The Native Tribes of South-East Australia


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At the time I knew the [Dieri] tribe in 1862–63, the principal headman was one Jalina-piramurana, the head of the kunaura totem, and he was recognized as the head of the Dieri tribe. Subsequently Mr. S. Gason, as an officer of the South Australian Mounted Police, was stationed in the Dieri country for six years, and was well acquainted with this man. He has described him to me as a man of persuasive eloquence, a skillful and brave fighting man, and a powerful medicine man. From his polished manner the whites called him "the Frenchman." He was greatly feared by his own and the neighboring tribes. Neither his brothers (both of them inferior to him in bravery and oratorical power) nor the elder men presumed to interfere with his will, or to dictate to the tribe, except in minor matters. He decided disputes, and his decisions were received without appeal. The neighboring tribes sent messengers to him with presents of bags, pitcheri, red ocher, skins, and other things. He decided when and where the tribal ceremonies were to be held, and his messengers called together the tribe from a radius of a hundred miles to attend them, or to meet on intertribal matters.

His wonderful oratorical powers made his hearers believe anything he told them, and always ready to execute his commands. He was not by nature cruel or treacherous, as were many of the Dieri, and when not excited was considerate, patient, and very hospitable. No one spoke ill of Jalina-piramurana, but on the contrary with respect and reverence. This is understood when Mr. Gason adds that he distributed the presents sent to him amongst his friends to prevent jealousy. He used to interfere to prevent fights, even chastising the offender, and being sometimes wounded in so doing. On such an occasion there would be great lamentation, and the person who had wounded him was not infrequently beaten by the others.

As the superior headman of the Dieri, he presided at the meetings of the pinnarus [heads of totems], sent out messengers to the neighboring tribes, and even had the power of giving away young women, not related to him, in marriage, of separating men from their wives, when they could not agree, and of making fresh matrimonial arrangements.

He periodically visited the various hordes of the Dieri tribe, from which he also periodically received presents. Tribes even at a distance of a hundred miles sent him presents, which were passed on to him from tribe to tribe. . . .

He was at Lake Hope (Pando) as I was returning to the South Australian settlements, and, to use the language of the present day, interviewed me, together with a deputation of his pinnarus, with two requests. The first was, that I would go with him and kill all the "Kunabura-kana," that is, men of Kunabura, who were "malingki kana," that is, bad men; the second, that I would tell the white men who were coming up to his country, according to the information sent him by the tribes further down, that they should "sit down on the one side of Pando, and the Kana would sit down on the other, so that they would not be likely to quarrel."1

1Howitt, A.W.n/an/an/an/a, , 297–299 (The Macmillan Company. By permission).


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Chicago: "The Native Tribes of South-East Australia," The Native Tribes of South-East Australia in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed September 22, 2023,

MLA: . "The Native Tribes of South-East Australia." The Native Tribes of South-East Australia, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 22 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , 'The Native Tribes of South-East Australia' in The Native Tribes of South-East Australia. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 September 2023, from