Part 3: The Destruction of aboriginal Tasmania
Table of Contents
- George Augustus Robinson (1791-1866)
3.6. Exile 2: Oyster Cove
- Truganini (ca. 1812-1876)
3.1. The British Invasion: convicts, soldiers, settlers, missionaries
The invasion of outside people (apart from the few short visits by early explorers ) began, in a small way, with the arrival of a few white seal hunters at or perhaps a litle before the turn of the century, followed after 1803 by a veritable tsunami of most white sealers, soldiers, officials, convicts, adventurers, traders and land-seeking farmers from Australia and Britain. The immigrants came in several overlapping waves, each more destructive to the traditional aboriginal Tasmanian way of life, culture and language than the one before.
The major waves are (and with each wave after 1800 there were missionaries)
1. Exploring visitors 1642-1800 (see Discovery and Discoverers)
2. Commercial sealers from 1798 to
1830s (advances with dates shown as red
dots in map below) and
3. commercial mutton-birding from 1820 (grey shaded areas in map below)
4. The first convict arrivals (black arrows):
a. 1803, Lt. Bowen, from Sydney with 49 convicts and military personnel, Risdon Cove on River Derwent
b. 1804, Col. D. Collins, from England via Port Phillip (near Modern Melbourne) with 200 convicts and military personnel, Sullivan's Cove (now Hobart)
c. 1804, Lt.Gov. W. Paterson, from Sydney with 143 convicts and military personnel, at Port Cambell at the mouth of the River Tamar (York Town)
5. The first farmer-settlers (green in the map below) had arrived with the first convicts but they were few at first. In 1807 there were around 800 Europeans in Tasmania. When late in 1807 no less than 700 farmer-settlers arrived and when subsequently land used for agriculture rose from 3,330 to 12,700 hectares (all at the expense of aboriginal hunting-gathering areas) while at the same time the number of cattle and sheep rose from 4,000 to 43,600, the impact on the Tasmanians and their environment was no longer marginal.
6. Animal herders (pastoralists) from 1820 (blue in map below)
Zone of sof European
settlements ca. 1830
1. Hobart (capital), 1803
The white lines mark Tasmanian tribal borders before 1820.
A notable feature of the early invasion of Tasmania was that the early settlers were barely aware of the existence of a native Tasmanian population. Books on Tasmania before 1824 either do not mention the natives at all or dismiss them as timid people who would not be an obstacle to settlement. Only when the natives started to defend their hunting grounds in a decidedly untimid manner did their presence register.While some settlers then regarded the natives as "children of the same God that had made the flesh of all nations", others thought of then Tasmanians as a type of ape "like the orang-utan", to be shot whenever it got in the way. The idea that the Tasmanians actually owned their land was alien to most settlers.
The arrival of the first troops with convicts and shrtly afterwards of the first farmer-settlers in the north and south of Tasmania was regarded by the British authorities as "taking possession by discovery" under British law. Land gained was not regarded as "conquest" since the Tasmanians were not considered civilized people and so could by definition not defend themselves and so had none of the rights of a conquered civilized people. In the eye of the law the Tasmanians were British subjects without being British citizens. The law held further that under such circumstances the Tasmanians had no right to own land (even if they had lived thousands of years on it) and any attempt by the Tasmanians to defend their property must be regarded as criminal. The law may be an ass, but in Tasmania it was a decidedly convenient one for the settlers.
The first official British representative to arrive in Tasmaninia, Lt. Bowen, had not been given any instructions whatever regarding aboriginal Tasmanians. The British authorities in charge of the Tasmanian expedition in Australia and ultimately in London did not realize or did not care that there were tribal people in Tasmania. Lt. Bowen was left to his own devices to decide, and not surprisingly was hopelessly out of his depth. His first sight of a Tasmanian was an aboriginal man, armed with a spear, who looked around the new camp still being set up, did not seem surprised and accepted the minor gifts offered without saying a word. He then walked back into the woods, making threatening gestures only when some tried to follow him. Later, soldiers hunting kangaroo had their game forcibly taken from them by aborigines. Aboriginal resistance increased when the British started to lay out farmland, chop down trees and collect oysters. The Tasmanians made clear, quite reasonably, that they expected the newcomers to offer some form of payment if they wanted to live off the Tasmanians' land and resources. The newcomers paid no attention and their numbers increased so rapidly that the Tasmanians became alarmed - and more aggressive. In May 1804 there was an armed clash in which three aborigines died. It started the "Black War". An aboriginal boy was orphaned in this skirmish and taken in by the settlers who named him Hobart May. He was the first of many Tasmanian children orphaned and "taken in" under such circumstances.
The British settlement in what is now Hobart grew rapidly from its earliest beginning in 1803. The aborigines at first were more curious than hostile and it was not until 1807 that the first British soldier died at the hands of aborigines when out hunting for kangaroo. Hostilities mounted rapidly: in 1807 20 Europeans and more than 100 aborigines die in such clashes. In 1808 the ever-growing number of whites had already hunted the local kangaroo population almost to extinction and "bushrangers" (soldiers and convicts who had deserted or absconded to live free in the woods) also grew in numbers and also tried to feed themselves by shooting kangaroo. The sitation had become impossibloe and the explosion was not long in coming.
3.2. The Sealing Community
The Tasmanian sealing communities on the northern coast and on the islands north of Tasmania in the early 19th century are a different story: the ease with which sealers and other early white arrivals could acquire Tasmanian wives from local groups is today thought not a sign of the tribes' "moral depravity" (as many settlers thought - without their moral disapproval stopping them from acquiring some as servants) but to have been an attempt by the Tasmanians to include the new arrivals in their traditional inter-group and inter-tribal bartering and exchange system. This included the "giving away" of daughters to men of other groups. One could almost say, it was an attempt of the Tasmanians to "tame" the new white arrivals. The settlers regarded such "wives" as slaves or sevants and many treated them accordingly. It was another story with the sealers where successful mixed marriages with many children were common. The sealers lived their own, very tough and independent life with little contact and less respect for official authority. Even when full warfare raged between Tasmanians and white settlers on mainland Tasmania, the mixed Tasmanian-white sealer community was barely affected and mixed couples remained together as a matter of course.
