Originally Published 15 December 2014:
People of the Wild Cherry
Above: Tijuk (Jeeuk-Bates), the Native or Wild Cherry, is related to the more widely known Quandong and a member of the Sandalwood Family. Also known as the Broom Ballart or Exocarpos Sparteus the plant is a weeping shrub native to Western Australia. Tijuk was totem to a clan of the Ngadgu (Ngadjumaia), Aborigines from the area north and east of Esperance. Photo courtesy of Mrs Roni Forrest, Perth, Western Australia
Notice: This post carries the names of many deceased Aboriginal persons
This is the last of the Interlude Pursued posts. In the past month I’ve been trying to complete the final story in the Outdone Collection, ‘The Lost Love of Henrietta Gillam’, which is the reason behind the The View’s vacant November period. I find the story writing process takes enormous effort and to complicate matters the researcher in me is always looking for what actually happened. That I can’t finish the story is a reflection of the truth that it’s still not clear enough in my mind as to who the Aborigines at Cocanarup were. The intention of this post is to try and resolve that.
The vast majority of the research behind the Dunn and Gillam families, the Aborigines whose kala the Cocanarup area was at the time, and the brutal tragic 1880’s events surrounding the death of John Dunn at that place, can be found in the Interlude sub-series here on TVFMC. It’s been a fascinating, galvanizing journey aided by two people in particular; John Chandler, who contacted me after the Interlude Pursued – Part Two post and who furnished me with a great deal of information I simply would not otherwise have had access to, and my on-going key supporter through all of this, Mrs Roni Forrest, who I have had the pleasure to work with for a couple of years now. I’ll do a separate post to make dedicated thanks to both and to others as well in due course, but for now it’s time to close out this sad end to things.
The Wild Cherry People are relevant to the events at Cocanarup because they were directly involved and because their story illuminates the wider tragedy besetting the old Aborigines of the South Coast in the aftermath of settler arrival. Their story helps us to understand how the southern families of the New Noongar Age congregated and shaped into the entities we know and see today. In the scheme of things, thanks to the open resource which is the internet and the work of a few early 20th Century anthropologists, those far away days of old don’t appear so distant after all.
Above: The native cherry is listed as a Noongar plant food in an Aboriginal heritage survey of the Albany region. The spelling ‘Djiyag’ is consistent with dialectic variations across the South West. Albany’s Noongars are from the Minang Tribe. Chart courtesy of City of Albany and Dept of Aboriginal Affairs Heritage Survey; ‘Kinjarling’ The Place of Rain
The life and work of the amateur anthropologist Mrs Daisy Bates was something extraordinary and though she has come in for sustained criticism, the fact remains that without her work so much less could be drawn upon. Without her work in particular, so much would have been lost, which with the knowledge of what she has passed down fully registered, is a powerfully disturbing thought. Today, many Aboriginal people whose origin was the South Coast area have access to their family genealogies and are able to trace their ancestry up to six or seven generations, enough to bring them back to a time when there were just a handful of settlers trying to run sheep between Albany and Eucla, and a handful of others engaged in whaling, sealing and sandalwood cutting enterprises; settlers who employed many named and unnamed shepherds, tradesmen and labourers with whom the Aborigines interacted. Not only did Daisy Bates spend time gathering details of who belonged to who in the Aboriginal world, but she spent time living in what remained of it, finding out how people thought and reacted and behaved, and what was important to them.
In short, she got to know them.
Daisy Bates was active in the South West of Western Australia between 1908 and 1913, fully a hundred years after people of European origin began arriving with regularity. By that time the historic Albany railway, running through what became known as the Wheatbelt, had been in operation twenty years and it was way, way too late to stop the decline. All she could do was record what she could in the hopes part of the country’s Native Heritage would be preserved; and because she did that, it has been. She placed a lot of importance on recording names, totems, moieties and places of birth. She drew maps, recorded vocabularies as well as myths and legends, and was very interested in the language of kinship, the structure of the traditional Aboriginal family, and how lore guided its being. This is the true legacy of her work. Her narrative writing also makes a valuable contribution but she was less than specific when relating her stories and knowledge to the reading public, speaking in story-telling, grandmotherly tones rather than an academic one. This, I think, is partly because she relied on a journalistic income and what sold her writing then was that kind of reporting. Secondly, because she had been shunned by the guardians of the anthropological profession as a woman and untrained, off-beat amateur, and third; because by then she had spent so much time among the Aborigines she had probably begun to bear some of their traits.
To say she was unusual is a trite understatement. She was many things amongst that, but above all, thankfully, she was someone who recognised the passing of the Aborigines and cared enough about it to record what she could of their world.
I’m making this point because what she says about the People of the Wild Cherry is important to the task of knowing what was going on around Cocanarup during and for a period after the time of John Dunn’s death.
Now, this post has the capacity to be quite long. It will be difficult to construct too because it relies on names and definitions of groups of people which were neither singular nor fixed in any one place. While the language and tribal maps of Aboriginal Australia have genuine value they are also over-simplified and limited. This is because they don’t reflect the inter-relationships between peoples and the distances they traveled. Also, of significant importance, they don’t take into account the sub-groups which existed within the more general tribal classifications. To get an idea of what was happening at a local level, you have to see into all of that and drill down using raw detail.
Daisy Bates said of the area we are talking about;
. . . “Border”, an undefined and movable line between the circumcised tribes of the interior and the uncircumcised Bibbulmun (Noongar) of the south-west.
Above: This map, originally posted in Interlude Pursued -Part One, is taken from Norman Tindale‘s 1974 Tribal Boundaries of Australia held at the South Australian Museum. Click on the link to go to the on-line source, it gives greater detail. I laid the general location of the various settler stations on to the map myself. You can see both Fraser Range and Cocanarup Station are located within separate Non-Noongar/Noongar boundaries, but in reality these were very much a part of Diasy Bates’ ‘Border.’
What we are interested in at this point is not tribal classification but people belonging to sub-groups, families or clans which conformed to but also transcended tribal classification. I touched on this in a previous post by mentioning the so called Shell People. This was a group identified by Campbell Taylor (second son of Patrick Taylor and Mary Bussell) who traveled between Albany and his station at the Thomas River, Cape Arid, 80 miles east of Esperance, between 1868 and 1900. By the early 1880’s, Taylor had recorded a vocabulary which he said existed between the Doubtful Islands area and Israelite Bay. E.M. Curr refers to these speakers as the Ngokgurring or Shell People in his four volume 1886 study of the Aborigines, The Australian Race; Vol 1. They, and Campbell Taylor, are of specific interest to this post as we explore the complex makeup and movement of the Wild Cherry People.
Above: A screenshot from the AIATSIS website directory of Aboriginal languages. Campbell Taylor’s Shell People vocabulary appears in E.M. Curr’s, The Australian Race; Vol 1
A name given to another of the borderland sub-groups was Bardok. The Bardoks were, or were part of, an inland group identified by Tindale as the Kalaako and Ngadgu. The Kalaako or Kaa Kaa (meaning eastern) neighbored the Ngadgu around the Fraser Range area. The so-called Bardoks comprised or existed within both groups. As far as what happened at Cocanarup is concerned, they appear to have been centred in an area where the town of Norseman is now but also held the Fraser Range area, to the east, the Dundas Salt Lakes certainly as far as Lake King, to the west, and perhaps as far north as the goldrush era mining camp actually called Bardoc, near Laverton. Bardok’s were most frequently described by the earliest settlers as wild. They were the ‘Wild Natives’ I first mentioned in Interlude Pursued – Part One.
