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The Past | The Previous

the other side of the frontier by henry reynolds.

to the eora standing in the harbour that would become the beacon of sydney, the tall ships that came in with white men were thronged with ghosts, returned family members and enemies, having travelled the oceans back home. in the aboriginal mythos, everything touched the dreamtime, everything was part of it, and these boats, drifting in off the horizon were to be taken in their stride. the only real problem was that the ghosts of their friends and enemies, were, for some unknown reason, clothed and unable to recognise them.

pity. and somehow, i don't know if all adds up. if the aborigines thought that these were ghosts, then why ask if they are male or female, and have a dick flashed on the beach? it's hard to say, i guess, and you never know how much was lost in translation. after all, once they flashed their dick, the english claim the eora offered them their women to have a bit of fun with.

but back to reynolds's book, which is pretty much how the aborigines delt with the settlement of australia (or conquest, depends on your view). it pretty much looks at that whole first year, and is filled with some quite interesting psychological points. aboriginal fighting with the english, according to reynolds's didn't really kick in until the 1830's, when the whole ghost/returned ancestors started to die off, and the new generation of aborigines were saying, uh huh. wait a minute.

chapters go as:

explorers and before

first sights, european commodities, straying animals, information, linguistic diffusion, firearms, a castaway, meeting explorers, and aboriginal curiosity fill in the sub chapters of this, the first contact business.

funny story in this book: one of the explorers, i forget who, is sitting and writing that you never know when an aborigine is around you, and that you must always be wary, for though you may not see them, they are watching. shortly after this, a spear was thrown into him.

well, it made me chuckle.

continuity and change

ghosts, countrymen and relatives, 'nothing but men', linguistic change, painting, music and dance, domestic animals, european artifacts, white men's food, guns, introduced disease, and self confidence.

one of the interesting things of note in this, is the only disease that the aborigines went to the white people to get treated, early on, was for STD's, believing that this was a pure white man thing. odd, huh? it might only be venereal disease, i think.

resistance: motives and objectives.

land ownership, dispossession, reciprocity vs private property, sexual competition, revenge, three celebrated attacks, overview, sorcery.

perhaps the most interesting bit of this chapter, is the psychological calmness that sorcery gave the aboriginal communities. without brute strength, it was the clever men with whom gave the tribes their strength to keep fighting, for they put spells and such on the settlers.

resistance: tactics and traditions.

massed warriors, guns, revenge parties, surveillance, bushcraft, new tactics, economic warfare, diminution, the impact of resistance, destitution, 'going it', attempted negotiation, bandits, death toll, demographic decline.

this chapter deals mainly with the actual fighting. one of the interesting things to note was the emergence of aboriginal bushrangers, often half black men. to these few that are mentioned, reynolds's relates that most did not see themselves as aboriginal--and that often, they started off in the police, but left in frustration.

the politics of contact

attraction, young vs old, control of women, white pressure, leadership, the discipline of labour, unwilling wage labourers, trade, prostitution, begging, the caste barrier, resistance to assimilation, affirmation.

here, i believe, we have the main reason for the aboriginal tribal life declining: their youths would wake up and see a different, new world across from them, one not as controlled by the elders as was the one they were in.

the pastoral frontier.

initial encounters, water, black shepherds, cattle hunters, co-originated attacks, accommodation, stockmen and concubines.

of interest: when a white man slept with an aboriginal woman, the tribe assumed that him and they were tied together, and that they had use of his stuff in the sharing life that they, the aborigines, lead.

also, aborigine women were often used as spies. their women, though reynolds's doesn't say it, had life tough. on white and black sides.

other frontiers

sea coasts, farming districts, gold rushes, mission stations, frontier towns.

and all the others. some of the coastal tribes made money through prostitution their women to sailors diving for pearls and such. anyhow. that's the basic rundown of this little book.

quote: "how, then, do we deal with the aboriginal dead? white australians frequently say 'all that' should be forgotten. but it will not be. it cannot be. black memories are too deeply, too recently scarred. and forgetfulness is a strange prescription coming from a community which has revered the fallen warrior and emblazoned the phrase 'lest we forget' on monuments throughout the land."