Rediscovering Indigenous Languages

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B 505: Lecture on the Aborigines of Australia and papers on Wirradhurrei dialect, 1837-1840

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entirely from my own resources as I

am not aware of much that may have has

been written or said, about the Abori-

ginees from which I could derive,

much advantage, even if I had it

to refer to. And as I have made the

Blacks for more than six years the main

objects of my attention & study, I

fancy I do not presume too much if

I express chiefly my own opinion & the results

of my experience. You will therefore

bear with me, if my own name

and personal efforts are now and then al-

most unavoidably, mixed up with my



And now I shall now proceed to make a

few remarks as to the various questions

which may naturally rise in our minds:

When & how these wild sons of original

inhabitants came to this country, when

they came and with and for what other races

they seem to be more nearly related,

bear a resemblance

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and whether or not they were originally

in the same more or less the same so ignorant & uncivilized as they

are now, [a?] I regret that to all these

questions but little is no satisfactory answers can

be said of a satifactory kind given. We can

only throw out conjectures and hint at pos-

sibilities & probabilities concerning

their original descent, as they are utterly

without a history of their own with

scarcely a few a trace any fragments of tradition and

in as much as all ancient history is

silent about this part of the globe.

How all the Polynesian islans have been

peopled, how long they have been inhabited

and whence they originally came will [probably?]

always remain a difficult [indecipherable] problematical.

But there is a chain of these islands New

some smaller some greater which connects connecting this continent with Asia such as New Guinea,

Borneo and the islands of [Timor?] [on a aticular line still?] is not far from

the northern coast of this country and Timor is

not a great distance from the Malay [country?]

on the [Indian?] archipelago, or the Malay Archi-

pelago as it is sometimes called. Whether arrived

from necessity, when hounded by other tribes


The Celebes

The Phillipines

or nearer

Chile &

[a?] [aticular?]

line the

Island of

Timor Java

Sumatra the Malay

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I will [indecipherable] inform this audience that I tried to bring all these subjects into one lecture but find I could not so compress it without rendering my statements too dry & base as many of them will require certain illustrations. I therefore have resolved to confine myself this evening as to a certain portion, and then if you are satisfied and the Committee of the [indecipherable] request me, I shall be ready on a future occasion sooner or later to deliver the remaining parts of the various subjects.

1, The first question or questions which will naturally arise in our minds or be asked by some of us are: Whence did the original inhabitants of Australia come to this country? Where and how did they come? To what nation do they seem to be related? Were the originals as ignorant & uncivilized as they are now?

I regret, my friends, that neither I nor any one else can give satisfactory answers to any of these questions, though we may [throughout?] some hints as to probabilities; but as to the whole all will remain little more than suppositions & conjectures. As many of you must know ancient history, is altogether silent about this part of the globe; and Aboriginees are utterly without a history of their own & have scarcely any fragments of tradition. Nor have travellers & naturalists who have more or less explored our coasts added much information on the subject of the Aboriginees.

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others have made & from specimentation

I have seen from different tribes speaking

different dialects, I have [indicipherable] specimens

from South Australia & from Moreton

Bay. There is indeed a great difference

in words & names of [various?] objects, but

same numerous words are formed in all

nearly a quite the same. [Indeed?] to correlation

there is a striking resemblance showing their

common origin, of the language however

I shall head on a future [vocation?].

x No 1 How the various islands islands in Polynesians or all the islands in these parts

[(in)cluding?] Australia have been peopled, how

long they have been inhabited & [whence?] the

original inhabitants came will in all

probability always remain a difficult problem to solveuncertain and

doubtful. Nor do their characteristic features,

their physical formation or their color

or their habits & customs or their various languages, or certain religious sites which are not common to all of them

throw much light on the question. For in

all then their the different [nations?]

and tribes vary much. In many respects,

they resemble Asiatic [nations?], in others

the African races; nor would it be difficult

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to discuss trace certain resemblances amongst them in some

of these to some of the American tribes,


[Believing?] shall


us I shall

afterwards en-

[deavour?] to

show they were

originally not

so ignorant

as they are now,

But in all probability they came originally

from Asia & might have been a mixed

& somewhat degenerate race then. although I believe Their is

between the [Americas?] & the Indian Ocean a chain of numerous islands smaller & greater we may

say more than one chain connecting their

Australia with Asia India & other parts of Asia in

general. Their is, for instance New Guinea

the Celebes, the Philippines, Caroline islands & Borneo (Ceylon)

nearer still we find the connecting links

of islands such as Timor, Java, Sumatra

& the Malay islands leading close to Peninsulas with smaller ones in

discovering, the difficulty would not be great to come here by their [indecipherable.]. Nor is the distance so great

from Africa by way of Madagascar &

the Mauritius as to render it impossible that

some propitious winds might have [indecipherable]

some boats or canoes in safety to there shores,

and thus if in no other way we might account

for the [indecipherable] & [base?] of African [indecipherable].

