Presentation on theme: "Invasion or Peaceful Settlement? 26 th January 1788: An Indigenous Perspective."— Presentation transcript:
Invasion or Peaceful Settlement? 26 th January 1788: An Indigenous Perspective.
The Gamaraigal Confront the British:The First Year of Settlement On 26 th January 1788 British ships containing 290 seamen, soldiers and officials and 717 convicts sailed into Port Jackson, to confront the Gamaraigal people of the Sydney area. The Gamaraigal must be been completely bewildered by the arrival of these strangely clothed, pale-skinned people who travelled in weird water-craft. It was little wonder that they ran to the water s edge, yelling and lifting their spears with mixed feelings of anger, fear and curiosity. The Gamaraigal watched this large body of strangers, almost as numerous as their own tribe, unload their curious supplies. These invaders behaved like savages in the way they attacked the land. They felled trees, cleared the ground, gouged the earth, marked it out and pitched strange canvas shelters on it. The gentle rhythms of life around Sydney were pierced by noise, activity, shouts and parades. When the female convicts landed, the Aborigines watched as amorous, rum-primed men fell upon the women until cooled by a sudden down-pour. They were probably as astounded at this scene as the British officers. In the succeeding months, the Aborigine s bewilderment increased as they saw overseers ordering convicts around, watched floggings take place, and witnessed several hangings. The Europeans even had the gall to poke about Aboriginal graves and unearth the bones. The Gamaraigal must have thought they were confronted by barbarians – which no doubt explains why they largely avoided the Europeans for the first two years. - Richard Broome, Aboriginal Australians, p.p
The official version of the British arrival in Australia
The meeting of people from different cultures is bound to be marked by misunderstandings. The meaning of things in another culture is hard to grasp, especially when there is a language barrier. What are significant winks in one group are merely twitches of the eye in another. - Richard Broome, Aboriginal Australians, p. 23 The Aborigines objected to the Europeans clearing the ground around a waterhole (possibly sacred) and casting nets into the sea without the permission of the Gamaraigal. The Europeans objected to the theft of some equipment, although they souvenired the Aborigines weapons. - Richard Broome, Aboriginal Australians, p. 23
Terra Nullius The third factor that moulded relations with the Aborigines was the determination of the British to take possession of the Australian continent. The prevailing international law concerning ownership of newly discovered lands held that the inhabitants only had sovereignty over that land if, by their labour and practice of agriculture, they used it and changed it by constructing buildings and towns. If the Europeans discovered lands inhabited by an agricultural people with recognisable systems of government, possession of that land could be taken by the European discoverers only with the consent of the inhabitants. However, if the land was either uninhabited, or inhabited by a people who did not use the land (in the European sense of use) then according to prevailing ideas of international law it could be freely taken. When Captain Cook sailed the southern ocean he was ordered to take possession of any land there only with the consent of the natives, if it was inhabited. However, consent was not necessary if the new lands were not being used in the European sense and thus were terra nullius, that is waste lands for the taking. On the basis of Eurocentric and largely mistaken observations by Cook and others … the British government decided that Australia was terra nullius and took possession of it without asking the native inhabitants. So it was that while the Indians of North America or the Maoris of New Zealand, who built villages, tilled soil and had chiefs were offered treaties and some recognition of rights by the British, the Aborigines were not given any of these rights. This fact of dispossession was the crux of the future race relations problems in Australia, for it meant that injustice was sanctioned by the state … - Richard Broome, Aboriginal Australians, p. 26
Captain Cooks Voyage of Discovery,
Racial Perceptions: The Noble Savage and the Ignoble Savage The European s who arrived in Australia over 200 years ago brought with them certain racial assumptions that could be divided into two categories: those who believed that the Aborigines were ignoble savages and those who thought they were noble savages. The Ignoble Savage school of thought was by far the most common amongst Europeans at the time. For these people, the problem stemmed from the fact that the indigenous peoples of Australia were not White. For many European s, Black signified dirty, impure and evil while White meant the opposite – clean, pure and good. To an Englishman, the fact that Great Britain ruled so much of the world and it s indigenous peoples, whether they were African, Asian, American or Australian was proof of the superiority of the British, who were white.
