
Lakes Alexandrina and Albert.
A point in Lake Alexandrina.
A hill on the shore of Lake Alexandrina.
COMPARATIVE TABLE OF THE WORDS OF FOUR SOUTH AUSTRALIAN TRIBES OF ABORIGINES.
60. He, she, it
Anecdotes Illustrative of Character, Customs, &c. &c.
The Narrinyeri are intensely superstitious. They thoroughly believe in the power
of evil spirits. The following incidents will illustrate this:—
One night, about nine o'clock, a very powerful man who was called Big Jerry came to my back door and begged to see me. I went out and found him armed to the teeth with all sorts of native weapons, but he was suffering from severe toothache. He wanted me to give him something to relieve it. I did so, and after an hour he seemed better. I asked him what he had brought so many weapons for. He replied that he was afraid of wild blackfellows and evil spirits. He then begged me to go back to the wurley with him. It was only about five hundred yards off. At first I refused; but he pitifully urged me to do so—more frightened to go out in the dark than any child I ever saw. At last I went. It was very ridiculous. I, the unarmed man, walked by the side of the armed man to protect him from Melape and Karungje, and I don't know how many other demons besides.
There used to live here an old native named Pelican. He was intensely superstitious. One day he complained that his neck felt bad. He said that the night before a wild blackfellow came and kicked him on the back of his neck, and then flew up to the sky in a flame. I tried to reason him out of the notion, but it was all of no use. His neck then began to swell and be painful, and soon showed that there was real inflammation, whatever might be the cause. I treated the place in the best manner I knew how, and it developed into an enormous boil at the base of [p.134] the skull. It burst, and Pelican recovered, quite convinced of the dangerous effects of a kick from a supernatural wild blackfellow.
I had another adventure with Pelican, which I will relate. A lad had died at the camp from inflammation of the stomach, aggravated by its happening to come on just after an old heathen had threatened the boy with sorcery for some trifling offence. This boy, as he lay ill, complained of burning in his stomach. Soon after his death. Pelican's son (Bulpuminne) was taken ill with inflammation of the chest. I attended to him, and put on a mustard poultice. I left him after applying it, telling him that I would return in twenty minutes. When I did so I found him crying with the pain, and his old father sitting by looking rather queer. I stooped down, took the plaster off, and proceeded to dress the place with some simple ointment. As I was busy doing this I felt a sort of flicker above my head. I started round and caught my friend Pelican brandishing a heavy waddy over me as if he would like to crack my skull. "Halloa, Pelican!" I shouted, "what are you up to?" "I was only going to throw at that crow," he replied, with assumed calmness, and pointing to one which sat on a neighbouring fence. I went on and finished my work; but I knew very well that the old fellow had hard work to keep from breaking my head. His reason was that his boy had complained that the mustard burned him, and he concluded that I was going to make him die in like manner as the other lad did, and thus his feeling of revenge was aroused almost to a higher pitch than he could resist. Now, this is all in accordance with native ideas. Their doctors, or kuldukkes, are as much sorcerers as practisers of the art of healing. When the ngaitye of the tribe is killed, if a hostile kuldukke of another tribe gets a piece of it—such as a bone—he ties it in the comer of a wallaby skin and flicks it at the people whose ngaitye or totem it is, and they are made sick by it. This action is called pemmin. These kuldukkes are made by some old sorcerers taking two heavy black spears; these they tie side by side, and point them at the intended kuldukkes and then strike them with [p.135] the weapons; then they tie an opossum skin on each of them. The men thus operated upon pretend to be mad, rub themselves all over with chalk, and run about as if demented. They are supposed to be able to pemmin with frightful force. One of them told me he once killed a magpie only by the force of sorcery. They pretend to extract disease, but at the same time to be equally able to impart it. They are supposed to be under the influence of the great master sorcerer—the demon Melapi; so evidently Pelican classed me with native doctors, and thought 1 was a dangerous person.
There can be no doubt but that the natives believe in the reality of the power of sorcery. One old sorcerer told me that he had put it to the test of experiment, and that he was sure of it. He said that he put a certain ngadhungi or charm intended for a particular individual to the fire, and then watched the result. The person whom he intended to affect immediately sickened and became ill; he took the charm away, and the subject of the experiment got well. This he repeated two or three times with unvarying results. But they say that sorcery has no effect upon white people. I believe that the experiments were tried upon me, but without success; the charm would not work.
One day I heard a great cry at the wurleys. I went up and found the women wailing, with their faces blackened and hair shorn off. An old man sat up in the midst with a despairing look on his face. I inquired the reason for all this, and learned that the old man had dreamed that some one at Tipping had put a ngadhungi to the fire to work his death, and he believed it must be the case. Some of the young men assured me that he would die unless some one went to Tipping to stop the sorcery; so I sent off a party in the boat in compliance with their wishes. Next day they returned and said that they could not find any sorcery, and so it was concluded that there must be a mistake somehow, and the old man got well.
One of the principal effects of the practice of sorcery amongst the natives is to develop the desire for revenge. Believing that [p.136] enemies secretly tried to compass their deaths, they would, if sorcery failed, try other means to retaliate upon them. Two or three would go prowling about the bush at night in order to surprise some enemy or his relatives—acting upon the native principle if you cannot hurt your enemy, hurt his nearest relatives. I have seen the light of such avengers of blood wandering and flickering through the scrub in the darkness; and on one occasion the station was nearly set on fire by such prowlers carelessly leaving embers amongst the dry grass. This constant seeking for revenge produces an atmosphere of suspicion amongst the natives. It is often the case that they will trust none but relatives; all others are regarded &s possible enemies. This fear of revenge leads them to burn or destroy every bone and fragment of the game eaten by them, lest an enemy should get it and make sorcery with it.
