Bulmer re messages
I will answer all your letters re Black fellows shortly. For some time past I have not had many here they have been away hop picking and after [this before some ?] walking about however they are all beginning to draw up to the station. I will get the information you requested and forward it.
I think I can answer your last note at once. I have asked the Blacks and they give the same answer as Tuleba +c did. If Tara Bobby was going to challenge the Boul Boul men to fight he would carry his spear & Maruwan. A spear or a shield sent to a tribe was an act of defiance and
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of course a challenge to fight. When a stick was sent it was an invitation to a corroborie [sic]. Some poet had made a 'big fellow' corroboree and the stick was indeed part of it. That is it was to be used at the dance.
Many years ago when I was on the Murray a stick about 3 feet long was sent to the tribe at Yelta it was marked with their usual marks, and was an object of great interest to the tribe. I [sic] was held in the hand of the time keeper at the corroborie [sic] and was struck with a bough of a tree at intervals. The burden of the song was as follows. Wilpon tho
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Wilpon me gra. At the gra the stick was struck all the men held sticks in their hands, but only the one who taught the song held the stick which had travelled, the Blacks said a very long way. Indeed it must have travelled far for I found the same song was quite familiar to the Kurnai here so that it must have been known all along the arms of the River Murray and up the Darling and through Gippsland indeed I have no doubt it was known in the greatest part of N.S.W.
But it was not always a stick that was sent as an invitation to corroboree
sometimes it was pipe clay or some ornament used at corroboree in fact anything appropriate for the reason. Just the same as a message for war some warlike symbol would be sent.
When a message was sent of a death the messenger carried his spear on his arm and with head hanging down went along all who saw him knew he carried tidings of death but even then no marked stick was sent.
I do not think among the Kurnai that sticks were used much at all as the present generation of them seem to know nothing about
them. I will make further enquiry of Old Lamby as he ought to know being one of the ancients. In the mean time I should receive with caution much about message sticks as in my opinion sticks referred solely to corroborees and not to any message.
With kind regards to Mrs Howitt & yourself
I remain faithfully yours John Bulmer