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.
Above: 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.
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.
Above: 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.
by Sarah Drummond
(a book review)
(abbreviated version here)
Good writing is every bit as instant as good music. The measure of both as much about how quickly and how far the work sends me off into my thoughts as it is appreciating the sheer quality of the composition. Just as a few bars of the right music can trigger an explosion of emotionally charged insight, a single paragraph can transport me to places it may take minutes to come back from.
I’m a slow reader of good books because of it.
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.
Above: 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.
Mokare- His character and influence
Above: 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.
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.
In our search for Ngurabirding we are building background to the arrival of his father, Ticket-of-leave man John Maher, in the Albany area during 1854. Maher took up work as a farm labourer or shepherd on one of the Spencer sheep runs closer to Mount Barker, north of the main settlement. Last post we looked at settlement along the Hay River, which runs west and north of the town, by the family of Sir Richard and Lady Spencer. This post we keep one eye on the Spencer family while looking at the uptake of land on the other river which has its source close to Mount Barker, but which empties into the sea just east of the Sound. The Kalgan.
Attracted by the hills that lay about its general path, there were various forays and excursions up the old French River from the outset. Major Lockyer even attempted to overland to the Swan River following its northward course during his three month stay into the new year of 1827. But it wasn’t until four years later when the Kalgan‘s source was located about 40 miles upstream, near to the historic location of Kendenup.
Moorilup was first set eyes upon in a European context by the settlement’s original non-military leader, Dr Alexander Collie, late in April 1831. Collie, who was only 18 months at the Sound, was led on this particular expedition by Mokare, charismatic front-man of the King Ya-nup. Mokare and his brothers were very closely associated with each of the key European figures at the Albany settlement as they came and went, transferring their allegiance and friendship in an apparently seamless fashion until death took them over.
Collie was the last European leader Mokare would know.
The Hay River Brigade
Before we go on with the story of John Maher after the issuing of his Ticket-of-Leave, it’s important to look into what had already taken place at Albany relative to his arrival. This applies to the earliest period of free settlement and the story of the Spencer family, in particular, who first lived at the Old Farm – Strawberry Hill, within Albany, as well as at another farm close to the Hay River about twenty miles away.
Above: Panoramic view of the Gardens at the Old Farm -Strawberry Hill as it is today. Note the Norfolk Pine standing tall in the rear to the right. Image courtesy federation-house.wikispaces.com Continue reading
Resolving the identity of a man known as John Jack Maher helps tell the story of early European/Aboriginal integration inland from Albany. By following the threads we learn how Albany’s pioneer pastoralists merged with those from York in and around what later became the railway town of Katanning; most notably at a place called Eticup. Many shepherds and labourers employed by the pastoralists fathered children to Aboriginal women, angering their men, causing incidences of cross-cultural recrimination and violence. But what of those European men who engaged in this; mostly the convicts and Ticket-of-Leave men of the 1850’s and 1860’s? The story of their lives reveals backgrounds of deprivation and misery. What hope did they bring to their new opportunity and what chance of a fulfilling life did they and the result of their Indigenous unions really have?
Above: The controversial photograph of John Jack Maher. The man here is either Johnny Maher the cricketer with his Aboriginal-descent wife Emily Maggs and daughter Maria Louisa, or he is Ngurabirding, also known as John Jack Maher, husband to Waiman and father to Rachel as shown in the Bates genealogies. If the former, the photograph will have been taken around 1910 (as Maria Louisa was born 1901) putting Maher in his mid-40s. If the latter, the photo was probably taken in the 1890s when Maher was about thirty. Continue reading