When the Dunn brothers were first raided at Cocanarup in the period very soon after the death at Stokes Inlet/Fanny Cove of their neighbour, John Moir, the Police Gazzette, 19th September, 1877 carried the station’s telegraphed report;
Shepherd and station robbed by wild natives; shepherd also cautioned by my native; life in danger; property stolen, valued (pounds) 50; . . .
Wild was not just a term applied to describe behaviour, it was a term used to describe the northern Aborigines who were making their presence in the area felt. On Tindale’s summary page for the Wudjari he talks about the group splitting into two, becoming Wudjari to the west and Njunga to the east of Fanny Cove/Stokes Inlet. The split occurring because of pressures applied by the Bardoks (wild natives) to conform to desert culture.
Ba:donjunga (i.e., subincised men, Wudjari term), Bardok (means ‘subincised’)
But Bates uses the term too, though to her they are Baaduk. In a paper she prepared on the totems of the Eucla and Balladonia district tribes she identifies the Jeeukwuk (People of the Wild Cherry) as being from the Russell Range, between Cape Arid and Fraser Range. This group intermarried with the inland desert people and also with the coastal people. From her writing this is clear. In the same paper she talks about ‘blood drinkers’, desert people from the Nullabor (tree-less plain) who had no fuel to make cooking fires so ate their food raw, including meat. Bates was criticised for making assertions about cannibalism within the Aboriginal world, accused of using legend and myth as fact. This may be the case with the Baaduks who she says (below) cut off the scars of their deceased men to drink the blood from them.
Above: A cut from page 3 of a paper on the ‘Totems of the Eucla and Balladonia Districts‘ prepared by Daisy Bates and held at the Museum of South Australia. One of the criticisms levelled at Bates was that she took too much literally, that she wasn’t able to distinguish story-telling from fact. In this excerpt she says the Baaduk men cut off the scars of their deceased warriors to drink the blood from them and that they would even do the same from the veins and the cheeks of the newly dead. People who have lived under extreme conditions of survival, wherever and whenever in the world, have resorted to various forms of cannibalism. It is neither strange nor new, but generally only ever associated with extreme circumstance. My feeling is Bates’ s account here was probably drawn from memory or hearsay and retained as story, rather than being a thing of common practice. In unusually remote areas Bates only had one or two informants per region/district and often, as with Eucla/Balladonia, it covered a very large area. Bates made it clear she could not draw conclusions from her work in Eucla/Balladonia due to a lack of informants and therefore lack of data. Nonetheless, one thing this kind of story does do is bring to mind the nature of Aboriginal life in such a vast and empty place where fire was next to unobtainable and shelter not to be found; a place where survival, pure survival, will have driven every behaviour. When there was no food who would not eat the puppies of a wild dog? S.A. Museum Ref; http://hdl.handle.net/2440/83752
A fearful term, the name Bardok, as far as I can see, first appears in archives related to construction of the east-west telegraph line, in 1875. It doesn’t appear in the Esperance police books until around 1885 though, about seven years after the police out-station was established there.
Fear of the desert natives is detailed as early as the winter of 1866, however, when Campbell Taylor and his brother John, along with their friend Dick Belches (son of the ex-naval lieutenant Peter Belches – See The Supporting Cast) and the well known Albany Aborigine of the era, Yunyirgyl/Dicky Bumble, undertook an extraordinarily ambitious horseback exploration from Albany as far as the Hampton Plains (east of Kalgoorlie). Below is an excerpt of a diary kept by Dick Belches during that trip which I found in the archives. The excerpt was recorded when they were in the area of Lake King.
They were the same two who had followed Campbell’s tracks to our camp and we noticed by their footmarks on that day, that one of them must have had a deformed foot and John saw that one had had his toe all (burned?) off. The natives of the settled districts generally speak of their brethren of the tribe that we suppose our two friends of two days belonging to, as being canibals and even go so far as to say that when any member of the tribe falls ill and is likely to die, that he is killed by the rest and he is eaten. I cannot say how far this is true but I do not consider it at all improbable that such is the case for they must get but a (scurvey?) supply of animal food in this country living principally I should (think?) on white ants & although we come across many of their old encampments we have never seen any sign of a native grave.
The Taylor expedition (pre-warned by J.S. Roe in his South Coast Survey of 1848/9) only just survived disaster but took place because the interior at that time was unexplored. It was thought the area east of Kalgoorlie may have opened out to reveal a vast Eden-like plain, the idea of which these days simply doesn’t make sense. The Taylor expedition was the kind of 450 mile one-way conquest which could only ever have been inspired by the dreams of ambitious young men in a young and unknown country.
Anyhow, in the Esperance police books the term ‘Bardok’ is used to describe northern Aborigines most frequently associated with the trouble at Fraser Range, where the Dempster brothers necessarily began an establishment in 1872, eight years after first arriving with their stock at Esperance Bay. This inland pasture was sought because the South Coast station owners identified Coast Disease in their sheep, a condition well known in the eastern colonies of South Australia and Victoria which inland grass seemed to cure. The Dempster brothers began significantly increasing their Fraser Range leaseholds from 1873 when other settlers, including Campbell Taylor, began to recognise the need to do the same. The Dempsters didn’t require the amount of land they took up, the additional leases were mostly taken to protect limited water supply by preventing others from coming near.
The Dunn brothers also sought inland pastures, looking and finding beyond the Ravensthorpe Range, in the area north of Mount Madden toward Lake King. It was these inland forays which first brought the settlers into direct conflict with the Bardoks.
Now, there is a difference between the Bardoks and the Pardooks, the latter first described by Ethel Hassell as animal-like curiosities in My Dusky Friends (pgs 150-153). Some Pardooks, she says, a man and two women, had been ‘captured‘ by her brother who had led a small party out to try and locate the makers of ‘strange tracks‘ reported by friendly natives coming in from north and east of Jarramungup Station. The expedition, she said, ‘was expected to take about three weeks‘. This area is likely to have been around Lake King, certainly no further than the Bremer Range, about 120 miles from the homestead. It begs the question what these three Pardooks, who Bates says belonged to Drolinya Water (Fraser Range), were doing roughly 150 miles west?
Had they been outcast?
In her account of them, Ethel Hassell not only tells of the Pardooks shortness of stature and extra digit but of them accepting and devouring raw kangaroo meat after first turning away from a cooked offering. So, through Ethel Hassell, we can see some of the truth in what Bates some thirty years afterwards related about the people she called Baaduks. Along with it too, we appreciate the complexity of trying to establish an Aboriginal identity that is not necessarily confined to a particular place and which is subject to a wide number of variables.
Were these Pardooks also People of the Wild Cherry?
Later, in 1891, David Lindsay led the Elder Inland Exploration Expedition (still searching for the Garden of Eden) from inland South Australia to Fraser Range where by that time an awful lot of trouble had come to pass and the Dempster homestead there was well established. Lindsay recorded in his journal;
No more natives were seen until we reached Fraser Range Station, where many were employed by a dam sinker. The dialect spoken was quite different, and they were an inferior type, being smaller and not so well formed. A woman and a man—brother and sister—were seen, both having six toes on each foot and six fingers on each hand.
Right: In 1890 the photographer and Naturalist Richard Helms accompanied the Elder Expedition which explored the inland from South Australia to the Murchison Coast (Geraldton) area of Western Australia. The expedition arrived at Fraser Range homestead where Helms photographed a six fingered, six toed women. Photo source; the Elder Expedition Catalogue held at the State Library of South Australia.
