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Nature of the country inhabited by the tribes.--List of tribes, with their localities.--Physical appearance of the natives.--No Malay admixture.--Cicatrices.--Larakia woman with joint of index finger cut off.--Small number of children in each family.--Organisation of the tribes, a general résumé.--Totemic systems, a general résumé.--Intichiuma ceremonies.--Initiation ceremonies.--Burial and mourning ceremonies.--Spirit children and origin of children.--Reincarnation Sacred objects.--Camp life.--Habitations.--Flies and mosquitos.--Corrobborees.--Definition of tribe.--Sending out of messengers.--Characteristics of native character.--Magic.--Mental ability.--Fondness for fun and sense of humour.

OVER the vast area of more than five hundred and twenty thousand square miles occupied by the Northern Territory there are, as might be expected, great variations in regard to climate and natural features. Whilst this is so, it is, on the other hand, possible to divide it into three main parts, a Southern Central plateau, gradually rising from the lowlands of Lake Eyre to the Macdonnell Ranges. A Northern Central depression, in the form of

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a great basin, margined to the north, east and west by the Coastal Ranges, and lastly a fringe of coastland between the latter and the sea.

The first two of these, again, agree in all essential features. They have the same hot, dry climate, sparse vegetation of gum trees, Mulga scrub, Hakeas and porcupine-grass. Every now and then, but very rarely, the vegetation may be a little more luxuriant, in spots such as Palm Creek in the Macdonnell Ranges where a solitary colony of Fan palms (Livistonia mariæ) has managed to survive, and where groups of graceful Cycads grow in crevices amongst the rocks. Away, however, from the Ranges the country is more or less arid. The soil is dry and sandy with tufts of pale, withered grass that grow so far apart from one another that you can easily count them. It is wonderful how long the grass keeps its moisture. It must have learned the habit of throwing its roots down to a great depth. Towards the end of a long dry season, however, you can powder the grass up in your hand, and, for lack of nourishment, your horses become little more than bags of bones. For mile after mile there is nothing but thin gum tree forest, and in the dry season there is not a drop of surface water; you may get some by digging a soakage in the sandy bed of a river where the gum trees show that there is water below the surface, but, for the most part, you must rely on the wells that the Government has sunk at intervals along the course of the overland telegraph line. These vary in depth from a hundred to two hundred and seventy feet. Each one is enclosed in a strong palisade to keep out wandering horses and cattle and has, also, two trap doors which close down over the opening and serve to keep out wild dogs and small vermin. There is a windlass and a chain with a bucket at each end.

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The one shown in the illustration (Fig. 1) lies between the Katherine Creek and Daly Waters. It is one of the deeper ones and by means of an endless wire a horse can be hitched on to wind up the heavy bucket. When this view was taken I was travelling on an experimental motor car trip with the Administrator, and we utilised the motor car to do the winding up.

Away to the east of the telegraph line there lies the Downs country--huge stretches of slightly undulating open country, covered with a most luxuriant growth of grass with, every now and then, river beds, meandering across the open plains, starting nowhere in particular and gradually petering out (Fig. 3). Their banks are bordered, here and there, with clumps of coolibars but, often for scores of miles, you see nothing bigger than a small scraggy bush and, as you travel along, you collect such little twigs as you can to boil your next billy with. For miles upon miles also, in many parts, the whole country face is studded with white ant-hills of which there are several quite different kinds. In the first place they vary much in colour according to the nature of the ground. They may be red, or almost white, yellow of various shades, grey, or various shades of brown. A fair idea of the surface formation of the country can be had from the material of which they are made. In form they vary immensely. Some never seem to exceed an average of perhaps four or five feet in height and are in the form of single, flattened columns, or slabs, sometimes tapering to a point, at others with a bluntly rounded apex; others, again, are like masses of great bubbles of sand, from a few inches to a foot or more in diameter. These are piled irregularly on one another to form a mound which may finally reach a height of six feet or even more. Then, in addition to the smaller ones, which may be so

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numerous and so close together as to give the country the appearance of a gigantic graveyard, there are the huge ones made, perhaps, of a single shaft, or of a main central one, with others clustering round it like smaller pinnacles around a main spire (Fig. 2). These are most extraordinary structures; they may reach a height of twenty-five feet and must have taken many years to build.

In the whole of the central area, that is inland from the coastal ranges, there is no permanent flowing water. For a short time after the rainfall the creeks run, but this may be only for a few hours. After that the scattered water holes alone remain--some may last for a few weeks, others for months, whilst others, such as the chain forming the Newcastle Waters, are permanent, though, of course, they gradually decrease in area as the dry season advances. Towards the close of the dry season the natives must gather about the few remaining waters, though it is wonderful how they will secure water by means of little soakages in the sandy beds of creeks, or out of the roots of trees, or even, if it comes to the worst, by licking the dew off herbage. Amongst the ranges they have their little stores of water which no white man would ever find; little crevices in the rocks or holes in trees out of which they can sometimes only get the water by means of a whisp of grass which they dip into the water and suck when it comes out.

The whole of the central area, right up to the Coastal Ranges, is very much the same everywhere except that when, coming up from the south, you reach Powell's creek, there is a distinct change in the vegetation. The gums remain, but Bauhenias, with rich foliage, red flowers and large brown pods appear; the Kapok with its bright yellow flowers is very noticeable and the Mulga is largely replaced by Lancewood, while Indiarubber, Ironwood,

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and so-called Quinine trees are abundant. But, even as far north as this, the vegetation is not really tropical.

After rising from the central part on to the Coastal Ranges, the height of which is not more than one thousand feet, there are sometimes, as, for example, going down to the Coast on the Gulf of Carpentaria, a series of "jump-ups," as they are called, where there is a sudden sharp rise, or fall, according to which way you happen to be travelling. This brings you down to the coast country where, in many ways, things are very different from what you meet with on the uplands of the interior. East, west, and northwards from the Ranges, rivers, such as the Roper, Daly and the Alligators, rise and run to the sea. These are fine streams with permanent running water, the tide affecting them for about eighty miles from their mouth (Fig. 4). They are marked by the presence of a series of rocky bars, each perhaps six, or at most eight, feet in fright, that stretch across from side to side and over which the water pours all the year round (Fig. 5). These bars separate long reaches of deep, clear water, fifty to seventy yards in width, which may run for miles. These rivers and the billabongs and backwaters of the coastal district swarm with fish and water fowl of all kinds. Every now and then there are swamp lands and shallower Pools, where the great, red-flowering lotus grows, and the ordinary water pools are flecked with white and heliotrope lilies (Fig. 6). The river courses are bordered with magnificent paper-barks (Melaleuca leucodendron) that flower profusely and attract great flocks of honey-eating birds. Now and again you come across a patch of jungle (Fig. 7) with clumps of graceful bamboos, fan palms, lawyer vines, mosquitos and land leeches, but, except just for these isolated patches, there is little that is really tropical. In many parts the so-called cycad "palm" grows profusely in

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the scrub with a stem from one to eight or even ten feet high, crowned with a circle of stiff, fern-like leaves, with perhaps a large central cone. The climate of this coastal district, especially along the north, is very different from that of the interior. In the latter it is hot and dry with cold winter nights. Along the Roper river even, about one hundred miles from its mouth, the temperature in August fell to 29 F. during the night, and very often we had a fog that did not lift till nine o'clock it the morning. The climate in Darwin and along just the coastal fringe is less pleasant, but even here the average wet bulb for December is little more than 80, and these warm, moist conditions may be said to last through November to March, the rest of the year being relatively cool.

