Posts Tagged ‘canoe’

A VERY CONVENIENT THEORY – SMALLPOX 1789 – IT WAS THE MACASSANS STUPID

Monday, January 25th, 2016

Up to 1,500 Macassans a year would reach [northern] Australia and they did influence the Aborigines by trading iron axes, tobacco, cloth, knives and glass. They taught the Aboriginal of those parts how to make dug-out canoes, more substantial than the simple water-craft of stringy-bark’. Stewart Harris, Treaty, It’s Coming Yet, 1979  

1788: The Englishmen of the ‘First Fleet’ did not find Sydney’s Eora Peoples familiar with iron axes, knives, tobacco, cloth or glass but when these items were introduced they valued them highly.

1789, April: ‘Smallpox had decimated the indigenous population probably not brought by the Europeans, as first feared, but possible introduced by Indonesian traders visiting the far northern coast of Australia…By a strange coincidence, smallpox reached Port Jackson at about the same time as the First Fleet’. Cassandra Pybus, Black Founders, UNSW Press, 2006 

1789- April: If, in the light of Tench’s hard evidence ‘variolous matter in bottles’ smallpox reached Sydney; ‘by a strange coincidence’ it would have been very ‘strange’ indeed.        .

‘It is true, that our surgeons had brought out variolous matter in bottles’. Marine Captain Watkin Tench, Sydney’s First Four Years, ed. F.L. Fitzhardinge, Angus and Robertson, 1961

It has also been suggested, its appearance may have stemmed from an outbreak in Samartra in the early 1780s. However given the way smallpox presents; swollen mucous membranes with extreme thirst and, as it expresses on the body; face, eyes affecting sight, soles of the feet and palms of hands, that argument is risible.

Add to these physical difficulties strict protocols observed by Aboriginals entering the country of another clan either peaceful or hostile, it would not be feasible for Aborigines to travel such a great distance from the most northern tip of the continent in time to coincide with the arrival of the ‘First Fleet’ at Port Jackson.

‘April is the cruellest month’. T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land.

1789 – April, Sydney Cove: Smallpox appeared among local Aborigines a whole year after the ‘First Fleet’ arrived.

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