An engravng of
An engravng of "Pimbloy [Pemulwuy]: native of New Holland in a canoe of that country, 1804" by SJ Neele. Pemulwuy is regarded as Australia's first Aboriginal resistance leader. State Library of NSW

Remembering our indigenous warriors

MOST Australians could name at least two or three well-known Native American warriors. Sitting Bull who defeated Custer at Little Big Horn, Crazy Horse and Geronimo are all renowned in history for their bravery and military feats. But can you name any Aboriginal warriors?

The names Pemulwuy, Windradyne, Tarenorerer (aka Walyer) are not well known in Australia today but they are Aboriginal heroes and in Tarenorerer's case, a heroine of the Frontier Wars.

The Frontier Wars is the description given to the early resistance by Aboriginal people against the invading Europeans.

When describing the arrival of the British in Australia the word settlement is often used. This denotes a peaceful process of the British claiming Australia as their own. However, the reality was far different.

Aboriginal people never ceded sovereignty of Australia and many warriors fought long and hard to keep the British at bay.

Spears and nulla nullas though, were no match for the muskets of the invaders. This fact did not stop Aboriginal warriors from waging war that hindered the British for years.

Bidgigal man, Pemulwuy who was thought to be born around 1750 in the Botany Bay area, was one of the first resistance leaders. His campaign of resistance commenced two years after the arrival of the First Fleet. Given that his club foot was said to be caused by a deliberate injury, Pemulwuy was thought to be a "Clever Man" a term used to describe an Aboriginal person gifted with extraordinary and mystical powers.

Pemulwuy waged war around the Prospect, Parramatta, Toongabbie, Georges river and Hawkesbury river areas. He led over a 100 men in the "Battle of Parramatta" where fighting took place against government troops.

Known as a brave and brilliant military strategist, Pemulwuy was eventually shot and killed in 1802 . His head cut off and reportedly sent to England.

Windradyne born in 1800, was a Wiradjuri man who waged war for many years.

His attacks around the Bathurst area, were so consistent and deadly that martial law was declared in 1824 and troop numbers increased.

However, that same year Windradyne also known as Saturday, was pardoned by Governor Brisbane. Although Windrayne died in 1829, his name lives on in a suburb being named after him.

Tarenorerer was a Tommeginne woman, born at Emu Bay in Tasmania, around the same time as Windradyne.

As a teenager Tarenorerer was sold into slavery to white sealers on the Bass Strait Islands. During this time she learnt to speak fluent English and became very familiar with the use of firearms.

Returning to her homeland in 1928 she quickly organised men and women from many different claims to form an group to conduct war against the luta tawin (white men) until 1830. She died in 1831 from influenza on Gun Carriage Island, almost forgotten by history.

Another Aboriginal warrior hero is Yagan a Noongar man from south of Perth, who has been honoured by a public space in the CBD of Perth being named after him - Yagan Square. Jandamarra too, is another Western Australian warrior (from the Kimberley).

He is also held in high regard by Aboriginal people in the area for his stance against the non-indigenous intruders.

Of course there are many many more, heroes whose deeds and names are lost to history but never the less fought to protect their homeland.

Giinagay Jinggiwahla ("hello" in our first nation languages) is a weekly column covering the Indigenous communities of the Clarence Valley exploring a variety of topics, opinions and events across our first nation areas Bundjalung, Yaegl and Gumbaynggirr.

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