Howitt and Fison Papers


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XM21_ICDMS_lowres Charles Barrett to Howitt 28 September 1907



Telegraphic AddressPooncarieMallara StationWentworth, NSW

Sept 28th 1907

A W Howitt Esqr Metung

Dear SirYours of Sept 16th to hand I am close to Police reports as to numbers of blacks in Wentworth + Pooncarie districts i.e numbers of blacks on the Lower Darling in the original state. Old Mrs McLean of Poliatold me she had seen them 1200 strong going down on their annual tour to Lake Victoria. The blacks died off from small pox. The blacks told me at that time they died so fast that the living were not able to bury the dead a great many died at another time from measles. The Blacks at the Rufus + Lake Victoria Ihave no idea but rumour says there was 700killed at the fight on the Rufus of which you no doubt know the particulars. I know a Black named Warra wonna who what [sic] in the fight. Question No. 3 you will see in the Police reports. The blacks have seen to have intermarried all round. There are orwas Lubras from Cobham Lake Mundi

Last edit 3 months ago by ALourie





It is well [crossed out - now] to notice that we have now -crossed out - be] found two forms of the two class system which are only distinguishable from each other by the different names of the two classes and the exception just noted as to totem marriage, which for the present may be disregarded. The area occupied by tribes of which the Dieri is the type is ------ miles by -------- miles; and that represented by the Wilya and other pther tribes is ------- miles by ------- miles.

On the border between these two [crossed out - organizations] great groups of tribes for which the term "nation" may be even applied the tribes meet as for instance the Yautruwunta and the Wilya although their languages differ so much as to have given [?] to [asigning?] which I heard among the Yantru wunta that the people to the South East were so stupid as to call (4) a snake "fire". This refered to the word tūrū which in the Yantruwunta language means "fire" and in the Wilya means "carpet snake".

[Left margin note]I heard an old Irishman tell a German that his people were void of intelligence, because they called a Coat a "Rock". "Very ignorant people". he said.

But it is quite clear that the organization in classes is the same under different names and the identity is recognized as I shall ahow later on by these tribes of either group which adjoin each other.

Proceeding now from the most Southern extension of the Mukurra & Kilpara classes in the Murray River, say at Wentworth, we find where the country of the Wembaio tribe of the River Murray ends in the great mallee scrub to the south that there then commences the country of and to the S tribe, named the Wotjoballuk who occupied the Wimmera and Richardson Rivers and [crossed out - their source?] the northern slopes of the Grampian Mountains. The local groups into which this tribe includes are given as [?].

The clan system of this tribe [crossed out - is extended] is of [crossed out - this] two classes with totems and it may be taken as representing tribes spread over Victoria [crossed out - from about [?]] as far East as a line drawn from Maryborough to Colac and next to at least as far as Rivolo Bay in South Australia [crossed out - boundary] - [word crossed out] to a line extending through [crossed out -from Mt Gambier] to the Murray River, (1)

[Left margin note](1) see K & K a to Mt Ganbier water also see Buanded [?] & Mr Smith

Last edit about 2 months ago by Christine



[crossed out - In] The Great dividing Range which to the westward of the [mountain?] of Melbourne [leaves?] until in Western Victoria it shows mainly by isolated mountain, in the Eastern side rises into a great chain [crossed out - of mountains] extending to te 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 round the River Murray to [southwards?] to Bass's [Straits?].

Tribes such as the Woewurrung claimed the river [crossed out - in which] flowing through their country as part of their territory grounds to its sources in the mountains [crossed out - where] by which in summer they [behove?] themselves to hunt. But [crossed out - ?] [crossed out - further than] beyond the sources of the Goulburn/Goulburn River and Yarra/Yarra River Rivers the [crossed out - in] Dividing Range/Great 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/Goulburn River and Macalister/Macalister River River until they terminate in New South Wales in the [tablelands?] of Kiandra. [crossed out - They] The higher plateaux 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 [which - 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. In many these mountaineers occupied the upper valleys of this region also. [crossed out - upper valleys of the Rivers. Rest of line crossed out] about [crossed out - three lines that are difficult to read]They [mitūman?].lived in the Upper Ovens/Ovens River and Buffalo/Buffalo River Rivers and which 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 [??] tribe which inhabited the Omeo tableland and the Upper Mitta Mitta & Tambo/Tambo River Rivers was [??] into the Omeo

Last edit 7 days ago by Christine




Tatathi Initiations. 2

the boys.

