Native Tribes of South-East Australia/Chapter 4



The Classificatory system—Its significance—Table of Dieri relationships—The Dieri system—Its peculiar development—The Nadada-noa relationship—Kami and Noa—Anomalous cases—Kurnai relationships—Table of Kurnai terms—Archaic form of relationships.

The Classificatory System

It has been long known that this system of counting relations, which occurs among the Australian tribes, also obtains among other savage and barbarous races. Since it was first brought under notice by the late Dr. Lewis H. Morgan, "the classificatory system" of relationships, as he called it, has been the subject of much controversy, and the opinions formed as to the origin and real meaning of the system have been various. It may be safely said that there are few, even of those who have been brought into daily contact during the course of a lifetime with the Australian blackfellow, who have taken the trouble to master the details of the system; or, if they have done so, they have not been able to form any true conception of the true foundation on which the system rests, or the root from which it has sprung.

How much more difficult, therefore, must the subject be for those who live in countries separated by thousands of miles from lands where they could become personally acquainted with savage life. They are compelled, if they desire to study the subject of relationships, to have recourse to second-hand information, superficially collected by travellers, or by local residents, who have brought to the investigation the ingrained beliefs as to relationships which almost form a part of the mental texture of civilised man, He seems to consider that the terms of relationship which he has been taught to use are, or ought to be, of universal application among mankind.

When such a man is brought first into contact with a race of savages who use the classificatory system, he feels in most cases surprise, mingled with pity, and even with contempt, for those poor creatures who are so low in intellect as to think it possible for any one to have several fathers and mothers, and a vast number of brothers and sisters.

In order to grasp the true nature and bearing of the classificatory system of relationships, it is necessary not only to free oneself from misconceptions, as to the universal use of our own system, but also to have such an acquaintance with the nature of a savage as to be able to put oneself mentally into his place, think with his thoughts, and reason with his mind; unless this be done, the classificatory system will be a delusion and a snare.

It is upon the division of the whole community into two exogamous intermarrying classes that the whole social structure is built up; and the various relationships which are brought about by those marriages are defined and described by the classificatory system.

In order to bring out the real nature of the relations which it defines, it is necessary to clear the ground by some preliminary remarks. As I have said before, the social unit is not the individual, but the group; and the former merely takes the relationships of his group, which arc of group to group. The relationship terms differ very much in their meaning from those we use, and moreover the natives distinguish between some which we confuse under one collective term, and those native terms are distinguished from each other, by the persons whom they represent, being respectively in one or the other of the two moieties of the tribe. For instance, our term "uncle" includes "father's brother" and "mother's brother." In the classificatory system the father and the father's brother are of the same class name, while the mother and her brother are in the other, and the same thing occurs with all other collective terms we use. Our collective terms have been the cause of much standing, arising through the mistakes of those who have gathered information, without due knowledge, and have confused the native terms with ours.

This is strongly brought out in the late Mr. E. M. Curr's work The Australian Race,[1] where it is stated that there are terms in the native tribes which are the equivalents of our collective terms, such as "uncle," "aunt," "nephew," "niece," "sister-in-law," and "son-in-law."

An examination of the table given at p. 141 of his work shows that the compilers were ignorant of the meaning of the terms they gave, as well as of the principles of the classificatory system. They seem to have endeavoured to give a term as near as possible to the "collective terms," in Mr. Curr's circular; but one contributor (the late Rev. George Taplin) takes the trouble to distinguish between the paternal and maternal uncles. It greatly detracts from the usefulness and value of Mr. Curr's work that he did not make himself aware of the native system of relationships. His work requires to be read with knowledge, in order for it to be a safe guide in Australian anthropology.

A mere list of the terms of relationship would not give all that I desire to make clear regarding the system in use by the aborigines. Deductions from such lists of terms are always open to the objection of being more or less theoretical, although to those who have a personal knowledge of the Australian savages and their customs, no further evidence is now necessary to prove that the terms represent a great living fact.