A blackfellow named Ponge had two little children, a boy and a girl. One day, as they were at play together, the latter, with a tomahawk, chopped off her little brother's finger. Their father no sooner saw it than, in a paroxysm of fear and grief, he seized the amputated finger, popped it into his mouth, and swallowed it. His idea was that it was thus put away safely, and no enemy could get it and compass sorcery by means thereof against his son.
The Narrinyeri, in their native state, were a law-abiding people. It is a great mistake to suppose that they herded together like the beasts, having no sort of government. The tribe was under the government of the rupulle, or chief, and the elders. The most intelligent natives assure me that the power of the chief was much greater before the colonists came here than it is now. There are certain customs and laws handed down from generation to generation, and these are strictly observed. One law is that none but native weapons shall be used in battles between natives. I never knew this law infringed. It is also the law that an unfair wound shall be punished by the tribe. I have known the chief men in the tribe yield to this law. [p.137] One morning a man called Eilkildaritpiri came to me with his upper lip almost bitten off. There had been a fight the night before, and this fellow had attacked Captain Jack when he was unarmed, and so Jack seized him and in a rage bit him as I have described. I dressed the wound as well as I could. Next morning I was going to the camp, when I met Captain Jack. I began talking to him about hurting Eilkildaritpiri. He replied, "Taplin, don't you talk; I have just had four blows with a waddy on my head for it.'' The tribe had assembled and sentenced him to this punishment, and he had yielded, although a man whom none would have liked to have attacked when he had weapons in his hand; but he felt it right to submit to the law.
By native law certain kinds of food were prohibited to the young men and boys. Twenty kinds of native game were forbidden to the narumbar—that is, those undergoing initiation to manhood—and thirteen kinds to the boys. These prohibitions were strictly observed. Certain penalties were said to follow disobedience. If the boys ate wallaby they would turn grey; if they ate the fish called tyiri they would have sore legs; if they cooked food with palyi or panpandi wood, all the fish would forsake the shore. Boys were also very careful not to allow their hair to be cut or combed after they were about twelve years of age until they were made narumbar or young men. Indeed, so far from the natives being lawless, they had too many laws, and their whole lives were regulated by them.
There are some curious sayings amongst the natives, some of them grotesque and absurd. For instance, the children were told that if a boy should tickle a dog until he made him laugh, the dog would turn into a boy, and the boy into a panpandi (native cherry) tree. Again, there is a large green fly called tenkendeli, and it is supposed that if they kill this fly, and do not at the same time cry out "tenkendeli," they will not be able to swim any more. It is also supposed that if any one spits on certain rocky islands in Lake Albert he will certainly turn grey. I would not write these absurdities, but I think that it may perhaps be interesting to compare them with similar sayings in other tribes.
The Narrinyeri are not destitute of powers of endurance and some presence of
mind. One day two men were coming in two bark canoes from Point Sturt The water
in the channel is twenty-five
feet deep, and consequently the swell is very heavy in a strong wind. They
started on a calm day, propelling themselves with fishing spears. Suddenly a
heavy squall came up from the north-west.
Immediately their frail vessels were swept from beneath them, and they were left
struggling in the waves. It was impossible to return; so they bravely set
themselves to swim across about four
miles. They laboured on, until at last one of them struck down his fishing spear
(which they had both retained) and felt the bottom about ten feet below. They
swam a little further and then stuck
their spears into the ground and rested on the tops of them. When refreshed they
again swam on, and after three or four such rests reached the shore of Point
Macleay. No doubt as they were
swimming they would all the while be in dread lest Multyewanki, the lake demon,
should seize them.
There is a legend that once upon a time a man's child was playing on the shore, and he was seized and carried to the bottom of the lake by a Multyewanki. The father tied a line round his waist, got his friends to hold it, and dived in after his boy; but first he performed certain incantations. When he got to the bottom he saw Multyewankis lying asleep in various places, and discovered his child amongst them; so he seized his son, and, giving the signal to his friends, was dragged out, and he and his boy both recovered.
One night Peter, the chief of the Point Malcolm tribe, was sleeping in a native hut, with a lot of other people. As he lay dozing he felt a large snake crawl up his naked body under his opossum-rug. Now, he knew that if he jumped up he would most likely get bitten; so he carefully put his hand down and seized the reptile by the back of the neck and held him at arm's length. And now he felt that it would not do to throw the venomous creature from him, lest it should fall on some of the surrounding sleepers and bite them; and yet he felt that it would soon writhe itself from his grasp, so he brought the snake s head [p.139] down to his mouth and gave it a crunch with his teeth, and then shouted to his friends, and they jumped up and enabled him to cast it from him.