In 1847 (the year in which the infamous aboriginal camp on Flinders island of Wybalenna was finally abandoned and roughly 40 km south of that camp there was a flourishing community of mixed-race and very hardy sealing families. The men were probably all white but the women had an great variety of backgrounds. This was typical not just of this group at that time, but of most members of the sealing community (see also Exile: Flinders Island and Wybalenna).
In the year 1847 the following families and their numbers and origins were known, although it is possible that quite a few more that had escaped the attention of the government statisticians. The map shows merely a snapshot taken in 1847 and very little indeed is known on how the community had developed before and after that date.
Carriage (Vansittart) island:
- Thomas Beeden and Tasmanian wife Emerenna (Bet Smith) with 4 children
- Thomas Tucker and Indian wife Maria Bengalli
- David Kelly with his part-Tasmanian son,
- John Riddle and his children
- John Ridle and his children
2. Tin Kettle island: John Smith and Tasmanian wife Sarah (Mother Brown or Pleenperrenner) with 3 children
3. Anderson (Woody) island: James Everett and Tasmanian wife Wottecowidyer (Wot, Wotty or Harriet) with 4 children
4. Long island: Edward Mansell and Tasmanian Julia (Black Judy) with 1 child
5. Cape Barren island: John Thomas and Tasmanian wife Nimerana (Teeekoolterme, daughter of Mannalargenna) with 3 children
6. Preservation island: James Munro (died 1845 ) and Australian aboriginal widow Margery with 2 children
Clarke island: Andrew
Armstrong and Australian aboriginal wife Jane Foster with 2
(the family had recently left for the west coast of Tasmania but later returned to Clarke island.
8. Hunter island: William Proctor and part-Tasmanian wife Mary Ann Brown with 2 children
Sealers first started to appear along the western and northern coast and in the Furneaux group of islands sometime in the 18th century. Very litttle is known of these elusive hunters, their origin and trade. Record-keepingwas not their primary concern. They kept to themselves and stayed out of sight of anything even faintly resembling authority . The sealers led a dangerous and very hard life in the cold and stormy waters of the Bass Strait and its environs. They seems to have been mostly white and probably British although there are hints that a few individuals of other nations and races were also part of the community of sealers at one time or another.
The first sealers did not bring women with them and since it is a well-known fact that men, however tough, cannot live without women for long, a kind of barter trade for the daughters of Tasmanian groups developed between sealers and Tasmanians.Very little is known on how this trade worked (see also below). What the white settlers and officials in Tasmania after 1803 picked up by hear-say and expanded with their imaginations need not be correct. However, it was one of the early scandals of the fledgling British colony around Hobart that sealers were"bartering for the daughters of Tasmanian men" for use as slave labourers and worse. At the same time, the colonists were slaughtering Tasmanians but that, of course, was not nearly as shocking.
We do not know in any detail how the relationship between Tasmanians and sealers originally developed. There are no records. By 1847 as the list of families with children and the map above shows, the group had become a distinct and separate community that interacted and cooperated, especially against any kind of outside authority.
Lyndall Ryan's book Aboriginal Tasmanians (Allen & Unwin, 2nd edition, 1996) has the following to say, bringing the story of the sealing community nearly up to the present :
By 1908 the people of Cape Barren island [the former Tasmanian-whiter sealing communites] bore characteristics common to Aboriginal populations in other parts of south-eastern Australia. They were predominantly of European descent; they generally intermarried; they were not homogeneous in physical appearance; they had no wish to look as white as possible; the older people liked to return to the place of birth to die; those of lighter colour liked to retain their identity as Aboriginal; they spoke English but retained remnant elements of former aboriginal languages; and they had "covert ideational differences" that set them apart from white society. Above all, they knew that they had origins different from ordinary whites, and although their culture was more like European culture than the former Aboriginal culture, much that was significant was based on Aboriginal tradition.
In 1908 there were also around 250 "really white" settlers living on Flinder's island. They considered the Barren islanders (i.e. the sealing community) spoilt (or "spoon fed" as they put it). Endless legal tussles, acts of parliament and disputes especially over land rights filled the years until prosperity increased in the late 1930s when more government money was spent on paying islanders to do maintanance work, build more roads, make improvements to their houses, dig wells, etc. With the beginning of World War 2 many islanders volunteered or were drafted into the armed forces. The sealer population sank from 300 in the late 1930s to only 106 in 1944. After the war, few returned to the island with many preferring to live on mainland Tasmania or in Melbourne, Australia.
The modern political pressure group calling itself the Palawa claims to represent surviving Tasmanian aborigines and to have grown out of many generations originating from sealing communities. They refuse to have their DNA tested and so cannot prove their claims to aboriginal ancestry. They do not represent all surviving Tasmanians (another group survivors is represented by the Lia Pootah, for example) but the Palawa do represent the former sealing community. Their often uncouth and never politely restrained style of political debate would have warmed the heart of any 19th century sealer captain.
A school of sealer community children and their teachers on Cape Barren, January 1911, during a visit of the then governor of Tasmania Sir Harry Barron (standing, at centre) visited the island. (Tasmanian State Archives).