The Dieri System

In order to bring into view the relationships of an existing people, in present and past generations, I requested Mr. Siebert to be so good as to tabulate four generations of the Dieri tribe, taking as the starting-point the marriages of two brothers and their two sisters, and their descendants down to the great-grandchildren. He most kindly not only did this, but also tabulated a number of cases illustrating points which arose in the critical examination of the results.

The various marriages and descents tabulated are in accordance with the results of the two intermarrying classes and their totems, the details of which are given in Chapters III. and V. The table has been carefully compiled from particulars given by four old aborigines who were living in the year 1898, and it has been carefully tested by comparing their independent statements, and by the consensus of their opinions.

The diagram as originally drawn up gave the individual name of each person, the tribe to which he or she belonged, or belongs, and the class and totem names. As it now stands, the individual names are omitted, having served their purpose, which was to make the foundation of this account of the terms of relationship one of facts and not of inference.

The tribes referred to are the Dieri, Urabunna, Wonkanguru, Tangara, and Kuyani, which intermarried. The class names are indicated by the Kararu totems being given in clarendon letters and the Matteri in italics. The diagram also brings into view two facts, namely, that a child takes the Murdu of its mother but belongs to the tribe of its father, unless it had been brought up in another tribe, and speaks its language, when it would be considered as belonging to it. Even a man who took up his abode with his wife's tribe, or one where he had relations and spoke its language, would be counted as belonging to it. The man No. 1 in the Table is an example of such a case.

All these details are given for the reason that I am dealing with, and here present to the reader, the actual data from which my conclusions are drawn. The information goes back from the present time to the past, when the Lake Eyre tribes were in a perfectly savage condition; when the white man was only known from rumour, or to some of the old people by the sight of Captain Sturt and his companions when they crossed the Yantruwunta country at Cooper's Creek. This ensures that there has been no deviation from the ancestral customs, which might be suspected if the particulars referred merely to later times.

The relationship terms of the Dieri arc given in the following list, with their exact meanings in our terms, and the ordinary term in use among us. The terms will be considered in connection with the table given of marriages and descents in this tribe.

Dieri Term. Exact Equivalents in our Terms. English Terms.
Kaia-Kaia Mother's mother's mother Maternal great-grandmother, great-grandchild
Nadada Mother's father, M.¹ daughter's child Maternal grandfather, grand-child
Yenku Father's father, father's father's brother, M. son's son Paternal grandfather, paternal grand-uncle, grandchild, grand-nephew or -niece
Kanini Mother's mother, F. daughter's child Maternal grandmother, maternal grand-aunt, grandchild, grand-nephew or -niece
Kadi Wife's brother Brother-in-law
Yimari F. husband's brother, M. wife's sister Brother-in-law, sister-in-law
Paiara F. daughter's husband, M. wife's mother Son-in-law, mother-in-law
Kalari F. son's wife, husband's mother Daughter-in-law, mother-in-law
Taru M. daughter's husband, M. wife's father Son-in-law, father-in-law
Ngaperi Father, father's brother Father, uncle
Ngata-mura M. child, F. brother's child Child
Ngandri Mother, mother's sister Mother, aunt
Ngatani F. child Child
Yibi M. or F. mother's youngest unmarried sister Aunt
Neyi M. or F. elder brother Elder brother, cousin
Kaku M. or F. elder sister Elder sister, cousin
Ngatata M. or F. younger brother or sister Younger brother or sister, or cousin
Kamari Husband's sister Sister-in-law
Noa Potential husband or wife
Tippa-malku Those who are promised in marriage to each other Betrothed
Pirrauru Those who are in relation of group-marriage
Kami Mother father's, M. daughter's child, mother's brother's child, father's sister's child Maternal grandfather, M. daughter's child, cousin
Papa Father's sister Aunt
Kaka Mother's brother Uncle
Tidnara M. sister's child Nephew, niece
Buyulu Mother's sister's child Cousin
¹"M." means "male speaking"; "F." means "female speaking."