The extra digits and deformed features of the Pardooks along with notions of cannibalism attached to the Baaduks, increased both settler and coastal Aboriginal fear of these inland people. Much later, it was thought the Pardook condition resulted from Ellis van Creveld syndrome, a mutant gene known among the Dutch, and a theory was developed that a Dutch ship was wrecked along the coast during the 1600’s, some of the survivors of which ended up mixing with the Indigenous population. A 1935 newspaper article featuring Campbell Taylor adds some credence to the theory.
Now, it seems to me there is an important association between the Bardoks, Baaduks, Pardooks and The People of the Wild Cherry, because the Wild Cherry totem looks to have graduated to an area at least between Fraser Range and (salt) Lake King, and from there further South West to the area of Jarramungup Station.
Bates, from a letter she wrote from Ooldea to the Western Mail newspaper in 1924;
. . . the Jee-uk-wuk or “native cherry” group, about Fraser Range, who intermarried with the Bibbulmun (Noongar).
So, consider the below map;
Above: A self modified Google Earth map of the area in question. There is no simple way to explain the complex kin relationships which existed within the Aboriginal world. All indications are that totems originated in specific areas where they maintained a stronghold despite marriages and spread. Within the area generally recognised as Noongar Culture, the primary social division or moiety was Cockatoo and Crow. In the area east of Esperance however, this was not the case. Bates says the Jeeukwuk (Wild Cherry), the Gooyanwuk or Gnamminwuk (Wild Grape), the Dwerdawuk (Wild Dog) and the Goomalwuk (Grey Possum) were the primary totems of the greater Fraser Range area and that she could not ascertain if there was a moeity class above that. She said the numbers were too few, that there wasn’t enough information for her to draw any kind of satisfactory conclusion. Other totems are recorded there as well (from the coast inland) and no strict code of totemic inheritance appeared to apply. The Wild Cherry People were just one of a number of totemic families whose home country was located in Daisy Bates’ ‘Borderlands’. In her Totemic Paper on the Eucla and Balladonia districts, Bates doesn’t mention any outcast or taboo totems, nor does she mention any totemic connection to Ethel Hassell’s Pardooks (the six-fingered six-toed people of Fraser Range). She does mention the cannibalistic Baakuks from the treeless country though and seems to suggest an extreme culture of war and survival. On this map I locate the Bardoks (less extreme than the Baaduks) as being west of Fraser Range, but this is just a simplification. What is clear however is that the Wild Cherry People intermarried with the coastal people and carried their totem south and west. Through Bates’ telling of the story of Ngailbaitch and her daughter Nory Ann, we know the Jeeukwuk were in the region of Jarramungup Station aroud 1850.
Today, the Bardoks are remembered as an amalgamation of themselves, the Baaduks and the Pardooks; an inland people, circumcised and sub-incised, feared as cannibalistic six-toed magic men from a territory where food and water were scarce. The stuff of nightmares told to children in order to make them behave. In reality, however, during the time in question, I think the Bardoks may have been an aggressive but increasingly isolated hard-line group operating more like a band of raiders than keepers of the ancient law. I think perhaps also, the term Bardok was applied by the settlers to young men, warriors, unmarried and without family, and not to the population as a whole. I say this because in some correspondence between early settlers there is reference to ‘bucks‘, young men coming down from the north in search of women and/or boys to initiate.
Up until the 1870’s contact between Bardoks and Europeans was virtually zero. After then, when the settlers took their sheep further inland, they began to meet with significant resistance. Bardok’s upheld tribal lore and aggressively defended their hunting grounds. They almost certainly interpreted the taking of their water as an act of war and retaliated accordingly.
The Shell People, by contrast, lived in a comparatively resource rich area and had been encountering white men since around 1800. By 1870 the Shell People as far as Cape Arid had lessened their grip on traditional lore, having become distanced by the incidence of interracial offspring and overwhelmed by settler technology (horses. guns and boats) and the European way of living. During the 1870’s, as settlements increased along the coast as far as Eucla, the (much fewer) Shell People there fell to the same circumstance.
Bates refers to the breaking down of kinship lore as ‘decadence’, a process of liberation, brought about by the arrival of European culture. Established thinking is that under pure traditional lore, groups were small and did not wander beyond their localised place of living except by way of marriage and ceremonial gatherings. Under the old rules, Bates says, a man’s daughter;
would have been betrothed in infancy to one of her mother’s brother’s sons, or one of her father’s sister’s sons – the only legal betrothal in all Australian tribes.
In the South Coast area, we know that that brides were young (approx 13 yrs old) and that their first husbands were usually 30 to 50 years of age or more, so the marriages of girls must have been mostly to the sons of their father’s sister’s, if Bates is correct, as the sons of their mother’s brother’s would be the same age as them (i.e. young teenagers). This would also help to explain the mostly patrilineal descent of moieties and totems evident in the South Coast area. Anyway, adherence to the old system will have kept the families fairly localised but from the time the Europeans arrived, wider movement became an adventure. There were always Aborigines ready to break the rules and look beyond their ancient ways. The story of Tiffany Shellam’s Kingyanup Aborigines travelling to Perth to meet with Yagan being the South Coast’s first recorded example. Exposure to European culture, therefore, brought about the process of liberation along the coast and in the so-called settled districts well ahead of those inland.
While the coastal people were benign by comparison, the Bardoks met intrusion with wholesale sheep stealing, then, as a result, met with settler counter-attacks (i.e. shootings). I think this lessened their numbers and probably led to hardening divisions between themselves and the more economically minded members of the Ngadgu and Kalaako. These divisions, quite probably occurring along existing lines of fracture caused by marriages into coastal groups, happened between families or clans, resulting in their estrangement.
To my mind, the People of the Wild Cherry (and other border totems) look to have lost their security in this way. For them the band between Fraser Range and the upper Phillips River, and Fraser Range and the Thomas River, were intermediate zones between the hard-line and the liberal. Signs of coastal decadence creeping northwards would have been dealt with harshly but yet tolerated to some degree. Those families marrying into the Shell People (Bates equivalent being Meenung) mostly at risk. It was a dangerous but softening place. The leaders of these people, the tribal elders, will have found themselves in crisis, caught between two cultural extremes neither of which they could fully resist.
Dartambaum, old Jumbo, the man who organised John Dunn’s killing, lived in this area and had children. He was Tijuk, one of the Wild Cherry People. So too was Moolyal, the man who brought Yungala into Esperance Police Station. Both would have had relations among the Bardoks as well as the Shell People. From their behaviour, which I’ll elaborate upon in a few paragraph’s time, it’s clear they were caught up in the turmoil of the era. Dartambaum was a traditionalist whose family was not only corrupted by the so-called southern decadence but, by the looks of it, was being abused by the station owners and/or their white employees both at Cocanarup and Fanny Cove/Stokes Inlet, where they sought refuge.
Above: The genealogy of Dartambaum (Jumbo) taken by Daisy Bates as Dardabum, first husband of Batakan. The full-list of Bates’ South-West genealogies have only recently become available on-line. The informant was a man known as Wungarit or Moses Waibong. With study it becomes clearer as to who the main Aboriginal figures were at the time. Wungarit was second husband to Dartambaum/Jumbo’s daughter, Tillee. From this cutting we can see Jumbo was one of the Wild Cherry People and that his wife Batakan was Wit, one of the White Ant people. Like Dartambaum, she was Yabaru, from the north. Dartambaum’s totem descended to his five children, carrying the Yabaru (northern) tag with it. This cut also from the University of Adelaide Digital Library Ref: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/82589
Above: Tijuk, the weeping wild cherry shrub, totem to certain families of the Ngadgu and Kalaako people made vulnerable by their positioning between the desert and coastal rainfall cultures. Settler arrival caused a relaxation in adherence to tribal lore along the coast. Seen as transgressors by the militant inland way of life, the so-called ‘border’ groups acted as a buffer between opposing forces, causing divisions within families. Coastal influence made the border groups subject to attack and their children to abduction. The establishment of the settler homesteads gave the vulnerable somewhere to go. They took refuge in the vicinity of them; young men and boys working as shepherds, some women going with the white shepherds to gain food and shelter. Station owners took advantage of both and treated them cruelly. Photo courtesy Australian Seed
In chapter eight of her memoir The Passing of the Aborigines (Gutenberg link), Bates labelled the summary of her time in the South Coast region of Western Australia, her South-West Pilgrimage. Consider the following passage from it.
The wild cherry groups (jeeuk) between Esperance and Katanning were few. At Kojunup and Narrogin the same sad state of things prevailed, the few derelicts eking out an aimless existence with no interest in the new life or people. The totem either preceded or followed its human borunggur.
Bates travelled much further east than Esperance, eventually ending up first in Eucla and then at Ooldea, inland and further east again, inside the South Australian border, but she talks about the Wild Cherry People in the above passage during the period around 1910 as wandering between Esperance and Katanning. In a letter she wrote from Ooldea to the Western Mail newspaper in 1924 in response to a claim an old Aboriginal woman called Nory Ann had died in the Wagin area aged 107, Bates gave further insight into the origins of the Wild Cherry People.
And so Ngurian’s years increased with the telling, but she had only reached the allotted span of her white supplanters when her death occurred. Ngurian (Nory Ann) belonged to the Jee-uk-wuk or “native cherry” group, about Fraser Range, who intermarried with the Bibbulmun. Therefore, she would have relations amongst all the remnants of the old Bibbulmun and “Border” groups roaming about the south-west.
When Bates uses the term Bibbulmun she is referring to the people we now call Noongar or Nyungar. Bates is saying that the Wild Cherry People belonged (loosely) to the Fraser Range area, about a hundred and twenty miles inland from Esperance. In her letter to the Western Mail regarding Nory Ann, she went on to say;
The groups of the areas bordering the Bibbulmun (Noongar) were a hardy stock. There was such a struggle for existence in the comparative dry areas of what are now the Dundas, (Norseman) Fraser (Range), Phillips (River) and Coolgardie districts, that only the hardiest members survived. . .
Ngal-baitch and Ngurian remembered the families of six-fingered and six-toed aborigines mentioned by Helms as having been seen in the Fraser Range area. The six-toed folk owned Drollinya (Fraser Range) waters and their additional toes and fingers were supposed to have endowed them with special magic powers in hunting and food getting.
Above: Distribution of Exocarpos Spartaeus in Western Australia. The Wild Cherry is to be found throughout the South West including at Fraser Range where it was adopted as a totem by a member family of the Ngadju Tribe. Image courtesy of Florabase
Before we go further into the how and why of the vulnerability of the Wild Cherry People, it’s important to spend a little bit of time looking at what constituted totemism within the old Aboriginal World and what role it played amongst the many groups.
Aboriginal totems represent their human entwining with nature and the spirit world, what is often referred to as the Dreamtime, and is inextricably interlinked with the wider subject of kinship. Totemism is how the Aborigines classified man and event and things in nature into one unified system. We’ve touched on this already but to re-iterate, the old Aboriginal world was strictly organised. Tribal classifications comprised the following;
a. Individual: The person.
b. Sex: Male or female.
c. Moiety: Which partitioned the tribe in half; section and subsection, which dealt with groups within a tribe.
d. Clan: The family group within a tribe.
e. Local: The range or kala which was based on a specific location, either place of birth or place of living.
f. Totem: A single or multiple of natural things (totems) associated with a family group.
Totems may have played a much bigger role with regard to marriage arrangements than is evident. Some evidence suggests totems worked in the same way as the moiety subdivisions, but yet there also seems to have been flexibility about their application and inheritence. To my mind totems may have been read as a symbol of clan strength and identity. Certain births, for any number of reasons, did not necessarily inherit their father’s totem. Bates talks a great deal about corruptions due to unorthodox marriages.
These old totems remain highly valued within most Noongar families today. Animal totems, especially birds, are believed to be the bringers of messages from the spirit world, often news of someone’s passing.
When Bates says; ‘The totem either preceded or followed its human borunggur’, she means the people always spoke of it in relation to family and friendship bonds. When she was asking about the Aborigines they would tell her their moiety, their totem, their place and their name. People’s names frequently derived from their physical totems. Friendship bonds were what Bates called human totems or human borrunggur. In context, Bates’ is saying the old people she met who were distanced from their old ways and places of living, were lost to their totem and therefore to themselves.
Above: Some examples of the totems used by the South Coast Aborigines. Ji-uk, the wild cherry (as spelled on this occasion) is attached to three localities between the upper Phillips River and the Stirling Ranges. Kojenungup, the locality of the first ji-uk listed here may be a dialectic interpretation of what the Dunn brothers called Cocanarup. Bates seems to attach the Wild Cherry people to Fraser Range specifically yet her data and other references show they ranged significantly south and westward. Image cut from the Bates files at the University of Adelaide’s Digital Library- http://hdl.handle.net/2440/83707
Right: Norman Tindale as a young man. Source, Sth Australian Musuem Item AA 338/5/2
Bates was not the only one to understand the classification system and its entwining with spiritual well-being, other’s working the field of anthropology also saw it. Norman Tindale,who compiled the first incredible map of Aboriginal Australia, also collected a great deal of information about people and tribes. In April of 1939 (thirty years after Daisy Bates) he was in Borden, between Eticup and Jerramungup, where he took down the details of husband and wife, Peter Ruby and Bessie Bevan. Peter Ruby’s parents and grandparents came from Eucla, his grandfather Noyti/Captain Jack was a one-time partner of Anna Ryan/Ponton who we also know partnered Dartambaum/Jumbo for a period.
Right: Peter Ruby c.1939 Photo courtesy Mrs Forrest
Peter Ruby was born at Thomas River, Cape Arid, around 1905. His totem was not the wild cherry but according to the genealogy Tindale took down, his sister Nellie’s, was. (Given as Tjiak – a native fruit – berry.) Tindale said Peter was circumcised and subincised but that he could not speak the language of his parents and grandparents, the Eucla/Mirning people. Peter Ruby’s grandfather is shown on Tindale’s sheet asCaptain. This is most likely Captain Jack, also known as Noyti, a prominent name in each of the South Coast genealogies. Noyti was described by Bate’s as being Baaduk, from Fraser Range area. If we take Tindale’s Wudjari definition of a subincised man as a Bardok, then at the least Peter Ruby was initiated into that group. Tindale said Peter spoke the language of those around the Esperance area. So, even though he had gone through the traditional non-Noongar (Bardok) initiation rite of having his foreskin cut and the underside of his penis mutilated, he never spent enough time with those people to learn or retain their language. This suggests he may have been taken as a boy, recruited or even captured, only to leave and return to the coast.
Bates provides such evidence in her South-West Pilgrimage;
At Esperance there were but two old brothers, Deebungool and Dabungool, known as Dib and Dab. I rode a draught horse fifteen miles to interview Dib. He told me that the circumcised tribes had by this time encroached upon his home-ground. They had given him a woman, but had taken his little son Ro, and initiated him into their tribal practices.
