Whadjuk


Whadjuk

Whadjuk, also called Wadjuk, Whajook and Wadjug, is the name according to Norman Tindale [Tindale, Norman (1930) "Aboriginal Tribal Boundaries" (Museum of South Australia) http://www.samuseum.sa.gov.au/orig/tindale/boundaries_intro.htm] for the Aboriginal group inhabiting the Western Australian region of the Perth bioregion of the Swan Coastal Plain, and extending below Walyunga into the surrounding Jarrah Forests. The etymology is unknown but it has been suggested that it may come from Wirtj, meaning "those who went before" (i.e. ancestral ones), and implied that Tindale's informants considered all Whadjuk people were dead. The boundaries of this region are the watershed division north of Yanchep between the Swan-Avon and the Moore Rivers, in the north, the Walyunga-Gidgegannup (from Gidgie = spear, gan- = make, -up = place) region to the north east, the Canning River catchment to the south east, to the coast at Port Kennedy. This is the region of the Quindinup (from Qwenda = Bandicoot, -up = place), Cottesloe, Karrakatta (from Karra = spider, katta = hill, the location now of the Western Australian Parliament building) and Bassendean sand dune systems and intervening wetlands, out to the fertile loams of the Guildford area, and the Darling Scarp to the edge of the Wandoo region, inhabited by the Balardong people to the east. To the north, according to Tindale one finds the Juat, Yued or Yuat, and to the south, the Pindjarup or Pinjareb peoples.

Culture and Pre-History

Before contact, the Whadjuk formed part of the Noongar language group, with their own distinctive dialect. Culturally they were divided into two matrilineal moieties [Bates, Daisy (1938) "The Passing of the Aborigines" (Albermerle Street, London)] : the Wardungmaat (from Wardung = Crow (or Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides)), maat = leg (or lineage, and the Manitjmaat (from Manitj = Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita)). Moieties were endogamous, and children took the moiety of their mother. Each moiety also contained a number of sections, "

* Ballarok ..} Manitjmaat
* Tondarup .}
* Ngotak ....} Wardungmaat
* Naganyuk }

:"see Noongar classification, Australian Aboriginal kinship"

The length of Whadjuk settlement of this area should not be underestimated. Finds associated with this group in the Guildford region show continuous settlement going back at least 35,000 years [Jarvis, NT (Ed)(1979), "Western Australia - An atlas of human endeavour 1829-1979" {Western Australian Government by Government Printer)] , while stone tools recently found on Rottnest Island (Aboriginal Wadjemup) have been estimated at 70,000 years old. The Whadjuk also preserved many stories of the Wagyl, a water-python held to be responsible for most of the water features around Perth.

Coastal dwelling Whadjuk informed George Fletcher Moore [Fletcher Moore George, ( 1994),"Dairies of an Eventful Life of an Early Settler in Western Australia" (Walbrook, London)] of their historical memory of the post Glacial Flandrian transgression and the separation of Rottnest from the Mainland, between 10,000–6,000 BCE. The story of this event is now kept in the J S Battye Library.

Like other Noongar peoples, the Whadjuk seem to have moved more inland in the wetter weather of winter, returning to the coast as interior seasonal lakes dried up [Green, Neville (1984) "Broken spears - Aborigines and Europeans in the South West of Australia" (Focus Educational Press, Perth)] [Hallam, Syvlia (1986) "Aboriginal Resource Usage along the Swan River" (Swan River Symposium, WAIT)] . The Whadjuk, like many Noongar people accepted a six seasonal division [Green, Neville (1984) "Broken spears - Aborigines and Europeans in the South West of Australia" (Focus Educational Press, Perth)] as follows:

* Birak—from November to December, was the "fruiting", characterised by the onset of hot, easterly winds which blow during the day. Noongar people used to burn mosaic sections of scrubland through firestick farming to force animals into the open to hunt, and to open the canopy and allow the few November rains to increase germination of summer foodstuffs and marsupial grazing. This was the season of harvesting wattle seeds which were pounded into flour and stored as damper.
* Bunuru—from January to February, was the "hot-dry", characterised by hot dry easterly conditions with afternoon sea-breezes, known locally in Western Australia as the Fremantle doctor. To maximise the effects of these cooling breezes, the Noongars moved to coastal estuaries and reefs where fish and abalone (Haliotis roei) constituted a large proportion of the seasonal diet. Mallee fowl eggs from tuart forests also formed a part of the diet.