It is advisable, in order to avoid any misconception, to say in advance of the statements to be made in the chapter on marriage and descent, that there are two forms of marriage in this tribe. One I have termed Tippa-malku marriage, because it follows upon betrothal or exchange of a sister for a wife; the other is the Pirrauru marriage, which follows the former, and is the group-marriage of the Lake Eyre tribes.

It is also well to say that, excepting Tippa-malku, each term represents a group, and not merely an individual. The relationships of the individuals shown in the Table will be best brought out by considering them seriatim, beginning with the brothers and sisters in the first line. It will be observed that in all cases the children are shown as a son and a daughter, who in the two instances 29 and 30 are of different totems, their father No. 2 having had two Tippa-malku wives. In former times, before the tribes had been broken up by our settlement of their country, it was not rare for a man to have more than one wife. In such a case he probably was so fortunate as to have had sisters to exchange, or he had done some notable service; as, for instance, bringing about peace between his tribe and some other, or that some one fearing vengeance on a blood feud from him had pacified him by a present of a wife. In one or two cases a couple had no "own" son or "own" daughter, and a "tribal" son or daughter has been interpolated, there being, from a Dieri point of view, no difference in the relationship.

The men Nos. 1 and 2 were brothers, the former being the Neyi or elder, and the latter Ngatata or younger, who, under the marriage rules of this tribe, had each other's sisters as Tippa-malku wives. Their sisters 3 and 4 were the wives of the men 7 and 8, the brothers of the women 5 and 6, the latter being the Kaku of 5, while 3 was the Ngatata of 4.

The terms Neyi, Kaku, and Ngatata each represent a group of people who are in the fraternal relation to each other. But it does not follow that two persons who are in that relation to each other are both so to a third person. For instance, if a man belonging to another tribe is on a visit to the Dieri, and is the guest of two brothers who are of the same totem as himself, the relative ages of these three men will determine which is the Neyi and which are the Ngatata.

But there may be a brother of the two who is not in the fraternal relation to the stranger. Such a case would be like that referred to later on, in which the kindred altered the mutual relationships of a man and a woman from Kami to Noa. Such alterations only affect the persons immediately concerned, and not their brothers and sisters, and the new relations are transmitted by their descendants, so that in time it is not possible to trace the older relationships.

The Dieri hold that the relationship of the children of two or more sisters is much closer than that of the children of two brothers, although both these groups are, as between themselves, "brother and sister." The special term Buyulu applies to the former.

The relations of Neyi, Kakii, and Ngatata in the Table are between 1-2, 3-4; 5-6, 7-8; 9-10, 11-12; 13-14, 15-16. Other examples in the third and fourth level need not be further specified.

Besides these, which may be termed the usual instances in any line of descent, there are others which arise in the tribe through a remarkable and far-reaching provision, which places the grandchildren on the same level, as to relationships, with their maternal grandparents.

This is so important in its consequences that it is necessary to explain it at some length, before speaking further of the fraternal relations.

Taking the man No. 1 in the Table as an illustration, he and 27-28 are Nadada-mara, that is, in "Nadada-ship" (the postfix mara having that significance), the line of descent being through the woman 10. This relationship of Nadada also includes the brothers and sisters of No. 1. The children of a woman are considered as being the younger brothers and sisters (Ngatata) of her father. Moreover, this carries with it all the consequential relationships. This will be seen when other relationships are considered, for instance, those of Papa and Ngatamura.

There is a Dieri saying that "those who are Noa are Nadada to each other."

This can perhaps be best brought into view by the following little diagram, extracted from the details given in the Table, and prefixed to the individuals are the numbers from the Table.

Diagram III
3 F. Neyi
2 M.
14 F. Kami 12 F.
35 M. Noa 32 F.