Such are the conditions under which the natives live, and, whether it be the difference in the 'food and water supply, or not, the fact remains that in many ways the coastal and island tribes are sharply marked off from the inland ones, in regard both to their customs and their organisations.

The distribution of some of the more important tribe is roughly shown on the accompanying map, the numbers on which correspond to those in the following list:

1. Melville Island

2. Bathurst Island

3. Worgait

4. Warrai

5. Wulwullam

6. Mulluk Mulluk

7. Brinken

8. Mudburra

9. Waduman

10. Bulinara

11. Airiman

12. Allura

13. Larakia

14. Kakadu

15. Kulunglutji

16. Umoriu

17. Geimbio

18. Koarnbut

19. Watta

20. Puneitja

21. Gnornbur

22. Djowei

23. Djauan

24. Mungarai

25. Yungman

26. Nullakun

27. Mara

28. Yukul

29. Binbinga

30. Umbaia

31. Nganji

32. Gnuin

33. Kallaua

34. Karawa

35. Tjingilli

36. Worgai

37. Allowiri

38. Warramunga

39. Kaitish

40. Unmatjera

41. Arunta

42. Walpari


[Map of the Northern Territory]


It is simply impossible to make any, except a most vague, estimate in regard to the number of the natives in the northern part of the territory. Down in the Macdonnell Ranges the old Arunta tribe is practically decimated, and the same is true of others in the north, such as the Larakia, Warrai, Wul-wullam; more especially is this true of those who have had the misfortune to come into close contact with the Chinese working on the gold fields.

There are, however, great areas, more especially in the north-east, where the waters are permanent and the food supply abundant, and here, sheltered from interference, as yet, by the nature of the country, they probably exist in large numbers. The inland tribes, in fact one can say all the mainland tribes, so far as their physical appearance is concerned, are essentially similar to those members of the Warramunga, Ngangi, Binbinga, Allaua, and other tribes whom we have previously described.[1] In Figs. 8, 9, and 10, some typical representatives of the Kakadu and Geimbio tribes, inhabiting the Alligator River district, are represented. In Fig. 11 a group of women belonging to the Mulluk Mulluk tribe on the Daly River is seen, and in Fig. 12 a group of Port Essington natives. It will be seen that there is considerable

[1. Cf. Northern Tribes, Introduction. For their physical measurements reference can be made to Dr. R. Burston, "Anthropometric Measurements of One Hundred and Two Australian Aboriginals," Bulletin of Northern Territory, 1913, External Affairs Dept., Melbourne.]

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difference in regard to the curliness of the hair, sometimes it may, as in the left-hand of the two in Fig. 8, be wavy, but not straight and lank; at others, as in the right-hand man, it may be decidedly curly, but never really woolly. Amongst these tribes there are the usual keloid ridges of various forms, raised as ornaments on the upper part of the arms, across the chest, and, sometimes, abdomen. The women always have their hair cut short. There is only very rarely indeed seem anything like a trace of Malay blood. It has been, perhaps not unnaturally, suggested that, during years past, the intercourse between the Malays who come south annually, in search of trepang and tortoiseshell, and, the natives, has resulted in the introduction of a Malay strain in this part of the continent. It is possible that, on very rare occasions, a Malay or Macassar man may have succeeded in having intercourse with an aboriginal woman, but he would only do so at the risk of his life. The Malays have to be extremely careful in their dealings with these coastal natives, who are strong and fierce, and are always on the look-out to kill intruders. It would, under ordinary conditions, only be by mere chance that a Malay would have the opportunity of seeing a native woman, not one of whom would be allowed near a Malay camp, and, for a stranger to venture into the bush, would mean certain death.

I have once, but only once, seen a native--a woman--who had clearly some Malay blood in her, but she stood out markedly. It may be said that the coastal races have been in no way physically influenced by contact with Malays.[1]

Physically the finest natives whom I met with were

[1. Mr. Sydney H. Ray, after his examination of the languages, has decided that there is no evidence of Malay influence in these.]

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those on Melville and Bathurst Islands, that is, the men, because there was often a marked contrast in size between the men and women. The latter were seldom more than four feet six or eight, the former were often five feet ten or even six feet. The bodies of the men and women alike (Figs. 14, 15, 16 and 17) were marked with very characteristic cicatrices called miunga which are supposed to represent the barbs of their spears. They are arranged, as can be seen, with remarkable regularity and form the only instance that I know of in the whole of the Northern Territory, in which you can recognise the tribe of an individual by his body marks.[1] These keloid growths are the results of cuts made by the individual himself, or by someone else, with a stone knife or a sharp shell. They are added to, from time to time. One of the Port Essington girls, probably about fifteen or sixteen years of age, had a double row of small elevations of keloid tissue each not much more than an eighth of an inch in diameter running on each side in a curved line from below the shoulder on to the breast. I saw her one day adding to the number of them, so as to carry the row further down her breast. She had a little stick, about six inches long, and all that she did was to burn one end in the fire until it was red hot and then she pressed it straight down on to her breast, burning right through the skin until she came to the white flesh beneath. She made six of these marks at one time and, apparently, did not in the least mind what would be to an ordinary white woman an extremely painful ordeal.

On Melville and Bathurst Islands one is struck, often,

[1. Statements are made every now and then according to which these cicatrices are said to be distinctive of tribes or other groups. They do, of course, vary but I have never, except in this one instance, seen any that are thus distinctive.]

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by the very curly nature of the men's hair. This is shown in Figs. 16 and 17, which represent a man decorated for a ceremony. It is only on these Islands that I have seen any decoration of the hair itself, apart, sometimes, from a certain amount of grease and red ochre which is rubbed on frequently amongst the central tribes. Here, however, there is a regular design. The beard in these people is also very well developed, in strong contrast to many of the mainland tribes such as the Kakadu and Geimbio (Figs. 8 and 9), amongst whom it is usually only very sparsely developed. These Islanders have, also, a curious custom of pulling out their beards during certain ceremonies--their upper lips are always bare. The women in all cases have short hair, because they must cut it off periodically and use it for the manufacture of hair string.

In one tribe, the Larakia., the women (Fig. 18A) have an extraordinary custom of mutilating the index finger of the left hand by removing the terminal joint. It is either bitten off by the mother at a very early age or, at a later time, cobweb is tied so tightly round that the circulation is prevented and then the joint rots off. The custom has nothing to do with initiation, and the natives have no idea of what it means.

The biting operation is called gwirung giwe, which means finger, bite; the finger is afterwards called gwirung gimik, or cut finger.

