The Bones Speak
Fake Memories … keep them alive … Lest they forget.
True Memories … keep them dead … Lest they know.
Never let the bones speak.
I can’t remember what happened first, seeing the skull with the bullet hole, or my birthday party with the killed Originals living people, my classmates.
I was allowed, to invite anyone I wanted so I invited some Originals from my school, Mungindi Central, hoping for boomerangs and spears as presents. Mum was caught unawares when they arrived in Sunday best and neatly wrapped white boy presents. I remember a happy time with cake, cordial and games. We laughed and spun each other about as we played pin the tail on the donkey.
Showed me forgotten deeds that shaped the present we live in. It’s not that hard to imagine what might have happened.
As a child, I hunted wild boar with my dad on properties around Mungindi. Wounded pigs, sometimes squealed in pain and terror, these we dispatched with a shot to the head, not thinking much of it. Ridding the farmers land of feral pigs was a good deed, which we enjoyed due to the exhilarating emotions associated with hunting dangerous animals.
The Original, was killed by a shot to the head. Possibly in similar manner to our killing pigs and for similar reason. To free the land so the farmer’s society could eat from it without competition from ‘feral pests’.
From my clouded childhood memory, the farmer relayed some things he said the Mungindi police told him, some historical typical depiction of how such skulls came to be, I think it included a pickaninny or nigger, and a tree. The skull could have been from an adolescent, I can’t recall clearly. (Childhood memories at 50 years old are not reliable) It seems the police didn't keep the skull at the time as the farmer obviously had it to show us. That surely wouldn't be the case now, this was outback New South Wales in the 70's.
This history, this ground under our feet. It’s the only land we can walk on. It’s the only soil we can grow in. But we need to know it to do so.
One unearthed skull represents more than an isolated killing, it shows part of the Aussie frontier’s way of expansion. To get more land, those already using it had to be removed. The Originals needed the land to survive and couldn’t leave, so they were killed and forced into subservience.
In Queensland alone, more Aboriginals were killed than Australian soldiers died in World War One. This was to facilitate pastoral frontier expansion.
Image source http://kokoda.commemoration.gov.au/about-the-kokoda-track/bomana-cemetery.php
Surviving official records indicate that the activities of the Queensland Native (mounted) Police killed at least 40 000 Originals in 40 years. This is calculated from historical records, researched over many years, by various people. Prof Raymond Evans conservatively extrapolated from officially recorded killings to arrive at over fourty thousand killed.
Eighty five Queensland Native Police barracks were established over 40 years. Each was in service for an average of 7 years.
Barracks like these above moved across Queensland as the pastoral frontier moved. Documents show there were at least 3420 violent clashes killing an average of 12.7 Aboriginals each time. Hence over 40 000 Aboriginals killed while driving them off their lands. This was to enable pastoral expansion (and resultant profits) and it included subjecting those not killed, to the invading conquerors, so the farmers would be safe.
Two decades of barracks. Notice the shift to the north and west. The picture links to the source.
Back then, sanitised depictions of the ongoing ‘war’ with the Originals was public knowledge. This picture depicting a skirmish in Queensland was printed in a Victorian Newspaper. The article with the picture can be read here: http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/60096442
A more realistic picture may be imagined by looking at this photo of New South Wales Native Police and reading the account below.
Full details are seldom found due to a ‘code of silence’. Accordingly accounts describing the nature of such raids are rare. However, one participant, Jack Kane told anthropologist Norman Tindale how combined Queensland (mounted) Native Police and colonists’ raids, lasting a week, slaughtered Aborigines at Skull Pocket, along the Mulgrave River and at Woree near Cairns. Tindale recorded in his diary:
"each man [was] armed with a rifle and revolver. At dawn one man fired into their camp [at Skull Pocket] and the natives rushed away in three other directions. They were easy running shots close up. The native police rushed in with their scrub knives and killed off the children. ... ‘I didn’t mind the killing of the “bucks” but I didn’t quite like them braining the kids’…” 49
"This describes a picture of undeclared ethnic warfare, fought pre-emptively and ferociously, with no declared rules of engagement or agreed parameters. It is a territorial, unscrupulous, terrorising, scrappy and dirty conflict, replete with genocidal incidents. In many areas it appears to have been fought almost to the finish – and these candid perpetrator and witness stories match in their flavour the accusatory reports of colonial whistle-blowers who in larger numbers write, mostly anonymously to the press, invariably fruitlessly to the Queensland government ...” (Quoted from, Passionate histories : myth, memory and Indigenous Australia / edited by Frances Peters-Little, Ann Curthoys and John Docker.)
So when did the Queensland Mounted Police patrol and kill near Mungindi? It seems they didn’t, so whoever pulled the trigger, putting a hole through that skull in the farmers hands was not a member of the Queensland Native Mounted Police. Perhaps it was the NSW police before Queensland was established in 1859, or perhaps not.
The expanding of the ‘pastoral frontier’ was also accomplished by the guns of colonial troops, settler militia and raiding parties but much of that memory is now ashes as many bodies were burned to destroy evidence of the murders. So, only surviving accounts and the bones that weren’t burned, still ‘speak’ of it.