Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Gambu Ganuurru, or Cumbo Gunnerah of the Gunn-e-darr tribe

According to Wikipedia, Gambu Ganuurru, or Cumbo Gunnerah in an older spelling, also known as the Red Chief, or Red Kangaroo was a Kamilaroi [Gamilaraay] man who lived in the area nowknown as town of Gunnedah in the 18th Century.

He had a reputation as a warrior and wise leader of the Gunn-e-darr tribe.

He was buried in the mid 1700s in a manner befitting a Kamilaroi man of great importance; in a sitting position, backed by a tree carved with totemic designs. The stories of his unsurpassed bravery, achievements and adventures were handed down through the generations and his burial place was treated with great respect.

In 1887 the town's doctor arranged for the remains of Gambu Ganuurru to be dug up, and later sent them, along with a slab of what was locally known as The Blackfellow’s Tree, to the Australian Museum.

As custom demanded his silence, "Old Joe" Bungaree [born ca. 1817], the last full-blooded Aborigine of the Gunn-e-darr tribe, was unwilling to talk about his great leader. It was only just before he died that he decided to confide in his friend, J P Ewing, the local Police Sergeant.The Sergeant's son Stan Ewing (1878-1938) recorded this information and passed it on to other historians. Gambu Ganuurru soon became recognised as a great Aboriginal leader, his story appearing in The Sydney Mail in 1891.

Writer Ion Idriess wrote The Red Chief first published in 1953, which became a best-seller of its day. The tag 'Red Chief' was coined by Idriess; it is not used in the source documents (see O'Rourke 2005).

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