A remarkable feature of many of these tribes is the small number of children, even though a man may have as many as five or six wives. The greatest number of children that I met with belonging to one woman was eight, in the case of a Kakadu woman. The same feature stands out clearly in the genealogical table given in the chapter dealing with organisation and in the photograph

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which represents (Fig. 9) a man of the Geimbio Tribe with his six wives. The natives, in many parts, are certainly not prolific, and, under normal conditions, they do not, apparently, kill their children. In the more central parts there are times when food and water are very scarce and life is hard, but on the coastal district and anywhere in the more northern area, drained by the Roper, Daly, Katherine, Flora, King, Liverpool, and many other rivers, there is never any scarcity of either food or water. Whatever may be the cause, the native, even under normal conditions, does not appear to increase in numbers, and, when he comes into abnormal conditions, such as those associated with intercourse with strangers, he very rapidly diminishes. Their numbers are, undoubtedly, to a certain extent, kept down by their constant feuds. One thing is noticeable, and that is that you seldom see a really old man or woman. As usual, the younger women are in the possession of the older men, and Mr. Cooper told me that he suspected that on Melville Island the older men were every now and then speared by younger men to whom their wives would descend. The disparity in age between a man and his wife is well seen in the family figured. In connection with the question of obtaining wives, attention may be drawn to the remarkable custom that I found in vogue amongst the Kakadu, according to which, on the death of any man, one of his wives may be handed over to a man who stands to her in the relationship of no-ornberi, which includes her own sons. She must not be his own mother, but may be any one of his actual father's or father's brothers' wives. Not only is this so, but, even before his father's death, the son calls this particular woman by the same name that he applies to his wife. It may very likely be, in fact, in the cases actually seen by me it is so,

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that the woman may be of just about the same age as the son.

Starting, on the one hand, in the very south of the Continent and proceeding northwards to within less than a hundred miles of the coast at Darwin, or starting, on the other hand, from the east coast, say from Brisbane, and travelling right across the whole continent to the shores of the Indian Ocean in Western Australia, we meet with a series of tribes which have one fundamental feature in common, and that is a very definite "class" organisation. In every case the tribe is divided into two moieties, or main divisions, and each of these, again, into two or four classes or sub-classes, for which there may, or may not, be distinct names. These class groups regulate marriage, descent being counted, sometimes in the paternal, sometimes in the maternal line, but, in every case, there is a definite "class" organisation.

On the northern coast line, however, we meet with a group of tribes such as the Kakadu, Umoriu, Geimbio, and others allied to them, in which this is not present--whether it ever has been is a matter of conjecture; if it has, there is, so far as I could discover, not a trace of it left now. There is, on the other hand, a strong, local organisation which governs marriage. In the Iwaidji and other tribes it is just possible that the intermarrying groups are remnants of original classes.

We may, indeed, so far as their organisation is concerned, divide Australian tribes into two main groups, and these again into various sub-groups as follows:--

Group A.--Tribes with distinct class organisation. This we can divide into at least five sub-groups.

Sub-group 1.--Tribes, such as those of the Dieri

[1. This statement refers, of course, to the early days before the natives had become contaminated by contact with the whites.]

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nation, occupying the Lake Eyre region, in which descent is counted in the maternal line. There are no names for the classes, but groups, forming intermarrying groups, equivalent to classes and sub-classes in other tribes, are undoubtedly present.

Sub-group 2.--Tribes, such as the Kamilroi with four class names and descent counted in the female line.

Sub-group 3.--Tribes such as the Southern Arunta and the Warrai, in the Northern Territory, and others occupying a very large area in Western Australia, amongst whom four class names are present. In these, also, though there are no distinct names for them, there are eight intermarrying groups.

Sub-group 4.--Tribes, such as the Warramunga, with eight sub-classes and indirect male descent; that is, a child passes into a sub-class which is different from that of its father, but is one of four belonging to the same moiety of the tribe as its father's. This form of organisation is very widely spread over the central part of the Continent.

Sub-group 5.--Tribes, such as the Mara and Anula, with four sub-classes and direct male descent of the class name. In these, again, there are the equivalents of the eight sub-classes of the Warramunga. Their existence becomes very evident when the marriage regulations are Investigated, and their equivalence with the sub-classes of the Warramunga group is clearly recognised when the two sets of tribes come into contact with one another.

Group B.--Tribes without class organisation or with, at most, obscure traces of such.

Sub-group 6.--This includes certain anomalous tribes In the south-eastern part of the Continent, now all extinct. But little is known of them, except that, if they had a class organisation, it was very highly modified.

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Sub-group 7.--This includes tribes such as Kakadu, Umoriu, Geimbio and other tribes, forming what I have called the Kakadu nation, and inhabiting the Coburg Peninsula, and the district drained by the East, South, and West Alligator Rivers, together with the Larakia oil the mainland and the tribes on Melville and Bathurst Islands. In all of these no class organisation is present; it has been replaced entirely by a local organisation.

Amongst all the tribes there is a very strongly developed totemic system which, naturally, varies to a great degree amongst groups of tribes scattered over such a wild expanse of country. It is only when you have the opportunity of coming into close contact with these natives and of watching their secret ceremonies that you realise how strongly the totemic system is developed. In every one of the tribes that I came across every individual was associated with a totemic group.

There are, amongst these northern tribes, some very interesting features in regard to their totemic systems, In some tribes, such as the Larakia, Worgait, and Wul-wullam, the totemic groups are divided between the two moieties of the tribe, so that, as a man may only marry a woman who belongs to the other moiety of the tribe, the totemic groups are exogamic. In these tribes the totem descends in the paternal line.

In other tribes, such as the Djauan, Warrai, Mungarai, Yungman, Mara, and Nullakan, the totemic groups are divided between pairs of classes, or groups, into which the fathers and their children, alternately, pass. Thus in one moiety of the tribe we may have four sub-classes which we may call a, b, c, d, and on the other side four which we may call e, f, g, h. The rule is that a man of sub-class a marries a woman of sub-class e, and vice versâ, and their children belong to sub-class d. Now,

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oil the side of the tribe that includes the sub-classes a, b, c, d, some of the totemic groups are divided between a and d, others between b and c, in such a way that no two sub-classes contain the same totemic groups. In the same way another set of totemic groups is divided between the sub-classes belonging to the other moiety. It follows that, as descent of the sub-class is counted in the paternal line, the child must pass into a sub-class belonging to the father's moiety, but into both a sub-class and a totemic group to which he does not belong.

In other tribes, such as the Waduman, Mudburra, Ngainman and Bulinara, the same totemic group is found on each side of the tribe, and the totemic group descends in the maternal line. In others, again, such as the Melville Island tribe, amongst whom no classes are found, the totem descends in the maternal line.

The most modified amongst these northern tribes in regard to their totemic system are undoubtedly the Kakadu, Geimbio, Kulunglutji and allied tribe. They are strongly totemistic, but yet there is no descent of the totem in either the paternal or maternal line. The spirit of the dead person chooses its own totem, and, when it undergoes reincarnation, tells the father of the child what is the jereipunga, or totem, of the latter.

So far as the social aspect of totemism is concerned we may roughly classify as follows the various Northern Territory tribes that have as yet been studied from this point of view. In the first place they may be divided into two main divisions according to whether the totemic groups are or are not exogamic:--

Group I.--The totemic groups are exogamic. This again we may divide into two, in one of which the descent is counted in the maternal, in the other in the paternal line.

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(A) Descent of the totem is counted in the maternal line. This includes groups of tribes that are really not allied to one another, and in each of which the totemic organisation is distinct.