The following story was told me by one of those concerned in the circumstances. I relate it because it brings out various customs of the natives before the white men appeared upon the scene:—
I was a big boy, and strong enough to help my father haul the nets when he went fishing. My father's name was Katyirene. I have a sister about two years younger than I am. Her name is Ngalyalli. The camp of the Lakalinyeri, or tribe to which we belonged, was pitched at Rauukki. We came from Piltangk, where we had been spearing pomeri (a fish). When we got to the camp at iUuakki, the old men who were sitting by the fire bid us welcome, by patting their closed right hands against their stomachs, and then throwing them from them towards us, opening them as they did so. This is called menmendin, and means that their mewe, or bowels, go out to us. It is also the way in which we show we thank any one. We stayed there that night My mother (Pungari) and my two little brothers were there. But we only stayed one night. My father thought that there might be tinuwarri (bream) at Ngiakkung, and so he said he would take his hooks and lines (piri and nunggi) and go and try to get some. So I and Ngalyalli said we would go with him. When we started in the morning, our Rupulli and the old men spoke very kindly. "Many bream shall be in your koye (basket), brother," said they. "Kalyan ungune lewin" (which means "here you sitting"), said my father to the old men. And they answered "Nginte ngoppun" ("Thou walking"). This is our way of saying good-bye. Then my father said, "El el our ou" ("Will must go now"); and so we started. We went right across the country. We killed two or throe wallabies on the way, for my father was very quick with a waddy, and could kill wallabies as well as a white-fellow with a gun. When he threw his puri, it was sure to hit. But my father would not let us eat the flesh for fear it should make us grey and ugly; he skinned them, and made a thing to carry water, a skin bag, with one of the skins, and be ate a little of one of them himself, but he would not let us touch it. We got to Ngiakkung that night and slept there. We fished all the next day in the channel at the head of the bay. We ate tinuwarri that day. At night we made our wurley with boughs close under the rocks. In the morning my father said he felt very bad, so he sat in the wurley and I and Ngalyalli fished. After gauwel (noon,) my father got worse. We were very much frightened. He got so bad he could not speak, and did not know us. And then he died. The sun set soon after and it came on dark, and we were very much frightened. We heard the wind whispering in the she-aoaks, and we crept close to each other. There by the fire, which we kept up for fear of being in the dark, lay our father, wrapped up in his opossum rug. O, it was terrible. He had been talking kindly to us only last night, and now there he lay dead. We heard the yell of many merkanar kel (wild dogs) over on the flats at the head of the bay. What could we do? It would never do to leave our father there to be eaten by them. We cried all night. Ngalyalli rolled herself up in her rug, and covered her head for fear. I could not do so. I sat and looked around in the dark, and sometimes I thought I saw the [p.140] wandering light of merkani (enemies), and then I thought I saw a blackfellow standing not far off, and the cold sweat ran down my face, I was so frightened. But the moon rose afterwards, and I saw it was only a black stump. But I did not go very near it knowing that Melape, the wood devil, sometimes makes himself look like this, so that he may catch people. At last daylight came. We did not know what to do. We could not leave our father to the wild dogs. Neither of us could leave the other alone with the dead. So, at last, I and Ngalyalli took each a kanake (a pointed waddy) and dug a hole in the sand, and then took our father's body and lifted it in, and laid it gently down. Then we both cried. And then we buried it with sand. And afterwards we did not know what to do. What would the old men say? Our father was a man, and ought not to have been put under ground like that, but to have been dried in the camp, while the tribe mourned for him. And then we thought somebody must have killed him with ngadhungi (sorcery), and perhaps they might kill us too. We got up and ran away from the place in terror. I took my father's kanaker (waddies) and spear; Ngalyalli carried the tinnwarri we had caught and the skin full of water; and we went right into the scrub. Then night came on, and we made a fire from a bit of bark we carried with us from last night's camp. Very little we slept. We felt sick with fear. We cooked a tinuwarri, but we could not eat much. Next day we went again to the lake, as if we would go to Tuldurrug; but it was hot, and so we camped again. Next morning we were too bad to move, so we stayed there all that day and night. In the middle of the day after I was trying to sleep a little, when I heard a man say, "Kai hai! kai hai!" and I looked up and there stood my father's brother, and my grandfather, and two other men. They came up and when they saw us they cried, "Yakkai! Vakkai! Yakkaiakat! Poor children!" And I got up and threw myself into the arms of him who was now my only father, and sobbed a long time. Then they made me and Ngalyalli drink water and eat some meat. After we had done so, we told them our story, and then they cried again. They said they had wondered we did not return, and so they went down to seek us at Ngiakkung. There they tracked us to our camp, and then they lost our father's tracks and found only ours, so they went on and followed them until they found us. Next morning we started for itauukki. We went slowly, except one man, who went on quickly, so as to tell our people. Just at pangarinda (the time of shadows, evening) we got to the camp on the hill at Kauukki. When the people saw us coming the whole tribe cried with a loud voice. Everybody wept and mourned greatly, and were very sorry to think that we two poor children must have suffered. For many days after I and Ngalyalli were ill, and it was a long time before we got over the terrible death of our poor father. He lies there in his grave at Ngiakkung where we put him.
NGUNAITPONI AND HIS FATHER.
There lived amongst the Piltinyerar an old man and his son. The name of the
latter was Ngunaitponi. The name of his father, after the native fashion, was
lost in that of the child; so he was
commonly called Ngunaitpon-ami—i.e., the father of [p.141]
Ngunaitponi. The old man was a tall, venerable-looking savage. His hair was cut
closely on his head from constant mourning for many deceased relatives. He had a
long and grizzled beard. His
body was covered with a grey, shaggy coat of hair, especially on the back and
chest, his legs and thighs having the least. It is remarkable how much hair many
of the natives have. Exposure to the
atmosphere in a nude state is decidedly favourable to its growth. I have many
times seen children of four years old who never wore clothes with quite a
respectable coat of fur down their backs.
When they wear clothes this seems to wear off; in their nude state it increases
and forms a covering for life. I have also seen women of the savage class with
beards and whiskers far more abundant
than are to be seen on some white men.
But to return from this digression. Ngunaitpon-ami was a tall, hairy, grey, venerable savage. He had a good deal of the natural courtesy of a well-bred barbarian—courtesy gained by the necessities of camp life. Ngunaitponi was a man of about forty, tall and well-proportioned. Like many natives, he had in his youth lost an eye by having a spear thrown at him in a fight The common hunting-ground of these two was the great beds of reeds which grow on the banks of the Lower Murray. These, and the river itself, yielded wildfowl and crayfish in abundance.