However, in the 18 th Century, French philosophers put forward a new theory about race. Indigenous peoples were not, as earlier thought, primitive. On the contrary, they were noble savages because they lived in natural environments in harmony with their fellow human beings and nature. Hence, a minority of Europeans, usually the better educated who had read and admired the writings of French philosophers saw indigenous people as noble savages to be admired and romanticised. Nevertheless, it was the case that most of Australia s early settlers were convicts, soldiers and farmers and were therefore more influenced by the ignoble savage The inhabitants seem to be a fine set of people; they are of a copper colour, stout and well made; their hair is long and black, with black eyes and eye brows, and they seem to have very fine teeth. The only ornaments seen amongst them were nacklaces made of beads intermixed with teeth … If we may judge these people from the construction of their canoes, they certainly possess a considerable share of contrivance and ingenuity: many of them are large enough to contain sixteen or twenty people. - Captain Arthur Phillip
They were nothing better than dogs … it was no more harm to shoot them than it would be to shoot a dog when he barked at you. - Reverend William Yate Our first objective was to win their affections and our next to convince them of the superiority we possessed for without the later, the former we knew would be of little importance. - Watkin Tench
A French artists depiction of the Aborigine, 1800s
The Beginnings of Conflict As the months passed, Phillip s anxiety to meet the Gamaraigal turned to a sense of great urgency. Food shortages in the settlement made it imperative that he gain information about the country s resources. However, the Gamaraigal increasingly avoided the Europeans, and when contact was made, friction and further avoidance was often the outcome. After a year Phillip determined to kidnap some Aborigines, force them to learn English, and thus act as the intermediaries between the two races. This change from apparent friendship to coercion must have made him appear treacherous to the Aborigines …. After another year punctuated by scattered violence and growing frustration Phillip overreacted to the fatal spearing of his huntsman, a man notorious for cruelty to the Aborigines. He gave orders that the heads of six Gamaraigal, any six, be brought to him, but fortunately, no victims could be found … As European settlement spread, so did the violence. By the late 1790 s the Hawkesbury River area, 80 kilometres northwest of Sydney, supported over 400 Europeans who farmed both sides of the rich river flats for a distance of 50 kilometres. The conflict here became desperate with deaths on both sides. Aborigines explained to Governor King in 1804 that settlers farms blocked their access to the river and thus much of their food supply. When they crossed the farms to get to the river, they were fired upon by settlers who claimed the Aborigines damaged and burned crops. The Aborigines in turn retaliated and they themselves formed raiding parties … At Toongabbie, west of Sydney, in 1897, Permulwoy led Aboriginal fighters against soldiers and settlers until he was eventually shot down. In ghastly fashion, his severed and pickled head was sent to Sir Joseph Banks in England. - Richard Broome, Aboriginal Australians, p.p
The government reluctantly provided troops to protect the settlers and their crops. Captain Paterson wrote in 1795 that it gives me concern to have been forced to destroy any of these people, particularly as I have no doubt of their having been cruelly treated by some of the first settlers who went out there, but he added that the Hawkesbury area was vital to the settlement s food supply and must be retained. It was vital for the Gamaraigal as well, but they had less firepower to back their claims. Yet, their guerrilla warfare was so effective and the fear they instilled in the Europeans so great, that as late as 1816, Governor Macquarie was forced to forbid all Aboriginals from carrying weapons within two kilometres of a house or town, or from congregating in groups of more than six even when unarmed. He gave settlers permission to establish vigilante groups and formed three new military outposts. The 10 most wanted Aboriginal murderers were outlawed and thus liable to be shot on sight …. The coming of the Europeans to Australia had begun a chain of events that were to be repeated in each area and which led inevitably to dramatic changes for the Aborigines. By the 1830 s, there were few of the original Sydney people left. Some Aborigines further inland now lived in Sydney, dwelling on the fringes of European society as survivors of an often fatal impact caused by white intrusion. These people eked out an existence, scrounging for fish along the harbour foreshore, selling some of their catch, begging food or earning it doing odd jobs. They had become dependant on the European invaders since their land and food sources were gone … - Richard Broome, Australian Aboriginals, p.p
Culture Clash As we have seen, the difference between the Aboriginal and European way of life was so fundamental that the difference could not be reconciled. The European practice of clearing large tracts of land for farming deprived Aboriginal Australians of their means of existence and brought European farmers and Aborigines into conflict with each other. The introduction of hard-hoofed animals such as sheep, cattle and horses to the bush destroyed native plants and grasses. Indigenous animals have soft pads that do not have the same effect. Therefore, the introduction of hard-hoofed animals, an essential aspect of European farming, deprived Aborigines of a major source of food. Land was fenced to keep sheep and cattle in. This deprived Aborigines of access to land and therefore food Livestock needed plenty of water to survive. Therefore, farms were often built around rivers depriving Aborigines of water.