Right: Bessie Bevanc.1939 Photo Courtesy Mrs Forrest
Bessie Bevan’s family tree shows she was part of the coastal people from the Thomas River area of Cape Arid, 80 miles east of Esperance. According to the information Bessie gave, her father was a full-blood Aborigine going by the names Moses Taylor and Peter Bevan. The name Taylor will have come from Campbell Taylor, owner of the Thomas River station, ‘Lynburn’, who started out there in 1870. The Bevan name probably came from shepherding or whaling work in the Cape Arid area during the same approximate period. From other archive documents left by Campbell Taylor we know that Peter Bevan/Moses Taylor’s Aboriginal name was Coobitan. His daughter Bessie gave his totem as the Tje; kowok or red berry (otherwise Jeeuk or Tijuk). Bessie’s mother’s name was given as Maggie, also a full-blood Aborigine. Bessie told Tindale she had an older sister, Lilly. We know from other information that she also had an older brother, probably a step-brother, who went by the name Geordie Bevan. Bessie was 42 years old when interviewed by Tindale, making her birth year probably 1897. Tindale records Bessie Bevan as being Nunga, otherwise Nyungar, a subdivision of the Ngadjunmaia or Ngadju tribe.
Above: A cut taken from Norman Tindale’s hand written detail of Bessie Bevan’s genealogy. The part circled in yellow and within circled by Tindale himself, says ‘Tje;kewok, red berry; indicating the family’s totem.
Now, importantly, Tindale also noted down things Peter Ruby and Bessie Bevan said about their people. Scribbled notes cover the page but written in the lower right hand side (see the image below) is a block of useful detail;
Bessie: “My people live on the coast. No circ or subincision, used kangaroo skin rugs, used to make blackboy gum axes, ko”tj. No people left there now, all dead.”
After that follows a difficult to decipher mention of use of paper bark and hand axes. Following that;
According to Peter Ruby;
“all the people at Thomas River circumcised or sub circumcised. Also all the Eucla people who came there. This is the boundary (at Esperance) between circumcised and non circumcised people.”
Tindale then makes another note to remind himself that the boundary probably begins closer to Point Malcolm than Esperance. Point Malcolm is a little further east of the Thomas River, toward Israelite Bay. This probably relates to the contradiction he found between Peter Ruby’s claim everyone at Thomas River was circumcised and Bessie Bevan’s information saying that they weren’t. It also ties in with the Dempster brothers naming of Israelite Bay after the circumcised Aborigines they saw there in 1863.
Above: A marginally trimmed screenshot of Tindale’s uncut full-page recording of Peter Ruby’s and Bessie Bevan’s South Coast genealogy. The note in the bottom right hand corner imparts important knowledge.
So here we have the incidence of a married couple, their parents and grandparents belonging to the area east and north of Esperance, by 1939 living at Borden. Borden is located on a tributary of the upper Pallinup River at the very western end of the range associated with the Wild Cherry People, a totem both husband and wife shared with their immediate families.
What we can take from Peter Ruby’s comments is that his people had come in from as far away as Eucla to gather at Thomas River. The question is why? And, who came in and who stayed behind? The answer to the first question I’ll address in a moment, while the answer to the second must lie with kinship. The Eucla district extended approximately to the middle of Mirning country, the border between South and Western Australia. The coastal Aboriginal people from there (and anywhere troubled) were most likely to gather in family or related groups where they felt least threatened. That they moved west links the Eucla people of the Mirning tribe to those of the Ngadgu/Nunga, also reflecting the possible eastward extent of the Shell People clan. It also supports the idea the spread of the Aborigines from the Malay Peninsula throughout Western Australia occurred along the coast ahead of inland movement.
The reason why some of the native Eucla people headed back west lies with the arrival of the settlers. Those Aborigines who favoured the western side of the coast must have been associated with the non-circumcised people of the South-West, even though they spoke their own language and had taken on the practice of circumcision and subincision. We know the arrival of the settlers brought devastating illnesses and also that in this incredibly remote part of the frontier, conflict was in all likelihood dealt with by the settlers through use of the gun.
The Historian Dr Peter Gifford spent many hours in conversation with key personalities of the Nullarbor area while researching his book about the life and times of Arthur Dimer, ‘Black and White and in between‘. Dimer’s grandfather, Heinrich Diemer, jumped with two other men from an American whaler near Albany and was hidden and later employed by Campbell Taylor at Thomas River during the 1880’s. Jumping ship was a serious offence but Taylor needed English speaking trained labour to help establish Lynburn Station at Cape Arid and had been employing abscondees since at least 1874. In his book, Dr Gifford discusses multiple-shootings by the various pastoralists. These occurred at Mundrabilla Station, set up by the Kennedy brothers and William McGill; at Point Malcolm, near Israelite Bay, by the Ponton brothers, Stephen and William (who we now know held John McKail’s Pilgi-Pilgi lease at the Porongurups) and their partner John Sharp, who subsequently moved north to establish Balladonia Station where more violence occurred; and at Fraser Range Station itself by the Dempster brothers and their employees. Despite being the first to settle east of Esperance Bay, there is no violence associated with Campbell Taylor and Lynburn Station.
These war-like confrontations, as previously mentioned, resulted in fewer men and will have further divided the groups into those tolerant of the settlers and those who weren’t. Add to this the devastating incidence of disease, the growing number of interracial children and the confusion caused by the European way of living (which contradicted the age old Indigenous kinship laws yet appeared to bear no consequence), and there is cause for utter turmoil within the Aboriginal world.
This combination of elements, as I’ve already suggested, led to certain groups distancing themselves from one another; the People of the Wild Cherry being the case in point.
As far back as 1907 the few living representatives of once numerous groups were found far away from their own waters. At the camp near Katanning there were natives from Eucla, Balladonia, Mt Stirling, Mt Ragged and many other places far south and east and north-east of Katanning.
Ngal-baitch’s group wandered between Dundas and Fraser Range, to Balladonia and Ponton’s station, down to the coast to Campbell Taylor’s place near Cape Arid, then Dempster’s at Esperance, Dunn’s at Ravensthorpe, Hassall’s at Jerramungup, always resting securely near white settlement or station under the white man’s protection.
The birth of half-castes still further disintegrated the wandering families, for the half-caste fears and dislikes his mother’s people and objects to the communal food laws, while the natives despise the half-caste for his colour and his “breed.”
Everywhere I heard the plaint-“Jarigga meenya bomunggur” (The smell of the white man is killing us)
Above: This map shows movement of the displaced Wild Cherry and Shell People during the period 1850 to approximately 1905. By the time Daisy Bates arrived at Katanning in 1907, later to move eastwards along the South Coast, very few original Wild Cherry People remained anywhere. In summary, Bates says they had wandered. This would have begun to occur with the incidence of whaling and sealing parties influencing coastal groups from as early as around 1800, followed by rapid acceleration with the arrival of the Dempster brothers at Stokes Inlet and Esperance Bay in 1864. One settler location displaced Aborigines consciously avoided after 1880 was Cocanarup.
One of Daisy Bates’ main criticisms was that her mind lacked precision, that it was akin to a unkempt sewing basket; everything needed was in there, just loose and unarranged. This was mostly to do with the task of making sense of all the data she was collecting, but it is evident in the narratives I’m drawing from here as well; she meanders about, thinking one thing, then another, all of the threads related but not necessarily weaving a coherent pattern. We have to be careful here because she is speaking in the 1920’s about the consequences of events that took place over a period (in her mind) of at least seventy years; essentially, from when Captain John Hassell first set up at Jarramungup in 1849. The complexity becomes obvious when we look into what she says about the sprightly old woman Ngailbaitch and the woman she calls her daughter, Ngurian or Nory Ann. In the first instance, it’s important to distinguish between what she says about Ngailbaitch and her family as opposed to what she says about Ngailbaitch’s people, the People of the Wild Cherry.