The man 35 is the younger brother (Kanini-ngatata) of his maternal grandmother 3, and therefore is the younger brother of her elder brother (neyi), 2, and thus becomes the Nadada-ngatata or the maternal grandfather of the woman 32, and is also her Noa. Thus "those who are Noa to each other are also Nadada to each other."

In a similar manner it can be shown that 5, 6, 7, 8 are included in the Nadada-noa relation with their respective husbands, and the same is the case with all the other married couples, or those who are merely Noa to each other.

Before reverting to the fraternal terms of relationship, that of Kanini must be explained. The Kanini term is reciprocal between a woman and her daughter's children. She is sometimes called Kanini-kaku, the Kanini elder sister, apparently because her grandchildren are regarded as being in the same level as herself, being her young brothers and sisters. Thus they are on the same level with her as her brother's children are to him. The brother of the Kanini is called also the Kanini-neyi, that is the Kanini elder brother, her daughter's children being his younger brothers and sisters.

In the Table Nos. 5 and 6 are the Kanini of 27-28 and of 31-32 respectively, and 5 and 6, being sisters, are so collectively as to the Kanini group of grandchildren.

Similarly 7 and 8, being the brothers of 5 and 6, are the Kanini-neyi of 27-28 and 31-32.

The Dieri cannot give any explanation of the cause of the Nadada arrangement. It is not at all likely that they could do so as to any ancient practice, nor can I venture to do more than to point to what may possibly suggest a reason for its origin. The effect of bringing the grand-children up to the level of their grandparents is to enlarge the group of women who are Noa to those elders. In other words, the tribal brothers of the Nadada and the tribal sisters of the Kanini have a further possibility of wives or husbands. In the chapter on marriage it is shown how the younger brother of the Nadada obtains a wife, she being the grand-daughter in the female line of his elder brother. But neither, for instance, the Nadada No. 1 nor the Kanini No. 4 is permitted to participate in this privilege, which only attaches to the younger brothers of the former and the younger sisters of the latter.

The maternal great-grandmother is Kaiakaia, more commonly called Ngandri, since she is the mother of the Kanini. Through the female line in the ascendent 45-46 are Kaiakaia to 3, and also to 4, her sister. This term of relationship is the only one in use between the first and fourth levels.

Reverting to the fraternal relationships, it will be seen that since 27 and 28 are Nadada-ngatata, that is, the younger brother and sister of No. 1, and 31 and 32 are the Nadada-ngatata of 2, the brother of 1, they are the Nadada-noa of 5, 6, 7, and 8. Similarly, it can be seen that 35-36 and 39-40 are the Nadada-noa of 3 and 4, because they are the Nadada-ngatata of 7 and 8, the husbands of those women.

The relationship term Yenku is reciprocal between 1 and 2, and 25-26, 29 and 30; also between 7 and 8, and 33-34, 37-38; 13 and 43-44 are in the same relation.

Kami is a term which is reciprocal between the maternal grandfather and his daughter's children. It is also reciprocal between the children of a man and those of his sister, they being Kami-mara to each other. Instances of this are the following: 9, 10, 11, 12 are brothers and sisters, being the children of two brothers; 13, 14, 15, and 16 are also brothers and sisters, being the children of two sisters. These groups are Kami to each other. Similar groups of Kami occur in the succeeding levels, the last being 43 and 44, who are Kami to 45 and 46.

These Kami, it may be mentioned, are, among the Dieri, prohibited from intermarriage, although among the Urabunna certain of them are Nupa to each other, a man being "only Nupa to the female children of the elder brothers of his mother," or, what is exactly the same thing, to those of the elder sisters of his father.[2]

Noa is a reciprocal relation which may be explained by the term "potential spouse." For instance, when a child is born, say No. 9 in the table, it is thereby a member of a certain group, as the case may be, of males or females, each of whom is Noa to each individual of another analogous group of the opposite sex. The man 9 on his birth became Noa to each female in a group whose brothers were Noa to his sisters. Thus there is on either side a group of women who are own or tribal sisters, and who are Noa to a group of men, on the other side, who are own or tribal brothers. It is the children of the Kami who are born into the Noa condition.

