Chapter 2 ~ Kudnarto
Kudnarto was born into the northern pangkarra of the Padnaindi yerta. The plain that composed this region was known by the Kaurna people as the Warrawarra.  Running through the area was a creek known as Mekauwe, whose pure waters were famed throughout the Kaurna and Ngadjuri peoples. The creek was a common meeting area for the peoples living within this region during the hot summer months when water became scarce.
The derivation of the word Mekauwe is complex and, in common with Kaurna language constructions, infers far more than the mere word indicates. In this case, Mekauwe is a compound Kaurna word figuratively indicating 'eye water'. The first syllable of Mekauwe derives from the substantive prefix me. This term is the diminutive root form of the expanded word mena. The term mena relates to ideas deriving from the eye. The second part of the word is the substantive affix kauwe that connotes the idea of water. Since eye water or tears are considered to be pure water, the term tears is very descriptive of the creek that bore its name.
Crystal Brook was the European name for the area. The name is prescient. John Eyre, the first European explorer to traverse the area in 1840, found the creek within a region of excessively dry land. Without reference to the Kaurna people living nearby, he named it Crystal Brook to describe both his joy and the water quality. His Journal details his excitement and discovery:
Kudnarto was born within this region of contrasting scenery.
Her birth possibly occurred in the year of 1831. This was some five years before the British established the South Australian colony on 26 December 1836. Unfortunately, there is a complete lack of documentation relating to the Aboriginal people prior to colonisation. Consequently, the year of Kudnarto's birth must only be, at best, an educated guess.
In establishing the date of Kudnarto's birth it is necessary to examine all documents wherein her age was recorded. Only three documented references to her age so far has been found. The three sources include: her Marriage Certificate of 27 January 1848; an article in The South Australian Register of 23 June 1847; and, an article in The South Australian Register of 28 January 1848.
On her Marriage Certificate of 27 January 1848, Kudnarto's age is quoted as 16 years. This would place her as being born in either 1831 or 1832. Great reliability should be placed upon this document. The person who had seen Kudnarto develop from a child into a mature woman, Moorhouse, was in attendance as a witness to the ceremony. There is sufficient evidence to suggest that Kudnarto had attended the school at the Native Location in Adelaide. This long period of contact would have enabled Moorhouse to accurately estimate Kudnarto's age. Being a person of meticulous administrative habits, Moorhouse would have been instrumental in placing the age of 16 upon the marriage certificate.
The article in The South Australian Register of 28 January 1848 agrees with the Deputy Registrar that Kudnarto's declared age was sixteen. The report is in sympathy with the marriage that occurred the previous day. To say otherwise would have indicated a certain laxity in the ability of the reporter. Thus the reliance upon this report is minimal.
Contrasting this was an article published in The South Australian Register of 23 June 1847 where the journalist estimated her age as about 17 years. This would place her date of birth at between 1830 and 1831. This seems to create a problem in dating the birth of Kudnarto. The source for the article's facts appears to have been Adams. Unfortunately this source is considered to be unreliable and thus treated accordingly. Full discussion of Adams' understanding of facts occurs in later chapters. The apparent inconsistency, however, does have a reasonable explanation.
Despite this inconsistency, it is believed that Kudnarto was sixteen years of age and heading towards her seventeenth year when she married Adams. While she had no concept of Christian dates, her parents and family would have a keen idea of the number of years Kudnarto was alive. The testimony of her age would have derived from either Kudnarto or her relatives or both. Kudnarto reached the age of sixteen in early 1847 and remained so after the engagement announcement. This would place her date of birth between the months of February and June in the year 1831. This conclusion reconciles the apparently contradictory statements to be found within the articles of 23 June 1847 and 28 January 1848.
The name Kudnarto is a singularly distinctive Kaurna name literally meaning "Number 3 Daughter". Her parents followed tribal law and gave her the traditional name given to a child of her position - Kudnarto.  As such, her birth name was very usual for the Kaurna people.
At birth, a child received a name that was intimately tied to the birth order within the specific Kaurna family. It was given as a point of reference. Due to high infant mortality, the likelihood of a child surviving to maturity was low. Thus a descriptive term was given as the first name rather than a name. The Kaurna people created a list of names to call their children on birth. These are listed in Table 4.
Kaurna  children usually received their personal name customarily from Dreaming associations with animals, items of nature, and places. Parents ordinarily gave a child their personal name when they were certain that the infant was going to survive the early part of childhood.
Information is extracted from Teichelmann, C.G., and Schürmann, C.W., (1840), Outlines of a Grammar, Vocabulary, and Phraseology of the Aboriginal Language of South Australia, Adelaide.
Throughout her official history, the sources available do not reveal any other personal name for Kudnarto. They either refer to her as Mary Ann or by her birth order name. European society found it difficult to come to terms with Aboriginal names. They readily gave their own originated names to Aborigines with whom they came into contact. One example is the name of King John given to an important Kaurna elder from the Mount Barker region. Similar names were attached to others. Through ignorance, future generations are deprived of knowing Kudnarto's personal name. She obviously never revealed this to any one subsequent to living with Thomas Adams.
There can be only one explanation for this circumstance. The Kaurna tribe, in common with other Aboriginal tribes throughout Australia, did not speak about nor mention the name of dead people. If a person is named after someone who has died, there were strong tribal customs to take over the resolution of the naming problem. Usually the surviving individual's personal name ceases to remain in common use. No one is allowed to use the person's name again. Subsequently that person's name reverts to the given birth order name. Sometimes they even take the description of 'no name'. All these methods attempt to remove any contact with the dead person thereby allowing the spirit peace. This deference for ancestors was very pronounced among the Kaurna people.