* Djeran—from March to April, was "first rains-first dew", with the weather was becoming cooler with winds from the south west. Fishing continued (often caught in fish traps) and zamia palm(Noongar = djiriji, Macrozamia ridlei) cycad nuts Noongar = buyu), (Nardoo Marsilia quadrifolia) bulbs and other seeds were collected for food. Zamia palm, which is naturally highly poisonous, was prepared in a fashion which removed its toxicity. Burrowing Frogs (kooyar, Heleioporus eyrei) were caught in large numbers with the opening rains of winter.
* Makuru—from May to June, was "the wet", and Noongars moved inland from the coast to the Darling Scarp to hunt Yongka, grey kangaroo (Macropus fuliginosus) and Tammar (Macropus eugeni) once rains had replenished inland water resources. This was the season of mid-latitude cold frontal rains. Noongar Gnow (or mallee fowl (Leipoa ocellata)) were also caught.

* Djilba—from July to August, was "the cold-wet" saw Noongar groups moving to the drier soils of the Guildford and Canning-Kelmscott areas, where roots were collected and emus (Noongar = Wej) (Dromaius novaehollandiae), ringtail possums (Noongar = Goomal) ("Psudocheirus occidentalis") and kangaroo were hunted.

* Kambarang—from September to October, was "the flowering" at the height of the wildflower season. This time saw rain decreasing. Families moved towards the coast where frogs, tortoises and freshwater crayfish or gilgies (Cherax quinquecarinatus) and blue marron, (Noongar = Marrin (from Marr = hand, Cherax tenuimanus) were caught. Birds returning from their northern hemisphere migration also formed a part of their diet.

Whilst these Seasons were roughly divided as shown by the European months, in fact the Noongar Whadjuk took account of environmental signals such as the spring call of the Motorbike frog (Green Tree Frog (Litoria moorei) [http://birdingwa.iinet.net.au/frogs/species/litoria_moorei.htm] marking the onset of Kambarang, or the flowering of the Western Australian Christmas Tree (Nuytsia floribunda Loranthaceae [http://www.anbg.gov.au/christmas] showing the onset of Bunuru.

Whadjuk Noongar traded high quality wilgi (red ochre) from the area of Perth Railway station eastwards as far east as Uluru (Ayers Rock) [Bates, Daisy (1938) "The Passing of the Aborigines" (Albermerle Street, London)] . In precontact times it was used to colour hair which was worn in what would now be called "dreadlocks". To those groups that practised initiatory circumcision, this area was traditionally known as "The Land of the Boys". Quartz from the Darling Scarp was also traded with Balardong groups for the making of spears.

Contact History

The Whadjuk peoples bore the brunt of European colonisation, as the cities of Perth and Fremantle were built in their territory.

No doubt Whadjuk peoples had been familiar with Dutch explorers like Vlamingh, and the occasional visit of whalers to the coast, before the arrival of settlers under the command of Governor James Stirling. After a near disaster at Garden Island, a long-boat under the command of Captain (later Lieutenant Governor) Irwin was dispatched and met with Yellagonga and his family at Crawley, on the coast of what is now the University of Western Australia or by Mount Eliza (Noongar = Goonininup). As Aboriginal women had been earlier seized by European seal hunters, Yellagonga subsequently moved his encampment to what is now Lake Monger (Noongar = Kallup) [Bates, Daisy (1938) "The Passing of the Aborigines" (Albermerle Street, London)] .

The Whadjuk people were divided by the Swan River into four principal groups:
* The Mooro - led by Yellagonga, were north of the Swan River
* The Beeliar - led by Midgegooro - his brother-in-law, were south of the Swan River and west of the Canning River
* The Belloo led by Munday - were in the region from the Canning to the Helena Rivers.
* Weeip's area to the east [Bates, Daisy (1938) "The Passing of the Aborigines" (Albermerle Street, London)] .

Only four Europeans contributed to our modern understanding of Whadjuk Noongar language and culture.
* Robert Menli Lyon befriended the Aboriginal resistance fighter Yagan, when the latter was exiled to Carnac Island.
* Francis Armstrong took early efforts to befriend Aboriginal people (being known to them as "Pranji Djanga", but later in life became very authoritarian and bitter in his dealings with them.
* George Fletcher Moore rapidly came to understand the Whadjuk dialect of the Nyungar language, and later came to serve as magistrate in legal cases in which Whadjuk people were involved.
* Lieutenant George Grey took great efforts to learn the Whadjuk tongue, and was recognised by the Yellagonga's Whadjuk group as being the returned dead son (i.e. Djanga) of an Aboriginal woman, before going on to a distinguished political career in South Australia and New Zealand [Bates, Daisy (1938) "The Passing of the Aborigines" (Albermerle Street, London)] [Grey, George, (1841), "Journals of Two Expeditions of Discovery in the North West and Western Australia, 1837-38" (Hesperion Press, Perth, 1984)] .

