Howitt and Fison Papers

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In the Kurnai tribe age was held in revenge, and a mans authorityincreased with his age. If he even, without being aged, had naturally intel-ligence, cunning, bravery beyond his fellow, he might become a man ofnote, weighty in council and a leader in war, but such a case was excep-tional and as a rule authority and age went together. the authority belong-ing to age also attached to certain women, who had gained the confidenceof their tribes people. Such women werre consulted by the men and had greatweight and authority in the tribe. I knew two of them who were elderlywomen at the time when the country was settled, and who therefore, and wor-thily, represented the promitive conditions of their tribe. Together withthe old men they were the depositories of the tribal legends and customs and they kept alive the stringent marriage rules to which I have referredelsewhere (p ). Thus they influenced public opinion very strongly.

When Gippsland was setled in 1842, there were twpo principalHeadmen who were recognised as their "Gweraeil-kurnai'' Great-men. One lived in the northern and the other in the souther part of thedistrict. These men were the recognised leadsers in peace and war of thenorthern and southern divisions into whichthe tribe hed naturally fall-en through locality and language. There were also Gweraeil-kurnai inthe local divisions of the tribe, and it is significant thatsome of these men gave their names to the divisions of which they were the Headmen. (p )

How a man gradually increased in influence by reason of years,is shown by the case of the last Gweraeil-kurnai of the Kurnai.He was the man Bunbra whom I shall refer to in speaking of the expia-tory combats later on in this question. I have watched this mans careerwith interest during many years. Since the time of that expiat(?????)the old men who successively were the leaders of the tribespeople, dieduntil Bunbra became the oldest man left. The common name by whichapart from his English name he was known was Jetbolan that is the Liarbut by reason of age hebecame the Gweraeil-kurnai, . During the same timetulaba the tribal son of the former Gweraeil-kurnaiBruthen-munji, hadalso grown into age, and consideration attachedto him in his twofoldcharacter, as one of theelders, and as being a worthy son of the formerrenowned Headman. During this time the pressure of our civilisation hadbroken down the tribal organisation, the vices of the whitemen which theKurnai had acquired, had killed off a great number of them, the rem-nant had been gathered into the missions and only a few still wanderedover their ancestralhunting grounds leaing in some measure their oldlives, and having apparently abandoned their tribal customs. When how-ever it was decided, as I have mentioned in chapter (p ), that the

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women at the time when the country was settled, and who therefore, and wor-thily, represented the primitive conditions of their tribe. Together withthe old men they were the depositories of the tribal legends and customsand they kept alive the stringent marriage rules to which I have referredelsewhere (p ). thus they influenced public opinion very stronly.

When Gippsland was setled in 1842, there were twpo principalHeadmen who were recognised as their "Gweraeil-kurnai'' Great-men. One lived in the northern and the other in the souther part of thedistrict. These men were the recognised leadsers in peace and war of thenorthern and southern divisions into whichthe tribe had naturally fall-en through locality and language. There were also Gweraeil-kurnai inthe local divisions of the tribe, and it is significant thatsome of these men gave their names to the divisions of which they were the Headmen. (p )

How a man gradually increased in influence by reason of years,is shown by the case of the last Gweraeil-kurnai of the Kurnai.He was the man Bunbra whom I shall refer to in speaking of the expia-tory combats later on in this question. I have watched this mans careerwith interest during many years. Since the time of that expiat(?????)the old men who successively were the leaders of the tribespeople, dieduntil Bunbra became the oldest man left. The common name by whichapart from his English name he was known was Jetbolan that is the Liarbut by reason of age hebecame the Gweraeil-kurnai, . During the same timetulaba the tribal son of the former Gweraeil-kurnaiBruthen-manji, hadalso grown into age, and consideration attachedto him in his twofoldcharacter, as one of theelders, and as being a worthy son of the formerrenowned Headman. During this time the pressure of our civilisation hadbroken down the tribal organisation, the vices of the whitemen which theKurnai had acquired, had killed off a great number of them, the rem-nant had been gathered into the missions and only a few still wanderedover their ancestralhunting grounds leaing in some measure their oldlives, and having apparently abandoned their tribal customs. When how-ever it was decided, as I have mentioned in chapter (p ), that theJaraeil ceremony should be revived for the instruction of the youngmen, I observed with much interest, that the old tribal organ-isation arose again, so to say, out of the dust and became active.Bunbra who at the time whenBruthen-manji directed the procee-dings at the Nungi-nungit, against him was a comparatively young manand without any consideration in the tribe, was now (???) its Headman, to whomall matters werer referred. To him messengers were sent. He gave ordersas to time of assembling and the others obeyed them. Indeed whithout himthey would not have moved at all.