3.3. The Black War (1804-1830) and the Black Line (1830)
Missionaries were not as a group directly involved in the atrocities that accompanied the destruction of the Tasmanians. As the pious utterances of that nemesis of Tasmanians, George Augustus Robinson, indicate, however, conventional religion was the conventional cloak that was used to justify the treatment of the aborigines. What is one to make of a religious man, the Reverend Mr. Horton, making the following remarks (reported in James Bonwich, 1870, The Daily Life and Origins of the Tasmanians, Sampson Low, Son, and Marston, London, p. 101-102):
What I have seen and heard of the original inhabitants of Van Diemen's land [Tasmania] convinces me that they are in every respect the most destitute and wretched portion of the human family. Indeed, the shape of their bodies is almost the only mark by which one can recognize them as fellow-men; and were it not for the force of other evidence besides that which their condition and habits present to the mind of the beholder. I should without hesitancy affirm that they are a race of beings altogether distinct from ourselves, and class them amongst the inferior species of irrational animals.
Not all "men of God" at that time agreed with the Rev. Horton - but too many acted as if they did. All whites, from lowliest convict to highest official, were utterly convinced of their superiority in all ways over all Tasmanians at all times. It was the spirit of the age and the Black War was fought in that spirit.
As Hobart continued to grow and a flood of white settlers continued to arrive who all wanted agricultural land for farming, relations with the Tasmanians in 1806 became increasingly hostile and finally broke down altogether. In a kind of guerilla war, the Tasmanians burnt corn-stacks and attacked individuals. War was never formally declared by the British authorities but war had started in all but name in May 1804 in the clash mentioned above. It ended with the Black Line in 1830, with the cultural and very nearly physical extinction of the Tasmanians.
On the northern coast in 1804, Lt.-Gov. Patterson was trying to gain a military foothold but found his party under attack immediately on landing. He was under such constant pressure that beween 1804 and 1806 he had to move his headquarters from York Town to George Town and then finally to Launceston, much further up the river. Nobody had expected the Tasmanians to put up such a skilled and determined resistance against soldiers armed with firearms. After considerable conflict, the aborigines in the north started started to take dogs in payment for kangaroo and things calmed down considerably. New diseases introduced by the whites were also beginning to weaken boriginal resistance.
In the southwest where most settlers concentrated and were their numbers had increased enormously, the situation was far more explosive. A sort of guerilla warfare betweeen settlers and aborigines developed, lasting more than 25 years. By 1830 the low-level warfare showed no sign of ever ending and tensions between Tasmanians and settlers had become so acute (especially in the areas of the Big River and Oyster Bay tribes) that, pressurized by the settlers, the government organised one of the world's more astonishing "military" operations against a tiny group of stone age hunter-gatherers: the Black Line.
In order to drive the estimated 200 to 500 Tasmanians from their hideouts and flush them into the open where they could be arrested or shot, around 2,000 whites (colonists of all kinds, soldiers, officials, convicts, equipped with a thousand shotguns and 300 handcuffs - yes, handcuffs) lined up in long, drawn-out lines that walked east and south through most of southeast Tasmania. The operation was announced on 25 September 1830 with the following words:
The Community being called to act en masse on October 7th, for the purpose of capturing those hostile tribes of natives, which are daily committing renewed atrocities upon the settlers, and the Whites generally wherever found next
and the purpose of the drive was declared to be
... to capture and raise (the aborigines) in the scale of civilization, by placing them under the immediate control of a competent establishment , from whence they will not have it in their power to escape and therefore to molest the white inhabitants of the country.
There was a lot of support for the plan from the settlers but that support was not unanimous. The Sydney Australian had a few highly salient (and modern!) things to say on the subject:
We call the present warfare against a handful of poor, naked, despicable savages, a humbug in every sense of the word. Every man in the isle is in motion, from the Governor down to the meanest convict. ... These are against savages whose territory in point of fact this very armed host has usurped. Savages who have been straightened in their means of subbsistence by that very usurpation. Savages who knew not language nor the mediations of their foes, save from the indiscriminate slaughter of their own people.
The result was pitiful in more than one sense: firstly there were nowhere near the expected number of Tasmanians still alive and of those that were seen some 20 escaped west while an unknown number slipped through the drawn-out line unseen. In the end,
two Oyster Bay people were shot and two captured, the latter being an old man and a boy.
The whole exercise cost the government the staggering amount of 27,000 Pounds (a sum difficult to convert into today's money but certainly worth the equivalent of many millions in modern pounds, euros or dollars).
The Black Line operation was ridiculed at the time because of the grotesque imbalance between cost and result. From the official British view it was nevertheless a "success", even if a very expensive one. The Black Line cleared the settled lands of all aboriginal inhabitants by driving away not only the surviving remnants of the Oyster Bay and Big River tribes northwestwards but also by disrupting social cohesion among the North Midland and Ben Lomond tribes so that a litttle later George Augustus Robinson could more easily collect the demoralized survivors.
The spectacle of an ancient people hunted down like vermin on what had been their hunting grounds for tens of thousands of years by settlers who had only recently stepped off their ships, certainly was not one of the Empire's proudest moments. The settlers were stuck in a "farmer-settler" frame of mind - to get land, farmers were prepared to walk, literally, over corpses. The industrial revolution had only just begun to gather steam in England at that time and the settlers did not (and could not even if they had tried) recognize hunting-gathering as an acceptable mode of life. They felt legally and morally perfectly entitled to take such "unused" and "empty" land for themselves. Any resistance to their settlement could, to them, only come from evil people and in this the law in all its dubious majesty was entirely on their side.
The "Black Line" October to November 1830:
1: yellow, 7 October
white: tribal borders
Individual Tasmanian aboriginals mentioned in literature 1800-1835
Figures from Ryan L. 1996, The Aboriginal Tasmanians, 2nd ed.page 313. Allen & Unwin Australia
Everywhere British settlers took over the land, whether for agriculture or for ranching, the fate of the Tasmanians was sealed. The settlers were not interested in them and most regarded them as vermin. In other areas, especially in the West ,Tasmanians survived longer and their cooperation with the sealers seems to have benefitedboth sides, up to a point. In the west, it was the new diseases as well as G.A. Robinson's gathering of all Tasmanians into his Flinders island reservation that meant the end of Tasmanian culture and death by disease death to many.