One day, when I was conversing with Ngunaitponi, he told me the following singular story, which, as it illustrates the superstition of the natives, I will relate as nearly as possible in his own words:—
We have always 1)elieved that people lived after death. We call the spirit of a
man pangari.22 The old people often talk about where the spirit of a man
gone to after it has left the body; they
say that it goes westward to Nomnderi. Then we believe in other spirits who
walk about the earth, and who can make themselves to be seen or unseen as they
like. There is Nalkaru, a terrible
spirit who seeks to kill people; and there is Melapi, who is always lying in
wait for men. Have any of us ever seen these spirits? Yes; I have heard our
old men say they have. My father saw
Melapi once; the old man says he is sure be did. The way it
[p.142] happened was this:—My father had gone into the reeds to snare ducks. He took
with him the long rod, with a noose at the end. He had patiently sat at the edge
of the swamp until the ducks
came. At last one got within reach, so he gently and skilfully let the noose
fall over its head and then suddenly dragged it out. This frightened the rest of
the flock, so he got up and came away. He
walked in a path through the high, thick reeds, which were far above his head,
and then came to the place where they were lower—about up to his waist. All on
a sudden he heard the whirr of a
waddy as it flew by his head, and yet he saw nothing. He started, dropped the
duck and his rod, and put up his hand to grasp a kanake out of the basket which
hung from his neck down his back.
He supposed some enemy had flung at him from the reeds, and wan about to make an
attack. At that instant he felt something grapple with him, but yet he saw
nothing. Strong arms were put
round him, and a great invisible being hugged him in his grasp. He had heard
that Melapi sometimes thus attacks people, and that it is wisest to resist;
so, although he shuddered with fear, he
returned grip for grip, and wrestled with the spirit. The reeds crashed and
crackled under his feet as he swayed about in the struggle. He felt like a boy
in the power of the mighty. one, yet he
manfully returned strain for strain. He felt faint with horror. To get away was
impossible; to yield and be dragged off was awful. He put forth another effort.
He fancied the unseen one yielded a
little. Encouraged, he put forth all his strength and tried to throw his
adversary. As he did so with straining muscles and clenched teeth and staring
eyes he began to see a dim outline of a form like
a man, and as he strove it became plainer and plainer. He gave a wild cry, and
as he did so Melapi burst from his grasp and disappeared. When my father came
back to the camp, he was weak and tired. He told us what he had felt and seen, and always afterwards firmly
believed that he had wrestled with the great Melapi.
Ngunaitpon-arni died some time afterwards. He had listened many times to the Word of God. It is a comfort to know that he died calling upon the name of the Lord. In his last illness he was heard fervently praying to the Lord Jesus to save him. Surely we may hope that he was saved.
CRIES AND INTERJECTIONS OF THE NARRINYERI.
The Narrinyeri often utter inarticulate sounds in order to
express their feelings and wishes. These answer to our interjections, such as,
oh! ah! &;c.; only it is not easy to express them by letters.
Their method of saying yes and no is very difficult to write down. A sort of grunt, which may perhaps answer to the letters ng pronounced in an affirmative tone, means "yes;" the same sort of grunt, which can only be written by the same letters, but uttered in a negative, forbidding tone, means "no."
Their expressions of surprise are the following—"Kai, hai!" This is a pure interjection, and only means sudden astonishment. [p.143] "Porluna"—this means "Oh, children!" and is a common expression of wonder and amazement. "Tyin embe!"—this expression is too obscene to be translatable; nevertheless, it is a very common interjection of astonishment amongst the old blacks. The word "koir" is used to attract attention or to call out to a person to come. It is uttered long, and the o very round. The same word "koh" uttered short, is a sort of note of interrogation, and is used in asking a question. The h is strongly aspirated. A sort of cry used to attract attention may be written "ngaaaah"—the h strongly aspirated. It must be understood, however, that in all these cases our letters only give an approximation to the sound; it must be heard in order to be understood.
Some of the old women, by way of salutation on meeting a friend, will say, "Kaw, kah, kah, kah." It sounds very much like an old crow.
All the natives, old .and young, when they are hurt, cry out, "Nanghai, nanghai, nanghai!—"My father, my father, my father!" or else, "Nainkowa, nainkowa, nainkowa!"—''My mother, my mother, my mother!" Males usually say the former, females the latter, although not invariably be. It is ludicrous to hear an old man or woman with a grey head, whose parents have been dead for years, when they hurt themselves cry like children and say "nanghai" or "nainkowa," as the case may be.
The Narrinyeri are skilful in the utterance of emotion by sound. They will admire and practice the corrobery (ringbalin) of another tribe merely for the sounds of it, although they may not understand a word of the meaning. They will learn it with great appreciation if it seems to express some feelings which theirs does not. They may not be able to define the feelings, but yet this is the case.
The following extract from my journal will illustrate their aptitude for expressing feeling merely by sound. Of course I am aware that in this they are like most savage tribes:—
"7th March, 18—. S---- died the day before yesterday. At the request of the natives I read the burial service at her grave to-day. At the funeral I could [p.144] not help noticing, what I have many times noticed before, the artistic manner in which the wail was raised. After I had finished the burial service, to which they were all very attentive, they proceeded in native fashion to raise a loud lamentation over the grave. First of all old Kartoinyeri and Winkappi uttered a keen wail in a very long, high note, gradually lowering the tone; this was joined in by all the women present. Then the rest of the men uttered a long loud, deep bass groan. As that rolled away the keen wail of Kartoinyeri and Winkappi and the women broke in, and as that began to lower in tone the deep groan of the men was heard. This was continually repeated for about ten minutes. All stood around the grave, tears rolling down the cheeks of many; but I noticed that the chief mourners made the least noise. As an expression of grief by sound it was perfect."
Thus far my journal; and at corrobories I have noticed, and have heard it remarked by others, that the sound without the words was adapted to the temper of the singers. If it is an occasion of discord and defiance, a savage shout will be heard; while on occasion of a wedding the sound will be merry and jocular, although always very wild. I have often imagined the feelings of a party of shipwrecked people on a lonely coast hearing the sound of a great corrobery for the first time. I cannot conceive anything more appalling or expressive of utter savagery.
