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

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Hunter Valley Aboriginal Groups

Aboriginal language map

This brief post focuses on the Aborigines of Southern New England.

If you look at this map of Aboriginal language groups you can see that a number of language groups occupied the Hunter Valley. This is unusually varied for a single area.

In the north the Worimi occupied territory extending along the northern bank of the Hunter up to near Maitland and then a broad sweep of the coast up to and including what is now Foster-Tuncurry along with adjacent hinterland following the streams up into the hills to the east.

This was rich territory because it combined hinterland with extensive coastal lands including Port Stephens and the Great Lakes.

To the east and north west were the Geawegal, often confused by Sydneysiders with the Gweagal. According to Tindale, the Geawegal occupied the northern tributaries of the Hunter River to Murrurundi; at Muswellbrook, Aberdeen, Scone, and Mount Royal Range. Tindale also suggests that they were affiliated with the Worimi. This would make sense.

Given suggestions that the Kamilaroi may have been extending into the Upper Hunter, the Geawegal would have been the affected language group. According to the Tindale data base, there are also linguistic similarities between Kamilaroi and Geawegal.

The Awabakal occupied the territory from the southern edge of the lower Hunter River and included Lake Macquarie. They therefore occupy the most southern catchment recommended by Justice Nicholson for inclusion in New England.

The Wonnarua were neighbours of the Geawegal and occupied territory inland from the Awabakal covering part of the mid-Hunter valley including Muswellbrook.

The Darkinung (also Tindale's Darkinjang) were primarily a non-New England tribe. However, the map suggests that their territory did actually extend into the Hunter to some degree, including Cessnock.

On the west, the territory of the Dakinung, Wonnarua and, to a small degree, the Geawegal all adjoined the Wiradjuri, one of the largest tribal group in Australia whose territory extended west and south over a large part of what is NSW.

Obviously any map of this type has great uncertainties. However, linked to the underlying geography, the picture painted is not an unreasonable one.

No comments: