Mokare’s Mob – Summary and Conclusions

As with every aspect of The View From Mount Clarence‘s look into the inclusive history of Albany and the South Coast, exploring the life and times of Mokare and his fellow Menang Aborigines has been nothing short of compelling. This is because most non-indigenous people, myself included, have little knowledge of -and do not properly understand- Aboriginal culture, either in an historical context or as it is played out in the today’s much changed world.

Discovering who our indigenous people were along with the extraordinary circumstances they were met with during the period of first contact is essential to understanding the society we live in today.

 

De Sainson - Habitants du Port du RoiAbove: Some of Mokare’s Mob, actual players in the first settlement drama from 1826, looking out over King George Sound from the southern flank of Mnt Clarence. Image: Habitans Du Port Du Roi Georges, N’elle Hollande‘ Coloured engraving, embossed with the blind stamp of Jules Dumont d’Urville, Commander of the French corvette, Astrolabe. Courtesy Australian Art Sales Digest

 

Where through their respective publications history doctors Tiffany Shellam and Murray Arnold sought to verify and deepen our understanding of the chronology of Aboriginal relations at Albany while valiantly shedding light on how Mokare’s Mob likely viewed the incomers, the focus of this exploration has been directed as much at trying to understand the relationships which existed between the Albany Aborigines and the first enduring White presence in their country as it has been an investigation into the make-up of their own social group, along with the fraught relationship conducted between themselves and their rival clan to the north, the opposing Will’s men.

As the often fatal conflict between the King George Sound and Willmen Aborigines dominates surviving texts from the Mokare era, it is impossible to disregard. All the more so when the concept of Mokare as hero is not universally accepted amongst today’s descendants of those groups.

In titling the series Mokare’s Mob,  The View set out its stall in fairly explicit terms and the wares now lined up reflect this. Mokare’s Mob is an attempt to get deeper inside the world of the original Albany Noongars with a view to understanding how Menang families still tied to the town today might look back on their history, and how the town’s interested non-indigenous citizens might better their understanding of this most historical of persons and the effects of his short but highly influential life.

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Mokare’s Mob – Part 4b

Collie after Mokare

(Continued from Part 4A)

 

Cultural impasse aside, it’s important to stay close to our intended purpose of trying to determine the ultimate role played by Mokare in leading the Albany Aborigines into non-violent intercourse with the incoming European presence. The question is not whether Mokare and the succession of incomer leaders were inseparable friends, but what was the outcome of their association?

To that end, we can say in the wake of Mokare’s death and Collie’s continued presence at the settlement, relations remained intact; the foundation being strong enough to survive without its key protagonist. As the new administration sought to more fully exploit Aboriginal knowledge, Nakinah assented by leading two important local expeditions of discovery, both of which lay the groundwork for continued, indeed improved, cross-cultural cooperation.

 

Dale Panorama -Large - 3Above: Development of the settlement and friendly Aboriginal relations at Albany are certainly in evidence, but from the summer of 1831/32 Governor Stirling’s administration cleverly arrested the Swan River Colony’s flagging appeal both locally and abroad through managed exaggeration of conditions down on the South Coast. Image: Panel from Panoramic View of King George’s Sound, Part of the Colony of Swan River, by Ensign Robert Dale, 1832. This version from S.P. Loha Foundation, Rare Book Collection.

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Mokare’s Mob – Part 4a

Mokare and Dr Alexander Collie (1793-1835)

 

And so to Dr Collie himself, Albany’s original ailing academic.

Doctor, botanist and casual explorer, by the early 1830s Collie had become a reknown natural history collector as well. His naval experience aboard HMS Blossom cruising the coasts of the Americas, including the Pacific Islands and far north, prior to his arrival in West Australia in 1829, bolstered his enthusiasm for collecting as well as his reputation for it among the scientific institutions back in Britain.

At the Swan River, Collie, whose health was fundementally compromised by lung disease, was based aboard the colony’s loaned naval vessel HMS Sulphur, effectively a troop ship, which had accompanied the Parmelia out to Western Australia on an approximate three year term, and upon which, somewhat ironically, the suffering Aberdeenshire graduate held the position of Ship’s Surgeon.

Collie attended the officials and associated military contingent of the 63rd Regiment whose job it was to support the colony’s lieutenant governor. Stirling used the Sulphur as a means of security, for procuring personnel and supplies, and for familiarising himself with the south-west corner as the need for more and better agricultural land increased. Thus, for nearly two years Collie coasted between Albany and the Swan River as often as Stirling saw fit for the ship’s use, which was intermittent but not infrequent.