The Future of the Aboriginal Races
It is common to hear; even intelligent people speak of the Aborigines as a race
which within a few years is certain to become extinct They point to the
diminished numbers of the red men of
America and the Maoris of New Zealand, and declare their conviction that it is
a law of nature that the uncivilised should die out to make way for the
civilised—that low-class races should
perish in order that high-class races might take their place. Very little is
said in opposition to such statements, and it is taken for granted that they are
Now, the writer is quite willing to grant that appearances, as far as they are connected with Anglo-Saxon colonisation, are altogether in favour of these opinions; but yet, when a wider view of things is taken, facts may be seen which suggest that these assertions may not be so correct as they appear at first sight If we look back very far into the history of the world, we see that a process of colonisation has been going on, and that it has not been the invariable rule that the barbarous race should die out in the presence of the civilised. To take a familiar instance, the Ancient Britons did not become extinct after the advent of the Roman invaders. We need not even go so far back as that Although the Aboriginal races of America were treated with great cruelty by the Spaniards and Portuguese, they did not die out so rapidly as some equally fine races such as the North American Indians and Maoris are dying out under the just and benevolent and indulgent treatment of British colonists. I am also informed that Dutch colonisation does not result in the destruction of the Aboriginal races, but, on the contrary, that these races increase and are benefited by [p.146] the treatment which they receive from the colonists. Now, these facts suggest that it is at least possible that those persons are mistaken who regard the extinction of the Aborigines as a painful certainty; also that there may be some faults in our method of treatment which are the causes of such lamentable consequences.
The British are, as we all know, peculiarly disposed to self-government. It is this which makes them such successful colonists. A small community is no sooner planted in any country than they exhibit the results of their national training in a capacity for regulating and organising their own affairs. Colonial governments proceed on the presumption that their people possess ability of this sort, and let them manage for themselves; hence district and shire councils are instituted, and all that sort of thing. It is very different with other European nations. When a number of Frenchmen or Dutchmen or Spaniards colonise, they proceed in quite a different way. They have always been accustomed to regard government as a something by which they were managed and regulated, and not so much as an organisation in which they took part themselves; consequently when an offshoot breaks from the body of the nation they are careful that a portion of the governing power shall go with it, so that these people may be regulated and formed into a community by the authorities to which they are accustomed. The weak are supported, the poor are provided for, the irregular are compelled to yield to the laws of order, and the roads and police and revenues are all under the control of the central power. Supposing, then, that there are Aborigines in the country to which these colonists go, they are all brought under the central government. What they must do and what they must not do is prescribed to them; officers are appointed with power to rule them; they are forbidden to pursue any practices which would be injurious to them; they are required to conform to the regulations which are made for their benefit. If necessary, even force is used to compel them, as refractory children, to do that which is for their good; and they do not become extinct under [p.147] tills treatment. But in a British colony all this is reversed. Just as the colonists are, as far as possible, allowed to manage their own affairs, so the Aborigines are left to themselves to do as they like so long as they do not interfere with the colonists. Instead of a ruler being appointed for them, and the strong arm of authority thrown round them, a protector is appointed whose duty it is to see that the European residents do not injure them. If an effort is made by the government to benefit them by trying to induce them to adopt a civilised life, it is left entirely at their option whether they permit themselves to come under the provision made for their benefit or not. It is probable that this system of leaving the Aborigines to themselves is the cause of all the mischief to them.
When the Aborigines are brought into contact with European civilisation in the shape of a British colony, they are exposed to influences of which they have no experience, and the evil results of which they cannot guard against. The very food and drink of the white people is strange to them, and they are likely to injure themselves by the use of it. So much has this been felt to be the case that some colonial governments have forbidden the giving of intoxicating drinks to the natives. Now, this inexperience of the natives leads to all sorts of injurious and fatal consequences. In their native state these people are able enough and careful enough to make laws and regulations for their own benefit They readily take advantage of the lessons of experience in devising their own customs. In proof of this their marriage laws may be adduced.
Now it is evident that in common justice we are bound to see that the Aborigines do not suffer from our occupation of the soil. We are under moral obligation to see that they are no worse off than they were before through our taking possession of the country. This will be granted by every one. Then it is certainly our duty to make such laws and regulations as will prevent them from suffering through their inexperience of the new state of things which is set up around them. It will be only a proof of our kindness if, in the capacity of our brothers' keeper, [p.148] we kindly enforce by all humane means such beneficial ordinances. This would necessitate special legislation for the Aborigines. There should be an act of the colonial or Imperial Parliament prescribing the sort of treatment which they should receive. This should declare wherein they are to be excepted from the operation of the laws affecting Europeans—make special laws suited to their condition, forbidding any barbarous practices which were injurious to them, such as drying the dead, or sorcery, or poison revenge, or compelling young men to go through the narumbe ceremony, and, finally, set apart reserves and provide for their benefit, comfort, subsistence, and employment. The benefits conferred should be material and large,—such a law should be enforced, except in cases of crime, not so much by positive punishment as by sternly withholding benefits from the refractory and disobedient, and prohibiting their being imparted even by their own people. Nothing hits an Aboriginal so hard as to withhold from him benefits which he sees his fellows enjoying. It would be also necessary that clauses should be introduced regulating the employment of the natives by Europeans; and it would be a good plan to only permit the employment of the obedient and well conducted,—such to be supplied with some token of their character. And it would be a severe punishment to prevent the employment of the insubordinate. The natives would have to be treated as children in some respects, but not in all.
In order to carry out such a law, not only a Protector of Aborigines would have to be appointed, but a ruler—an officer charged with their welfare, having absolute authority over them, and responsible to the Colonial Government. It would be the duty of such an officer to have intelligent Aborigines taught the English language, and through them to make their people understand the law. They are inclined to be a law-abiding people, and although there might perhaps be some resistance, they would soon submit to it. It would also be the duty of such an official to see that proper medical attendance was provided for them. [p.149] It is not wise to attempt to civilise these people too first. Judgment has to be exercised, and the treatment to be adapted to their condition. We are not to suppose that they are capable of taking upon them the duties of a state of society which we have been trained for by ages of civilisation.