have of supposed to exist in some of the

islands & partly in Australia. Whether the

original inhabitants left their orig former

country in sea from necessity in search of

new habitations, or by accident over-

ruled by Providence to people this country

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they having perhaps drifted away from their own

shores floating about till again and [found?]

again other shores, both cases [may?] suppose

possible. And supposing they

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of all the some of the peculiarities of

all others, of the dialogs the [indecipherable], the

*Negroes the [caffey?] whilst to [indecipherable] of them they show a

close resemblance A. Nay As [indecipherable] this general features Here is a classical

variety even among them Generally Their han[?]

is [?]strait, though some [indecipherable] to the wooley hair

of the African; their color very dark, though in

**many individual [indecipherable] [indecipherable] [indecipherable] to a lighter

shade either of coffee or olive. Thin faces

are less oval than that of the Negro, often rather

long, their forheads, not very low, their eyes

deeply [indecipherable], their noses rather flat the cheek -

fine somewhat [indecipherable] high, thin mouths remarkably

large jawbones often awkwardlyprojecting. But there are is

a considerable proportion of finer [indecipherable]

[indecipherable] with regular features of

symetry of formation. Many men and some women too, are

well built, attaining to a good height and

if not handsome are certainly not so ugly

as somenearly all the [indecipherable] are now. [Indecipherable] On the whole,

however, we must admit them to be a coarse

& degenerate race, to which their miserable

way of living, sometimes scarcity of food or a

very inferior sort of food may have added

much. ***F Before I proceed to any other subject, it

may not be out of placehereto give you a brief

*(in margin) especially their general features

**(in margin) 2,F.This [indecipherable] [indecipherable] are by no mean is inferior as is

generally supposed, they are quite capable of [indecipherable] of the mind, learn to read

at an average [indecipherable] [indecipherable] as European children and generally speak

English soon

***F(in margin) [indecipherable] let us imagine a few families [indecipherable] [indecipherable] [indecipherable] [indecipherable] if we may use [indecipherable] [indecipherable] 0 as there always are among all nations to have first [indecipherable] here [indecipherable] [indecipherable] without any other [indecipherable] [indecipherable] it is quite natural, other [indecipherable] [indecipherable] the same way, that they should become more [indecipherable] [indecipherable] degenerate

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[superimposed page]

If we suppose moreover, what is very possible that a few families of a somewhat coarser or inferior breed (if we may use the term) as there are mostly some among nearly all natives to have originally landed here on these shores and propagated themselves without admixture of a gentler or superior race it is quite natural other causes taken into account, the present race should be so low in the scale of the human races.

Their intellectual faculties are by no means so inferior as is generally supposed " their mind is quite capable of culture : of this I have had many decisive proofs. As on average, they learn to read English when young, as quickly as our own children and these who have had much intercourse.

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with the Aborigines had here been struck with the fact that at least that young men & boys very soon acquire and speak the English language correctly & fluently. You can draw out their minds so as to reflect & reason. Whether any or many individuals amongst them might prove when enjoying superior education, deep philosophers, or great mathematicians or good as theoreticians may be doubted.Still we can not assume the contrary

I do not wonder much at the uncivilised & ignorant state of the Aborigines, being so widely & thinly scattered & without intercourse perhaps for ages as we may suppose with other races: what else would be the result?

Let us imagine a few families of ^ Europeans living in the interior without any means of instruction, without a book of any kind,for a few centuries, their offspring for a few centuries or generations cut off from the civilized world, might they not become almost as ignorant & uncivilized as the Aborigines?

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first because, i believe, on good [indecipherable] that no nation or tribe was originally so savage or ignorant as there are some nowadays. For in the primitive ages though they had not the means of education & improvement as we now have they had certain traditions which kept them from gross ignorance.

Besides, before that wide dispersion of the human races, the amount of population living in close proximity would afford certain social advantages for improvement. A thinly scattered people is sure to grow gradually more ignorant & uncivilised. Secondly, the aborigines themselves have an impression that their ancestors knew more than themselves. There are in the third place a few slight traces found of superior ideas such as I have related just now. And

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