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Aboriginal Implements.

— A correspondent, "Bushman," writes as follows to the Traralgon (Victoria) Record of 5th June, 1917. I am obliged to my friend, Mr. W.G. Piper, for the reference.

The evidence that connects our time with that of the aboriginal is rapidly vanishing, and in another generation or two will have entirely disappeared, at least as far as our forest relies are concerned.

The relics in stone will probably endure for all time, and are still fairly plentiful, even in this district, where the native population was never very large. Occasionally a "Mogo" or native axe is found, and spear flakes, scrapers, and skimming knives in red or grey quartzite can easily be found by the "seeing eye" for such things. The absence of "Kitchen middens" may be taken as good evidence that this part of Victoria was never largely used by the aborigines as a dwelling place, but we have ample evidence in the traces remaining that wandering parties used it from time to time in their hunting expeditions, or when the resistless call to the "walk about" came upon these restless people.

The statement that the aboriginal did not use the bark of the Red Gum tree for canoe making is an error. There were probably more canoes made from this particular specimen of the Eucalyptus family than any other, for the simple reason that Eucalyptus rostrata was generally to be found when it was most required for such purposes-near to water-and the aborigines made the best use of the material at hand, thus unwittingly carrying out the first principles of engineering. Down the whole length of the Murray River, from Tintaldra. to the Goolwa, canoe trees, i.e., Red Gum tree, from which bark has been removed to make canoes, are very numerous, also along the lower Goulburn, particularly from Shepparton to Echuca, they are very plentiful.

Even to-day, three or four can often be seen from one position-sometimes two or more have been removed from the same tree, one above the other. After the Red Gum, the Stringybark (E. macrorrhyncha. — J.H.M.) was the most used, particularly about the Tambo, Nicholson, and Upper Mitchell Rivers, and in fact, wherever that particular tree was found near to the larger waterways.

About Old South GippsIand, comprising Tarraville, Port Albert, Welshpool, and Corner Inlet, I believe the Stringybark was exclusively used for the same reason.




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So, taken broadly, throughout Victoria, southern New South Wales, and lower South Australia Red Gum or Stringybark canoes were used, the former predominating. These two classes of canoes differed very much in construction, a difference necessitated by the adaptability of the material used.

The process of making a Stringybark canoe was as follows:- Usually a small-sized tree was selected, when a choice was available, generally something under 2 feet in diameter. The bark, for a length of 10 or 12 feet was entirely removed. The ends were then steamed over a fire, rendering it tough and pliant. Each end was then gathered together and securely tied with rope made from the inner skin of the same tree. All remaining chinks or openings were carefully closed up with clay. One or more spreader sticks were fixed across the middle to keep the sides out, and the canoe was complete. The process with the Red Gum bark was entirely different, as the material was not amenable to the same treatment. The bark could not be steamed, gathered, and tied, as it is without grain, and very brittle. To make a canoe, a tree was always selected having a bend or bulge, and a piece of bark, including this bend or bulge, was carefully removed, and the canoe was complete in one operation, as when the bark was laid on its back, so to speak, the ends projected out of the water. Of course this was a very primitive kind of craft, but all the canoes used along the Murray and other streams as above mentioned, were of this type. On every Red Gum canoe tree, wherever found, the bark was stripped from the " knuckle " or back of the tree, and never from a flat or concave side. This may be taken as a safe guide and the genuine canoe tree distinguished from one that may have had bark removed for some other purpose, or one on which the bark had died through the ravages of some insect, or through being struck by lightning. Many authentic canoe trees are preserved here and there, all presenting the above characteristics . about which there can be no doubt.

There is one standing in the reserve between the Melbourne Cricket Ground and Punt-road, Richmond, bearing an inscription stating that a canoe was made from the tree about the time the first white settler arrived in Port Phillip.

A few years ago, the marks of the "Mogo" or stone axe, could be plainly seen, but time and the elements have done their work, and I don't think the marks are now discernible.

Some genuine canoe trees, all Red Gum, at least half-a-dozen I should say, are to be seen to-day along the Latrobe River, between Sale and the entrance to Lake Wellington. These can be seen from the steamer passing down the river, on the northerly bank-anyone interested in the subject can see for themselves what a genuine canoe tree looks like.

According to Brough Smyth (Aboriginals of Victoria, i, 299), this is one of the woods used by the aboriginals for making their clubs or waddies (kud-jer-oongs or Gudgerons).

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