Is it too much to expect that one more organised effort will be made to save this race from extinction? There are yet many thousands of Aborigines in the province governed by the colony of South Australia. It is indispensable, if any good is to be done, that the present policy should be reversed, and that the Government should come forward with paternal legislation for their benefit. At present the Aborigines are being injured, not by cruelty, but by ill-judged kindness. They are treated by many of the settlers as almost unreasoning beings; they foolishly humoured and spoiled; and it is no wonder if they become like spoiled children, and ruin their health and condition by self-indulgence. The restraints of native law, which were to a great degree beneficial, have been removed by the presence of Europeans and the consequent inability of their chiefs and elders to enforce it; thus, lawless and unregulated—sometimes unwisely indulged, at others half-starved—sometimes clothed, at other times naked, the prey of his lusts and passions—what wonder if the Aborigine goes rapidly to destruction and death! The writer has often said that such treatment as he has seen natives pursue among themselves was of a character which would kill a horse, much more a man.
But supposing that such a system was to be instituted by the Government, it must not be expected that it would do everything which needs to be done for the Aborigines. There would still be necessary the unwearied efforts of the missionary of the Cross. The writer firmly believes that nothing but the gospel of Jesus Christ can save these natives from extinction. They are not an irreligious race. The term applied by Paul to the civilised and refined Athenians might be applied to them—they are "very religious" (Acts xvii. 22)—that is, so far as the rites and observances of their system of belief are con- [p.150] cerned. Those of the natives who have taken hold of the gospel have done so heartily, with faith and devotion. The greatest caution must always be observed in the peculiar circumstances in which the natives are placed not to give them reason to suppose that the mere profession of religion will cause them to receive greater consideration from the authorities than the merely moral and industrious who make no profession. Their attendance upon the preaching of the gospel and the ordinances of religion must be free and unrestrained, or it will be of no moral use whatever. We can no more make Aborigines into disciples of Christ by laws and regulations than we can any other people. At the same time, the Christian missionary has to always show himself to be on the side of law and order and government. He teaches that "whoso resisteth the power resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist must receive to themselves condemnation." His duty is to enjoin the learning to read as a religious duty which is upon the very face of the Holy Word of God; and then he is to preach the gospel lovingly, forbearingly, and perseveringly to all, endeavouring to seek and to save that which was lost, even as the Master did Himself.
The Wreck of the Brigantine Maria.
The following particulars of the wreck of the Maria have been compiled by the
writer from the South Australian Begiatei, to which he was allowed access
through the kind courtesy of the
proprietors of that old-established newspaper—the first in South Australia.
In the end of July, 1840, a report was sent to the authorities by Police-Sergeant W. Macfarlane, enclosing a letter from H. Nixon, of Encounter Bay, which stated that the natives said that a number of white people who had escaped from a wreck had been killed by the blacks up the sea-coast in the direction of Rivoli Bay. Ten men, five women, and some children were said to have thus been murdered. A letter from Dr. Penny confirmed this account, which was substantiated by the result of the inquiries of Sergeant Macfarlane himself At that time the country on the coast between Encounter Bay and Rivoli Bay was a terra incognita to the colonists. An active whale fishery was at that time being carried on at Encounter Bay. The Government, in consequence of this report, despatched Mr. Pullen, who was at that time at the Elbow (now Goolwa), to learn particulars by proceeding as far as he could up the Coorong in a whaleboat.
Mr. Pullen hastily got together a party, consisting of himself. Dr. Penny, five boatmen, one police-trooper, and three natives of Encounter Bay. They started from Encounter Bay on the 28th of July, so no time was lost, and on the 29th proceeded down I the river, on the south side of Hindmarsh Island, to the east side [p.152] of the Coorong. On the 30th they continued their voyage up the Coorong, and at last came to a spot which was pointed out by one of the Encounter Bay natives named Peter, as that on which some of the murders took place. This, he had no doubt ascertained from the blacks who were implicated, as they have a name for every nook and comer of the shores of the lakes; so the party landed on the shore of the Coorong which is towards the sea, and a sickening spectacle presented itself. There, partially covered with sand, lay legs, arms, and portions of several human bodies. Upon gathering these remains together, they, by the aid of the doctor who was with them probably, made out that there were the bodies of two men, three women, and a female child of ten (one woman's body was almost denuded of flesh, except on the hands and feet), two male children—one apparently about fifteen years of age and the other ten; and at a little distance lay the body of a female infant. All were dreadfully bruised about the face and head, and they were stripped of every rag of clothing. They removed the wedding-rings which they found on the fingers of the women, and then reverently buried the remains of the poor murdered people. This occupied the party till evening, and it is easy to imagine with what indignation they left the vicinity of the scene of such an atrocity.
It should be stated that the Coorong is a long, narrow sheet of salt water, running out of the lower part of Lake Alexandrina towards the south-east, and separated from the ocean by a peninsula of sand hills about two miles wide. Some of these sand hills are of white sand, without any vegetation, while others are covered with shrubs and creeping plants. Between them there are small flats of pasture-ground. The scenery on the Coorong is very wild and peculiar. There is the solitary-looking sheet of water, stretching for sixty miles, and presenting, as its waves dance in the breeze, beautiful tints of blue and green. On the right are the white and sombre hills of sand, and on the left green plains dotted with clumps of the dark sheoak. The waters abound with fish and game; consequently the shores were in- [p.153] habited by a fierce and vigorous tribe of the natives belonging to the nation called Narrinyeri. But we must proceed.