That evening or the next evening the men tookthe boys back to the camp to show them to theirmothers. The women stood in a row. All the men came up in a crowd with the boys hidden in theirmidst. A fire had been lighted of green boughsand on this the boys stood covered by a rug, and each put his fingers into his nostrils to prevent himselfbeing smothered. Then each ngierep took his boyand placed him in front of his mother, so that she couldsee him, and then immediately drew him back into the crowd. All the boys having been thus shown, themen took them away to the bush where the boysremained for five weeks with all the young men, whotook care of them, instructed them, amused them, and fed them (with water and grubs). After this the boys still remained away for a time and were onlyallowed to eat the males of opossums.

This should follow the Wiradjuri ceremonies and addthis.

This account of the initiations of the Tatati, Wati Wati& Litchi Litchi raises this particular type of ceremoniesacross [the - crossed out] New South Wales from Sydney to near Wentworth.

It appears to have been peculiar to tribes of NSW but to have been participated in by the [River - crossed out] Victorian tribes onthe south side of the Murray River - that is among the northern tribes of the Wotjo nation - and the tribeswhich farther up the Murray River were situated between it and theKulin tribes.

Umbara the tribal bard of the Yuin in speaking to meof the ceremonies of the tribe (see p-) These go all the waydown the Murray River on this side (stretching out his right hand) but on that side - stretching on the left - there is nothing.

From what I shall now say of the ceremonies of the Victorian tribes - Wotjoballuk and Kulin - my old friend Umbara was [?informant?] and [??] for he had been down that river as far as [??]

Last edit 3 months ago by ALourie

hw0419 Wotjobaluk Notes, Songs, Maps etc



5Notes on tribes River Murray +c

Victorian side(1) in the [Loddon - crossed out] plains from Mt Hope to the Murray the - B + WWamba-wamba - also had at least the lower part of [?Bully?] ck(2) in Loddon up to Boort the Bureppa-bureppa - whojoin the Jajauwrong at Boort- B + W(3) Reedy lake - Bura-bura - M + K(4) Swan Hill to Pyangil - Wati-wati - M + K(5) Pyangil to Euston - Weike-weiki - M + K(6) Euston to Kulkyne - Leichi-leichi - M + K(7) Kulkyne to Wentworth - grangema M + K(8) Wentworth to Goolwa - Yakoma in M + Kboth side of the Murray - M + K

N.S.W. side(1) From Moulamein down to Balranald with Murrayfor south boundary the Barabba BarabbaNote the Barabba - barabba are said to be very nearly the sameas the Bureppa-bureppa - in the Loddon River(2) The Mutti-mutti from Balranald to Euston(3) The Tatathi from Euston to Wentworth

Notes The Boora-boor and the Watti-watti boundaryout [??] near the Tyrell creek + Lake Tyrell[of the - crossed out] A line drawn from [the P - crossed out] Lake Tyrrel to Yellamjipneatly went of Lake Tyrel [and - crossed out] defines the boundary south of the Laichi-laichi

The Boundaries of the Jajoworung were approximatelythe following[N N creswick Boort - crossed out] Boort, Watchem, WatchemBy the Avoca [River + ?? - crossed out] River to Redbank - thento Natty Yallock, Creswick, Daylesford, Castlemaine[Jim Crow - crossed out] Maldon - BoortThree of the lesser divisions of the tribe were:(1) Headquarters at St Arnaud (Warr)

Last edit about 2 months ago by ALourie

hw0177 Notes on Wembaio



1AFor 40 or 50 miles above + below Wentworth and 40 up the Darlingthe blacks were very fine people and very friendly. The MarrawraI know most of.

In 1851 I found infanticide prevalent. The women informed methat the "Old men blacks ordered it" and it must be done.

When a woman is about to be confined she withdraws from themain camp a couple of hundred yards accompanied by a femalefriend or two who are quite as competent as modern. "howdies" to performtheir duties. For a week or ten days after delivery a woman is notallowed to bathe or [to - crossed out] go to the river for drink, the latter being broughtto her by her friends in attendance. Generally after the child isseparated from the mother, charcoal is pounded up fine and mixed withfat of some sort and rubbed in well the baby is polished like a pair of bootsI never saw a half caste during my residence and think theymust have been destroyed. Infanticide was indiscriminateas to both boys and girls.Strange blacks, visitors were not accommodated with womenDr MacKinlay

Last edit 6 months ago by ALourie


Wembaio 5Blood revengeWhen a man of one clan, say of Tapio had killeda man of another clan say of Wentworth - thedead man's friens would arrange a party and goand kill him - perhaps in the night. I do not think they would send a messenger to call himto come forward to fight.I do not know how tribal offences were dealt with.When a man died while his friendswere absent, all the men there when theyreturned stood out and held their heads down in order to receive eachof them a blow with a waddy.