Throughout both South-West Pilgrimage and her 1924 letter to the Western Mail, Bates features Ngailbaitch and her family. This post already carries multiple references, and there are more.
From Albany I went to Bremer Bay, and then fifty miles inland to Jerromunggup. There I found a five-generation family, but they were not all full-blood. Ngalbaitch, the matriarch, was a lively old woman. .
Nory Ann was almost certainly Ngal-baitch’s daughter Ngu-rian and cannot have been more than 70 years of age, if so much, at the time of her death. Ngal-baitch’s group belonged to the “Border,” . . .
Ngurian (Nory Ann) belonged to the Jee-uk-wuk or “native cherry” group, about Fraser Range, who intermarried with the Bibbulmun.
I remember Ngurian as the wiry daughter of a sturdy mother, but she was only a young girl when the white men first penetrated the south-west areas. Her children were pure-blooded, but her grandchildren were castes and she herself may have given birth to a half-caste or two in her early wanderings.
Bates even mentions Ngailbaitch’s sons in her meandering narrative;
Ngurian’s brothers were amongst the mob that held up Mr Hassall’s employee Scott, on a bare hill now called Scott’s Lookout, where he was shepherding some sheep.
. . .the mob disappeared, but came back by-and-bye with their women and children to Jerramungup water.
What’s interesting here is that the mob who held up William Scott did so in January 1850, mere months after Jarramungup Station came into operation, about fifteen years before the Dempsters arrived at Esperance Bay Station with their stock, and fully twenty years before brothers John and George Dunn drove theirs to Cocaranup. The case was reported as an Outrage by the Natives in the Perth Gazette. Within the article (excerpt above) there is mention of ‘far away men‘ and ‘men from another country‘. It’s hard to know if this was just an excuse but it more than hints the men from the desert country, Bardoks, had come through Gnailbaitch’s home kala all the way as far as Jarramungup Station. Remember Ethel Hassell’s map of native tribes around Jarramungup?
Above: Ethel Hassell’s map of native tribes mentioned in her book of Aboriginal life, customs and legends, My Dusky Friends. Note the nearness of the Kar Kar. The name Kar Kar can simply mean ‘eastern’ but it is also associated with the Kalaako group on Tindale’s Map.
Now, In Bob Howard’s digitised list of combined genealogies he heads Ngailbaitch’s family tree with the following;
Informant: Ngailbaitch – age: ‘about 85’ – she was probably born in her Father’s (Ngorap) birth place – ‘Ngaurin – salt lakes north of Ravensthorpe’
Howard takes this information from Bates’ notes. From it we can say Ngailbaitch was born around 1825 in the area to the north east of Jarramungup Station. Lake King, where the Dunn brothers had taken up their inland lease to escape the effects of Coast Disease in the 1870’s, is the largest of the salt lakes north east of Jarramungup.
From this there is suggestion Ngailbaitch’s people, the People of the Wild Cherry, may have been living in fear of the Bardoks well before there was any settlement east of Jarramungup Station at all. There is also more than a suggestion there were raiding parties of Bardok men coming down from the north-east. The Bardoks may have wanted to take the young men bound by marriage ties to them (father’s or grandfather’s people) back for initiation and/or had come looking for brides to steal. I say this because almost all references to the Bardoks speak of men in numbers of no more than forty and sometimes, as previously mentioned, they were referred to in settler parlance as bucks.
The threat of the Bardoks may help to explain why the station owners found natives attaching themselves to them. The Aborigines may have been seeking to make allies of the settlers, as Bates says, in order to escape the conditions imposed on them by the invasive desert culture. We know the homesteads were established around the best fresh water sources and co-inciding native hunting and gathering grounds, and therefore occupied the heart of an existing kala, but the threat of the Bardoks may also explain how Ngailbaitch attached herself and her family to Jarramungup Station. And how, over time, other displaced or vulnerable Aborigines attached themselves to other homesteads.
The Hassell ownership at Jarramungup Station will have begun to see these attaching Aborigines as a threat because they drew the attention of the ‘wild natives‘. They also saw them as a drain on their resources. Additionally, Social Darwinism allowed them to think of the Aborigines as little more than beasts. Treatment of some of the convict and ticket-of-leave labour was bad enough, treatment of the persistent benign native presence around most homesteads was cruel. The boys were used as shepherds and labourers while the women were used for sex. Beatings and brutality being the main form of persuasion.
The vulnerability of the Wild Cherry People may help to explain why, despite their treatment, they stayed.
Above: Daisy Bates (centre left) with Jubyche and his family group near Midland during her time in Perth, Western Australia. Bates was active in W.A. between 1900 and 1913. By this time, at least among the Aborigines of the South-West, strict adherence to traditional kinship lore had broken down. Bates used the term ‘decadent’ to describe the process as one of liberation. It took a long time to make sense of moieties and totems and how they were inherited or applied, because the pattern had become so confused. For a period, Bates was aided in her work by Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, an academic Anthropologist of the day who found her methods unorthodox and much of her information-gathering too wayward. Bates was made to look like an incompetent amateur but in fact was incredibly thorough. Radcliffe-Brown was looking to package the data in a recognisable model while Bates was painstakingly piecing together a highly complex linguistic jigsaw which had been violently corrupted by the arrival of the white-man but which had already drifted a significant distance from the ancient model anyway. In the end, despite her peculiarities, lack of precision and inevitable mistakes, she probably did as good a job as was humanly possible. Photo courtesy Kaartdijin Noongar – Noonar Knowledge website.
* * * * *
And now to Cocanarup itself.
In all her writing on the South-West and Southern Districts, Bates does not once mention the events of that place.
I wonder why? Surely she knew, surely they told her.
There are barely even any clues. She says of one old-timer at Katanning;
Munggil (Mungal), the oldest, of Ravensthorpe, . . . had a grievance against the world, and in his moments of dementia would sing his woes the whole night through . . .
This ‘grievance against the world’ along with;
‘At Ravensthorpe and Hopetown, the natives had almost completely died out. . . ‘
hardly hint at what happened. With hindsight and strategic vision there is more to extract though. In another passage from the paper she prepared on the Balladonia and Eucla district totems Bates talks of a pedigree which she thinks may have featured a mootch (forbidden) marriage. She could have picked any number of same totem unions but this pedigree was from near Kokenarup where both parents were Wild Cherry. I’m pretty sure Kokenerup is a spelling variation of Cocanarup, as it’s used multiple times in the genealogies that way. In the accompanying narrative she talks of a man’s parents having; ‘for some reason fled toward Esperance.‘
Above: A cut from Daisy Bates’ paper on the totems of the Eucla and Balladonia districts. University of Adelaide Digital Library Reference: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/83752
This isn’t a deliberate attempt to draw attention toward Cocanarup because rather than speak of what she must have known happened there, Bates opted for the opposing tack.
When the British pioneers ventured inland from the south and west coasts and settled in the wilds, the natives of those areas came along and helped or hindered the new arrivals according to the temperaments of both. It speaks well for the character of those early pioneers the Hassalls, Campbell-Taylors, Grahams, Dempsters, Pontons, Bussells that the natives they dispossessed should continue to visit and “sit down” on their old camping grounds without fear of molestation.
We live in different times now, but it seems Daisy Bates may have viewed the shooting of troublesome natives as legitimate practice. She doesn’t use the name Dunn here, when she could have, but equally the settler list she quotes is more random than confined to the South Coast and its earliest white protagonists. Perhaps it was that she knew, quite simply, what side her bread was buttered on. After all, who would print her articles or buy her books if in them she criticised her very audience?