Europeans killed by Tasmanian aborigines 1800-1835
The figures of Europeans killed by aborigines (above) and those of aborigines captured or staying with Europeans (below) are likely to be roughly correct. The figures of tribal people shot by whites (below) on the other hand are likely to understate substantially the true figure.
Figures from Ryan L. 1996,The Aboriginal Tasmanians, 2nd ed.page 314. Allen & Unwin Australia
3.4. Rounding up the Survivors
The "Protector of Aboriginal Tasmanians" George Augustus Robinson (1791-1866)
Robinson as a young man Robinson as an older man
Robinson as a young man
Robinson as an older man
Robinson was probably born in London, a younger son of a builder. He had little formal schooling but acquired his own education by reading widely and from an early age seems to have been interested in religion. He also had a talent for building and engineering of all kinds.
In 1814 Robinson married Maria Amelia Evans in London and the couple had five children. In 1823 Robinson left England to emigrate to Tasmania (then one of the remotest and most obscure corners of the growing empire), leaving wife and children behind. He arrived in Hobart in January 1824 and set himself up as a builder. Within a year he was employing several men and was into profit but despite his success, it took several years before he could persuade his wife to join him with the children. In Hobart, Robinson he seems to have become a bit of a busybody: secretary of the Seamen's Friend and Bethel Union Society, member of a Bible Society, visitor to prisoners and and co-founder of the Mechanics' Institute.
At the time of Robinson's arrival in Tasmania, relations between the Tasmanian aborigines and the mostly British settlers had deteriorated tp the point of open hostility. Among the many causes were the occupation of the natives' hunting grounds by newly-arrived farmers, the cruel treatment and killing of natives by shepherds, stockmen, bushrangers and sealers, and the kidnapping of native children by settlers for service as slave-servants. Relations deteriorated to the point when Lt-Governor Arthur decided to use punitive measures. From the point of view of the settlers, the problem could only be solved either the extermination of the aboriginals or by their removal from areas that the settlers wanted to use. Many aborigines were re-settled on Bruny Island after May 1828 and the authorities needed a man to supervise and if possible "conciliate (i.e. pacify ) the aboriginals there. A government advertisement appeared in March 1829 for a "steady man of good character to effect an intercourse with the natives" - Robinson applied and was appointed.
The new conciliator left Hobart for Bruny Island almost immediately. He spent his first weeks there getting to know his aboriginal charges and locating a suitable place for a permanent settlement. His stated intent was to "civilize them and teach them Christian principles"- a very common attitude among British colonizers of the day. For Robinson, a native village had to have huts, a school and a potato ground if the aboriogines were to be persuaded to settle down, till the soil, adopt European dress and customs, in short were to be "civilized". Moreover, the aboriginal children had to learn various skills and be trained in English which was to be the only language of the settlement.
Very soon, however, Robinson realized that he must study the customs and language of his charges in much more detail than he had done until then. To do this, he started to travel and visited most Tasmanian groups of the south coast. He made himself known there and tried to convince the aborigines of his good intentions. In January 1830 he left Hobart for Port Davey where he met a party of native Tasmanians with whom he moved north along the west coast for a while until they left him to go on as far as Macquarie Harbour and then on to the Van Diemen's Land Company's settlement at Cape Grim. Next, Robinson moved east to Launceston which he reached in early October. The rest of 1830 and most of 1831 he spent in north-eastern and eastern Tasmania and on the Bass Strait islands, seeking information on the mostly white sealers and their relationships with the aboriginal Tasmanians. These sealers were completely independent of the British authorities and little was known about their doings then. From October to December 1831 Robinson spent in central Tasmania in search of the feared Big River and Oyster Bay tribes. They might have been feared once but when Robinson finally met them, disease and the settlers had reduced them to to a pitiful 16. Robinson returned to Hobart with is Tasmanian captives and was praised for his work by the settlers and government. .
Robinson's next movements were:
All of Robinsons' expeditions followed roughly the same pattern: there was Robinson himself, his two elder sons, an escort of convict porters and servants, followed by at least a dozen "friendly natives". Along the coast, boats were used. When first approaching a tribe, Robinson and other whites kept carefully in the background while aboriginals made contact and persuaded the tribal people to come to Robinson who would then hand out presents and food. Initially, Robinson merely tried to establish friendly relations with the aborigines, but soon he tried to persuade the aborigines to come with him, promising a place where they could live unmolested by the settlers and be fed and clothed by the authorities.
Initially, Robinson had done his work with the Tasmanians out of compassion. He wanted to help and improve them. Once he was successful, however, he became less patient and more authoritarian with his charges. He also became far more interested in the business and financial side of his work, coming to think that he alone knew what was best for the aborigines. Such views, all too clearly expressed towards authorities as well as aborigines did not win him many friends.
By August 1834 all but a dozen Tasmanian aborigines had been moved to the Flinders island settlement. As far as the white settlers and government were concerned, the aboriginal problem had been solved.
Robinson's work among the Tasmanian aborigines had been followd with keen interest by governor Sir George Arthur (1784-1854; governor 1824-1836) who thought the experiment should also be tried in the new Australian settlements then being established where he hoped it would prevent a repetition of the disasters seen in Tasmania.
Robinson left Flinders Island in February 1839 and his departure marked the end of any attemot to save the Tasmanian race. Robinson spent most of the next eleven years at the Port Phillip protectorate in Australia (close to where he city of Melbourne is today) trying his "Tasmanian methods" on the Australian aborigines with a botable lack of success.