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hw0404 Notes on Kurnai 150 pages

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2 14Kurnai (Tulebar)say-pointing to some boy for instance"yet ra dinde = fatherless that one.MessengersThe [?Baiair?] for death was not speciallypainted in any way.

Harry Stevensfather - theBirraarkThe name of Harry Stevens father was Mūndauin

Omen by KangarooIf you saaw a large old man Kangaroohopping towards you - you would thinkthat he was giving notice that enemies werecoming.

Omen by crowReminiscences of Kangaroo totem?Sometimes you [see - crossed out] hear a Crow on a tree talking.You aks him "which way are they coming? North?[West - crossed out] East? - South? - West? When he says"nga!" to one of these you know whichway the poeple are coming.-

the AuroraWhen the Kŭrnai saw the Wíra they were muchfrightened and took out each one his "BrétaKŭrnaiand said "send it away - or I will" Jíbŭn amóko (throw in the fire).

ThunderIt is the thunder that splits the trees.

The skyTūlabar could not tell whether the sky was solid. Thebright shining places between the clouds near the horizonare called Blínte - thunder clouds piled up highare called "possum fat" - It is supposed thatthe whirring of the cicadas cause possums tobecome fat and the women then hearing itbeat the folded rugs (drum) to assist.

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15The Kŭrnai (Billy Macleod)AuroraThe aurora was called Wira. When they saw itthey were much alarmed and holding out their[?dead?] hands would say for instance "Jibbŭn a moko"that is I will burn in fire, if it did not send theAurora away.

ThunderIt is the thunder that splits trees - lightning isonly fire.

The sky The blue sky was called [?Blíne?] man da nŭrk.

The moon.When the Kurnai saw the moon red they believedthat it had then devoured a number of dead men ([?Curdegŭni Kŭrnai) in anothercountry; being supposed to have sneaked uponthese while they were busy in searching sow thistlesupon which they were supposed to [have fed - crossed out] feed.When the moon was thus seen the followingsong was sung.Yakwa Yakwa YakwarestTari-gwando - bringwana[?void?] bone excrementBēnbalai a place [bey-crossed out] west of Lindenow Flat.

This song is said to have been composedby the Ngūlūmbra Kŭrnai (ancient blacks(old time blacks).

Languages of the KŭrnaiBrabra = Mŭkthan (than = speech)Krauatŭn = Mŭk Krauatŭn than.Brataua = NūletBraiaka = NūletTatūng + Dargo = MŭkthanWommanda thang? [Wūmanda - written underneath] what is your language

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16KurnaiBilly Wambat

Head menThe gwerael Kurnai were the old men.People always listened to an old manbut they would listen to any man whocould fight well and was strong and alsoif he could talk well.

Brūthen mŭnji was an old man and could talk well - Billy Tūlaba has histalk from him - Bruthen Mŭnji wasvery strong and could fight well. He usedto run after Brajerak and catch them withhis hands and then Bembrukil his brotherwould come up and knock them onthe head.

Bŭnbra at Swan Reach (King Fern)was much listened to but he wasquite a young man; he had not anywhite in his beard when he died.

Billy the Bull would be a Headmanand was much listended to years ago even-it was because he was so strong and could fight and talk.

I do not know abour Old Morganhe belonged to Port Albert.

In the olden time Lewin was sent by wordonly. The Baiaur carried the words butdid not carry any think [sic] like a stick.I think the Kurnai learned from the Brajerakto send Boomerangs and spears.When a Baiaur brought word that some one was deadhe would say when coming into the camp "Father, (as thecase might be) of that one (pointing to some mother) is"Tŭrde-gatū būlū lūndū. Tŭrdegatū = Deadbūlūt = above - lūndū= there or he might

[written in left side margin]an [?? - unable to read this section] might sit down nearthe camp tell his friend next to him - took him tohis camp and gave him food. Then all beingassembled the Baiain sometimes told his message to all - sometimes to persons to whomhe was sent who in a loud voice repeated it to all.

Billy Tūlebar

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