Deprived of the source of their livelihood, Aborigines faced two choices: to defend their lands against the settlers or to steal from the farmers in order to survive. To defend their land and prevent their death through starvation, indigenous Australians stole stock, speared shepherds and horses, robbed huts and tried to drive the settlers off their farms. The settlers retaliated by attacking Aboriginal camps, killing the inhabitants and driving them off the land. From 1789 to 1930, this process of violence was repeated as European settlements spread around the coast of Australia and into the interior. Initially, relationships between the two groups were often friendly. Indigenous Australians helped settlers to locate food and water, and even showed them how to build bark shelters. However, the relationship always changed eventually as Europeans started to change the environment and the traditional Aboriginal way of life was changed.
Aborigines attacking a settlers hut, 1800s.
As these sources show, the Aborigines put up fierce resistance to white settlement. Although their spears were a poor substitute for the rifles of the settlers, they struck fear into the hearts of European settlers. Europeans often referred to a Black War on the frontiers of European settlement. It was never intended that a few miserable savages were to have this fine country … the only way to govern the blacks was by fear … no good would come of them until they … [were] half destroyed - Charles Hutton, 1840 Men, women and children are shot whenever they can be met with … what they can urge in their excuse to murder the women and children I cannot conceive … these things are kept very secret as the penalty would be hanging … I am convinced that no less than 450 have been murdered altogether … I am become so familiarised with scenes of horror from murder made a topic of everyday conversation - Henry Meyrick, squatter, 1846, Port Phillip District Fifty-one men were killed, and the bones of the men and the sheep lay mingled together bleaching in the sun at the Fighting Hills - John J. Robertson, Wando Vale, 1840
List of outrages recently committed by the Natives in the neighbourhood of Port Fairy. Mr. Richie – Man killed, 100 sheep taken and hut robbed of everything it contained including a double-barrelled shotgun Mr Cambell – 200 sheep and 10 pounds of potatoes Messrs Kilson and Bernard – 5 horses taken, 7 head of cattle killed, and 40 calves, also 33 driven up and two men wounded, the station menaced Messrs Hutchinson and Kidd – Shepherd killed, found with a spear through his heart. Captain Webster – 350 sheep and 1 man wounded Mr Barnett – 450 ewes and lambs Mr Munston – 2000 sheep taken and man speared. - Port Phillip Mail, 30 March 1842
Aboriginal Resistance Defeated It is estimated by the famous Australian historian, Professor Henry Reynolds that around 20,000 Aborigines died during the frontier conflicts, though he does admit that this is a low estimate. Up until 1929, large-scale massacres of Aborigines was a frequent occurrence. The most notorious incident was the Coniston Massacre in 1928 when, in response to the murder of a gold prospector, police went on a number of expeditions to find the killer. These expeditions were, in effect, punitive expeditions that resulted in the murder of many members of the Walbri tribe. Constable William Murray, who led the police, admitted to firing into a group of Aborigines and killing 31. The real figure was closer to 80, largely women and children. In 1876, 28 Aboriginal women and children were killed at Myall Creek and their bodies were butchered with swords. Despite promises to the contrary, this was the only occasion on which the killers of Aborigines were brought to trial, found guilty and punished for their crimes by hanging.
Periods during which Aborigines were massacred in various states around Australia.
1 in 10 Aborigines were killed due to frontier violence with many more succumbing to diseases such as influenza and smallpox that were brought to Australia by the European settlers. This ensured that Australian Aborigines failed to drive settlers off their lands permanently, although in places such as East Gippsland, Aboriginal attacks led squatters to abandon pastoral runs. Such was the seriousness of the situation in some areas of Australia, martial law was declared meaning that Aborigines could be shot on sight without fear of punishment. Nevertheless, guns, horses, armed and trained troops and superior numbers gave Europeans a great advantage over Aboriginal communities, many of which had been devastated by disease. Many indigenous Australians survived by becoming a part of the pastoral workforce during the 1830 s and 40 s. They were employed as domestic servants, stockmen, shepherds and shearers. However, in the majority of cases, this did not mean that they gave up their traditional cultures. Instead, many Aboriginals were able to straddle both European Australian and Aboriginal worlds, ensuring their survival and the survival of their culture.
Social Darwinism & The Aborigines In 1913,the High Commissioner in London Granville Ryrie was quoted as saying … We must all agree that the unfortunate aboriginal will sooner or later disappear from Australia. Walter Baldwin Spencer, one of Australia s first anthropologists wrote in 1927: Australia is the present home and refuge of creatures, often crude and quaint, that elsewhere have passed away and given place to higher forms. This applies equally to the aboriginal as to the platypus and the kangaroo.
From the moment they arrived until the present, they have not sought, and therefore not acquired as tribes a property in soil – nor, as individuals, the ownership of things which grow or roam upon its surface. They have neither erected habitations upon it, nor pierced its bosom to make it minister to their support and comfort. Generation after generation