The Port Phillip protectorate was abolished in 1849, the year after Robinson's wife had died. He decided to return to England and did so in 1852. In 1853 he married again and had five children with his second wife. Robinson died at Bath, England, in 1866.
Mannalargenna (ca. 1770-1835)
Mannalargenna of the Ben Lomond tribe in the 1810s had much contact with and knowledge of white sealers. He even went on at least one (and maybe several) sealing trips with them and must have known and understood "white ways" better than any other Tasmanian chief at the time.
George Augustus Robinson met Mannalargenna, thern chief of a Ben Lomond tribal group on 1 November 1830. He explained the plan of the Black Line. Landall Ryan describes the scene in her book as follows (The Aboriginal Tasmanians, 2nd edition, 1996, Allen & Unwin, p. 146):
Robinson told Mannalrgenna and his companions about the military expedition out against his people by tracing in the sand with a stick the nature and formation of the Black Line and told him that the military parties before long would be in the north-east. "In reply to this preamble the complained in terms of the injuries to which they and their progenitors had beren exposed through the medium of the whites". Robinson then told them of his plan o visit the islands in Bass Strait to fetch the sealing women and that he proposed to go to Swan island to keep out of the way of the settlers'and the soldiers' guns. He made some tea and then told them that the sooner they joined him the bette, for the soldiers were coming. They (the Tasmanians under Mannalargenna) agreed to go with him (Robinson).
It is often claimed that Mannalargenna "organized guerrilla attacks against British soldiers in Tasmania during the Black War". He did indeed so before 1830 but after being informed by Robinson about the Black Line plans in 1830 he must have realized the futility of further resistance. He and his band then helped Robinson round up other Tasmanians groups. Mannalargenna was tricked by Robinson who promised hat he would be allowed to return to his own country once the round-up of Tasmanians was complete. Of course, this never happened and Mannalargenna ended his days at Wybalenna like so many other Tasmanians he had helped to capture. His only privilege in death was that a headstone was erected in 1835 over his grave, a unique distinction for a Tasmanian.
3.5. Exile 1: Flinders island and Wybalenna
For an explanation, refer to the captions below this map.
When the sealers and the British first arrived, Flinders island was uninhabited. However, archaeological finds (including prehistoric rubbish tips known as kitchem midden) show that it did at one time in the distant past have an aboriginal population but this ancient population vanished for unknown reasons 5,000 years ago.When the sealers, the British and their captive Tasmanian aborigines arrived, the island had long been empty of human life.
The Way to Wybalenna
Robinson had agreed with governor Arthur that during the "Black Line" operations in October-November 1830 he would establish a temporary station for fleeing Tasmanians on Swan island and that he would also "rescue" (as he saw it) the Tasmanian sealer wives from northeastern parts of Tasmania. The sealers protested voolently and six Tasmanian women had to be returned to their husbands before the end of operations.
Vansittard island (Gun Carriage island)
Robinson arrived at Gun Carriage island in at end of March 1831 with 51 captured Tasmanians. He evicted the sealers and "rescued" two more unwilling Tasmanian sealer wives.
Robinson moved his charges to a new location in 1831, named The Lagoons . This turned out wholly unsuitable (exposed to gales, little fresh water, unsuitable for cultivation, huts threatened by moving sand dunes). After many deaths mostly by disease Robinson was left with only 20 living Tasmanians.
In January 1832 the number of Tasmanians had swelled to 66 again after the arrival of captured North Midlands, North and North-East tribal remnants in August 1831 and of Big River people in January 1832. They had been treated badly and were belligerent on arrival. Trouble also erupted in late January 1832 between Tasmanian groups from different tribes. Sergeant Wight panicked and took the Big River group to Green island where he abandoned them. The same Wight then aggravated the the situation further with those left behind at The Lagoon and in the end he moved all remaining Tasmanians to Green island. Two weeks later Robinson arrived with the new commander of the station, Lieutenant Darling with 8 soldiers. Robinson was horrified at Wight's actions and moved the Tasmanians back to The Lagoons. The Tasmanians were upset at the reddd-coat soldiers which they had learnt to regard as their worst enemies. They and considered their appearance a breach of a promise Robinson had made to them. Robinson himself left soon to go back to caputre more Tasmanians: it was the turn of the western tribes. He handed the already captured group over to Lt. Darling of the red-coats.
Wybalenna ("Black men's houses")
In October 1832 the decision had been taken to build a new camp with more solid buildings at a more suitable location than the catastrophic Lagoons site. Wybalenna - on paper - was a new aboriginal reservation but it fact it was a prison colony and a dumping ground. It was also very badly run. The aboriginal captives were brought there with or without their agreement, and once there, they were either treated like prisoners or simply neglected. Whichever of those two regimes had the upper hand at any one time, one thing remained the same: any legal rights the aborigines might have had on paper or had promised to them remained strictly on paper. In fact, they had no rights. Moreover, Wybalenna camp was in a constant state of change with Robinson sending in streams of new groups he had captured or persuaded to follow him.
In October 1835 Robinson himself took charge of Wybalenna settlement. He organized adequate food supplies and did much to improve the dire housing sitation. But he also tried to exterminate aboriginal culture by replacing it with a sort of "Christian English peasant culture". Reading, writing and arithmetic was tought in new schools along with religious instruction. Some of teachers were Europeans from the settlements, others were aboriginal children who had earlier aquired reading and writing skills at an Orphan School. Attempts were made to "civilize" the natives in other ways: markets were held where the survivors were taught to buy and sell in the hope that they would come to realize the value of property. All were given new, English, names and shown how to to elect their own native police. The experiment failed rapidly when the number of living Tasmanians dwindled because of epidemics.
