Chapter 7 ~ Shepherds and Their Flocks
During this period of the 1840's there was a great deal of tension between the shepherds and the Kaurna people around the Skillogolee Creek region. During this period, European settlement grew rapidly displacing the traditional land owners from their sources of economic survival. This land grab by the settlers seriously disturbed the indigenous people's lifestyle to such an extent that they began to starve. To ease their deprivation, the Aboriginal people resorted to prostitution for food or theft. Each solution brought in its wake increased tension.
One illustration of this tension and its underlying causes, a series of letters were exchanged between George Charles Hawker at Bungaree the various government officials. The topic of correspondence concerned the murder of an Aboriginal woman by a hutkeeper, George Gregory, who worked for John Jacob, at his farm "Woodlands", at Penwortham. These exchanged letters detail the inner tensions between the various Europeans, articulated by Hawker regarding the treatment of Aboriginal people and the underlying racial superiority assumptions of the European community.
The series begins with Hawker outlining the problem in a letter dated 27 January 1843.
The letter from Hawker is very matter of fact showing a great deal of concern about the gathering of the Kaurna people near his station rather that any ideal of serving justice. He understands that the death of the woman raised deep feelings of vengeance which would render the lives of the Europeans very unsafe. Hawker knew that Moorhouse was able to speak to the Kaurna people in their language and thus requested his help.
When the Governor received this letter, he called for the immediate presence of Moorhouse. After some discussion, Moorhouse was sent to investigate the incident himself and make a full report to the Governor. When Moorhouse arrived back in Adelaide, he filed the following report on 8 February 1843:
Not being an investigative officer, Moorhouse did what he could during the journey. He states quite candidly that there were no witnesses to the killing. However, it is evident that other shepherds had already told Moorhouse about their recollections of the facts and furthermore, reported their beliefs. The shepherds’ beliefs formed the basis of his further conclusions. It is revealing that Moorhouse has already made up his mind on this matter. He has accused Gregory of murder and expects him to be punished accordingly. The Aboriginal men he speaks with anticipate that the sentence will be similar for Gregory as occurs with the Kaurna - death.
The nature of the incident is not detailed in Moorhouse’s letter but his warning to the Nugunu man at Mt Bryant seems to hint at the probable cause of the incident leading to the killing. He recommends that the man inform his acquaintances not to have too intimate contact with Europeans or steal from them. The warning made and order of wording in the warning seems to confirm this suspicion. This circumstance is analogous to that event detailed in an earlier chapter. Again, a woman was shot by a hutkeeper. Again it occurs after the theft of some sheep. Again there was inferred prostitution involved with non-payment of debt.
The final chapter in this episode only shows the standards of justice available at the time. Aborigines were hung for the murder of Europeans but Europeans faced little consequences after killing an Aboriginal person. Moorhouse relates this melancholy tale. This verdict was totally in contrast to Moorhouse's earlier expectation. Sadly, Moorhouse accepts that Gregory will not be punished for his crime. On 12 April 1843 he finishes his tale with a report to the Colonial Secretary. He writes:
This did little to calm the ill feeling between the Kaurna people and the European settlers. The return of the verdict of "not guilty" through self defence was akin to declaring an open season on killing Aboriginal people.
Writing from Bungaree on 27 June 1843, Hawker detailed the circumstances of the killing. There is nothing explicit or implicit in the statements of Hawker that would lead one to conclude that he considered it just and proper that an Aboriginal was shot by a shepherd defending a flock. In looking at the letter, Hawker indicates no desire to arrest the shepherd or commit him for trial. Hawker reports that:
It is into this emotion charged environment that Adams entered into the employment of Ferguson in 1844 and subsequently met Kudnarto.
Kudnarto was already at Ferguson’s station before Adams arrived. However, she did not spend a long period of time with her promised spouse. From the age of about twelve until fourteen, Kudnarto remained married to her husband. Then an event occurred which allowed her to leave her spouse and commence living with Adams in his hut at Crystal Brook. The reason for Kudnarto leaving her spouse could only stem from two sources: either Kudnarto's husband had died and she was free to marry again or Kudnarto's husband sold her to Adams. It is only conjecture as to which reason is the answer. However, it is believed that the sale of Kudnarto to Adams by her spouse was possibly the explanation for her change of men. The reason that led to the sale of Kudnarto by her spouse, the relationship between Aboriginal spouses requires understanding.