If you consider Bates’ behaviour above, therein lies the kernal of institutional racism. On the one hand she is doing her best to gather and preserve information vital to future generations, while on the other she conforms to the order of the day; that she must satisfy her paymasters and the truth, therefore, should not be spoken.
What we have to do here is think about what was happening during the period between 1872, when Andrew Dempster shot Jack Shepherd on the road to Fraser Range, and 1880, when Dartambaum decided enough was enough and John Dunn must die.
In the wake of Sir John Forrest’s 1870 expedition to Adelaide where he traversed the South Coast in order to establish the viability of the east-west telegraph line and he identified Fraser Range and Eucla as prime grazing locations, there was something of a boom in the business of growing wool east of Esperance. The People of the Wild Cherry may well have been vulnerable to forces within their own world at that time, but it is the concurrence of both that brought about the most concentrated period of upheaval along and, for a way, inland from the coast.
The arrival of the Ponton, Brooks, Kennedy & McGill and Muir enterprises came with the building and manning of the telegraph stations and their maintenance depots. Alongside the existing Dunn, Moir, Dempster and Taylor establishments, the sickness and use of the gun they brought hastened the westward retreat of the Aborigines and heightened tension between the culturally opposing groups. The place, effectively, was in a state of turmoil and the behaviours of Dartambaum and Mulyall (discussed at some length in Interlude Pursued – Part Two), two Noongar men catalysing the events of Cocaranup, clearly illustrate this.
Mulyall in particular treads ground between the authority of his own people and lore and the authority of the newly installed police. He raids shepherd huts then acts as police constable and brings in Yungala as an arrested suspect. Mulyall/Moolyal appears in the Esperance police books on multiple occasions between Ravensthorpe and Fraser Range, he does at least two stints on Rottnest Island and one in the North West, on each occasion making his way home. Eventually, he was tracked down and shot at Moolyal Rocks in his home country north of the Ravensthorpe Range. Dartambaum is the same. He first appears in 1868 as a troublesome individual around Jarramungup where he is arrested and imprisoned on Rottnest Island for six months for his one third part in consuming a stolen sheep. Twelve years later he is implicated in the death of the neighbouring station owner. He escapes prosecution but returns from the trial only to survive less than a year before being shot in retaliation for throwing a spear with deadly intent. Dartambaum is believed to have killed up to four times before he died violently himself.
Remember, both Moolyall and Dartamabaum were Jeeukwuk, People of the Wild Cherry.
Dartambaum’s personal and geographic profile is that of a man caught in the maelstrom of settler invasion and the crumbling integrity of traditional Aboriginal lore. In the end he acted in the traditional manner and brought about the execution of an offender which, under traditional lore, he was entitled to do. The question is did he do it because of something Johnny Dunn had done, or was it just that Johnny Dunn was the only Dunn brother home at the time of Dartamabum’s calling and that he made the fatal mistake of going off unarmed with him?
That Johnny Dunn had only met Dartamabum once before Dartambaum had him killed, suggests to me that it was not the work of Johnny Dunn that led to his death but that of his brothers. However, Aboriginal oral history says otherwise. From Kim Scott and Hazel Brown’s Kayang and Me;
They reckoned John Dunn was killed because he had an argument with one of the old men. One of the old men speared him.
It was Granny Monkey’s brother, Yandawalla, that killed Dunn, you know, for what he was doing to the women.
The truth was, Esmerelda Dabb was thirteen years old when Dunn raped her, and him and the overseer were busy satisfying themselves with the young girls and they locked all the old people up in the harness room.
And when she got away from them, she went down and got the men see, all the young men there was having meetings there. They were shepherding sheep down the bottom, and they were having initiation ceremonies, you know. And she went and told the men, and when they come back they all, you know, they come back and they speared him. Yandawalla speared him at Cocanarup.
Consider the below cutting from Walter Dunn’s cross examination in which he gives the names of three native men who were in the employ of the station.
Above: Cut from the Regina Vrs Yungala trial notes, October 1881.
Walter Dunn says;
. . . at the time of John’s death there were natives on the station in our employ – amongst them Cranky Geordie, Larry & Barron & Hughy. Dartambaum -last witness- was usually supposed to be Baron’s father. These natives ran away from the station two months before – my brother did not want them again.
Walter Dunn, in court, also said;
Above: Cut from the Regina Vrs Yungala trial notes, October 1881.
. . . hunting for the natives at all. They are a race of natives about our place if other natives come about our place and ask them to go away with them they will leave without asking. Did not want these natives to come back again. had no reason to search after them.
Walter is talking about the Bardoks, or at least those in league with the Bardoks, coming down and drawing the station natives, away. This could tie in with Hazel Brown’s assertion there was a tribal gathering on the coast which Esmerlelda Dabb escaped to and told her story.
Walter also spoke about Dartambaum’s daughter, Kitty.
Above: Cut from the Regina Vrs Yungala trial notes, October 1881.
She has been at our place several times. She lives with our shepherd. She is employed by Mr Moir (at Fanny Cove) The shepherd lives 23 miles off.. No natives at shearing shed. Shear the sheep ourselves.
And Dartambaum spoke about Kitty too;
Above: Cut from the Regina Vrs Yungala trial notes, October 1881.
I have a daughter named Kitty. Kitty was at Fanny Cobh when J Dunn was killed. I did not see her but expected she was at Fanny Creek. I knew that she was alive. He said she might have been there but he did not see her.
Dartambaum’s words above were interpreted, so at times it reads as if someone else is saying what Dartambaum is saying (which is what was going on in the court room). Why would Dartambaum say, I knew that she was alive? The suggestion, at minimum, is that her life was or had been in danger.
Why was that?
Further reading of the trial notes shows both Walter and the stonemason, Riley, were cross examined regarding the presence of Aboriginal women at Cocanarup and at Dunn Swamp, the shearing shed and lease on the coast (Hopetoun). Both were careful to deny any association or knowledge of Aboriginal women at either place.
So, from the trial notes, we know Dartamabaum, who did not work for any of the station owners, arrived at Cocanarup on March 20th, 1880, dressed in a traditional kangaroo skin coat under which he carried a dowak or short sharp stick. He had come around twice before but left without incident, on both times enquiring after his son Barron, one of the men employed at Cocanarup Station who had run away a few weeks previous and who John Dunn did not want to return. Walter Dunn said he had known Dartambaum about four years but that his brother (who we now know had only recently returned from a long stint in South Australia and elsewhere) had only met him once. Dartambaum and John Dunn left the homestead together. Some distance away, a confrontation between Dartambaum, Dunn and three other Aboriginal men occurred and Dunn was fatally speared in the neck.
Also in the equation is Dartambaum’s daughter, Kitty, who was employed by the neighbouring station owned by the Moir brothers but who lived with one of the Dunn shepherds 23 miles off. That place is likely to have been Dunn Swamp, the lease on the coast near Mary Ann Haven (now Hopetoun) where they did the shearing.
Was Dartambaum’s Kitty the same person as Esmerelda or Emily Dabb, the thirteen year old girl Hazel Brown says was raped by John Dunn?
Dartambaum’s daughter Kejupburt had a daughter called Karraby or Karrbee, according to the Bates genealogies. At the risk of taking liberties here, Hazel Brown, (pg 82, Kayang and Me) says Emily Dabb’s Aboriginal name was Karribi.