On the 31st Mr. Pullen and his party continued their voyage up the Coorong in search of the wreck from which the murdered people had come. They saw several natives, but at first they all kept at a distance and appeared to be frightened. At last they managed to communicate with them, and learned that other white people had been killed—some on one side of the Coorong, and some on the other—and that two men and one woman had crossed to the islands (probably Mundoo and Towadjeri), and had been killed there. On the 1st of August the party saw many natives with European clothing, and the next day came upon the tracks of people on the mud of the shore which were evidently not natives'. There were the marks of the children's footsteps; and in places these disappeared, as if the men had carried the weary little ones. On the 9th of August the party got back to the Goolwa (or Elbow, as it was then called). The impression on their minds at that time was that some of the shipwrecked people had escaped.
The particulars brought by Mr. Pullen's party, and especially the rings found on the fingers of two of the bodies of the women, led to the identification of the persons who had been murdered. They were found to be the passengers and crew of the brigantine Maria, 36 tons, of Hobart Town. She had arrived in Port Adelaide on the 7th of June, 1840, and had sailed again on the 2lst June following, under the command of Capt. Smith, for Hobart Town, in ballast. According to the South Australian Register of August 10th, 1840, the passengers and crew were as follows:—There were Captain Smith and his wife and the mate, and eight men and boys before the mast. The passengers were Mr. and Mrs. Denham and family, consisting of three boys and two girls, George Young Green and wife, Thomas Daniel and wife, Mrs. York and infant, James Strutt (a servant of Mr. Denham's), and Mr. Murray. Mr. Denham and Mrs. York were, it appears, brother and sister. The total number on board, then, was twenty-six.
The Government resolved, after receiving Mr. Pullen's report, that a strong body
of police-troopers under Major O'Halloran should be sent to make further
investigations. This force was rapidly
gathered at the Elbow, and, with Major O'Halloran in command and Inspector
Tolmer as his second, started on Friday, the 21st August, 1840, for the Coorong.
That day they got fourteen miles
beyond the mouth of the River Murray. By the 23rd they arrived on the scene of
the murders; and on that day, after much galloping about the scrub, captured
thirteen native men and two lads and
fifty women and children. They found articles of European clothing on almost all
these people, and sometimes the garments were stained with blood. They also
found in possession of the natives a
silver watch and some silver spoons. The tribes to which they had now come were
noted amongst the Aborigines for their ferocity and warlike character. The
whites had frequently heard of them
from sealers and others as the great Murray tribe. They consisted of all the
Narrinyeri on the southern sides of Lakes Alexandrina and Albert. These had
rapidly gathered at the news of the wreck,
and were now in force on the Coorong; but, although at this time they could
muster easily eight hundred warriors,23 the sight of the strange armed troopers
dashing through the scrub completely
On the 24th, the expedition saw large numbers of ferocious-looking men, who hung about the skirts of the scrub. Almost all had some article of European clothing. At last they came to some native huts, and found male and female garments which had been drenched with blood. Aided by the Encounter Bay natives who had been brought with the expedition, they made inquiries as to the actual perpetrators of the murders, and there were pointed out by some of the captives four very truculent-looking savages. Two of these were pursued and shot down, and two more were captured. In the native huts were found newspapers, mail letters opened and torn, the leaves of a Bible and part of the log of the Maria.
The chiefs of the expedition now came to the conclusion that something must be
done to satisfy the demands of justice on the murderers, and to strike terror
into the minds of the natives and deter
them from similar atrocities in the future; so a court of justice was
extemporised on the spot, and such evidence as was obtainable adduced in support
of the charge against the two prisoners. There
appears to have been plenty of proof that these two men were leaders in the
massacre; so a verdict of guilty was pronounced against them with the universal
assent of the party. By virtue of the
commission from His Excellency the Governor held by Major O'Halloran, he then
passed sentence of death upon them. The next day (the 25th of August) the
natives were driven to a spot near
the place where the bodies of some of the murdered people were found, and in the
presence of their countrymen hanged in sheaoak trees over the graves of their
victims. They evinced great
courage at the place of execution, and died immediately. The bodies were left
hanging in the trees, and the other blacks warned not to touch them. This they
carefully abstained from doing, and
the carcases of the culprits were suspended there until the weather caused them
to fall to pieces. The rest of the natives were allowed to depart, and they at
once precipitately fled from the vicinity
of the expedition. It appeared, upon inquiry, that a man named Roach and his
mate, who had gone up the Coorong for some purpose, had also been killed by these
The expedition now pressed on in order to find the wreck, and on the 4th of September obtained another watch from the natives, the dial stained with blood. In the huts of these people much European clothing was found, so the party set fire to the huts and consumed them. They now communicated with a party which had been sent up the coast in a whaleboat from Encounter Bay under the command of Mr. Thomson. They found that these had first discovered the longboat and then the remains of the wreck of the Maria in Lacepede Bay.
The expedition now returned down the Coorong, and discovered other bodies of the murdered people, which they reverently interred. In the vicinity of these bodies several bodies [p.156] were found. The native women, when questioned, said that the white people had parted into two companies, one of which crossed the Coorong. They said that some of the natives rushed upon them and held them while others beat them on the head with clubs until they were dead.
The expedition having arrived at the head of the Lake Albert peninsula, scoured the whole of it, so that if any survivors of the wrecked party remained they might be discovered; but the only result was to terrify the blacks and drive them to take refuge in the great beds of reeds by Lake Albert. No further traces being discoverable, the members of the expedition turned their faces towards Encounter Bay, and arrived at the Elbow, whence the men of the force were dispersed to their homes.
This account of the wreck of the Maria perfectly agrees in the main particulars with that which the natives themselves give. Not one person is known to have escaped from the natives. The discrepancies between the natives' account and that given above only refer to the number of natives executed, which the report says was four—two shot and two hanged; the natives say it was six. The report states that twenty-six persons were massacred; the natives say twenty-five, as one woman got across the Murray mouth and escaped. Of this we have no other evidence. The natives' account states that the shipwrecked party was guided down the Coorong until they reached the part opposite Lake Albert, where they were induced to separate, and then murdered. The place of burial and persons found exactly agree with the account given to the writer by a woman who helped to bury them.