Collie stayed busy during the lay-offs, profiting both directly and indirectly from his collections as (in tandem with Lieutenant Preston, also of the Sulphur) he combined them with smaller scale overland exploration initiatives to York and Pinjarra, along with coastal excursions south to Leschenault and the Vasse River (Bunbury and Bussleton) and then north to the Murchison (Geraldton) in search of the mouth of the Avon River which no one had yet realised was a branch of the Swan.

Collie’s ill-health was the equivalent of Mokare’s, both suffering and dying young at Albany, the difference being that Collie understood the benefits of containment, warmth and sustenance whereas Mokare, though much reduced, was still first and foremost a man of physical exertion and the outdoors. Collie’s witnessing of the sick and dying Aborigines at Albany, along with the understanding he was not only presiding over but monetarily gaining from the usurping of their lands, led him to an apologetic end in which he sought to ease his guilt by requesting burial in the same place as Mokare. A redemptive act of lasting symbolic importance, perhaps, but not one of consequence.

Most of the items comprising the Yurlmun: Mokare Mia Boodja exhibition were sourced by Dr Collie during his time at Albany which commenced twenty-two months after his arrival at Fremantle.

 

HMBV Sulphur by Craig Mitchell

Above: Dr Alexander Collie was attached to the pioneer vessel of the Swan River Colony, HMS Sulphur, as Ship’s Surgeon. When not ashore collecting and exploring, Collie lived aboard the vessel as part of a small permament crew from time of arrival in June 1829 until it delivered him to Albany mid-April, 1831. Image:  Scale model of HMS Sulphur made by Craig Mitchell. Photo by Brett Green, taken from HSGalleries website.

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Mokare’s Mob – Part 3

 Mokare and Captain Collet Barker

Our impression of life with the Aborigines at the garrison prior to the arrival of Captain Collet Barker can be compared to Scott Nind’s watercolours. From them we get a sense of place and time, but the landscapes Nind painted are unpeopled and vacant. In contrast, from the opening entry of Barker’s journal the story of day to day activity at the garrison explodes into life. In an instant we’re dropped smack-bang into the middle of a busy and highly unusual cross-cultural affair.

Nind - View of KGS Settlement from Mnt ClAbove: Another of Scot Nind’s technically accomplished watercolours from garrison era Albany. This view looks south-west from the lower slopes of Mount Clarence over the garrison and its cultivated surrounds to the harbour and Torndirrup National Park beyond. Image; View of Frederick Town, King Georges Sound, at the expiration of the first year of its settlement, Feby 7th 1828. Courtesy, Mitchell, Library, State Library of New South Wales.

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Mokare’s Mob – Part 2

 

Mokare- His character and influence

 

 de-Sainson - Mokare family 1826 jpgAbove: Louis de-Sainson’s  Albany Aborigines sketched in October 1826, coloured and printed 1833. The images are of Mokare (bottom right); Patyet, thought to be Nakinah (bottom left); and young brother Yallapoli with the brothers’ father, also named Patyet (middle). The two men at the top are unidentified but likely to be close relatives, possibly Mokare’s close cousins, half brothers or uncles Coolbun and Dr Uredale. Image courtesy Trove Unique identifier here:

 

Apart from confidence and his willingness to connect, what do we really know of Mokare’s character and influence among the Menang?

The best the archives can give comes from the personal writing of three people; Dr Isaac Scot Nind, Captain Collett Barker and Dr Alexander Collie. Prior to that it is the official despatches of the military which tell a more limited story.

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Mokare’s Mob – Part 1

Mokare: 1800 – 1831

Not since the time of Mokare has there been more future driven anxiety facing the South Coast’s Indigenous.

As final deliberation on the Single Noongar Claim looms, Western Australia’s South-Western Aborigines face acceptance of the decades long Native Title case against the Government of Australia, an issue as much rooted in the story of Mokare and first contact at King George’s Sound as with Midgegooroo and Yagan at Perth.

This post comes as response to the Noongar artefact exhibition Yurlmun: Mokare Mia Boodja at the West Australian Museum, Albany, a co-incidental display which ties physical objects from Mokare’s time to the resolution of an approaching two-hundred year ordeal.

Sponsored by the British Museum, the exhibition runs from Wednesday, 2nd Nov, 2016 to Sunday, 9th April, 2017.

The exhibition title translates as Returning: Mokare’s Home Country, words of such symbolic magnitude they render the artefacts transcendent. As if possessed by Dreamtime elements, these original spears, spear throwers, axes, hammers and boomerangs come as direct representation from a time long past;  the era of the military garrison.

 

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