Meyer's description about harem life made it singularly unattractive. The life of a woman in a harem was not particularly pleasant for it was filled with menial work, low esteem and constant rivalry with the other women in winning attention and favour of the husband. In addition, if she was one of many in a harem, her spouse would not have had as many scruples in letting her go to another person than as if she were his only wife. Men with harems showed no reluctance in selling their wives off to other men. Meyer details the following situation that prevailed at the time in relation to the selling off wives by husbands to other men.
Due to her willingness to leave her husband, it is not unreasonable to conclude that Kudnarto was possibly married to an old man with a substantial harem. Kudnarto was the youngest member of the harem and thus given all the worst tasks. Added to this, her relationship with the other women would not have been easy which led to living in a situation of tension and strife. Faced with the pressure of prostitution and little prospects of happiness it is hardly any wonder that a woman of fourteen would only be too happy to trade this life.
This prostitution was generally the fate of most Kaurna girls who attended the school at the Native Location. Moorhouse found it difficult to come to terms with this fate for he refers to their prostitution with priggish prudery. He betrays a sadness at the waste of the lives of the girls. In 1860,  he made the following observations about the lot of the girls from his school in testimony:
One must assume that Kudnarto did not begin to live with Adams immediately. Also, the evidence suggests that there is a strong possibility that the relationship with Adams began as a contract for prostitution. Adams may have offered Kudnarto's spouse payment for Kudnarto’s favours. The payment would possibly have been a dead sheep, the common currency of shepherds at the time. 
Their relationship would have been gradual in growth. The reason for this conclusion lies in the fact that at this time Adams would be gradually becoming conversant with Kaurna customs and language. Thus their relationship may have lasted for a few months when Adams would have courted her with sheep or any property exchange that her husband desired. After a time Adams possibly realised that he enjoyed her company.
This would have been the developmental period of their relationship in which Kudnarto and Adams grew to be very fond of each other. As with all good romances, pragmatically, both Adams and Kudnarto could give the other something they desired. It was a mutually beneficial tryst. Kudnarto received relief from the misery of competition and abuse in a harem while Adams received companionship. As an onlooker, Kudnarto's spouse received considerable payment to allow this relationship to grow and develop into an affair of the heart. Everyone in the equation received benefit.
If Meyer's observation about harem life fits in with the schema of Kudnarto's treatment by her Aboriginal husband, it is not surprising that Kudnarto was happy to leave him and eventually live with Adams. She personally preferred living with Adams rather than becoming or remaining the wife of an Aboriginal man who did not really care very much about her physical or mental well being.  The idea of being the sole spouse of a man who proved himself capable of providing her: "... liberally with everything she required ..."  proved to be extremely appealing to Kudnarto. Consequently, at some stage in their relationship, Kudnarto felt that she would do better with Adams rather than be part of a group of competing women as in an Aboriginal man's harem. This sentiment apparently found full approval from Kudnarto's family and her husband's family. 
This situation was not considered extraordinary. Girls who hated their husbands were not frightened to run away from them. Girls who married at twelve were still emotionally immature and sometimes found marriage to be an extremely oppressive institution. The penalty for a woman who deserted her husband was a beating if she was caught. Sometimes they parted by mutual consent. The following evidence given by Mr George Taplin of Point McLeay at the Legislative Council's Minutes of Evidence on the Aborigines on 26 September 1860  gives some insight into the relationships between men and women.
In another recounted incident about women leaving their men, Mr George Mason, a Sub-Protector of Aborigines who lived in Goolwa, detailed a situation where a young wife deserted her husband. He tells this story:
To illustrate the consequences of obtaining sexual relations with an Aboriginal man's wife without consent of either the husband or the wife, the story of the shepherd Armstrong on Yorke Peninsular is most instructive. Armstrong had instructed his assistant to report to him if he saw a woman in the bush. This particular man was feeling great need for a woman at that moment. Moorhouse takes up the story and details the following actions:
Sex and Sheep
In view of the sexual practices single shepherds participated in at the time, one can only surmise that Adams possibly bought Kudnarto from her husband after they had established a strong relationship. Any cohabitation would need to be preceded by proper payment. The act of taking a woman without compensation was considered to be a crime punishable by spearing. European shepherds were not exempt from this punishment. The stealing and defiling of women was considered to be a heinous crime. Since there is no evidence of irate relatives demanding satisfaction for Adams defiling one of their women, it is safe to conclude that the Kudnarto's husband and all the concerned relatives expressed satisfaction with the transaction. This situation was exemplified by any lack of opposition by these people to the marriage to Kudnarto. Thus, one can conclude that Adams fulfilled all the proper rituals and activities according to Kaurna law and as a consequence was able to cohabitate with Kudnarto in peace.