Funerals I remember a case where (at Fletchers)where some young men went to attenda funeral, one of them was killed by a blow in that manner on the head.He was buried at once.

To become a Mekigar it wasnecessary for a man to eat the bone ofa dead man. One Mekigar couldinitiate another.

Initiation When a youth was made a Thalara noteeth were knocked out from Mildura downwards.But the Kulkyne tribe had their teeth knocked out. When the boy came back from the bushbeing a Thalara and allowed to take a wife,a girl was selected by the old men and given to him for the time. Jus primae noctisAs he was supposed notto know anything about sexual intercourse all the menpresent old and young had connections with her andhe last. She scolded him for allowing her to be takenby the others. [child = Katŭlya

Various [ages- crossed out] namesaccordign to agea boy 9-10 = Wilyango - 10-15 = Wilyango Kūrnŭndo15 to being made young man he was = Kūrno = excrementWhen a man Thalara

[written in left side margin]I think they knockedout the toothALPC

Last edit 3 months ago by ALourie

hw0167 Draft Howitt to Benson



Draught letterto Miss May BensonBrenda StationGoodooga NSW


I hope that you will not consider mea nuisance by again writing on the subject ofthe "Marriage Rule" in the Mūrawari tribeBut my excuse may I hope be your great kindnessin making earlier enquiries and the fact thatthe "Marriage Rule" is a subject upon whichI am now compiling information for animportant communication to the Anthr. Inst. of GtBritain.Since I last wrote I have been for a few daysat Wentworth where I had an opportunityof interrogating two very old but yet intelligentaborigines. The man singular to [??] bears the nameof "Doctor John Benson" - I am told because in the early days of settlement - some half a century ormore ago, he [??] Dr John Benson up theDarling to seek some new new country. Is it possiblethat he was some relative of yours?I obtained some very interesting information as to theirmarriage rules [in the- crossed out] of the Wembaio people to whommy informants belong, it being almost the same as thatof the Dieri which I explained in my letter of 12/7/06.What I wish now to explain is the manner inwhich I questioned them on it may be of use to you, shouldyou feel induced to attempt the task.We were sitting on the bank of the Murray [not far f - crossed out]near their camp + not far from the [Junc- crossed out] Darling junction.I compiled the Diagram by using little bits ofthe dry river mud to represent men and little bitsof charcoal to represent the women.I first put down the piece of mud representing [the -crossed out] Doctor andthen the piece of charcoal representing Lucy the wife. Then I putdown a piece of charcoal to represent the woman 4 on your diagram, the sister of Doctor; then a piece of mud to representthe man 2 her husband, [who -crossed out] the brother of Lucy - 3 -They fully understand this after a little discussion.Then I put down a piece of charcoal to represent 5 - that is her daughter, and a piece of mud to represent a son ofher sister 4 and the husband 2.

Last edit 5 months ago by ALourie

hw0175 Percy to Howitt 20/12/1907



Police Station, Wentworth20 December 1907A. W. Howitt, Esq.,Metung, VictoriaDear Sir,I have long been delayed in tending to your inquiry of the 6th ult. longer than expected, one reason having sev-erely sprained my ankle have been unable to get about forsome three weeks.

From inquiries made locally amongst the survivingaborigines, I find that all they know about the terms"Mukwara" and "Keelpara" are that they signify some degreeof afinity [sic], but it is said some of the Aborigines can tellupon sight on meeting a stranger if he or she belongs toeither definition. Dan Limbery and Lucy say that they haveheard this stated but that they cannot say so of theirselvesDan Limbery says he remembers Mr. Richards being aboutMenindie 4 or 5 years ago, thinks he came from Ballarat,Limbery remembers talking to Richards about these mattersand from what he and others say Richards has slightlyaltered the sound or meaning of the terms used, as itappears from the Rufus up the Darling as far as Wilcanniaand Louth the blacks speak a language known as "Marra-Yowera" meaning "True word" (this refers to the langauge spoke). "Maraura" is not the correct pronunciation.In the area mentioned abobve there were many tribes such as the "Kandel-ko" or Kandel lake tribe, near Menindie"Muthring-ko" a River tribe near Tolarno"Barkingy" a River tribe near Weinteriga"Wombeegie" was a general term meaning tribes residinghigher up the River Darling as now known"Kungarlie" a general term meaning tribes residing lowerdown the Darling river. Both terms beingsynonymous with the terms "Northern" or"Southern" peoples or tribes.I am. dear Sir, Yours trulyPercy [??]Segt of Police

Last edit about 2 months ago by ALourie
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