Above: A cut from Bates’ handwritten notes gathered at Ravensthorpe from the informant Yulbian. According to Yulbian, Kejupburt was second of Dartambaum’s four daughters. Karriby or Karrbee, as spelt here, was Kejupburt’s daughter to an unknown husband. From this and information provided by Hazel Brown and Kim Scott, Karriby looks to be the Kitty referred to in the trial notes and also Emily Dabb of Hopetoun as described in Kayang and Me. The implication here is that John Dunn was killed for the rape of Dartambaum’s grand daughter. Original image courtesy of John Chandler.
Like, our grandfather had two wives. He had our grandmother first, and her name was Monkey. Her name was Ngoorir (Ngurer) someone reckoned, but everybody says Monkey. Terrible really, but we all say it Kim, we all use the name the white man gave her.
She was born in Ravensthorpe, and that was all her family what them fellas got. It was Monkey’s brother, Yandawalla, that killed Dunn, you know, for what he was doing to the women.
The above comes from Hazel Brown too, in another excerpt from the book Kayang and Me by Kim Scott and herself. The book is a study of a South Coast Aboriginal family history intimately tangled up in all of this. I’ve quoted from it and referred to it in numerous posts along the way. It was one of the very first books I read after deciding to embark upon this journey and in it I found an almost overburdening sense of responsibility, as if the integrity of the co-author’s and all their family members as far as they could go back in time to trace them, depended on it. Above all, what I felt was a need for the story not only to be accepted by the Noongar community which it involved, but to be accepted by the settler community which it felt unlikely to listen, but still really wanted to take note.
When I put Kayang and Me down, it occurred to me that someone white, someone from a purely European background with at least some association with the South Coast, needed to investigate and speak about it too. What was missing was an effort from the dedicated settler community to look back into its own involvement and say, ‘hang on, look at this.’ The entirety of this blog and of the story collection which necessitated it, stems from the lack of fully inclusive literature addressing settlement along the South Coast. Nobody from the settler community has ever set out to tell their side of what happened at Cocanarup, let alone research and include the Aboriginal side. Hopefully, this work will go some way toward addressing all of that.
Anyway, back to the excerpt from Hazel Brown above. In it she is telling us who the Aborigines were who were caught up in the aftermath of John Dunn’s death. Lets look more closely at it.
Above: A cut from the typed version of the Bates genealogies featuring Ngurer (Monkey), the woman whose family Hazel Brown says was caught up in the Cocanarup killing spree. Ngurer married twice, first to Birap and then to a man best known as Ngwunbib. These typed genealogies are now available on-line through the Digital Library at the University of Adelaide. Ref: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/82589
From this cutting we can see that Ngurer was the daughter of a man known as Mulyabang. Mulyabang was also known as Watbarong and Ngaiaram. His totem was Merderang, the sea mullet, making him one of the Shell People. According to Bates’ informant, Yulbian, an old woman born at the eastern end of Esperance Bay, Mulyabang was from Kabigail, which is Esperance. Ngurer’s mother’s name was Kwedap. Her totem was Jiuk (Jeeuk/Tijuk) and she too was from Esperance Bay. According to this information, Ngurer had three childen to her first marriage with Birap before becoming the third partner of another man whose name was Ngwunbib. The same informant who provided the above information (Yulbian), below provides Ngwunbib’s pedigree. Birap is the grandfather Hazel Brown talks of in the excerpt from Kayang and Me.
Above: A cut from the typed version of the Bates genealogies featuring the parentage of Ngurer’s husband, Ngwunbib. These typed genealogies are now available on-line through the Digital Library at the University of Adelaide. Ref: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/82589
Ngwunbib’s parents were both Murning totem (like a small kangaroo) and were from Kukenerap.This is Cocanarup. Ngwunbib inherited his father’s totem and was Murning, though in a second inclusion Bates shows Ngurer as inheriting her mother’s totem, Jeeuk. Below is just part of the family Ngwunbib and Ngurer had together. Look at the prevalence of the Jeeuk totem among them and their partners.
Above: Part of Ngurer’s family tree showing some of her children and their partners. This cut taken from the genealogy of Ngwunbib as given by the informant Yulbian, now available on-line through the Digital Library at the University of Adelaide. Ref: http://hdl.handle.net/2440/82589
In this excerpt Wilabang, Ngurer’s fourth son, had two wives. Following is Mandak (m) and Jirdijan (f). Both Wilabang and Mandak took Baiangan as their wife. Mandak when Wilabang died. This was in keeping with traditional Aboriginal lore. Jirdijan was married to Bainagan’s brother, Nitwart. The Baiangan here, however, is not the daughter of Dartambaum/Jumbo. There were two women known as Baiangan, the one here is much older than Dartambaum’s daughter, Tillee.
It’s risky business for someone like me to begin tying the names here with the actual family members described in Kyang and Me so I’m going to stop with the association between Birap and Granny Monkey/Ngurer and the idea the girl John Dunn was accused of raping being Karrbee, Dartambaum’s granddaughter whole English name was Emily Dabb. My point being, there is today still living memory of the people caught up in the Aboriginal depopulation around Cocanarup Station and that, in the scheme of things, it really wasn’t that long ago when it happened.
And so, in 1980, exactly 100 years after the death of John Dunn, a woman by the name of Laurel Lamperd, a former resident of Ravensthorpe and member of the Ravensthorpe Historical Society, who had taken down information passed to her by Bill Coleman, an ancestor of Hazel Brown and Kim Scott, wrote a short four page account of what she was told by Coleman happened. In a nod to Daisy Bates’ omission of the story in her writing, Laurel titled her account; ‘The Passing of the Aborigines from the Ravensthorpe District.’
The information is telling.
Yabiru means northern. Bates uses the term frequently in her genealogies but describes it in various papers as belonging to the people of the Perth and Beverly/Northam districts. Tindale cites variations of the term from many sources, each of which indicates that it means above, north or northern.
The four distinct family groups of the Ravensthorpe area described by Laurel Lamperd here are the totems Yonga (kangaroo), Gnow (mallee hen), Waitch (emu) and Coudda (long-tailed goanna). That they were strictly confined to the district I would dispute, having seen too many Dwerd (Dog) Wit (Ant) and Jeeuk (Wild Cherry) in the genealogies tied to the local and wider region to accept the assertion.
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In closing, I have just a couple more things to say. The first is that Daisy Bates was employed by the West Australian government primarily to gather Aboriginal vocabularies. She extended her duties to reach far further than that and fought a hard won battle to maintain her employment for as long as she did. Western Australia, I think, was lucky to have her. Somebody more academic may have found something else in their work which could have been of lasting benefit but to my mind it’s highly unlikely their interest will have extended anywhere near or far as that of Mrs Bates, despite her fallabilities. You know, in her famous 1924 letter to the Western Mail newspaper where she rambles on about the Jeeukwuk, the People of the Wild Cherry, and Ngailbaitch and her daughter Ngurian or Nory Ann, she made her way through a history which was very helpful to piecing the Cocanarup story together, but as I went on and I looked here and there at the genealogies a great singular irregularity leapt out at me. All along Bates asserted that Ngurian/ Nory Ann was Ngailbaitch’s daughter and that she could not have been more than 70 years old when she died, despite assertions from her own people that she was in the region of 107. Indeed, the newspaper article was titled, ‘Was She 107? Death of Nory Ann‘ Well, in her own work, in the family tree she constructed around the lively old Ngailbaitch, Bates actually lists Ngurian (spelt Ngurilan) not as her daughter but as Ngailbaitch’s mother. This, funnily enough, would have made Nory Ann very much in the region of 107 years of age.