Wybalenna was abandoned on 18 October 1847 when the last 47 surviving aboriginals were transferred to the Oyster Cove settlement.
The population figures at
Wyballenna fluctuated wildly. New captives were brought in
(above all, of course, by Robinson)
while at the same time the mortality rate was
horrendous. In 1833 there were 111 Tasmanians
living at Wybalenna but when the camp was closed down in
1847 there were only 47 left abs transferred to the Oyster
Cove settlement. . There were usually a roughly equal
number of women and men at Wybalenna. Sometime a few
children were also present but child mortality was even
higher than that of adults and very few who were born at
Wybalenna survived infancy.
The population figures at Wyballenna fluctuated wildly. New captives were brought in (above all, of course, by Robinson) while at the same time the mortality rate was horrendous.
In 1833 there were 111 Tasmanians living at Wybalenna but when the camp was closed down in 1847 there were only 47 left abs transferred to the Oyster Cove settlement. .
There were usually a roughly equal number of women and men at Wybalenna. Sometime a few children were also present but child mortality was even higher than that of adults and very few who were born at Wybalenna survived infancy.
In February 1846 a Petition to Queen Victoria had been signed by 6 inmates of Wybalenna and presented to the Queen in March 1847. Since the 1980s this petition has become a major argument in the legal batttles around the promises that Mr Robinson and Governor Arthur had made to the Tasmanians. One petitioner had written: 'I told the Queen that we had given up our country and came to this Island and we expected in return to have what we wanted'. It was the first petition to a reigning monarch from any aboriginal group, ever, in Australia.The Tasmanian groups today think that the promises they made have been fulfilled but the promises made to them thave not. The matter is still unresolved and poisons the political atmosphere in Tasmania to this day.
Below: Plan of Wybalenna (adapted from L. Ryan. 1996, The Aboriginal Tasmanians, Allen & Unwin, Australia)
The Tasmanian graves were unidentified (apart from a memorial to Mannalargenna). Many graves are said to be empty now and it is thought that many remains were stolen and sold to medical and scientific institutions. It is this bodysnatcher image of science that makes genetic work difficult today. Although frustrating to science and in the long run damaging to the Tasmanians themselves, one does see the Tasmanian's point of view. However, some of the missing remains also appear to have taken secretly by the Tasmanian's themselves and then buried elsewhere.
Little trace of the settlement remains today apart from the chapel and the site of the cemetery. Some proper archaeological exploration has also taken place and one can hope that more will be possible in future as such research would be very much in the interests of the Tasmanians themselves. An area of 126 hectares has been gazetted as Historic Site under the control of the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service has been gazetted so that wild digging and other vandalism is, one hopes, no longer a problem.
Below: a view of Wybalenna 1845 (by Simpkinson de Wesselow)
Below: After closure in 1847 the chapel at Wybalenna stood empty or was used as a storage shed. Its last use until 1973 (when it was restored as a memorial) was as a shearing shed.
3.6. Exile 2: Oyster Cove
The buildings at Oyster Cove were originally built in 1843 on unhealthy mudflats with insufficient drainage and little fishing. The buildings were of wood awhich soon rotted and offered little protection from the icy winds coming from the south.
Initially the station was used initially for white female convicts and later for male convicts. It was abandoned in 1847 when it was found to be unsuited to convicts but still suitable for Tasmanian aborigines. Of the 47 survivors of Wybalenna, 44 reached Oyster Cove in 1847. Initially delighted by the freshly painted houses, tables, bed, chairs and glass windows, he Tasmanians (who had not enjoyed such luxuries at Wybalenna) in trun delighted the settlers of the area with their ceremonial dances. The houses were arranged around a square and the 11 couples lived on one side while the unmarried people lived on the other. The ten children did not live at Oyster Cove but were sent to an orphan school at Hobart, some of them becoming ancestors to what are today the Lia Pootah.
The joy did not last. The authorities had learnt a little from the disaster that was Wybalenna. While regular inspections and better food and other supplies made for a good start, the relentless cultural pressure to turn the aborigines into subservient British servants together with the unhealthy conditions at Oyster covemade life unhappy for the aborigines. In the opinion of what were still in fact British jailers, the aborigines developed too much independence - some even had the nerve to built their own huts and plant their own food! Some women also preferred to prostitute themselves so they could buy alcohol rather than attend the interminable religious instructions. Men also preferred to drink or go hunting in the bush despite the risk that this entailed. The jailers regarded all such independent activities as "recklessness" and "rank ingratitude".
The photograph below smakes painfully obvious that the Tasmanians at Oyster Cove were not a happy people. The sanctimonious preachers and officials that were supposed to "look after" them them did not seem to care or even notice.The name of the photographer and date of the photograph is unknown.
Under such circumstances it is not surprising that the death rate among Tasmanians at Oyster Cove was very high. In 1851 that hunter and collector of Tasmanian aborigines, Robinson, visited Oyster Cove before retiring to England. Nobody had done as much as this man to destroy the Tasmanians.
In 1854 the number of Tasmanians at Oyster Cove was down to 17, in 1855 there were 16 left and in 1869 there was only one. That last aboriginal person at Oyster Cove was "the last Tasmanian Trucanini . She died as the last Oyster cove survivor and probably the last full-blooded Tasmanian in 1876. Even in death Hoiwever, she died at Hobart where she had been moved Trucanini was treated abominably: Famous as the "last Tasmanian", her body was in hot demand by scientists who nobody remembered in the 20th century and whose results (if they hadany) were largely pointless.
