Chapter 4 ~ Kudnarto's First Marriage
When the onset of puberty undertook the characteristic changes to both the physical form and psyche, a female became eligible to join the pool of marriageable women. This was a very important function within Kaurna society for it created extensive ties between the various family groups within the tribe. This ensured that, despite the size of the group, every family group would be related to each other and thus eligible to partake in the laws of family hospitality. Thus marriage and tribal relationships were treated with great seriousness and consideration.
Upon reaching marriageable age, a woman's family and relatives expected her to undertake cohabitation with her promised spouse as soon as possible. Marriage, and living with the promised spouse, occurred very early in the life for Aboriginal women of the Kaurna tribe. Meyer states that the Kaurna women married between the ages of ten and twelve  while Moorhouse reports that girls usually left the Native School after the age of twelve years. Moorhouse states that:
Later on, Moorhouse intimately detailed the situation as it pertained to marriage amongst the Kaurna people. In evidence before the Select Committee on the Aborigines, Moorhouse gave the following testimony: 
This detailed and often graphic description of Moorhouse leaves one with little doubt that Kudnarto did indeed have at least one spouse. Even though at this time Kudnarto was nearby Ferguson's station and often assisted him as a house-girl, her cultural background indicates that she participated in the fullest sense within the marital and sexual behaviour of the Kaurna people.
Marriage was composed of a serious series of transactions. There were elaborate procedures for completing this transaction. The marriage contracts found their initial formation after the parents confirmed that the child would live to reach marriageable age. Then when the woman reached the eligible age for marriage, serious negotiations were then entered into between the two groups. Rarely did the bride and groom know each other before their marriage. Groups of alternate yerta and moieties would come together and discuss the arrangements required to effect the transfer of the woman from her family group to the clan to which her husband belonged.
A wedding occurred over the space of two days even though the actual marriage ceremony was brief. By tradition, the groom's family group would camp nearby the bride's family. Once each family established, through elaborate ritual, that they were gathering specifically for marriage, the groom's family would send their emissaries to negotiate the final transaction. Issues such as person, price and relationship would be discussed in great detail. When all outstanding matters were resolved, most of which were traditional forms of inter group transactions, the members of both tribal groups could announce to their members that the wedding could occur. This was the signal to commence preparations.
The wedding occurred usually at the break of day following the conclusion of negotiations. In keeping with tradition, usually the bride's brother  gave her away to the new husband. Sometimes the father performed this duty but that was not a frequent event. Upon marriage, the woman was expected to leave her tribal group and begin living within her new husband's family. Thus for the bride, marriage was a time of great loss of family and consequently the cause of great stress. The acceptance of the woman in the new group was largely determined by the man she married. If she joined a harem, life as the new spouse could be very difficult indeed with the older spouses giving the new woman a difficult time. In a monogamous relationship, a new bride usually had a better introduction to the new family.
Since no man married before he turned 25, the women were usually married to older men who commanded high food distribution rights. Sometimes it meant that the bride had to join a harem for a few years until that man died and then becoming part of another man's harem, usually the brother of her spouse.
As for the younger men, they were not prohibited from having clandestine sexual contact with the younger wives of the old men. Consequently, men and women of the same age were able to choose their sexual partners without any restriction. The gods only gave the people good things, and the sex act was part of this raft of gifts. Sexual contact was freely available for all people to enjoy at their discretion. This adultery of the Kaurna people was not frowned upon by the community but seen as a healthy outlet for both young men and women and thus to be promoted.  This fact is confirmed externally by Moorhouse in his testimony to the Select Committee.
Adultery was not a concept understood within the Kaurna community. The notion implies ownership rights over the reproductive organs of the spouse. Since property ownership was a shared community tradition, individual rights over property were never brought into consideration. Reproductive organs were treated in a similar manner to other items of property. It was common for a woman to maintain sexual relations with a variety of men with the full approval and active encouragement of her spouse. Usually when a guest came to the campsite, sexual intercourse between the guest and a member of the family group was considered to be part of the offered hospitality.
As with other Kaurna women, once married, Kudnarto began living with her husband's group. Following the dreaming trails of her husband's family group, she would have travelled over new territory and learned new legends. The wanderings would have been exciting because Kudnarto would experience different landscapes. Kudnarto appears to be an adventurous woman so marriage would have offered the opportunity to move away from a dull family routine.