European settlers were called "Djanga", by the Whadjuk people, a term referring to spirits of the dead. This seems to have been an attempt to fit the Europeans into the social structure of the Moongar peoples but it seems to have been reinforced by the following principal factors:
* "Europeans" came from the direction of the settling sun, where Kuranyup, the land of the dead was supposed to reside.
* "Europeans" were white-skinned, illustrating the deathly pallor of people after death.
* "Europeans" seemed to have flakey discoloured skins, which they shed and changed on different occasions.
* "Europeans" (in the 19th century when bathing and washing clothes was rarer) smelled bad and often had rotting teeth.
* "Europeans" were dangerous to associate with, as infectious diseases to which Europeans had some genetic resistance, were fatal to many Aboriginal people.

Work by Neville Green in his book "Broken Spears" has shown how Aboriginal culture could not explain the high death rates associated with European infections, and believed that Aboriginal sorcery was involved, leading to rising numbers of reprisal spearing and killings within the Aboriginal community. Coupled with the declining birth rates, these factors led to a collapsing population in those areas nearby European settlement.

With the loss of fenced and alienated lands, Aboriginal people lost access to important seasonal foods, and did not understand private ownership, which led to spearing of stock and digging in food gardens. Reprisals led to a cycle of increased violence on both sides. The first attempted Aboriginal massacre was the "Battle for Perth" when there was an attempt to surround and capture Aboriginal people who had retreated into Lake Monger. The area was cordoned, but the hunted people escaped. Once Lake Monger was settled by the Monger family, Yellagonga moved to Lake Joondalup. In 1834 this Wanneroo area was explored by John Butler, and in 1838 by George Grey. With the lands seized for settlement in 1843, Yellagonga was reduced to begging for survival, and shortly thereafter he accidentally drowned, [Hallam, Sylvia J (1974) "Fire and Hearth: Aboriginal Usage and European Usurpation in the South West of Western Australia" (Australian Institute for Aboriginal Studies, Canberra)] .

The situation for Midgegooroo was even more precarious. Violence flared when it was said 200 savages were going to attack the ferry from Fremantle, and citizens armed themselves and rushed to the site to find nothing but a bemused ferryman. A Tasmanian settler shot one of the local Aboriginal men and Yagan, Midgegooroo's son and Yellagonga's nephew, speared a white in revenge. Yagan was arrested and sent to Carnac Island in the care of Robert Lyon who claimed he was a freedom fighter. Yagan escaped from the island in a boat, and waged a guerrilla campaign on both sides of the river. He was eventually killed by one of two European boys he had befriended and his head was smoked and sent to England, being recovered by Ken Colbung in 1997.

Following the Battle of Pinjarra, Whadjuk Aboriginal people became totally dispirited, and were reduced to dependent status, settling at their site at Mount Eliza for handouts under the authority of Francis Armstrong. An Anglican school was established for a number of years at Ellenbrook, but was never very successful and was greatly underfunded.

Relations between the settlers and the natives had deteriorated badly in the final years of Stirling's reign, with settlers shooting at Aboriginal people indiscriminately for the spearing of stock, leading to payback killings of settlers. Stirling's response was to attempt to subdue the Aboriginal people through harsh punishment. When Stirling retired he was replaced as Governor by John Hutt, 1st January 1839, who rather than adopting Stirling's vindictive vengeful policies against Aborigines, tried protecting their rights and educating them. This ran foul of frontier settlers intent on seizing Aboriginal lands without compensation, who felt they needed strongarm tactics to protect themselves from Aboriginal "reprisals". In 1887 a reserve for the remaining Whadjuk people was established near Lake Gnangara, one of a whole series of wetlands which may have, within the memory of Aboriginal people here, been a series of caves along an underground river whose roof fell in. This reserve was re-established in 1975. In addition to the "feeding station" at Mount Eliza, under the control of Francis Armstrong, first "Protector of Aborigines". Hutt also tried to establish an Aboriginal yeomanry by giving Aboriginal "settlers" grants of government land. The lands chosen for this venture were marginal and Aboriginal people were expected to make improvements without giving them access to needed bank finance, so the scheme quickly collapsed. Aboriginal campsites were temporarily established at many metropolitan locations including Ellenbrook, Jolimont, Welshpool and Allawah Grove. These sites however were frequently moved at the discretion of European authorities once an alternative use was found for the land (as happened at Karrakatta Cemetery, the Swanbourne Rifle Range and Perth Airport).

Daisy Bates claimed she interviewed the last fully initiated Whadjuk Noongar people in 1907, reporting on informants Fanny Balbel and Joobaitj, who had preserved in oral tradition the Aboriginal viewpoints of the coming of the Europeans. Fanny had been born on the Aboriginal sacred site, that underlies St George's Cathedral, while Joobaitj's sacred lands were near the current Youth Hostel at Mundaring Weir.

References


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