(a) Tribes in which there are two moieties and no class names, and in which the totems are strictly divided between the two moieties, the child taking both its mother's moiety and totem name. This includes the important Dieri nation in the far southern part of the Territory.

(b) Tribes in which the totem groups are divided between the two moieties and in which the descent of the class name is counted in the paternal and that of the totem in the maternal line. This includes a group of tribes out in the north-western part of the territory drained by the Victoria River, such as the Waduman, Mudburra, Ngainman and Bulinara.

(c) A group of much modified tribes in which there is no class organisation and a tendency for the totemic group names to disappear or merge into one another. This includes the Iwaidji tribe on the Coburg Peninsula and the Melville and Bathurst Island tribes.

(B) Descent of the totem is counted in the paternal line. The totemic are groups divided between the moieties in various ways.

(a) The totem groups are divided between the moieties so that the same one is present in each. This occurs in the Larakia, Worgait, and Wul-wullam tribes in which the descent of the totem is in the direct paternal line, the child taking its father's totem.

(b) The totem groups are divided between the two moieties, the child taking, with very rare exceptions, the father's totemic name. Very occasionally it may belong to a totemic group different from that of its father,


but it is always one belonging to the same moiety of the tribe as its father's. This occurs in the Warramunga, Worgaia, Umbaia, Tjingilli, and allied tribes.

(c) The totem groups are divided between pairs of lasses or groups which belong to the same moiety so that, though the father's and the children's classes, or groups may be distinct they may both belong to the same totemic group. This is found in the Djauan, Mara, and Nullakun tribes, in which the descent of the totem is in the direct paternal line.

(d) The totem groups are divided between the subclasses in such a way that the sub-class of the father contains one set of totemic groups and that of the children another. It follows that there is a constant alternation of totems from generation to generation, those of the father and children being different and those of the grandfather and grandchildren being similar. This may be spoken of as indirect paternal descent of the totemic group. The child belongs to a totemic group on the same side of the tribe as its father's but to a different one, just as it belongs to a sub-class on its father's side but not to his. This system, which shows the extreme case of division of the totemic groups amongst the sub-classes, is met with in the Warrai, Mungarai, and Nullakun tribes.

Group 2.--The totemic groups are not exogamic and there is no descent of the totem either in the maternal or paternal line. There are two main types.

(a) The tribe is divided into moieties and these into classes and sub-classes amongst all of which the totemic groups are irregularly distributed, so that the same group is present in each moiety. Descent is neither in the paternal nor paternal line, and the totem of the child depends entirely upon the locality at which it is supposed

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to have entered the mother in spirit form. This system is characteristic of the Arunta nation, in the centre of the Continent, which includes the Arunta, Unmatjera and Kaitish tribes. In the latter there is a decided tendency for the totemic groups to be divided between the two moieties and for the descent to follow in the paternal line.

(b) The tribe is not divided into moieties nor classes, but there are a number of intermarrying local groups. The totem has nothing to do with marriage and it descend, neither in the paternal nor in the maternal line. The spirit of the ancestor, who is about to be reincarnated, tells the father of the child exactly who the latter is, and what is the name of its totem, which need not even be that the old ancestor. This system is characteristic of the Kakadu nation.

It will be seen that there are, as might be expected when account is taken of the wide area over which the various tribes are scattered in the Northern Territory--an area equal in extent to four and a half times that of Great Britain--very wide differences in regard to the totemic systems. It is somewhat remarkable to find that counting descent in the maternal line, which is usually regard as a primitive feature, is met with in such varied group of tribes as the Dieri in the very south, in which there are no class names and only moieties, the names of which pass from mother to children, in the Waduman and others in the north-west amongst whom there are class names that that pass from father to child, and, lastly, in the Melville Islanders and Iwaidji, which are most certainly modified tribes that have undergone profound changes in regard to their organisation.

On the occasion of my first visit in 1911, I did not come across any ceremonies which were the, equivalent of the Intichiuma in the Arunta tribe, that is ceremonies

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designed to increase the supply of the totemic animal or plant. During my second visit, with more opportunity of study, I found that such were really present in certain tribes. There are two types of Intichiuma ceremonies amongst the Central tribes, one represented by the Urabunna, Arunta, Kaitish and Unmatjera tribes, the other by the Warramunga nation.

In the Arunta the head man of each totemic group is called Alatunja and he takes the lead in the performance of one special ceremony, as does also the corresponding individual, called Ulqua, in the Kaitish tribe.

In this tribe also a very important part of the ceremony is the bringing in of the totemic animal or plant to the head man of the group, who then eats a little of it and tells the men who do not belong to the group that he has made it for them and they are free to eat it. In the Kaitish there is a slight but interesting addition in the form of a ceremony connected with the Alcheringa history of the totem.

In the second type, represented by the Warramunga, here is only very seldom any one special ceremony designed to secure the increase of the totemic animal or plant. On the contrary, we have a great development of the side which is just hinted at in the Kaitish. In the Warramunga the Intichiuma consists in the performance of a series of ceremonies dealing completely with the Alcheringa history of the ancestor of the totemic group. Just, however, as in the Kaitish tribe we find a hint of hat is the leading feature in the Warramunga, so again the latter we find hints of the leading features in the Arunta and Kaitish. The head man of the white cockatoo totemic group performs a special ceremony to increase the numbers of white cockatoos and, again, in one or two instances, as in that of the Carpet-snake totem, the men

{p. 20}

who do not belong to the group bring the animal in to the head man and, before touching it themselves, ask him if he wishes to eat it. He tells them no; that he made it for them and that they are free to eat it.

I was much interested in finding both of these types of Intichiuma ceremony existing in the far north. In the Mudburra and Waduman tribes on the Victoria River side the Arunta type exists. The head man of group in the Waduman tribe is called Tjungunni. He performs a special ceremony known as Tjutju, and, after this, when the animal or plant has increased in numbers, the men who do not belong to the group go out and collect some of it. If, for example, it be a "sugar-bag" then they take a little of this up to the head man who eats a small portion and hands the rest back to the other men, telling them they may eat it. The second type, in somewhat modified form, is seen amongst the Kakadu. It is, perhaps, more correctly speaking a mixture of the two types with, in addition, features peculiar to itself. There is one special series of sacred totemic ceremonies, called Muraian, in connection with which there are performances associated with certain sacred sticks and stones called also, collectively, Muraian. Muraian was an old, ancestral turtle-man, or man-turtle, it is hard to say which. The other objects (Plates III., IV., V., VI., and VII.) are very carefully decorated sticks and stones, the former representing fish, birds, snakes, yams, etc., the latter, eggs of the various animals, or yams. In all cases, with the possible exception of turtle, they represent, not the human ancestor, but the actual animal or plant. On the other hand, the ceremonies of which this performance forms a part are closely similar to those of the Warramunga and represent the history of the old totemic ancestors of the various groups.

{p. 21}

The discovery of these Intchiuma ceremonies among these northern tribes is of considerable interest as showing that they are widely scattered and form an important feature in the totemic systems of tribes extending from Lake Eyre in the south to the Coburg Peninsula in the north.