Although the hostility of many modern descendants of Tasmanians is irritating and annoying to many scientists (including us at the Andaman Association) but in the light of our knowledge of how the Tasmanians had be treated in the pasby scientists and others, we are not in a strong position to tell the modern Tasmanians what they sould allow and what they should not. We can only offer them the argument that it is as much in their interests to know what science has to say about the past of their people and to allow as much scientific investigation as possible. Scientific evidence carries a weight different from and additional to the weight of moral outrage. The two are not mutually exclusive but can omplement each other. An argumentation of "we knowbest and you must believe us even if we do not have the evidence" " is not convincing in a world where lots of outrages have been committed in the past and where many are still going on at this very moment. If the Tasmanians want to take the world (and not just guilt-ridden whites in Tasmania) to believe them, they need science just as science needs the Tasmanians.
Truganini's name is spelt in many
variants: Trucanini, Trucaninny, Truganini, Trugernanner,
Trugernanna, and she is also known as Lalla
Rooke. Truganini was born around 1812 on
Bruny Island (south of Hobart) the daughter of Mangana,
Chief of the Bruny Island group of the Southeastern
tribe.Before she was eighteen, her mother had been killed by
whalers, her first betrothed died while saving her from
abduction, and in 1828 her two sisters, Lowhenunhue and
Maggerleede were abducted and taken to Kangaroo Island, off
the coast of South Australia and there sold as slaves. Her
first husband Woorrady was still young when they married but
but he died soon. All this had happened when Truganini was
still in her twenties. When Lt-Governor George Arthur
arrived in Van Diemen's Land in 1824, he tried to get the
growing conflict between settlers and the Aborigines under
control by (1) giving bounties for the capture of aboriginal
adults and children, and (2) establishing friendly relations
to persuade the aborigines to enter supervised camps.
Unhappily for Truganini, Arthur started this campaign on
Bruny Island where there had been fewer hostilities than in
other parts of Tasmania. In 1830, George Augustus
"Protector of Aborigines", moved Truganini and her husband
Woorrady to Flinders Island with about one hundred other
surviving Tasmanian aborigines. The stated aim of isolation
was to save the aborigines from the violence of the settlers
and their diseases. However, many of the moved aborigines
died soon from influenza and other diseases. Truganini
helped Robinson with a settlement for mainland aborigines at
Port Phillip (south of modern Melbourne) in 1838. Soon after
she joined the aboriginal rebellion and was sent back to
Flinders Island. In 1847, the 47 surviving Tasmanian
aborigines on Flinders Island, including Truganini, were
moved to a new aboriginal settlement at Oyster
Cove, south of Hobart. In 1873, when Truganini was the
last living survivor of the Oyster Cove group, she was again
moved to Hobart where she died three years later, having
requested that her ashes be scattered in the D'Entrecasteaux
Channel. Although the colonial
administration at the time stated that she was the last
surviving full-blood Tasmanian aborigine, several other
individuals are known to have out-lived Truganini and
produced descendants. The most convincing "last full-blooded
Tasmanian" is Fanny Cochrane
Smith (1834-1905). In complete disregard of her
wishes, Trucanini was first buried at the former "Female
Factory" in a suburb of Hobart in 1876. Within two years,
her skeleton was exhumed by the Royal Society of Tasmania
and put on display in the Hobart Museum but later put into
storage. Only in April 1976, approaching the
centenary of her death, were her remains finally cremated
and scattered according to her
Truganini's name is spelt in many variants: Trucanini, Trucaninny, Truganini, Trugernanner, Trugernanna, and she is also known as Lalla Rooke.
Truganini was born around 1812 on Bruny Island (south of Hobart) the daughter of Mangana, Chief of the Bruny Island group of the Southeastern tribe.Before she was eighteen, her mother had been killed by whalers, her first betrothed died while saving her from abduction, and in 1828 her two sisters, Lowhenunhue and Maggerleede were abducted and taken to Kangaroo Island, off the coast of South Australia and there sold as slaves. Her first husband Woorrady was still young when they married but but he died soon. All this had happened when Truganini was still in her twenties.
When Lt-Governor George Arthur arrived in Van Diemen's Land in 1824, he tried to get the growing conflict between settlers and the Aborigines under control by (1) giving bounties for the capture of aboriginal adults and children, and (2) establishing friendly relations to persuade the aborigines to enter supervised camps. Unhappily for Truganini, Arthur started this campaign on Bruny Island where there had been fewer hostilities than in other parts of Tasmania.
In 1830, George Augustus Robinson, "Protector of Aborigines", moved Truganini and her husband Woorrady to Flinders Island with about one hundred other surviving Tasmanian aborigines. The stated aim of isolation was to save the aborigines from the violence of the settlers and their diseases. However, many of the moved aborigines died soon from influenza and other diseases. Truganini helped Robinson with a settlement for mainland aborigines at Port Phillip (south of modern Melbourne) in 1838. Soon after she joined the aboriginal rebellion and was sent back to Flinders Island. In 1847, the 47 surviving Tasmanian aborigines on Flinders Island, including Truganini, were moved to a new aboriginal settlement at Oyster Cove, south of Hobart.
In 1873, when Truganini was the last living survivor of the Oyster Cove group, she was again moved to Hobart where she died three years later, having requested that her ashes be scattered in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel.
Although the colonial administration at the time stated that she was the last surviving full-blood Tasmanian aborigine, several other individuals are known to have out-lived Truganini and produced descendants. The most convincing "last full-blooded Tasmanian" is Fanny Cochrane Smith (1834-1905).
In complete disregard of her wishes, Trucanini was first buried at the former "Female Factory" in a suburb of Hobart in 1876. Within two years, her skeleton was exhumed by the Royal Society of Tasmania and put on display in the Hobart Museum but later put into storage.
