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Dr. E. B. TYLOR gave a verbal abstract of the following paper:


By A. W. HOWITT, Esq., F.G.S., Cor. Memb. Anthrop. Inst.

Introductory Note.

Ir might well be thought an almost impossible task to indicate with any probability of certainty the directions followed by the early Australian tribes during their migrations. Savages keep no records except such as are handed down by word of mouth, and which in the process of transmission become so distorted by age and by imaginations of the transmitters that it is only very rarely that such legendary tales can be recognised as referring to events which probably once happened.

This is the case with the Australian tribes. Of their legends and tales there are but few which can be reasonably believed to relate to past events. Such are the Deluge legend of the Kurnai, Woiworung, and Coast Murring tribes; the Woiworung and Kurnai legend of Loän,' and perhaps also the legend of the migration into Gippsland of the "first old man Kurnai." Such legends as these only throw a dim and doubtful light on some parts of the tribal history, such as their early migrations, and it is in this aspect that I now refer to them.

On this view I have thought it might be well to draft a preliminary memoir, which should have for its general object the broad delineation of some main lines of migration and for its special object the question, "From which stock did the somewhat abnormally developed Kurnai tribe spring?"

I do not propose to consider whence was derived the original stock, the Australian aborigines, but I start from the assumption that their distribution over Australia was from its northern shores, if not from an earlier continental extension still further to the north.

The Migratory Process.

The existing distribution of the class-systems, so far as I have yet been able to collect and compare them, leads me to think that the migrations have not been in an undivided stream advancing in an unbroken front across the continent, but in several streams which spread out on either hand of the main

1 See p. 416.
2 See p. 416.

routes wherever the conditions of water and food were favour able.

In other words, the migration has been diverted into various routes by meeting with obstacles such as waterless tracts or mountain barriers.

It seems to me that the most probable process by which this continent has been peopled has been this. It is reasonable to suppose that whenever a group of the aborigines, who were settled in some favourable spot, became too large for the natural resources of the locality, its younger members would spread outwards in search of new centres, from which in time new departures might again be made. It may, perhaps, be more correct to describe such a process of settlement by saying that from time to time "swarms left the parent hive" to take up a quasi independent existence on their own account, in some favourable locality, either already known to or to be sought out by them.1

Besides this, which may be called the regular and orderly process of settlement, there must have been also what may be termed the irregular and disorderly process. Intertribal wars would tend to send forth "war-driven" emigrants; broken men escaping from individual or tribal vengeance, and couples who had broken the moral laws of their tribe, would seek safety in flight; and even, perhaps, the wreck of a "totem" may have escaped from a feud which involved it in an unequal strife with a related group far stronger than itself." Instances illustrative of such causes have been made known to me, and in the past there must have been many fertile but unoccupied tracts into which the guilty or the unfortunate might flee and find a safe refuge from the pursuer. I shall have occasion to point out, when speaking later on of the Bidweli tribe of Eastern Gippsland, that there is evidence that out of such materials new tribes have been formed on the ancient social lines.

Whatever may have been the mode of settlement, there are

1 According to Taplin, the Narrinyeri had a tradition that their ancestors were led by Nurundere, the Supreme Being, down the Darling and Murray Rivers, and thence east and west along the coast, where they were settled when the white men first arrived. "Native Tribes of South Australia," pp. 3, 55, 61. Wigg, Adelaide, 1879.

2 Such a case might have arisen in the Wotjobaluk tribe of the Wimmera River. A "white cockatoo " man had killed one of the "black snake" totem, and according to the tribal custom he had to submit to spear-throwing by the kin of the deceased. He was speared during this ordeal, and, quoting my informant's words, "the old head-man of the Gartchukas (white cockatoo) threw up the piece of lighted bark he was carrying, and the fight ceased." To my question, "Supposing that the Wülernunt (black snake) men had continued their attack, what would have been done?" he replied-" If they had not ceased there would have been a war between all the Gartchukas and all the Wülernŭnts."

two main lines of march clearly indicated, namely, the eastern and western coast-lines. Others probably lay along the wellwatered and generally fertile downs of the great dividing range, and perhaps also followed approximately the direction of the transcontinental telegraph.

Assuming that when the migration began, the physical features of the Australian continent were much as they are now, one line of advance would clearly be indicated as extending southwards from Carpentaria and the country extending eastwards to the sea. So far as the country proved favourable, population would spread, ascending the streams to their sources, and thence descending by other waters flowing on the one hand into the Pacific Ocean, and on the other into the great and arid expanse of Central Australia.

As the streams proceed further from the great dividing range of Queensland into the central depression they become more widely separated from each other by generally waterless and often almost desert tracts, until at length they are lost in the great saline depression in which lie a vast series of salt lakes, such as Lake Eyre.

Still further to the southward where the great dividing range approaches and finally enters into New South Wales, the rivers still flow widely separated from each other by dry tracts, but finally, as the Darling, Lachlan, and Murrumbidgee, contribute to the perennial stream of the river Murray.

Migrations in early times most certainly would extend down such great waters, and would thus become more or less completely isolated from their kindred who occupied adjoining rivers. Thus, in time, well-marked groups of tribes have arisen having certain characteristics in common; usually recognising kindred with each other, and also joining in the same initiation ceremonies. They are distinguished from each other by dialect, by variation of custom, often by variation of initiation ceremonies, and frequently from all other tribes by applying to themselves some special word meaning "man."