In the matter of eating the totemic animal or plant, there is considerable variation. In the majority of tribes such as the Arunta and Warramunga, the members of the totemic group either do not eat their totem at all or, at most, very sparingly. In the Warramunga they do not eat their mother's totem unless it be given to them by a man belonging to that totemic group. In the northern tribes here is considerable variation in regard to the eating of the totemic animal or plant. In some, such as the Kakadu, there appear to be no restrictions, though, on the other hand, there are most elaborate restrictions in regard food generally. In others, such as the Waduman, which is typical of very many, a man will not capture or secure his own totemic animal or plant, but will eat it if it be given to him by a man who belongs to another totemic group.

The initiation ceremonies vary to a very considerable extent, and, so far as the Northern Territory tribes are concerned, they may be divided into three groups: (1) those such as the Larakia, Kakadu, Geimbio, Iwaidji and allied tribes on the northern coast, together with those inhabiting Melville and Bathurst Islands, in which neither circumcision nor sub-incision is practised, (2) those, such as the Worgait, Mandot, and Djauan, in which circumcision alone is practised, and (3) a very extensive group occupying the whole of the Central area and extending westwards into West Australia and eastwards into Queensland, in which both circumcision and subincision

{p. 22}

are practised. This group of tribes includes the Arunta, Kaitish, Warramunga, Worgai, Yungman, Mudburra, etc., and amongst them the women are subjected to the rite of cutting the hymen with a stone knife, the cut often extending through the perineum. So far as I have been able to discover, the natives have no idea whatever as to the meaning of these customs. One thing is certain, and that is that they have no relation to the prevention of procreation. In the first place, the natives do not associate procreation with sexual intercourse, and, in the second, no man in any of the tribes in which these rites are practised is allowed to take a wife until such time as he has been both circumcised and subincised.

The burial and mourning ceremonies vary to some extent amongst the different tribes. On the mainland there are three main types of burial ceremonies, which are associated, respectively, with (1) ground burial, (2) tree burial, and (3) the eating of the dead person and subsequent burial of the bones in a bark coffin. The first of these is practised by the Arunta, Kaitish, and other tribes further north, such as the Kakadu; the second is practised by the Warramunga[1] nation and at times by others such as the Kakadu, who also bury in the ground; the third is met with in the Mara and allied tribes. A very interesting purification ceremony is described in connection with the burial of a woman which I witnessed in the Kakadu tribe.

The most extraordinary burial and mourning ceremonies are, however, those of the Melville and Bathurst Islanders. Amongst these, years ago, curious grave posts, unlike any met with on the mainland, were described by Sir. Gordon Bremmer, who naturally, did not have

[1. A full account of this is given in given Northern Tribes, Chapter xvii., p. 505.]

{p. 23}

opportunity of witnessing the ceremonies concerned with their erection. I had the good fortune to do this in July, 1911, and again in March, 1912, on Melville Island, and during November, 1912, on Bathurst Island. This method of burial is peculiar to the islands, and the ceremonies associated with the erection of the posts are amongst the wildest that I have seen in the whole of the Northern Territory.

Varied though these tribes are in regard to their organisations and customs, there is fundamental agreement on certain points. It was in the Central tribes that we first described the belief in the existence of spirit children who inhabit certain definite localities and enter women. It is interesting to see that this belief is universal amongst the Northern Territory tribes. A similar belief has been shown by Dr. Roth to exist amongst Queensland natives and by Mrs. Bates amongst certain tribes in West Australia. In regard to this matter there has been considerable difference of opinion, but I think it may now be regarded as established that some such belief was once widely prevalent over a large part of Australia. I am, myself, inclined to think that it was once universal, for the reason that it now exists amongst tribes so widely different from one another in many other respects as the Dieri, Arunta, Waduman, Mara, Kakadu, and Melville Islanders. The Kakadu beliefs are amongst the most definite that we have. Without going into details which are explained later, it may be said there was one great ancestor, named Imberombera, who was responsible, originally, for all the spirit children with whom, either directly or by means of individuals whom she sent out, the country was peopled. There were local spirit centres, just as in the Arunta, and it is these spirit children who have

{p. 24}

ever since been born again. With this belief is also closely bound up that of reincarnation. It is curious again to find that there is fundamental agreement in this matter right through the tribes and, further, that the Arunta in the South and the Kakadu in the North have remarkably parallel beliefs. In the former some of the ancestors are known by name, others are not, Every individual has his, or her, secret name, known only to the old men of his local totemic group, For some reason this is one of the most secret and most difficult things to find out in the Arunta. If the old ancestor is born again, then the human incarnation takes that ancestor's as his own secret name. In the Kakadu, on the other hand, the name of every ancestor is known and every member of the tribe bears that ancestor's as his or her name in common, everyday use. In some tribes, such as the Warramunga, each totem group had one great ancestor from whom, when he shook himself during the performance of ceremonies, numerous, but nameless, spirit children emanated. We have, in fact, an interesting series of stages beginning with the Arunta and its numerous original ancestors for each group, passing through the Warramunga with its one ancestor for each group, and then on to the Kakadu with its single great, original ancestor for all the groups.

In some tribes, such as the Dieri and Warramunga, the belief holds that the sex changes at each successive reincarnation.

The Kakadu also have a belief in a double spirit somewhat akin to that of the Arunta. The original spirit, called Yalmuru, gives off a double, called Iwaiyu. It is the latter that enters a woman and, after it has done so, the Yalmuru comes, some night, to the father and tells him

{p. 25}

that the child inside his wife is so and so, naming the old ancestor of whom he is the reincarnation, and saying also what his totem is.

There are one or two points in connection with this belief to which attention may be drawn. In the first place it is essential to remember that there is no such thing as a virgin amongst the women of the native tribes from one end of Australia to the other. As soon as a native girl reaches puberty, she is handed over to her allotted husband and has continuous intercourse for the rest of her life. In that respect there is no difference between any two native women, and yet the native sees that some women have children, some do not. The intercourse is continuous, the bearing of children is sporadic. It is long after a woman has had intercourse before she becomes aware that there is a child within her. Seeing then that every woman without exception has continuous intercourse; that some have children, some do not; that those that have them bear them at varying intervals which have no relationship to the time of intercourse, and that the woman only knows she has a child when the quickening takes place, which, again, has no reference to intercourse, it is not a matter of surprise that the savage man, who is, according to his lights, a very logical being, should seek some other explanation of the origin of children than that of sexual connection.

There is one very interesting and suggestive point in his connection, and that is the common explanation of he existence of half-castes given universally by their mothers, speaking in pidgin English, viz., "Too much me been eat em white man's flour." The chief difference hat they recognised between their life before and after hey came into contact with white men was, not the fact hat they had intercourse with white men, instead of or

{p. 26}

side by side with, blacks, but that they ate white flour and that this naturally affected the colour of their offspring. I have seen old natives in Central Australia accept, without question, their wives' half-caste children, making no difference whatever between them and the pure bred ones. On the other hand, it is, of course, naturally, a belief that is one of the first to become modified when the natives, have been for some time in contact with white men.

