chapter  4
23 Pages

The social and historical background of the

ByWellesley Islands

As mentioned, in 1914 a Presbyterian Mission was established on Mornington Island. The sole inhabitants were the Lardil. The island was divided into approximately thirty Countries or Estates. There were four larger cardinal divisions – the northern people, eastern people, southern people and western people. In addition there was a moiety division of Windward and Leeward. The heart of the Windward moiety was in the south and that of the Leeward was in the north. The neighbouring Yangkaal of the Forsyth Islands (including Denham Island) were included in this division with some of them being Windward and some Leeward. Despite this inclusion, and ties of marriage and kinship, there were lethal fights with the Yangkaal, particularly between the southern Lardil and the Yangkaal. One such affray arose from the Yangkaal accusing the Lardil of Sydney Island of being responsible for a cyclone which devastated the islands. In addition there were clashes between the Yangkaal and neighbouring mainland tribes (Dick Roughsey 1971: 69-72; Trigger 1992: 23-24, 226-34). The Lardil population was approximately 230 and the Yangkaal numbered about 70. People tended to live in small camps in their own Country or cardinal area.9 Occasionally there were larger gatherings when they collected water-lilies, or waited for the seasonal dulnhu fish, or met for an initiation ceremony, or attended a ‘square up’ (a ritualized fight) at a salt pan.