In the Table 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, 6, 7, 8 are Noa; similarly 9, 10, 11, 12 and 17, 18, 19, 20 are Noa. But these are in the Kami relation to 13, 14, 15, 16 and 21, 22, 23, 24.

In the succeeding level there are some who are Noa and some who are Kami to each other. Of the former are 27 and 31, who are Noa to 36 and 40; also 28 and 32, who are Noa to 35 and 39.

Imari means husband's brother or male-speaking wife's sister. Those shown in Table are 1-6, 2-5, 3-8, 4-7, 9-19, 10-20, 11-17, 12-18, 13-23, 14-24, 15-21. and 16-22.

Kadi is wife's brother. In this relation are 1 and 2 to 7 and 8; 9 and 11 to 18 and 20; 13 and 15 to 22 and 24; 27 and 31 to 35 and 39. Under the Kanini relationship 35 becomes Kadi to 7; similarly 27 to 1, and 31 to 2.

Those in the relation of Kamari, husband's sister, are 3 and 4 to 5 and 6; also 36, who, being the Nadada-ngatata of 7, is the Kamari of 3, as 40 is of 4. Other similar relations are in the other level.

The relation of Kaka and Tidnara is that of mother's brother and male-speaking sister's child. Therefore No. 1 is the Kaka of 13-14, and 15-16. No. 2 is in the same relation to them, because he is in the relation of Ngaperi to them. The man No. 13 is the Kaka of 35 and 36, who are Tidnara to him, because under the Kanini arrangement 35 and 36 become the Ngatata of his mother No. 3. This man No. 13 is also the Kaka of 39 and 40, under the Kanini arrangement, because their mother is the sister of the woman No. 3, the mother of 13, and therefore stands in the relation of Ngandri to him. Similar relations occur in the other levels.

The reciprocal relationships of Papa and Ngatamura are the following: 5 and 6 with 13, 14, 15, 16; 3 and 4 with 9, 10, 11, 12; 14 and 16 with 33, 34, 37, and 38; 21 and 23 with 35, 36, 39 and 40.

The term Paiara is reciprocal, and is applied as follows: Nos. 5 and 18, 6 and 20, 3 and 22, 4 and 24. Nos. 28 and 35 are Noa-mara; were they to marry, then 10 would be the Paiara of the latter. Similarly No. 12 would be the Paiara of 39, if he married 32, who is Noa to him.

Instances of the relationship of Kalari, which is reciprocal, are 5 and 17, 6 and 19, 3 and 21, 4 and 23. If 31 were to marry 36, who is Noa to him, then 12 would be Kalari to the latter.

Taru is also a reciprocal term, and the following are Taru to each other: Nos. 1 and 18, 2 and 20, 7 and 22, 8 and 24; 28 and 35 are Noa-mara, and if they married 18 and 35 would be Taru. The same would apply to 20 and 35, or 39, 22 and 31, 22 and 27, 24 and 31, and 24 and 27.

In certain cases difficulties have arisen among the Dieri, as to the marriages of certain persons, whose relationships prevented an otherwise advisable match. Two such instances are worth quoting as showing the manner in which these people overcome such difficulties.

There were two men who, in the usual manner, married each other's sisters. Each had a daughter, and among the grandchildren there was a son on one side and a daughter on the other. This is a typical case in which the grand-children are Noa to each other. It was proposed that they should marry, but there was a far-distant Murdu relationship traceable between them, which made them brother and sister. Thus the Noa and the fraternal relations were in conflict.

The kindred on both sides, that is the two mothers, their brothers and those of the girl, decided however that, as the Murdu relation was a far-distant one, it was not so strong as the Nadada-noa one, and the two were married.