In regard to sacred objects there is considerable difference amongst the tribes. The churinga may be said to be distinctive of the Arunta and Kaitish, and to dwindle in importance as we pass northward until, amongst the coastal tribes, they are used only during initiation. On Melville and Bathurst I could find no trace of them. The most interesting new sacred objects that I came across were those called Muraian amongst the Kakadu, to which reference has already been made. There are no Nurtunjas nor Waningas nor ground drawings, that figure so largely in the southern part of the Territory, but, through all tribes on the mainland, the belief is universal amongst the women and children that the sound made by the bull-roarer is the voice of a great spirit which comes to take the youth away during the initiation ceremony. In no case amongst these northern tribes did I find any indication of sacred rock drawings such as we meet with in the Arunta and Kaitish. This absence may be associated with that of any such spots as the Ertnatulunga, where churinga are stored and close by which the sacred drawings of the Arunta are typically found.

So far as the method of life of the northern tribes is concerned it is, with certain changes, due to difference of environment, closely similar to that of the southern tribes. There are favourite camping grounds belonging

{p. 27}

to certain local groups which form the nearest approach to anything like a permanent camp, but there is no continuous occupation and never the slightest attempt to cultivate any crop or to lay by a store of food other than such as may be required during the performance of some particular ceremony or series of ceremonies. For example, in the Alligator Rivers district there are very favourite camping grounds by the side of great billabongs. As long as they can get lily-seeds and roots in abundance, fish and wild fowl, there they stay, each family with its own mia mia or, in the dry months, with nothing more than a bough or two, slanted against a tree or shrub to obtain a little shelter from the sun. All day long the women and children wade up to their necks in the water gathering lily "tuck-out," while the men spear fish and catch wild fowl or climb the trees after flying-fox and honey-bag. But when they have thinned the lilies out, and the fish and fowl get hard to catch, and the honey-bags are scarce, then they move on to another camp where the same round is gone through day after day and month after month all the year round. The cooking of their food is carried on in two ways. Under common when they are in camp and making a hasty conditions, meal, they simply use an ordinary fire, placing the food, such as a lizard or a flying-fox, on the red-hot embers (Fig. 19). When the food is sufficiently cooked, or while it is in process of cooking, it may be torn up by the teeth of the cook and replaced on the fire for further cooking or handed round for consumption. When, however, the natives are camped in one place for any considerable length of time they cook much more carefully, using what the Kakadu call peindi, or earth ovens (Fig. 21), in which the food is placed on paper-bark, grass, or green leaves above heated stones in a hole in the ground. It

{p. 28}

is then covered with more paper-bark, grass, or leaves, and the earth piled over. So far as their food is concerned, it may be said that the natives eat anything that is edible, In the more northern parts of the Territory food is very abundant. The waterholes swarm with fish and wild fowl, and on the land they secure plenty of kangaroos, birds, such as native companion and jabiru, lizards and snakes. On the coast, dugongs and large turtles (Midas sp.) and turtle eggs, at the right time of the year, are easily obtained. I was much interested in watching the way in which, amongst the Kakadu, the natives kill snakes. There are two or three species of non-venomous ones, four feet and upwards in length, that they obtain in considerable numbers. They collect a few, put them into bags and either kill them on the spot or bring them alive into camp. When a man wishes to kill one, he catches hold of it just behind the head and puts the latter into his mouth, upside down. Holding the neck tightly in his teeth, immediately behind the head, he gives the body a sudden, strong, sharp jerk, dislocating the vertebral column and killing the animal (Fig. 20). I had heard of this method but scarcely thought it credible until, time after time, I had seen it done. In their camps they make various forms of shelters and mia mias. The simplest consists only of a few boughs, placed so as to protect them from the sun's rays or the prevailing wind. They are very fragile, but it is astonishing how cleverly, though simply, the native will lean a few boughs up against one another in such a way as to make them a shade against the sun or a fairly efficient protection against wind and rain. They seem to know, instinctively, the right angle at which to slant the boughs so as to make them able to withstand the pressure of a strong wind. In many parts, during the summer

{p. 29}

months, violent monsoonal deluges have to be endured. On Melville and Bathurst Islands great use is made of sheets of stringy bark, which the natives strip from the gum-trees with their tomahawks in lengths of from six to ten feet by two or three feet in width. With these they build, sometimes dome-shaped, at others tent-shaped, mia mias, usually not more than at most four feet high (Fig. 22). I was much struck on Melville Island with their very simple but effective contrivance of picking up and folding a sheet of bark in two and using it as an umbrella, slanting it in such a direction as to keep off the torrent of rain that fell at rapid intervals. I found this a most useful contrivance as a protection for my cameras. If they are overtaken with specially heavy rain out in the bush, away from the main camp, they often huddle close together, side by side, in a line under the shelter of a few slanting sheets of bark, with a trench, roughly-scooped out by their hands, in the best position to lead the stream of water away from them. As soon as the rain ceases they pick up their belongings and march on, quite cheerfully. I once saw some twenty natives, quite dry, during pelting rain, under a shelter of this kind that was not more than four feet high, and did not subtend more than two feet of ground. In parts where it is available, paper-bark, the bark of Melaleuca leucodendron, is used, and is in some respects even more efficient than stringy-bark, because it is very strong and tough and at the same time pliable. In addition to this it is very warm and can easily be wrapped round their bodies as they lie on the ground during the cold winter nights.

Over the greater part of the Territory there are, in addition to the rains that do not seriously inconvenience the aboriginal, two main sources of discomfort. The first of these is the cold at nights, during, at all events, three

{p. 30}

winter months. It is a remarkable thing that, except for a small apron or tassel, both men and women are stark naked. The only efficient covering of any kind is an apron made of a fold of paper-bark. This, however, is worn only on Melville and Bathurst Islands and is held in place by their arms, which the women always carry characteristically bent at the elbows, in such a way that the latter always hold the apron close against the side of the body, just above the hip. During the winter months in the upland interior districts, and along the Roper and other rivers flowing into the Gulf of Carpentaria, the temperature at night falls to 29 F., and it is a remarkable fact that the native, though he feels the cold keenly, has never realised the fact that the kangaroos, wallabies, and opossums that he catches and eats in plenty would provide him with a warm covering. This is due, probably, to the fact that he prefers to cook his animals in the skin so as to keep all the juices inside, and, therefore, the first thing that he does is to put the entire animal on the fire and singe the hair off. At night time the whole family huddles together along with the dogs, under its bough or bark shelter, with sheets of paper-bark under, above, and around them, if they can get any, and with two or three small fires close to them.