Only in April 1976, approaching the centenary of her death, were her remains finally cremated and scattered according to her wishes.f
Fanny Cochrane was born in 1834 at Wybalenna on Flinders island. Her mother was Tanganutura of the Northeastern tribe and her father Nicermenic from the Robbins Island group of the Northwestern tribe. She is almost certainly the truly "last full-blooded Tasmanian ". Strangely, no native name is known for her and "Fanny Cochrane" might have been the name given to her by Robinson or some other white "decisionmaker" at Wybalenna. In 1847 Fanny Smith was moved with all the other Wybalenna survivors to Oyster Cove.
After the age of 7, Fanny spent the rest of her childhood in white homes and institutions. In 1842 she entered a school at Hobart to learn domestic service skills but disliked the prison-like discipline there. Just as unpleasant was her time at the Flinders Island home of a preacher where she lived in squalid conditions. Work as domestic servant under similar conditions followed. In 1847 the survivors of Wybalenna were removed to Oyster Cove.
In 1854 Fanny Cochrane became Fanny Cochrane Smith when she married William Smith, an English lawyer and ex-convict in Hobart.
Fanny always stayed in close touch with her family and when she was given 100 acres land by government grant she selected a plot of land near Oyster Cove to be near her family. The grant was a government compensation to aboriginal persons. However, Fanny did not completely "go white" and continued to practice and teach the traditional skills of hunting, stringing shell necklaces and basket-making. She and her husband raised a large family of 11 children and they became a mainstay of the little community in the D'Entrecasteaux Channel region as well as the ancestors of a large percentage of the present aboriginal community in Tasmania.
After her marriage Fanny received a government annuity of £24. She and her husband ran a boarding-house in Hobart that the family from Oyster Cove also visited sometimes. Later, the couple moved to her land near Oyster Cove where their son William Henry was born in 1858. Five more boys and five girls followed. Her mother often lived in Fanny's house while Truganini and William Lanne as well as other Oyster Bay people were also frequent guests there. The family grew their own food but derived their income from timber.
After Truganini's death in 1876 Fanny had every right to claim to be the last surviving full-blooded Tasmanian aborigine. Parliament recognized her claim and increased her annuity to £50 and in 1889 gave her a free grant of 121 ha. Why her claims to be the last full-blooded Tasmanian have received so little attention is one of the numerous mysteries of Tasmanian history.
Fanny continued to hunt and gather bush foods and medicines, make baskets, dive for shellfish and carry out Aboriginal religious observances. Proud of her Aboriginal identity, she also moved with confidence in the white Tasmanian world. Thge couple were early converts to Methodism in their area and one of their sons became a lay preacher. Church services were held in Fanny's kitchen until a church was built on land which she donated. She was active in fund-raising and hosted the annual Methodist picnic with people travelling long distances to sample her cooking and to see her perform Aboriginal songs and dances.
Fanny Cochrane Smith died at Cygnet, about 15 km WSW of Oyster Cove, on 24 February 1905, two years after the death of her husband.
In 1899 and 1903 Fanny
Smith recorded songs on wax cylinders that are now
held in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (from
where the photograph below also comes). These are
the only recordings ever made of Tasmanian
aboriginal songs and speeches The original recording of
Fanny's songs was the subject of a 1998 song by
Australian folk singer Bruce
Watson, The Man and
the Woman and the Edison Phonograph. Watson's
grandfather, Horace Watson, had been responsible
for making the Smith recordings.
In 1899 and 1903 Fanny
Smith recorded songs on wax cylinders that are now
held in the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (from
where the photograph below also comes). These are
the only recordings ever made of Tasmanian
aboriginal songs and speeches
The original recording of Fanny's songs was the subject of a 1998 song by Australian folk singer Bruce Watson, The Man and the Woman and the Edison Phonograph. Watson's grandfather, Horace Watson, had been responsible for making the Smith recordings.
William Lanne (also known as King Billy or William Laney) lived from ca. 1835 to 3 March 1869 and was the third husband of Truganini. He is best known for being the last full- blooded Tasmanian male. Lanne was the youngest child of the last family captured and brought to Wybalenna by Robinson. His native name is lost, probably because at 7 he was too young when arriving at Wybalenna and so the English name William he was given there stuck.
Lanne was captured along with his family in 1842 and taken to the Aboriginal camp at Wybalennaby George Augustus Robinson. In 1847 he was among the survivors of Wybalenna to be moved to Oyster Cove. He did not stay there long but was sent to an orphanage in Hobart in 1851. In 1855 he joined a whaling ship to become a professional sailor. As such he was away from Tasmania for extened periods but he visited Oyster Cove when he had shore leave.
Lanne died on 3 March 1869 from a combination of cholera and dysentery in Tasmania. His body suffered amongst the worst indignities inflicted by scientists on any Tasmanian. It is one of the reasons why modern Tasmanian groups are extremely suspicious of the movtives of modern scientists, This is regrettable - but om view of the grisly facts, understandable. The subsequent events have been described as follows (from David Davies, 1973"The last of the Tasmanians", Frederick Muller, London. 235-6):
Dr. Crowther of the hospital vainly applied to the Government for permission to send the skeleton to the Royal College of Surgeons in London. However, a rather macabre note was struck at Lanne's funeral, for it was found that the head of the corpse was missing. During the night after the burial the rest of the body was dug up and several parts removed. Crowther was blamed for the removal of the head and his honorary appointment as surgeon at the Colonial Hospital terminated, but it is interesting to note that the Council of the Royal College of Surgeons awarded him during 1869 a gold medal and a Fellowship of the College, the first instance of an Australian having been given this honour.
The missing skull was never found.
During the subsequent inquiry it dawned on the he aboriginal Tasmaniansa just how easily any of them could be dissected in the colony's main hospital with parts being sent off to England at the whim of the local doctors. The scandal caused the introduction of new laws to prevent such abuse.
Life at Oyster cove aboriginal station, painted ca. 1849 by Charles Edward Stanley (original in National Library of Australia).
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