Occasionally her family expected Kudnarto to visit them at certain designated times, usually at the time when the different groups dreaming trails crossed and they would hold a celebratory palti.  Situations like this occurred once or twice a year. Then all the families would get together and exchange goods and news. They were happy occasions for everyone. Since the various families were in close proximity to each other and their inter family relations strong, such meetings between all the different families would occur at least once a month. The meetings would last for quite a few days. Afterwards, the family groups would pack up and move on to the next family meeting with another group.
In keeping with the tribal traditions and practices of the time, it is not unreasonable to conclude that she indeed lived with her promised husband for at least a year or two before meeting Thomas Adams. 
If one takes the date of the marriage as the starting point, Kudnarto was sixteen. In the article in The South Australian Register of 28 January 1848, it states that she had cohabited with Thomas Adams for two years. Adams confirms this in 1855 when he states that he began living with Kudnarto in 1846.  That would place her age when she started living with Adams at fourteen. If it is assumed that Kudnarto followed the traditional behaviour of Kaurna women and she was married at the age of twelve, (Meyer's latest age and Moorhouse's earliest age), then one can conclude that she lived with her husband for at least two years prior to living with Adams.
Whether Kudnarto really married an Aboriginal man or not, is still unknown. However, in keeping with tradition, it is very likely that Kudnarto married an Aboriginal man as her first spouse. It must also be understood that she also undertook sexual relations with many other men. If she moved to Ferguson’s station with her spouse in 1844, then she would also have had sexual relations with the shepherds in exchange for food. These conclusions are inevitable in view of traditional Kaurna values and the circumstances of the times that Kudnarto and her spouse found themselves facing.
The contemporaneous information does not mention any spouse but it must be remembered that it was not in the interests of Adams to report this situation to the authorities. After all, Adams would have been putting a minor in peril by exposing her to moral danger. Such information could bring into play the actions of the Protector of Aborigines. This official was the legal guardian of all under aged Aboriginal people. If a situation of moral danger arose, the Protector was eager to save the child from this ill. However, while the Protector did not interfere with traditional Aboriginal arrangements, he did intervene when European actions caused distress among the Aboriginal people.
At the time Adams started cohabiting with Kudnarto, Moorhouse would have known what was occurring. However, since this was a traditional Aboriginal arrangement, he did not interfere. This is in keeping with his duties.
On the other hand, if Adams might encounter legal problems if it was determined that Kudnarto was married. After all, if he married her, as he did later, she would have to be a spinster or divorcee. Her marriage certificate states that she was a spinster. If Adams did not resort to subterfuge, it is probable that the authorities did not recognise Kudnarto's former marriage as a lawful marriage under British Law that prevailed throughout the white community.
Despite this gap in information, it would be most unusual within Kudnarto's yerta and a point of great comment if there existed no contract promising her to a man in marriage. A woman of Kudnarto's charm and attractiveness would have ensured that they would have a quick and easy marriage to possibly the man with the largest harem. While there is no conclusive evidence as to a marriage, however, in terms of probability, there is every reason to believe that she did indeed marry an Aboriginal man whose name is lost to history. The marriage was short lived with Kudnarto’s spouse selling her to Adams for an undisclosed price. It was a mutually acceptable arrangement giving relief to both Kudnarto and her spouse. Thus the marriage ended with each person satisfied with the result.
1. Meyer, H.E.A., Manners and Customs of the Aborigines of the Encounter Bay Tribe, published in Wood, D., et. al., (1879), The Native Tribes of South Australia, E.S. Wigg & Son, Adelaide, p. 190. Return to text
2. Report dated 26 June 1850, GRG 52/7/1, p. 365. Return to text
3. The Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860) Report on the Aborigines, Paper 167, SA Govt Printer, q's. 2538 - 2552, pp. 97 - 98. Return to text
4. The use of the term brother is in the wider Aboriginal sense than the restrictive sense used in English. Sons of other mothers and fathers were also brothers. Return to text
5. Meyer, op. cit., pp. 190 - 191. Return to text
6. Palti is the Kaurna word referring to what is commonly known in Australia as a corrobboree. Return to text
7. The South Australian Register, 28 January 1848; and, Meyer, op. cit., p. 190. Return to text
8. Letter to the Private Secretary dated 16 December 1855, GRG 3/38, RSO No. 219 (1855). Return to text
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