The second source of discomfort is the flies and mosquitos. The flies do not trouble the native so much as they do the white men; in fact you often see the former, especially the children, with their eyes encircled with a mass of crawling flies, of which, apparently, they take little notice. On the other hand, the mosquitos trouble the natives just as much as they do the white men, with, often, very serious results. They are no more immune from tropical diseases such as malarial fever than are the white men. I have a stick

{p. 31}

marked with more than ninety notches indicating so many deaths from what was supposed to be malarial fever on Melville Island in the course of two months. To protect themselves against mosquitos they construct special tent-like structures which vary in size to a very considerable degree. I came across the one represented (Figures 24 and 25) in a camp on the Roper River. It was fifteen feet long, between four and five feet broad, and four feet high. The framework was rather like that of a boat turned upside down. At either end there was a forked stick, and between these two ran a ridgepole, occupying the position of an upturned keel. A series of ribs arched over on either side. In some cases these ribs ran from the ground to the ridge-pole but, in others, a pliant stem formed a complete arch, fixed into the ground on each side and attached to the ridge-pole in the middle. When the framework was complete, sheets of paper-bark were very ingeniously laid on so as to form a wall impenetrable both to rain and mosquitos. When in use, a small opening is left at one end and, through this, the natives crawl until the hut can hold no more. The opening is closed, smoke fires are lighted, and here, almost hermetically sealed, they swelter and choke until the rain clears off, or the morning light drives the mosquitos away. If they cannot get bark their only hope is to make great smoke fires with green bushes and grass, but, in the real mosquito season, they have, at best, very uncomfortable and disturbed nights and have to make up for it by sleeping during the day. In hilly districts they are a little more fortunate, because if they can get up two or three hundred feet they are relatively free from mosquitos. Near to Oenpelli, for example, on the East Alligator River, there is an isolated hill about three hundred feet high. {p. 32} Straight up this, through the scrub, there runs a path that has been used for long years as a track to some rock shelters on the top. Every night, as soon as the sun sets, a long procession of natives winds up the hillside from the plains around the billabongs and river, the women carrying their piccaninnies and pitchis containing water and stores of lily-roots, yams, and other food, the men carrying their spears and clubs.

The overhanging rocks form caves with low-lying, shelving roofs, blackened with the smoke of years of fires, and walls decorated with quaint but often very realistic drawings of the animals on which they feed, all crudely drawn in red and yellow ochre, white pipe-clay and charcoal mixed with grease. Here they camp free from mosquitos, in comparative coolness, shifting from the northern to the southern face and vice versa according to the direction from which the monsoon storms are blowing.

When the time comes for the turtle to lay its eggs, they go to the laying ground on some sandy beach. When the lagoons and billagongs are alive with young geese the natives are there, camping close by and catching them by the score. When birds are scarce they go to the lily-pools and feed on roots, stems, and seeds. In the inland, drier parts they gather together on the larger and more permanent water holes where fish and shell fish, birds and vegetable food can be secured longer than elsewhere. The moment the rains fall, off they scatter to take advantage of supplies that do not exist during the dry season.

In camp, when they are not performing sacred ceremonies, the evenings are always occupied with corrobborees, which may be witnessed by everyone--men, women, and children alike. These ordinary corrobborees

{p. 33}

vary to a considerable extent in different parts. In the south they take the form of set dances each with its own "figures," and one of these corrobborees may occupy the evenings of two or three weeks. n the other hand, in the more northern tribes these long corrobborees seem to be absent, and, in their place, we have a series of short ones which may only occupy a very little time--it may be only a few minutes. These corrobborees deal with some particular incidents, such as a buffalo hunt, a crocodile securing its prey, or the putting out of a lugger to sea.

In some instances, as on Melville Island, the acting may be very realistic. The men gather together and come into camp in single file, in a long line; the main mass stands to one side, while, perhaps, two or three at a time perform. imitating the actions of pulling up the anchor and hoisting the sails. At others the men will stand round in a circle (Figs. 26 and 27), while, one after the other, the dancers come out into the open space and rush round and round, imitating the action of some animal such as a buffalo or crocodile. All the time the audience stands round, each man stamping the ground wildly with his right foot, while, in unison, they strike their buttocks with their open palms. When the performers show signs of flagging other men take their place, and so the dance goes on, until, finally, the audience closes in upon them, and, altogether, they form a dense mass of naked, howling savages, yelling wildly, e! e! ai! ai! with their arms waving in the air. These corrobborees are quite unlike any on the mainland, and are similar to those performed at the grave during the mourning ceremonies of these remarkable people.

One of the most striking features of the aboriginals is way in which they are divided into a large series of

{p. 34}

tribes, each of which speaks a distinct dialect and occupies, or is regarded as doing so, a tract of country the boundaries of which are well known to the natives, The existence of these dialects is one of the most puzzling and difficult things to understand amongst the aboriginals. In the first place, it is not at all easy in many cases to ascertain the native name of the tribe. As likely as not you will get a locality name, not the true tribal name, and when once a mistake has been made in pronunciation, or even in the actual word, and it has been repeated by white men, the aboriginals are so anxious to please, and also in some respects so indifferent, that the wrong pronunciation or even word may actually be adopted by them and pass into circulation. For example, the name Woolner, as it is commonly spelt, is a white man's name for a tribe that calls itself Punuurlu. It may be a native word but it has been mistakenly applied by the whites as a tribal name and has been tacitly accepted by the natives or by a large number of them.

What exactly constitutes an Australian tribe is somewhat difficult to say. It may conveniently be defined somewhat as follows:--A tribe is a group of individuals speaking a common dialect, differing in the nature of its words from that of other groups and regarded as owning a definite tract of country, the boundaries of which are known to them, and recognised by the members of other tribes. Each tribe may usually be divided into section and the real test of whether a native is or is not a member of any particular tribe is whether, under normal conditions, he may wander freely over the country owned by that tribe. He must not trespass on the land of any other tribe, entering upon this only after he has received permission of the owners to do so. In the case ever of

{p. 35}

natives belonging to different sections of a tribe there is a recognition of local ownership within the wider range of tribal ownership. No members of any one local group enter a camp of natives belonging to another local group until they have been formally invited to do so.

When important ceremonies are about to take place messengers are always sent out, often to distant tribes, and the etiquette observed illustrates well one aspect of aboriginal character. Each messenger is provided by some important member or recognised leader of the group that sends him out with an object, the possession of which at once indicates to all whom he meets that he is a messenger. In the southern parts of the Territory this will take the form of a sacred stick called a churinga, or, popularly, a bull-roarer. The bearer of this is absolutely safe anywhere. On approaching a camp he sits down waiting until the local men choose to take notice of him, which may not be until after an hour or two. They all go on meanwhile, quite unconcernedly, as if he did not exist, and then one or two of the older men will go over to him; he will show them his credentials and deliver his message, after which he is brought into camp, made free of the special men's camp and provided with food. This same thing goes on at every camp that he visits and exactly the same etiquette is observed when the visitors arrive at the camp from which the messenger was sent. In the northern parts, as, for example, in the Alligator River district, when boys are to be initiated, they are sent out on a journey to distant camps amongst strange tribes that often lasts for months. Each of them carries a small wand and under the protection of this they travel in perfect safety. When they come to a strange camp they stand close together, leaning on their

{p. 36}

wands and singing a special corrobboree song, which must be replied to by the women in camp.

It is interesting to find that the natives have also, as were, extended this feeling of sacredness of the persons of their own messengers to those of aboriginals who are carrying messages for white men. A letter is always spoken of as a "paper yabber" and is carried in a cleft stick so that it can be, seen easily. Last year a native carried a "paper yabber" for me 90 miles in this way, and they not infrequently traverse longer distances than this, the cleft stick acting as a safe passport. They look upon the "paper yabber" as a mysterious thing that is endowed with the capacity of seeing, as is well instanced by an aboriginal who abstracted a stick of tobacco from a parcel that he was carrying and was highly indignant with the "paper yabber" for telling the white man what he had done, because he had hidden it in a hollow log while committing the theft, so that it should not be able to see what he was doing.

