Howitt and Fison Papers






The Wurrunjeri will serve me for an eampleof the practice of the tribes which formed the Kulin Nation.

The old men governed the tribe, and amon ghtem there weremen called Ngurun-gaeta (1) . If a man was sensibleand, as Berak put it, "spoke straight" and did harm to none, people wouldlisten to him and obey him. Such a man would certainly becpme Ngurun-gaetaif his father had been one before him. It was he who called thepeople together for the great tribal meeetings, sent out messengers, andaccording to his amount of authority, gave orders which were obeyed. Sucha man was always of mature age, and possessedcsome eminent qualities, forwhich he was respected.

At the expiatory fights, he could put an end to it if hethought that enough had been done. There is a passage in the life ofBuckley which bears on the powers of the Ngurun-gaeta. he says "I hadseen a race of children grow up into women and men, and many of the boldpeople die away, and by my harmless and peaceable manner amongst them,had acquired great influence in settling their disputes. Numbers ofmurderous fights I had prevented by my interference which was receivedby them as well meant, so much so that they would often allow me to goamong them previous to a battle, and take away their spears and waddiesand boomerangs. (2) Thus it is seen that Buckley had, by reason of age andconsideration, grown into the position of a Ngurun-gaeta, or Headman.

(2) Morgans life of Buckley PP4I. 68.

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carry, if he killed another it would be given to the second one, and itwas only when he obtained a heavy load that he carried anything himself.when I speak of these Headman in connection with the tribal (?) Ishall again refer to the henchmen.

The account given of these Headman given by Mr William Thomaswho was the protector of the Blacks in the years (?) , falls intoline with the particulars which have given. I have condensed his statement as follows! (1)

"Each tribe had a chief who directs all its movements, and whowherever he may be, knows well where all the members of the communityare. The chief with the aged men makes arrangements, forthe route eachparty is to take, when the tribe after one of its periodical meetingsagain separates.

Besides the chiefs they have other eminent men, as warriorscounsellors, doctors, dreamers who are also interpreters, charmers a whoare supposed to be able to bring or to drive rain away, and also to bringor send away plagues as occasion may require."

Such are Mr. Thomas's statements. Hehad great opportunitiesof pbtaining information, for as he says he was out with them for months";but it is much to be regretted that he did not more fully avail himselfof his opportunities, or if he did, he failed to record the results withthat detailwhich would have been now invaluable.

The Wurrunjeri clan of the Woeworung is a good example of thelesser tribal divisions, andof their Headmen. In order to make what Ishall say as to it more clear, it is (?) (?) (?) that (?) (?)(?) (?) (?) (?) (?) it was divided into three parts. One called Kuraje-barring, was subdiviedinto those who occupied the country from the Darebin Creek tothe sources of the Plenty River, under their HeadmanBebejern, and those who lived on the east side of the saltwater river up toMount Macedon (1) under the Headman Bilibellary. (8). the second division

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was [?] under Jakke-jakke living about the Yarra flats and onthe northern slopes of the Dandenong mountains. the third were the "real"Wurrunjeri. who lived on the western side of the Saltwater river, undertheir Headman Bungerin, and extended as far as Mount Macedon.

Immediately adjoining the Wurrunjeri country on the [North crossed out] Westside, was that of the Kurunjang-Wilam (2) who are also Woewurrung , whose Headman was one [Ningulabul], known to thewhitemen as Captain Turnbull.. Ningulabul was a great maker of songs,which as Berak said "made people glad when they heard them". But whenhe sang one of them [?} [?} it had the contraryeffect, for it made him shed tears. Ningulabul came of a family of giftedsingers for his father and grandfather before him had been renowned [?]and this, as well as his own poetical powers, was the cause of his greatauthority as a Ngurung-aeta, not only his own tribe but also in thoseadjoining. the case of Ningulabul shows how headmanship was hereditaryin a family whosemembers were gifted beyond their fellows.

On the north side of Mount Macedon were the Gal-gal-balluk, part ofthe Jajau'rung tribe, whose headman was known to the whitemen as"King Bobby" and who was the "partner" (3) of Ningulabul. If the latter wished tobring people from further north he sent "his word" to "Bobby" who againsent his "word" on bythe next headman. to the westwardof Ningulabulwas [?] the Headman of the [?]????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Most of those Headmen were related to eachother, by marriage, andthus, where as in a family such as that of Ningulabul, there wastendancy for authority to become hereditary, there was thegerm of a practice which under favorable circumstamces might have


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for a long time over it, until the spear thrower fell down into the fireand the majic complete. Some one brought this news down to the Bunwurungans some time after the man died. His friends did not say any-thing, but waited till a young man of the Echuca tribe came down to theWestern Port district and they then killed him. News of this passed fromone to the other till it reached his tribe, who sent down a mess-age to the Bunwurung saying that they would have to meet them at a place nearMelbourne. This was arranged and the old men said to the men who had killedthe Echuca man, "Now don't you run away, you must go and stand out andwe will see that they do notuse you unfairly." This messagehad been given by the Meymet (1), to the Nira-balluk (2), who sent it on bythe Wurrunjeri to the Bunwurung. It was sent in the interim,so as to give plenty of time for the meeting, which took place on theMelbourne side of Merri Creek. The people present were the Meymet,whose headman had not come down with them, The Bunwurung, with theirHeadman Benbu, the Mount Macedon men with their Headman Ningulabul, the Werribeepeople, with the Headman of the Bunwurung (of the coast Benbow) (crossed out), finally,there were the Wurunjeri with their Headman Bili-bileri.

All these people except the Meymet and the Bunwurung, were onlookers, and each lot camped on the side of the meeting groundnearest to their own country, and all the camps as was usual looked to-wards the morning sun.

When the meeting took place the women left in the campsand the men went a little way off. The Bunwurung manstood out in front of his people armed with a shield. Facinghim were the kindred of the dead Meymet man, some nine or ten in number,who threw so many spears and boomerangs at him that you could not countthem. At last a (?) spear went through his side. Just then a Headman

(1) the Woeworung called the natives by the Murray River about the junctionof the Goulburn Campaspe (??) Meymet, as they called the Gippsland nativesBerbira, thus distinguishing both from the Kulin tribes who were their friends.(2) The Nira-balluk were the tribe about Kilmore. Nira = a deep gully, balik =people, and of (?) and probably adjoining the (?) tribe at Echuca.

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