XM692 Chapter V Tribal Governments



[written at the top of the page] Write Mr W. Scott Aust. Joint Stock Bank Put away First draught [sic]

[Left margin note] Gommeras- p381 Wotjo - tribal council 9. Kulin - Head men 38. +c Nungi nungit 36 Kurnai - Headmen 18 & C Nungi nungit - 30/32.33]

Chapter V Tribal Governments [underlined] a) Headmen b) council of Initiated men c) council of Elders (Headmen) d) Government of the Tribe e) pinya +c f) ordeal of battle

offences [underlined] a) against the tribes b) against the individual Nungi-nungit +c

[Left margin note] Transfer to other chapter under the heading of Punishment of offences. The instances in chapter on marriage of punishment for unlawful marriages, elopement +c. ]

Last edit 6 days ago by ALourie


Tribal Government

When an Australian tribe is looked at from the stand point of an ordinary observer, the conclusion seems to be justified that there is in it no recognised form of government. That is to say there is not manifested any persons or group of persons who have the right [of - crossed out] to command under penalties for disobedience, and whose commands are obeyed by the community. There seems to be no person to whom the whole community yield submission who has peculiar privileges which are patent to observation, or who is surrounded by more or less of savage pomp and ceremony. On a general, superficial view of an Australian tribe all that is seen, is that there is a number of families, which roam over certain tracts of country in search of food, and that while they appear to shew considerable respect to the old men, all the males enjoy so much liberty of action with each one may be considered to do that which seems best to himself.

A more intimate acquaintance with such a tribe shews however, that there must be some authority and restraint behind this seeming freedom. I note is found that there are well understood customs, or tribal laws which are binding upon the individual, and which therefore control him as well as regulate his actions toward others.

The statements which are given in the [chapters and-crossed out] [the class - crossed out] preceeding chapters will have already shewn that there are stringent laws which regulate the intercourse of the sexes, which are connected with the secret ceremonies of the tribe, [which the - crossed out] which restrict the choice of food, and so on, and these laws, or customs are enforced by severe penalties, even death itself.

It is quite true that many such laws or customs are obeyed without the dread of phisical [sic] punishment being

Last edit 5 months ago by ALourie



inflicted for their breach, by any tribal authority, individual or collectives. But these laws are obeyed because the native has been taught from his earliest childhood, that their infraction will be followed by some supernatural punishments personal to himself. Take for instance the universal law of mutual avoidance of each other by the man and his wife's mother. I know of no rule which is more implicitly obeyed [or foll- crossed out] and I know [if no tribal punishments for its disregard. only one tribe in which any punishment follows a breach -crossed out]. The universal [In the one (see p-) the man was compelled to leave his wife who returned to her parents- crossed out]. beliefs that some punishment of a magical nature will follow, such as that the hair will permanently turn grey. The nearest approach to a personal punishment is the practice of the Coast Murring. In that tribe the rule was that if a man and his wife’s mother touched each other, even accidentally, or even if her shadow fell across him, [he wo- crossed out] his wife would leave him and go back to her parents while he himself must leave the district. This rule of avoidance [Such a case as - crossed out] [this - crossed out] would properly come within the statement made by the late Mr E M Curr in his work "The Australian Race" where he says: "The power which enforces custom in our tribes is for the most part an impersonal one." [According- crossed out]

This "impersonal" authority must have either been public opinion or a supernatural sanction. According to Mr Curr it is "education", that is to say, a blackfellow is educated from infancy in the belief that departure from the customs of his tribe is invariably followed by one, at least, of many possible evils, such as becoming prematurely grey, being afflicted with opthalmia, skin eruptions or sickness, but above all that it exposes the offender to the danger of death from sorcery (2). This is undoubtedly true as to such a case as that of the "mother in law"; as to a breach of the rule that a novice must not receive food from the hand of a woman (Kurnai) or speak in the presence of one without covering his mouth with his hand or the corner of his rug (Coast Murring), but it does not account for the

Last edit 2 days ago by ALourie



corporeal punishment inflicted for other offences.

I shall detail these cases more at length later on but for the moment refer to the Pinya of the Dieri (p.-) or armed party, which is commissioned by the old Head men of the tribe to kill a man who is believed to have brought about the death of some one by arts magic, or to those cases when a man is compelled to appear before the assembled tribe and submit to an ordeal of spear throwing or recourse to some other weapon. To this may be added the universal punishments by death generally, less frequently by some mutilation as blinding with a fire stick (Arunta) of a woman who has been one of the sacred Bullroarers (1), and of the man who has shown it to her. Finally the cohabitation of persons too nearly related.

These offences are either to be considered to be acts of violence towards an individual in a Kindred, [and crossed out] or injurious to them, or as betrayal of the sacred secrets of the tribe, or as the gravest breaches of tribal morality.

It is evident that there must be some executive power by which such offences as these [above crossed out] are dealt with and punished.

I will [now crossed out] endeavour in this chapter to show what this executive power is, and how it acts in an Australian tribe. To do this I shall give instances from those tribes which I have already instanced as my examples. These will show the generality of the principles deducible from the examples, and the nature of the tribal governments in Australian tribes. [which - crossed out]

The Dieri [underlined] In each totem the oldest man is its Head or Pinaru(1). In each Horde there was also a Pinaru(1), who might also happen to be the head of a totem. But it did not necessarily [happen- crossed out] follow that the head of the totem or of a local division had much influence beyond his own totem or his own locality. I remember such an instance at Lake Hope where the

[Left hand margin notes] (1) Spencer + Gillen Native tribes of Central Australia.

Transfer to end of paper

(1) Pirra = great The name may be translated "great one".

Last edit about 1 month ago by ALourie


(A p4)

but he was not a warrior, an orator or a medicine man and had therefore little or no influence in the tribe beyond his own totem. This is an instance of a man who by reason of his age was the Head of his totem, but was not a Headman. B follows here for reverse p 4. [underlined]

(C - p4) He was greatly respected and feared by his own and [the- crossed out] by the neighbouring tribes. Neither his brothers, both of them inferior to him in bravery and oratorial power, nor the elder men presumed to interfere with his will, or to dictate to the tribe except in minor matters. It was he who decided disputes and his decisions were received without appeal. Even the neighbouring tribes sent messengers to him, with (1) presents of bags, pitcheri (1), red ochre, skins and other things. He decided when and where the tribal ceremonies should be held and his messengers called to gather the people from a radius of a hundred miles to attend[these -crossed out] them, or the great Mindarie ceremony, or to meet on other inter tribal matters. (see p-)

He had wonderful oratorial powers, making his hearers believe any thing he told them and to be always [to- crossed out] ready to [obey - crossed out] execute his commands. He was not by nature cruel or treacherous as were many of the Dieri, and when not excited was considerate, patient and very hospitable. No one spoke ill of Jalina Piramurana but on the contrary with respect and reverence.

This is understood when as Mr Gason/Samuel Gason says he distributed presents [given to him- crossed out] sent to him among his friends, to prevent jealousy. And he used to interfere to stop disputes or fights, even chastising the offender [himself- crossed out] and being himself not infrequently wounded in so doing. On such an occasion there would be greater lamentations and the person who had inflicted the would upon him would be not infrequently beaten.

Last edit 17 days ago by ALourie
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