Thursday, May 7, 2009

NSW Greats 3 - Pemulwuy, Windradyne and Gambu Gunuurru

High time we had some aboriginal representation in this list. 

Pemulwuy, of the Eora people is probably the best known of the resistance fighters and the earliest.  From the Mabo Native Title website:

Pemulwuy was an Eora man, his people immediately affected by the settlement of the Port Jackson area. From 1790 until 1802 Pemulwuy waged a remarkably brave and successful guerilla resistance in what has now become the city of Sydney. His military exploits included attacks on the major inland British settlements of Toongabbie and Parramatta. Eora people credited him with a magical invincibility. He was ambushed, shot and beheaded in 1802.

I once attended a talk by a knowledge keeper of the Dharawal people and his wife (an Irish woman who was researching the uses of indigenous plants).  She/they had some interesting things to say about Pemulwuy.  Apparently Pemulwuy's mother was a knowledge keeper re the medicinal uses of local plants.  Apparently on a number of occassions the colonial authorities thought that Pemulwuy was dead or sure to die and released his body for burial by his family but with treatment by his mother he recovered. They said that on at least one occassion his mother was let in to see the mortally wounded Pemulwuy as he died, then allowed to take his body away.  The assertion was that his mother knew a herb that suppressed the vital signs faking death and she used it.   This same herb was being or to be researched for use in surgery in modern medicine.  I have to say, it felt wrong to describe him as a great  New South Welshman. He was a great Eora man,  born in his own country and nothing to do really with the modern State of NSW.   That aside, he deserves his place here on this list of greats. 

There is also an interesting article about Pemulwuy on the smh website.  This is a link to Pemulwuy's entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Again from the Mabo Native Title website - they seem to have a nice succint way to tell the story:

Windradyne was a Wiradjuri, from the central western New South Wales. In the years 1822-3 he and his fellows raided settlers, killing some and terrifying all. The Government's determined response had left 100 Wiradjuri dead by mid 1824, including Windradyne's family. As the hunt for Windradyne continued, several hundred Wiradjuri were killed or wounded along the western side of the Great Dividing Range. The toll was great, and Windradyne and his people soon made a peace accord with Governor Brisbane at a ceremony in Parramatta.

Like Pemulwuy he has an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, so I have linked there here.  And an excellent detailed (and yet accessible) paper on Windradyne and other resistance leaders from other States here.

Gambu Ganuurru or "red kangaroo" was a great war chief and wise leader of the Kamilaroi prior to white colonisation of Australia. His lands were around the area which is now Gunnedah NSW.   Please follow the link in the title to the wikipedia article on Gambu Ganuurru.  Ion Idriess wrote about this great indigenous leader in The Red Chief - which I am happy to recommend, especially for people venturing out Gunnedah way.  The way Ion Idriess tells it, the security and defence  preparedness of Gambu Ganuurru's tribe had been neglected when he was coming of age, but he saw the peril, proved himself and went on to be a great leader.  I know that's pretty thin, but I don't want to ruin things for people reading the book. ...sorry...

There is a memorial to Gambu Ganuurru near Gunnedah NSW. 

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