Howitt and Fison Papers

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XM689 Chapter VI Tribal Governments

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Taking the Tongeranka tribe as the example of those of the Itchumundi nation (p ). the office of Headman was in one sense hereditary, to judge from the instance of the Headman who died in the year 1884. He succeded his brother, whode son was passed over in his favor, for what reason I have not been able to ascertain, and it was understood in the tribe that he would be succeded by his son, who had already some authority. This shows the succession to the headman ran in a cetain family butreally depended on the acquiescence of the old men, since it was distinctly stated that merit as a fighting man, orator or medicine man, had great weight in securing his power.

In the (?) tribe, a headman must have age, personal prowess, ability as a leader, andeloqence. The authority in the tribe was practically in the hands ofthe old men.

The Theddora who lived on the sourcesof the Tambo, Ovens and Mitta-mitta rivers were practically extinct by the year 1860 and all that I can say is that they had Headmen who were called turki, and whose authority was of much the same degree as that of the Gweraeil-kurnai of the Kurnai tribe. I heard much from the few survivors of one Metoko who combined the office of Headman and medicine man and this was the analogue of the Gommera of the Coast Murring.

Some interesting particulars are given by Mr. Richard Helms as to this tribe (I), which I quote in this connection.

"The oldest man of the tribe was recognised as a kind of chief but whenever an attack was planned on some enemy, the ablest warrior was as a rule chosen to lead andhis advice then received the endorsement of the old men."

Some of these old men were known to meby repute, not only from the survivors of the tribe, but alsofrom the Kurnai, Wolgal and Ngarigo, with whom I had been acquainted and whohad known them

(I) Proceedings of the Linnean Society of New South Wales Vol. 10, p 387 1895.

The principal one seems to have been the Metoko, before mentioned in the (?) who in his character of medicine man could blow a thread "like a spiders web" up to the sky andby it ascend. The principal fighting man was "Cobbon Johnny" that is Big Johnny, whose actual name I never heard. Other Headmen will be mentioned in speaking of the great bloodfeud of the Kurnai later on (p ).

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a Dairgo man, and Flannae speared him.. We let him lie there and did not eat his skin because he was a Kurnai man like ourselves. (p ). As he was a friend of the Braiaka we went up to the Heart)I), to look for them. We found anumber of Dairgo, Braiaka, and Brataua there and we found them, but we were beaten because they had guns as well as spears, and were helped by two black police, and one police trooper. We ran away and left every thing behind us, our blankets and clothes taking only ou spears with us. We had left our women near the Lakes Entrance at Metung, where the wild dog turned the Kurnai into stone. Our enemies and the police followed us up as far as Lake Tyers, but they could not cross and so we escaped. For a long time we were quiet, but at last we went up to Maneroo to get the Brajerak (p ), to come down and help us. By this time the white men had brought so many Brajerak from Maneroo , and Omeo. with them into Gippsland, that we and they had become friendly. So we got the Maneroo men to promise to help us and with them went round the mountains into Omeo. There we got Nukong (p ), also to help us, and we left our women there, Nukong sent lewin (messengers), to the men at Ovens River and Mt.Buffaloe to send help, and it was arranged that we should meet them at Kutbun-taura (p ), that is Bushy Park station. Then we went down by way of Dairgo but found no one there. At Bushy Park the men from the Ovens River and Mt.Buffaloe met us. We had gone there to get some food and to see some of the Brabralung from Wuk-Wuk (p ), who were living there pretending to be friendly with the Braiakalung and the Dairgo men. There could not have been less than tweo hundred of us, at least the white men there so counted us

(I) The name of a stsation property near Sale, where when first occupied, the shape of a heart was found cut in the ground. (2) The Kurnai had a belief that the Dingo sometimes speaks in their language, and that any one hearing this is turned into stone. The narrator refers to a belief that at Metung, a camp of Kurnai were literally petrified by having one of their tamed Dingos say "you are eating fish and have not given me any". A Kurnai man once told me that when a boy, he was out hunting with his father, and heard one word "bring", that is bone, when he and his father both ran off as fast as they could, and this aved their lives. (3). Brajerak see p (4) Nukong see p (5) Wuk-Wuk see p

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so. From that place we went round the country looking for our enemies. We sent out four spies in the day time, while the main body lay concealed in the scrub and only travelled by night. Sometimes I was one of the spies sometimes Tankowillin (p ), was one of them. We went all over the country even down to the Tarra, but could not meet our enemies. At length we pretenede to be friends and returned to Mitchell River. We waited a while and then sent to the Snowy River men who came to us. But the blackfellows from Maneroo and the Ovens returned home, and only a few of the Omeo men remained to help us.