The loneliness of the single shepherd in an isolated part of the state brought the problem of them needing company. European women were scarce in this part of the country. They were reluctant to live in such primitive conditions with little infrastructure to assist them. Furthermore, the shepherds never received high regard from the eligible women as being the best people to marry. Since their pay was low and their conditions Spartan, shepherds came from the flotsam of society and thus presented themselves as ill educated, rude in manner and coarse in behaviour to the white women. To make up for this lack of European women, the shepherds looked towards other men, Aboriginal women and their sheep for company. The predominant number of shepherds, being heterosexual, preferred Aboriginal women since they were the only available women.
Any partnership between men and women required the elements of both companionship and sexual relations. In return for their available sexual favours, the shepherds provided food and other things the Aborigines desired. Gifts were required to be given to both the women and their husbands. In explaining the activity of the shepherds in their relationship with the Aboriginal people, on 11 July 1843, Moorhouse recounts the following information:
This widespread practice of prostitution among the Aboriginal women highlighted one method used by Aborigines to supplement their food rations. After all, if starvation is one of the best aphrodisiacs, then by the hunger of their children and themselves, the Aboriginal women were kept in a perpetual state of wanton lust. Mr George Mason, under cross examination by The Legislative Council Select Committee undertaking their study on the Aborigines, stated that the wives of Aborigines visited the shepherds' huts specifically for the sake of supplementing their food supplies. 
In the circumstances of Kudnarto's personal story, it must be remembered that Adams was a man of his times and culture. Without judging him, he was a shepherd and thus the sentiments and practices of the shepherds no doubt applied to him as well as many others. Thus there is every possibility that he behaved in the same manner as his contemporaries. Shepherds were the people who had most contact with the Aboriginal people of the Kaurna tribe. Their contact was both social, cultural and sexual. His relationship with Kudnarto would have reflected the mores of the particular era.
Once Kudnarto and Adams began living together, they seemed to get along very well. Despite the combination between Kudnarto, an enterprising and risk taking woman and Adams, an ignorant man too accustomed to poverty. This match seemed highly unlikely to give any possibility of long term success. Both people came from totally different worlds drawn together by the common thread of being outcasts in white society.
While the nature of their relationship can be seen, it is hard to know the relationship Adams maintained with Kudnarto's relatives. In view of their kind support of him for his white marriage ceremony, it appears that he was on good terms. After all, he did not report any fear of attack or any other negative consequence of his contact with the Kaurna people. There is evidence to suggest that he might have identified very strongly with the Aboriginal people. To communicate with his new relatives, he would have had to have learned the basics of the Kaurna language. The fact that he was able to establish such a strong relationship with Kudnarto indicates that he must have been reasonably competent in speaking the Kaurna language or a mutually intelligible Creole. It is known that later Kudnarto went to the native School in Adelaide to learn English language which she is noted to have picked up very well. However, it is believed that the first language that the couple communicated in would have been Kaurna or a Kaurna-English Creole.
1. Letter dated 27 January 1843, GRG 24/6, A131 (1843). Return to text
2. Letter dated 8 February 1843, GRG 24/6, A182 (1843). Return to text
3. On 23 March 1843 George Gregory was tried and acquitted of manslaughter. Criminal Sentences index cards No. 22, State Records Centre, GRG 36/1. Return to text
4. Letter dated 12 April 1843, GRG 24/6, A495 (1843). Return to text
5. Letter dated 27 June 1843, GRG 24/6, A764 (1843). Return to text
6. Meyer, H.E.A., op. cit., p. 191. Return to text
7. Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860), Report on the Aborigines, Paper 165, SA Govt. Printer, q's. 2494 - 2495, p. 95. Return to text
8. Letter dated 11 July 1843, GRG 24/6, A823 (1843). Return to text
9. Letter dated 17 June 1847, GRG 52/7/1, p. 196, - "She replies ... that ... she likes him much better than the black men." Return to text
10. The South Australian Register, 23 June 1847. Return to text
11. The South Australian Register, 23 June 1847. Return to text
12. Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860), Report on the Aborigines, Paper 165, SA Govt. Printer, q's. 1414 - 1430, p. 60. Return to text
13. Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860), Report on the Aborigines, Paper 165, SA Govt. Printer, q. 2007, p. 79. Return to text
14. South Australian Government Gazette, 1 November 1849, p. 500. Return to text
15. Letter dated 11 July 1843, GRG 24/6, A823 (1843). Return to text
16. Legislative Council Select Committee, (1860), Report on the Aborigines, Paper 165, SA Govt. Printer, q. 2212, p. 85. Return to text
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