This "far-distant" case means, as I see it, that in the past, and possibly in one of the far-distant intermarrying tribes, some man, as is sometimes the custom, gave his Murdu to his son, who then was of two Murdus, that of his mother by inheritance, and that of his father by gift from him. He might therefore be of the same Murdu as the girl, which would make him her tribal brother. Unfortunately I did not follow out this line of inquiry, and have not had an opportunity since of doing so.

In the other case the fundamental facts were much the same. Two brothers married two sisters, and one had a son and the other a daughter. These being the children of two brothers, were brother and sister. Each of them married, and one had a son and the other a daughter, who were Kami-mara.

Under the Dieri rules these two could not lawfully marry; but since there was no girl or woman Noa to the young man and available, he could not get a wife.

The respective kindreds, however, got over the difficulty by altering the relationships of the two mothers from Kamari (brother's wife) to Kami by which change the two young people came into the Noa relationship. This change, however, necessitated some consequential alterations of relationships, namely, of two of his kindred, from Kaka and Tidnara to Neyi and Ngatata, in order to provide him with a sister to exchange for his wife.

In considering the peculiar features of this case I requested Mr. Siebert to make some further inquiries as to the practice of changing the Kami to the Noa relationship. He informed me that, according to the testimony of the Dieri old people, this is not a new practice, but that it is an ancient one of their tribe. They attach much importance to it, and the mother-in-law in such a case is not called Paiara but Kami-paiara, from the altered relationship.

This seems to me to be merely a reversion to the older rule which obtains with the Urabunna, namely, that a man can only marry a woman who is the child of his mother's elder brother or of the elder sister of his father, own or tribal. In the Dieri tribe there are men who have married Dieri women in accordance with this earlier rule, but they were only able to obtain the consent of the women's kindred by means of presents.

Kurnai Relationships

The strongest contrast which I have found with the Dieri system of relationships is that of the Kurnai. This tribe has neither classes nor sub-classes, and the totems do not affect marriage. Marriage is between individuals of certain local groups, but with traces of former group-marriage. Descent of names is from father to son.

The system of relationship in this tribe indicates a social condition in some respects of a more primitive character than that of the Dieri. The following table gives the Kurnai terms:—

Kurnai Term. Exact Equivalent in our Terms. English Terms.
1. Wehntwin Father's father—Father's father's brother Grandfather—Great-uncle
2. Wehntjun Father's father's sister Great-aunt
3. Nallung Father's mother—Father's mother's brother—Father's mother's sister Grandmother—Great-uncle—Great-aunt
4. Nakun Mother's father—Mother's father's brother—Mother's father's sister Grandfather—Great-uncle—Great-aunt
5. Kukun Mother's mother—Mother's mother's brother—Mother's mother's sister Grandmother—Great-uncle—Great-aunt
6. Mungan Father—Father's brother—Mother's sister's husband Father—Uncle
7. Yukan Mother—Mother's sister—Father's brother's wife Mother—Aunt
8. Mummung Father's sister—Mother's brother's wife Aunt
9. Babuk Mother's brother—Father's sister's husband Uncle
10. Thundung Elder brother—Father's brother's son—Father's sister's son—Mother's brother's son—Mother's sister's .son—Wife's sister's husband—Husband's sister's husband Elder brother—Cousin—Brother-in-law
11. Bramung Younger brother—(Also all the relations of No, 10 which follow "elder brother ") Younger brother—Cousin—Brother-in-law
12. Bauung Elder sister—Father's brother's daughter—Father's sister's daughter—Mother's brother's daughter—Mother's sister's daughter—Wife's brother's wife—Husband's brother's wife

Elder sister—Cousin—Sister-in-law brother's wife

13. Lunduk Younger sister—(Also all the relations of No. 12 which follow "elder sister") Younger sister—Cousin—Sister-in-law
14. Maian Wife— Wife's sister— Husband's sister Wife—Sister-in-law
15. Bennung Wife's brother Brother-in-law
16. Bra Husband—Husband's brother Husband—Brother-in-law
17. Lit (M.)¹ Child— Brother's child—(F.) Child—Sister's child Child—Nephew—Niece
18. Bengun (F.) Brother's child Nephew—Niece
19. Queabun (F.) Daughter's husband—(M.) Wife's mother Son-in-law—Mother-in-law
20. Ngaribil (M.) Daughter's husband—(M.) Wife's father Son-in-law—Father-in-law
¹(M.) means a male speaking. (F.) means a female speaking.