Such large groups are recognisable in the better watered parts of Eastern Australia, and even also in Victoria.

I have said just now that such great aggregates of tribes are frequently marked by the use of a common word meaning “man,” which is restricted in use to their own males. Thus a very large group of tribes having the Kamilaroi organisation might be spoken of as the " Murri Nation," and this designation would bring them properly into relation with their southern and south-eastern neighbours, who use the word "Murring" or “Murrīn” in the same sense. Similarly, a great group of tribes

occupying the country surrounding Lake Eyre, in South Australia, might collectively be spoken of as the "Kurna Nation."

In Eastern Victoria there would be found a large "Kulin Nation," and a smaller in the south-west of the colony to which the term "Mara" might be applied.

I suggest that these words signifying "man" may be conveniently used for distinguishing the great tribal aggregates referred to, and in this sense I use them in this paper.

My preceding remarks will have shown my views as to the general process of migration. A few more are now necessary before I proceed to consider of which migratory stream the Kurnai ancestors were most likely an offshoot.

One stream of settlement seems to have followed down the waters which unite to form the Darling, and to have thence traced the Murray River from the junction of the two, until, reaching the sea-coast, it spread east and west along it.

Its eastern termination may perhaps be recognised in the Mara Nation, which in Victoria coalesced with the Kulin, somewhere, so far as I can make out, about the southern slopes of the Grampian Mountains, and more to the east about Colac.


Another stream which had followed the well-watered country southwards from the sources of the Darling River seems to have divided when meeting with the great block of mountains of which the Australian Alps are the culminating points. These people spread round the northern and western flanks of the mountains into Victoria, where they are represented by the Kulin Nation, whose termination in the south was in the Bunworăng tribe, in the extreme south-eastern part of the Western Port District. The Kulin seem to have occupied all the flanks of the mountains from the Ovens River to Cape Patterson, and westwards as far as Geelong, Ballarat, and the sources of the Richardson River. Another branch of the same stream flowed round the eastern flanks of the mountains on to the Maneroo tableland, and down the southern coast of New South Wales, where as one of the Katungal tribes it formed, near Towfold Bay

1 The Kurnai Tribe of Gippsland must be distinguished from the Kurna Nation of the Barcoo Delta. The term "Nation" which I now use must be understood as meaning no more than an aggregate of kindred tribes, without implying any kind of confederacy between them. I take this opportunity of pointing out that there is no warrant for the use, which I have observed, of the word Murri or Murrai, as meaning "Australian aborigine." There is no word in the native languages having that meaning. Such words as Murri, Kulin, Kurnai, Mara, have a strictly local meaning. A male aborigine of Victoria is no more a "Murri than a Scot is a Welshman.

2 The Narrinyeri tradition quoted by Taplin ("Native Tribes of South Australia," p. 61) says: "Nurundere led his sons, i.e., his tribe, down the southern shore of the Lakes, and there turned up the Coorong. There he appears to have met another tribe coming from the south-east."

and Cape Howe, the extreme south-western termination of the great Murri (or Murring) Nation.

Between the south-eastern termination of the Kulin Nation, at about the Tarwin River in South-west Gippsland and the south-western termination of the Murri Nation at about Mallagoota Inlet in Eastern Gippsland, there was the Kurnai tribe. This remarkable tribe can be shown to be neither Kulin nor Murring, and an inquiry now arises of which of the advancing lines to which those people respectively belong it has been an offshoot. In seeking for a reply to this question, I have met with some curious facts which are worthy of notice.

The Kurnai Ancestors.

The Kurnai acknowledge no kindred with any of the tribes adjoining them. In olden times they were hostile to all, and applied to them a name as distinguished from themselves of "Wild men." It is therefore necessary, in attempting to trace out from which migratory stream of those I have mentioned the Kurnai ancestors were derived, to turn to the customs and the beliefs of the tribes for light.

I am not in a position to compare the languages of these tribes in a satisfactory manner, for to do this it would require one to have a competent knowledge of the languages of at least three of the tribes adjoining the Kurnai country. Besides this, it would also be necessary to have a good acquaintance with the three Kurnai dialects, the Muk-thang, the Thang-quai, and the Nūlīt, of which the former only is familiar to me. It is therefore necessary to have recourse to the aid to be derived from the comparison of vocabularies, and of such slight knowledge of the neighbouring Murring languages as I have obtained.

The result has been to prove that the Kurnai dialects are most nearly allied to those of the Kulin, and differ as much on the other hand from those of the Murring, both of the coast and of the mountains. Yet I must also note that the Thang-quai, as spoken by the most easterly of the Kurnai, namely, the Krauatun, has words which are no doubt due to the intimate relations of this clan with its Murring neighbours.

The customs of the various tribes do not in comparison afford much light; but what little there is shows a greater resemblance in details between those of the Kurnai and Kulin than between those of the Kurnai and Murring.

Two illustrations will suffice as examples of this part of the evidence. As I have elsewhere shown, the Kurnai Jeraeil has no resemblance to the Murring Kuringal, excepting in the first

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