A great deal of discussion took place in the papers at the time as to the wisdom and legality of the execution of the natives, and His Excellency Governor Gawler issued a solemn Minute of Council vindicating the expedition. Time, however, has proved that a wiser course could not have been adopted than the prompt punishment of such an atrocious massacre.
1 I have used the word "tribe" as that which is most intelligible to the reader. We may either consider the Narrinyeri as a nation divided into tribes, or as a tribe of Aborigines divided into clans. The native word for tribe or clan is Lakalimyeri.
2 Judging from the traditions current amongst
the old natives, it is very probable that the country around the Lakes was
originally occupied by a tribe of Aborigines who, they say, were under the
Chiefs Waiungare and Neppelli, Nonindere appears to have led a tribe down the
Darling and Murray, and, on his arrival, finding the country already in the
possession of the before-mentioned
tribe, he united his people with them and gained an ascendancy over the whole.
An intelligent native told me that before his time—he is a man between forty and fifty—the following circumstances occurred:—"Some time ago—how long, it is impossible so discover—two men of the clan called Piltinyerar, who live near Wellington, on the Lower Murray, went away into the scrub to the north-east kangaroo hunting, and did not return. Many years after, the natives felt a desire to find out what had become of them; so a number of hunters, under a leader named Pilpe, started off to search the desert for some indications of the fate of their missing countrymen. They travelled a great distance into the wilds, and making as they went, and making signals which they knew would be understood by those whom they sought. At last, after making a kowandie or signal fire, they saw an answering smoke to the north-east, and hastening in that direction, discovered the lost men. They had got their living by hunting, and had found sufficient for their subsistence in the country where they dwelt. But they had become old, and were not inclined to return to the Murray River country, being quite contented with their then present abode. However, their friends who had so successfully sought for them returned and carried back the tidings of their discovery." This is a good specimen of the kind of migration which has taken place amongst the Aborigines all over the continent. I have no doubt that» although only the two kangaroo hunters were mentioned, yet their wives and children would have accompanied them. It is so common for natives to omit any mention of the women. How many people have come? I have perhaps asked. Five men, would be the reply; and a stranger would suppose only five men to be meant, but would most likely find there were a dozen women and children besides. So probably these two kangaroo hunters were accompanied by three or four wives and their children.
3 The natives say that they got a large sum of money and gave it to some white men for blankets.
4 In 1840 the Narrinyeri, according to the most trustworthy evidence, numbered about 3000 souls. At the time this is written there are living about 600 of all ages. 1877.—There are still living 613 souls of the Narrinyeri tribe. Since 1869 I have recorded 150 births and 162 deaths at Point Macleay. But it must be borne in mind that while many natives have been brought here from a distance to die, the births have been the offspring of residents in the place.
5 This word wurley is from the language of the Adelaide tribe. The Narrinyeri word is mante. I have used "wurley," because it is more generally understood by the colonists.
6 This in the Point Malcolm dialect would be ''Tand in amb keraa waiirrangk."
7 Some medical men have said that it was impetigo contagiosa.
8 Since writing the above, I have known of a few having measles, but very few, and although no precautions were taken against contagion, the disease did not spread.
9 Along the shore of Lake Alexandrina are some large mounds of earth. One of these, at Pultowar, was opened last year, and found to contain scores of human skeletons arranged in rows. These were probably the victims of small-pox.
10 Since I wrote the above I have been informed by one of the surgeons of the Adelaide Hospital that he has good reason to believe that the Aborigines often suffer from hydatids in the liver.
11 Hooping-cough is one of the most fatal diseases introduced amongst the Aborigines by Europeans.
12 I find that the Tamilian system also prevails amongst the Meru nation, who occupy the country next to the Narrinyeri, on the River Murray.
13 I have since heard a version of this legend in which it is said that Nurondere and his sons drove this great fish down the Darling and Murray to a place called Piltangk in Lake Alexandrina, and there obtained assistance from Nepelle to catch it.
14 The hut of Wyungare is still pointed out by the natives, in the shape of a mound of limestone, at a place called Pulluwewal, near Point Macleay.
15 The natives say that they have some
information about what befell this extraordinary personage after he quitted this
mortal sphere. When Nurundere left
the world he dived down under the
ocean, and as he descended saw a great fire under the sea. He avoided this, and
keeping away at last arrived at a land in the far west where he now resides. And
it is said that all the dead thus dive
under the ocean and see the fire, but by avoiding it get to Nurundere. It appears they have an idea that there is one place in which if the dead go there they are confined, and compelled to stay, while there is another place in which all who reach it are free.
16 The operation for obtaining fire is as follows:—A split piece of the flower stem is placed upon the ground, the flat side uppermost, and the lower end of a thinner piece pressed upon it, while the upper part is held between the palms of the hands, and an alternate revolving motion given to it by rubbing the hands backwards and forwards till it ignites.
17 The natives told me that some twenty years before I came to Point Macleay they first saw white men on horseback, and thought the horses were their visitors mothers, because they carried them on their backs! I have also learnt that another tribe regarded the first pack-bullocks they saw as the whitefellows' lives, because they carried the luggage!
18 One of these mounds has since been opened and found to contain a vast number of skeletons of men and women, all laid tide by tide.
19 Ninety-seven persons have been in communion with the church since its commencement—fifty-six natives, forty-one whites.
20 December, 1877.—Up to this date there have been thirty-four native Christian marriages at Reid Town.
21 Since Christianity hat become more prevalent, the number of children amongst the Christian natives has steadily increased.
22 Pangari means "shadow;" it is equivalent to our term "shade."
23 An eye-witness soon after counted eight hundred fighting men at a corrobery.