The Languages and Customs of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia
By James Dawson
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year: 2009
Online Publication Date:September 2010
Original Publication Year:1881
Chapter DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511706127.006
Subjects: Physical anthropology , Historical Linguistics
Every tribe has its chief, who is looked upon in the light of a father, and whose authority is supreme. He consults with the best men of the tribe, but when he announces his decision, they dare not contradict or disobey him.
Great respect is paid to the chiefs and their wives and families. They can command the services of everyone belonging to their tribe. As many as six young bachelors are obliged to wait on a chief, and eight young unmarried women on his wife; and, as the children are of superior rank to the common people, they also have a number of attendants to wait on them. No one can address a chief or chiefess without being first spoken to, and then only by their titles as such, and not by personal names, or disrespectfully. Food and water, when brought to the camp, must be offered to them first, and reeds provided for each in the family to drink with; while the common people drink in the usual way. Should they fancy any article of dress, opossum rug, or weapon, it must be given without a murmur.
If a chief leaves home for a short time he is always accompanied by a friend, and on his return is met by two men, who conduct him to his wuurn. At his approach every one rises to receive him, and remains silent till he speaks; they then inquire where he has been, and converse with him freely.