Mari nawi ("big canoes"): Aboriginal voyagers in Australia's maritime history, 1788-1855
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 03:02 by Keith Vincent Smith
The English ships that came into Port Jackson in 1788 changed the lives of the Indigenous People forever. Theirs was a canoe culture and saltwater, as much as the land, was their natural habitat. The alien invaders dispossessed them of their land and brought the smallpox virus that, within two years, killed more than half the original population. -- Driven by the will to survive, many among the surviving Aborigines proved to be resilient. In an unexpected way, the English ships would enable them to adapt to the new reality and to make the transition from bark canoes to ocean-going ships. -- This thesis charts the life experiences of those who remade their lives and played a significant role in Australia's early maritime history, actively assisting the colonists to explore and settle their own country. -- The study focus is on Indigenous People who sailed through Port Jackson in the period 1788-1855. It brings to the foreground men and women whose contribution has never been properly acknowledged, adding the names of some 65 Aboriginal voyagers from Port Jackson, Botany Bay and the Hawkesbury and Shoalhaven rivers to our shared history. -- They would become boatmen, sailors, sealers, whalers and pilots, guides, go-betweens and trackers, valued for their skills and knowledge. Their assistance and cooperation contributed to the fledgling colonial economy. In later years some were officially created 'chiefs' and given land grants, fishing boats and gorgets. -- They were present at critical events as they followed the expanding geography of exploration and the establishment of settlements like Newcastle, Hobart and Melbourne. -- Some, like Bennelong and Bungaree, are famous, but the majority are unknown. -- This work is the result of three years of research, following a paper trail of scattered primary documents: ship's musters, logs, official journals and despatches, petitions, shipping arrival and departures records, shipping news and Claims and Demand notices. It draws on oral, linguistic, pictorial, anthropological and genealogical evidence. -- Fresh research has clarified some historical facts and corrected some longstanding errors.