While this was going on the Dairgo and Braiaka men had sent lewin to me saying that we would fight and then be friends. it was decided by the Dairgo old men, that the fight should take place nearDeighton at a place called Yau-un-dit. We met them and fought but no one was killed. They were too strong for us and ran us back to the Mitchell River. We now waited again for some time till one of the Brataualung brought us a message from the Headman at Dairgo that we should be friends. it was their custom to do this bysending a spear jagged with quartz as a token. The one he sent by Charley Buchanan was jagged with glass. We said among ourselves "we will pretend to be friends and wait till bye and bye. The spear was passed on by way of Bruthen, and sent up to Omeo and so round and back to Dairgo. Then we all gathered, but the Snowy River men would not come, for they were frightened, two of their men had been speared.

Bruthen-munji (p ), told us "we must send a message to the Dairgo men where to meet us, but we must be quick and get to BushyPark" We had with us Omeo men, with their Headman Nukong. Our Headman was Bruthen-munji.

(I) A Brabralung native from the Wuk-Wuk division of that clan. (2) Sometimes one of the skin aprons worn by the men was sent round in this manner as a token, hung at the point of the spear.

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XM690 The organization of Australian tribes

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[crossed out - to] as far as the Ovens River above Wangaratta, the source of the Goulburn, and Yarra Rivers and the Western Port district to the boundary of Gippsland.

[Left margin note] This Nation may be [further?] spoken of as the Kuli or Kulin for the word commonly used for "man".

But little has been recorded as to the classes and totems of these tribes and it has only been possible for me to obtain information from the survivors of three of the constituent tribes, namely the Woeworung of the River Yarra watershed, the Thagŭn worŭng of the [space] [space] and the Galgal Bulluk of the Avoca River.

A list is given of [crossed out - these] tribes with their locations and other particulars at p - . I now subjoin the class system [crossed out - as] of the Woeworung and Thagun worung which appears also to have been that of the Bunworung and other neighbours of the two former. As to the other tribes of this nation all that I can say is that they had [word crossed out -?] the classes Bunjil and Waang/Waa and that no totems were known by my informants other than the ones given below.

[Table of 2 columns]

Classes Totem
Bunjil Eaglehawk Thara = [Quiet?] Hawk
Waang/Waa crow None

According to Mr Cameron the Mortlake tribe in the Western district know that their class [Krokaje? or Krokage?] was the equivalent of the class Bunjil and that Kubitch was the equivalent of the class Waang. Similarly one of the [Gaigal?] Bulluk told me that in his tribe he was [crossed out - Gamutch] Waang and therefore also [crossed out - ? to] [crossed out - the] was Gamutch in the next adjoining tribe to the west and that Bunjil was the same as Krokitch.

This the approximate ^western boundary of the "Kulin" Nation is fixed. In the north it extended to within a certain

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[crossed out - In] The Great Dividing Range which to the westward of the meridian of Melbourne [leaves?] until in Western Victoria it shows mainly by isolated mountain, on the Eastern side rises into a great chain [crossed out - of mountains] extending to the north East until at the boundary of the colony it rises into its greatest elevation in Mt Kosciusko to the height of 7386 feet above sea level.

The great streams from their mountains form valleys [crossed out - also] through which flow northwards bound the River Murray to [southwards?] to Bass's Strait.

Tribes such as the Woewurrung claimed the river [crossed out - in which] flowing through their country as part of their hunting grounds to its source in the mountains [crossed out - where] to which in summer they [behove?] them selves to hunt. But [crossed out - still] [crossed out - further than] beyond the sources of the Goulburn and Yarra Rivers the [crossed out - in] Dividing Range widens out into greater alpine plateas [palteaux] [crossed out - which] with tracts of grass and herbage and bordered or circled with still higher rugged mountains. At an elevation of about 5000 ft the timber ceases and the ultimate great downs and summits are clustered with an alpine vegetation glorious in summer time with flowers. [crossed out - So] Such alpine tablelands continue in succession and at [various?] altitudes from near Woods Point at the sources of the Goulburn and Macalister Rivers until they terminate in New South Wales in the tablelands of Kiandra. [crossed out - They] The higher plateaus are in winter covered deeply with snow but the lower ones such as that of Omeo in Victoria and Maneroo in New South Wales are habitible all the year round.

[crossed out - In a] On such elevated plateaux were located ^certain tribes which to some extent formed a nation [while - crossed out] with a community of customs, of Ceremonies while yet having some connection with the adjacent tribes of the lower lying [where - crossed out] country. Usually these mountaineers occupied the upper valleys of this region also. [crossed out - upper valleys of the Rivers. Thus the Theddus tribe which lived] about [crossed out - three lines that are difficult to read] They [mitūman?]. lived in the Upper Ovens and Buffalo Rivers and what was claimed by the Kulin as being Bunjil. In the Southward they intermarried with the small Dargo [Dursut?] of the Brabralūng clan of the Kurnai which inhabited a small trail of open country [crossed out - along the] about the junctions of the Dargo, Wonnangatta and Wentworth Rivers. To the Eastward they intermarried with the Ngarego tribe which inhabited part of the

[Left margin note] The [aborigines - crossed out] tribe which inhabited the Omeo tableland and the Upper Mitta Mitta & Tambo/Tambo River Rivers was divided into the Omeo

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