The former Protector of Aborigines, from 1837 to 1839, Dr W. Wyatt became a leading scholar in the language, culture and traditions of the Kaurna people. In his essay "The Adelaide Tribe", Wyatt observed the sentiment related to coping with death names among the Adelaide tribe in the following manner:
Since the scant information mentioning Kudnarto by name does not allude to nor imply another name, be it either personal or otherwise, it is reasonable to presume that her personal name was that of an individual who had died. Since personal names came from people very close to the parents, there is every likelihood that the woman after whom Kudnarto received her personal name was possibly a sister of her mother. The death of that woman after whom she received her personal name would appear to have occurred before she turned fourteen. After this age, Kudnarto began living with Thomas Adams. At no time during this period prior to her marriage under British law or subsequent to that event was her personal name used in preference to using her birth order name. This lack of personal name confirms the conclusion that the relative after whom she was named died before Kudnarto lived with Thomas Adams.
However, that may not be the only known Kaurna name given to Kudnarto. By good fortune, a letter sent to Governor Gawler on the occasion of his departure from South Australia bears the names of nine Kaurna children. The letter, written in the Kaurna language by Teichelmann, is dated 15 May 1841.  If Kudnarto was attending the school at the Native Location, which is very likely, then she may have been one of the four girls whose names are attached to the letter. The names of the four girls were:
It is very likely that one of these girls was later to be known as Kudnarto. She would have been ten years of age at the time the letter was written. Furthermore, she would have been one of the older girls in the school as her age was such that she was ready to leave the school to be married. However tantalising this thought may be, it is still in the realm of speculation rather than giving any certainty.
Kudnarto is the only known Kaurna name that can be attributed to her with certainty. Her adopted European name, Mary Ann, was given to her by her spouse, Adams, to give her an acceptable European name. Because her Kaurna name was unfamiliar to Europeans for pronunciation or even understanding its context, the name Mary Ann came into existence.
The origin of this name is strictly derived from Adams' family from Leicestershire. Reaching into the resources of his family historical tradition, the two most recurrent names for the female side of the family were Mary and Ann. Sometimes the names appeared individually and at other times used in a combination. Adams, being a person of little imagination but with a strong knowledge of family, chose the traditional combination and passed the names on to his future spouse. Thus Mary Ann was a familiar family name for Adams although possibly very unintelligible to Kudnarto.
The first official use of the name Mary Ann appeared within an article in The South Australian Register of 23 June 1847. On the occasion of announcing the engagement of Kudnarto and Adams, the reporting journalist stated that the name that Kudnarto will be known by subsequent to her marriage, would be Mrs Mary Ann Adams. A strange name like Mary Ann would have bemused Kudnarto. However, for the sake of her future spouse, she accepted the new name.
While Kudnarto's birth order name is known, her moiety is unknown. In Kaurna society, the moiety would either be of the Kararu or Matheri moiety. Kaurna society, in keeping with many other Aboriginal tribes, divided themselves into one of the two moieties particular to the tribe. Moiety is a notion wherein a tribe is divided into one of two units whose membership is determined on the basis of descent, be it through a maternal or paternal line.
Within the Kaurna society, the consequence is that a person born of one moiety could not marry a person belonging to the same moiety. This restriction was in addition to that of marrying within the same yerta. When people married, the resulting children took the moiety of the mother. The understanding of sexual reproduction was based upon spiritualism rather than any biological facts. A woman was seen to be the receiver of children's spirits. From the pool of spirits, a child selected a mother with whom the child wished to live. Impregnation of a particular woman was the choice of the child and thus a gift of the god.
Moiety only regulated marriage. At no stage, however, was moiety an inhibitor of sexual activity. The link between sexual intercourse and pregnancy had yet to be positively made. This link occurred only after European settlement in South Australia.
1. Warrawarra is the Kaurna name for the geographical region surrounding the Crystal Brook area. It derives from the reduplicative term warra = talk. Thus talk-talk indicates the presence of a common meeting place for many people. This is very possible for the presence of permanent water would be conducive to allowing many inter clan meetings with the knowledge of good supplies of fresh water at hand. A recursive dreaming story, Pootpobberie, also raises the name of Warra Warra, a doctor whose powers were employed to overcome evil and more specifically, the works of the chief evil spirit Muldarpi. This story can be found in "Pootpobberie an Aboriginal Legend", The Public Service Review, February 1913. Return to text
2. Manning, G.H., (1990) Manning's Place Names of South Australia, Adelaide. Return to text
3. Eyre, E.J., (1845), Journals of Expeditions of Discovery into Central Australia and Overland From Adelaide to King George’s Sound in the Years 1840-1, Volume 1, T & W Bone, London, p. 44. Return to text
4. Information is extracted from Teichelmann, C.G., and Schürmann, C.W., (1840), Outlines of a Grammar, Vocabulary, and Phraseology of the Aboriginal Language of South Australia, Adelaide. Return to text
5. The information for this section is derived from three works: Wyatt, W., The Adelaide Tribe, published in Wood, D., et. al., (1879), The Native Tribes of South Australia, E.S. Wigg & Son, Adelaide; Edwards, R., (1975), The Kaurna People of the Adelaide Plains, Museum, Adelaide; and, Houston, C., & Ellis, B., (1976), The Aboriginal Inhabitants of the Adelaide Plains, Aboriginal and Historic Relics Administration, Adelaide. Return to text
6. Wyatt, W., op cit., p. 165. Return to text
7. Letter dated 15 May 1841, PRG 50/11/8. Return to text
For comments, bick bats and bouquets
256 colours, 800x600