Howitt and Fison Papers

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XM689_ICDMS_lowres Chapter VI Tribal Governments

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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

Last edit about 10 hours ago by ALourie
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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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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 concelaedin the scrub and only travelled by night. Sometimes I was one of the spiessometimes Tankewillin (p ), was one of them. We went all over the countryeven down to the Tarra, but could not meet our enemies. At length we pre-tenede to be friends and returned to Mitchell River. We waited a whileand then sent to the Snowy River men who came to us. But the blackfellowsfrom Maneroond the Ovens returned home, and only a few of the Omeo menremained to help us.

While this was going on the Dairgo and Braiaka men had sentlewin to me saying that we would fight and then be friends. it was deci-ded by the Dairgo old men, that the fight should take place nearDeightonat aplace called Yau-un-dit. We met them and fought but no one was kill-ed. 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 amessage from the Headman at Dairgo that we should be friends. it was their custom to do this bysending a spear jagged with quartz asa token. The one he sent by Charley Buchanan was jagged with glass. We saidamong 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 menwould not come, for they were frightened, two of their men had been spear-ed.

Bruthen-munji (p ), told us "we must send a message to theDairgo 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 wasBruthen-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 inthis manner as a token, hung at the point of the spear.

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On the morning on which we were to fight, we were all ready,and were painted with pipeclay, because we were very angry at our twomen being killed, and also to frighten our enemies. These werepainted with redochre (naial), vbecause they had killed our men. We wereseated in a long row withour spears on the ground ready. Our women werein front beating their 'possum rugs. Nukong was at one end just behinfour row. Bruthen-munji was standing at the other end of the row just be-hind me. It was about noon. He looked up at the sun and said "We will eat first". The enemy were not in sight but were not far off. Then a Brabralungman came to us, he was a messenger, and was snt to us, but weknew him and he was our friend, and the husband of Old Nanny (p ). He said"there are not many of you". [Bruthen-munji]] replied "Nevermind how many,we will see". He then ordered the women to go back out of danger. he madea great speech. he told us that we would beat them. Then we fought andwhen Billy the Bull's father speared a Kutbun-taura man they ran away.There was a running fight as they ran off and left all their things behindthem. Bye and bye I shot one man and others were spared. Several of theirwomen were caught. Some of the Brabralung young men from Swan Reachran down a Brt-britta woman. They could n ot however keep her because theywere too near to her, like brother and sister, and as she wanted to haveme her Breppa-mungan (p ), gave her to me. He could do this because shehad been caught in a fight, and was not a young girl. This was how I gotmy first wife from Brt-britta".

This must have been about fifteen years after the settlement ofGippsland, and a little more than fifteen years after that time, it wasthat Bunda-waal gave me this account. During that time the old men of thetribe had mostly died off and the tribe was almost broken up.

Last edit 22 days ago by ALourie

XM765_ICDMS_lowres Field notebook

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what did the Jajau -think of them. Why didmen not like them to bekilled. ---

(6) Did they ever hear of men running down oldmen Jira on foot - or othermen like Bruthen Munji?

(7) Ask [crossed out - major] Captain about marirne Bek.

(8) What is the meaning of Koyung-bortGardiners Ck.

[next page]

(9) Does William know what Kurnai call the bullroarer - shew him a churinga.

Who is Miman-gurk

(10) Ask [crossed out - major] Captain about Tatathi, Muthi-muthiWathi wathi, Keramin- are Wembaio belongingto one of them - which? Their boundaries:-

(11) Did the Ja-jau have the būrbŭng?If not what?

Last edit about 12 hours ago by ALourie
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