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Living with the Locals: Early Europeans’ Experience of Indigenous Life

Of recent times there is much material being compiled looking back at the very early days of Europeans settling in Australia and the tragic effect that it had on the Indigenous population. In Living with the Natives a very carefully researched body of evidence is being presented, which places a completely different light on many of the stories relating to some of the many individuals, who were taken into care by Indigenous peoples when they were often found wandering their lands, starving, dehydrated and near to death.

It is considered that in the first instance the appearance of a pale skinned person on their lands was one of deep concern; who were they, what did they want and why did they not understand the very clear land and tribal laws that were in place. It was then considered these ‘lost’ peoples could well be ancestors or reborn kin returning to their lands, in the guise of pale skinned peoples.

This attitude saw these ‘lost’ people, men, women and boys taken into the tribe, cared for, taught how to become a member of the community and generally made welcome.

In some cases these people remained with the tribes for many, many years and in others only a few years. A number of the people, upon their return to their ‘civilised’ communities, were encouraged to tell their stories.  These stories where written up in the papers, presented in talks to the community but surprisingly, many who had returned to settled towns were somewhat reluctant to talk about this time in their lives.

Therefore, much of the recorded history in relation to these events is considered to be via second or third parties and while the basics are considered to be relatively factual, there has always been much left open to conjecture.

As Maynard and Haskins, one indigenous and one not, have worked their way through the various written stories, they have come up with an interesting and intriguing look at life in Australia, when things did not always go to plan.

The many stories retold those of John Wilson ‘Bunboe’, William Buckley ‘Marrangurk’, Eliza Fraser, Barbara Thompson ‘Giom’ and Narcisse Pelletier ‘Anco’ along with many others, make fascinating reading, presenting an aspect of early Australian history not often recognised.

This work presents an enlightening look at both sides of the story, allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions as to the eventual outcomes presented. History is and always will be, coloured by the various cultures and social dictates, when the ‘facts’ were recorded.

Allowing for all the many changes since the early 1800’s, the stories told are such that they call for a pause to reflect and give another, perhaps more balanced look, at times long gone and the legacy left behind.

Balancing the intriguing stories are many sketches and illustrations, excerpts from letters and papers which alone, make fascinating viewing and help paint an even more interesting portrait of times and people long gone and sometimes, occasionally remembered.

 

 

Author John maynard and Victoria Haskins
Publisher NLA Publishing
ISBN 9780642278951
Website http:/www.nla.gov.au
Distributor NLA Publishing
Released November 2016