They have very little idea of private property. If you give a man, say, a stick of tobacco there are certain individuals, such as men who might lawfully be his fathers-in-law, to whom he is obliged by custom to give some; and even if they are not on the spot, he will immediately share it with others. Give a man a shirt in return for work that he has done for you and the chances are that you will find a friend of his, who has done nothing except ask for it, wearing it next day. On many of the cattle stations the work is done by a few natives; but every one at hand shares in the proceeds, whether these be clothes, food, or tobacco; and it never occurs to them that the lazy loafer is living at the expense of his more industrious brother.

Still another point of very great importance which

{p. 37}

must always be borne in mind in dealing with the aboriginals, is their intense belief in evil magic In tribes inhabiting the country around the Alligator Rivers, a very favourite form of magic is to get hold of some excrement, it does not matter how small a piece, of a man or woman against whom you may have a grudge, and whom you wish to injure. All you have to do is to get two or three friends to help you perform a rather elaborate ceremony out in some quiet spot, where he cannot see you, and you can easily encompass his death. The belief has one beneficial result in that the camps of these natives are much better from a sanitary point of view than in most Australian tribes, because everything is carefully buried, lest some enemy should be lurking about.

The natives have no idea of disease or pain of any kind as being due to anything but evil magic, except that which is caused by an actual accident that they can see. If a man has a headache, it is evil magic that has got inside him and he will wear. in some tribes, his wife's head rings, so that the magic may pass into them, and be thrown away with them into the bush. If he has a pain in the back he will wear a curious short wand, made of paper bark, which he fixes in his waist girdle in the small of his back. The evil magic goes into this and can be thrown away.

Anything that they do not understand they associate with evil magic. One of the most striking and characteristic examples of this that I know of is the fact that when first they came across the track of a cart they thought it was a path along which evil magic was passing, and if they were obliged to cross it they jumped over it as high in the air as they could lest the magic should enter them.

Natives, also, are always most frightened of the magic of

{p. 38}

another tribe or distant part and will often fix upon some man who lives 50 or 100 miles away as guilty of causing the death by evil magic of a member of their own group.

The result of all this is that there is always a feeling of mutual suspicion and distrust between members of different tribes, each of which has its own peculiar forms of magic by means of which it may encompass the death of strangers. Often in our little camp, associated with the departmental office in Darwin, we had natives of various tribes together for a few days at a time, and it was very noticeable, not only how they kept apart from one another, but the mutual distrust with which they viewed each other. You have only to tell a native that he is the victim of evil magic and he succumbs at once and can only be cured by the exercise of counter magic, The feeling is so strong that on more than one occasion when a woman, strong in magic power, had given it out that she was using magic against some individual, it very seriously interfered with the treatment of that native under medical supervision in a hospital and, if this be so amongst natives who have been for long in contact with white men, it can easily be realised what an enormous part magic plays in the life of the primitive savage.

Even an aboriginal who has lived long with the whites and has lost most of his old beliefs, will still firmly retain his faith in evil magic, though he might be ashamed to own it in public.

The aboriginal is, indeed, a very curious mixture; mentally, about the level of a child who has little control over his feelings and is liable to give way to violent fits of temper, during which he may very likely behave with great cruelty. As a general rule he is very fond of and very good to his children. If the parents of a child die it is immediately taken charge of by a blood or tribal

{p. 39}

father and mother. The only exception that I have ever known to this was one case in Melville Island where we met with a little boy whose parents were dead and who had been left behind in camp when the natives moved on. (Fig. 23). We came across the poor little fellow sitting disconsolately on the top of a bark mia mia. He has no sense of responsibility and, except in rare cases, no initiative. His memory in many cases is wonderful so far as subjects are concerned that affect his life and mode of conduct. When once he has seen any place, or any particular natural object, he knows it for all time. If once he has heard a corrobboree he knows the words and music, and his memory in respect to native traditions is marvellous. It must be understood, however, that in proportion to the narrow sphere of their actions, there is as great a mental difference amongst aboriginals as amongst whites in their wider sphere. This is well recognised amongst the natives themselves. For instance, there is one man on the Alligator River whose management of the wooden trumpet used during their ceremonies is wonderfully superior to that of any one else and whose fame as a musician has spread even beyond the limits of his own tribe. Whenever he is in camp he is always requested to play. So, again, in the making of all their various weapons and utensils, there are always certain individuals who are noted for their ability--some in making shields, others in making knives. There was one man belonging to the Kakadu tribe, on the Alligator River, who was extraordinarily able in regard to remembering traditions, and was recognised as a great authority On the subject of the past history of the tribe. He was relating to us a tradition of the tribe, according to which in old ancestor sent out different individuals to populate various parts of the country. There were five groups of

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these individuals and he was able to tell us the names, so far as we could judge, of all of them. They included those of one hundred and twenty men and women, and not only did he know their names, but also the totemic group to which each belonged and their intermarriages. It was really a wonderful feat of memory and the information was evidently correct, because it fitted in with traditions that we were told by other natives and we tested him later and found him consistent. The possessor of any particular capacity does not, except in very rare cases, secure any very direct personal gain from its exercise beyond the fact that he has a reputation for ability. Everything is communistic and even if a man is provided with an extra supply of food, or, in recent years, tobacco, in return for something he has made or done, it is usually not long before it is divided amongst his friends. There is, amongst the aborigines, an equal distribution of profits quite irrespective of deserts.

Lastly, there is one feature that must not be omitted, and that is the aboriginal's fondness for fun and his sense of humour. Under normal conditions they are always cheerful and are constantly either corrobboreeing, or playing and laughing with one another. Nothing amuses them more than an accident that puts one of their number in an undignified or uncomfortable position. If a friend tumbles over a log and gives himself a good knock, they roar with laughter at him and the chances are that he joins in. If any one comes up who did not see it happen, he will be requested to do it again for the benefit of the new arrival and, as likely as not, will repeat the performance. Years after the event happened, the recital of how two of the old men of the Kakadu tribe had to run for their lives and just managed to keep ahead of two charging buffaloes and an imitation of how

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they ran, what they said, and what they looked like, were greeted with roars of laughter and kept a camp cheerful for an hour or two. They are wonderful at mimicking, anything that they think is funny and the acting of two natives, one of whom tried to show me how a former Government Resident of the Territory had behaved when he suddenly trod on a snake, and the other who, after posing a few natives for the purpose, imitated by means of three sticks for a tripod and a sheet of paper bark for a focussing cloth, the actions of a very excitable photographer whom he had watched, was wonderfully realistic.

There are said to be 20,000 aboriginals in the Territory, but on what authority this statement is made I do not know, as it is quite impossible to form any definite and reliable estimate, and the above number is a mere guess. There are great areas, as in Arafura Land, where practically no white man has been--at all events there is no settlement--and here there is an abundance of native food and the tribes wander unhampered in their native state. Judging by what I have seen and heard, I think it probable that a census would show more nearly 20,000 than 20,000. One thing is certain and that is that in all parts where they are in contact with outsiders, especially with Asiatics, they are dying out with great rapidity.

The more primitive a race is, the more rapidly does it lose, or modify, its old customs and beliefs, when it comes in contact with a higher civilisation, and there are very few parts of Australia now left in which it is possible to study the aboriginal in his natural state.

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Next: Chapter II: Social Organisation and Marriage Regulations