Terms 1 to 5 are inclusive; that is, the grand-ancestral terms are reciprocal. They conform to the Dieri terms, with the exception that a distinction is drawn between the paternal grandfather and the paternal grandfather's sister. Terms 6 and 7 indicate the former existence in the Kurnai tribe of group-marriage, and also the exchange of sisters for wives, which still existed among them, but under the controlling influence of marriage by elopement.

The fraternal terms, 10, 11, 12, 13, are far wider than those of the Dieri, and appear to point to a time prior to the making of those restrictions, which necessitated the use of terms to distinguish between a man's own children and those of his sister, or between a woman's children and those of her brother. It may be thought that an incipient change in this direction is shown by the fact that the woman uses the term Bengun for the child of her brother, while he uses the term both for his child and for hers.

The marital terms 14 and 16 indicate a former condition of group-marriage; but the marital relations implied by the term were with the Kurnai merely nominal, excepting on the very rare occasions when the Aurora Australis was seen. This was thought by them to be a sign of Mungan's anger, and the old men ordered an exchange of wives for the time, thus reverting to the ancient practice of group-marriage.

It is to be noted that while the "husband's sister" is included in the group of Maian when addressed by her sister-in-law (brother's wife), the brother of the wife is distinguished from the group-husband (Bra) by a distinct term.

There is nothing to remark as to the terms 19 and 20.

The Kurnai terms of relationship seem to bear traces of a time before the institution of some of the earlier restrictions on marriage, and if such be the case, then they must date back to the time of the Undivided Commune. This, however, has always appeared to me to be a very difficult position to maintain. I am unable to quite satisfy myself whether this system is one of an archaic character, retained through extreme isolation of the Kurnai, or that the terms, such as those equivalent to the Dieri Kami, have been lost. If it be the latter, then the probability arises that by such a loss they were placed in difficulties, which have produced marriage by elopement and the employment of a recognised medicine-man to promote it.

The following diagram is of three descents from two brothers and their sister. The respective terms of relationship are added for the purpose of bringing into view the peculiar character of this system.

Diagram IV
1. Man 2. Younger brother of 1 3. Elder sister of 1 and 2
4. Son ←Thundung


5. Son Bauung→


6. Daughter ←Bauung


7. Daughter
8. Son ←Thundung


9. Son Bauung→


10. Daughter ←Bauung


11. Daughter

The diagram is drawn up to compare with the table of marriages and descents given before for the Dieri tribe. In this one there is a total absence of the marked distinction drawn by the Dieri between the children of a man and those of his sister. Were the Dieri rule applied to this case, the men 4 and 5, being the sons of two brothers, would be Kami-mara to the women 6 and 7, the daughters of 3, the sister of 1 and 2. Further, 8 and 9 would be in the Noa relation to 10 and 11.

It is a striking peculiarity in the Kurnai system that in each level of the descents, as far as they can be traced out, they are all brothers and sisters, own or tribal; and such fraternal descent continues without possible change. Thus in the successive descents produced by the intermarriage of individuals of certain local groups, the fraternal relations would necessarily widen out and ramify in all directions.

The systems of many other tribes, which I have collected, take their places between that of the Dieri and that of the Kurnai. Where the class, sub-class or totem marriages have been altered and the line of descent changed from the female to the male line, corresponding changes have necessarily resulted. But there are always clearly to be recognised the old foundations of group marriage and descent, surmounted by newer edifices.

  1. Vol. i. p. 140.
  2. Spencer and Gillen, op. cit. p. 61.