9 Sep 2014

Jacqui Lambie's Aboriginal Heritage

By Helen Grasswill at the ABC
Palmer United Party Senator Jacqui Lambie has landed herself in another dispute, this time with leaders of Tasmania's Aboriginal community.
The outspoken Senate newcomer claimed in her maiden speech last week that she was related to, if not descended from, a prominent Aboriginal resistance leader of north-eastern Tasmania.
"I acknowledge and pay my respects to Australia's Aboriginal traditional owners. I share their blood, culture and history through my mother's, Sue Lambie's, family," Senator Lambie said.
"We trace our history over six generations to celebrated Aboriginal chieftain of the Tasmania east coast, Mannalargenna."
Clyde Mansell, a community elder and acknowledged direct descendant of Mannalargenna, said it was news to him.
"That's my family. And she's not part of it," he said.
Mr Mansell, who is also chair of the Aboriginal Land Council of Tasmania, branded Senator Lambie's claims as "absolutely outrageous and scandalous".
"They're totally unfounded," he said. 
"There's no evidence that I'm aware of that would justify Jacqui Lambie standing up in the Australian Parliament and making those claims. She didn't have the right. 
"There was no reference back to the community about whom she's making this ridiculous claim.
"She had no idea what she was saying and couldn't even pronounce the name [Mannalargenna] properly."


Conflicting family trees

Senator Lambie provided some documents to Australian Story on Monday afternoon. 
A family tree indicates a lineage from one of Mannalargenna's granddaughters, Margaret (also known as Mary), who was the offspring of Mannalargenna's daughter Worretermoeteyenner and a sealer, George Briggs, who had abducted her. 
But that is where things become complicated.
This key ancestor in Senator Lambie's family tree, Margaret Briggs, is said to have married a Thomas Hite, with the rest of the family emanating from them. 
But there is no trace of a Thomas Hite in the Tasmanian archival records.

And the Tasmanian Pioneer Index shows that Margaret Briggs died in 1839, aged 22, with no mention of a spouse or offspring, all of which is consistent with a detailed Briggs family genealogy.
Senator Lambie's family tree, however, says that Margaret Briggs married a Thomas Hite and had two children, one a daughter, Ann, who married William Aylett, and that this is the branch of the family from which the Lambies are descended.  
The documents provided to Australian Story include the findings of a 2002 Administrative Appeals Tribunal dispute relating to rights to participate in an ATSIC election. 
Claimants gave evidence that a pardoned convict, Samuel Hite, married another former convict, Mary Ann Pendrill, and that Samuel had a brother, Thomas Hite, who came to Tasmania as a sealer-sailor and took up with an Aboriginal woman. 
This pairing is said to have resulted in a daughter, Ann, born in 1837, who was taken in by Samuel Hite and his wife Mary Ann and recorded as their own. 
Ann went on to marry a William Aylett, and evidence was given that both are buried in the Jenner Cemetery at Wynyard, with Ann in the Aboriginal section and William in the white section. 
On this basis, the tribunal found that the claimants were "the descendants of Thomas Hite and an Aboriginal woman".
However, there remains the question of Ann Hite's parentage and any evidence to link her to Margaret Briggs or her grandfather Mannalargenna.
 
And there remains mystery around Thomas Hite, with the tribunal acknowledging there was no record for him in the Tasmanian archives and there being no mention of him as a sealer in Brian Plomley's authoritative book covering the era, Friendly Mission.
Heather Sculthorpe, chief executive of the Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre, said Senator Lambie's maiden speech was the first time she too had heard any suggestion that the senator had an Indigenous heritage.
"She's not known in the Aboriginal community and that statement was a shock to us," Ms Sculthorpe said.
"These days if people don't know who their tribal ancestors are, they tend to claim Mannalargenna like they used to claim Truganini as their ancestor."
Mr Mansell is calling on Senator Lambie to produce evidence of her family tree so the validity of her claim can be tested. 
"She should present that evidence of her so-called Aboriginality to us because we are the relatives," he said.

Who was Mannalargenna?

Mannalargenna was an elder of the Plangermaireener nation in the Ben Lomond area of north-western Tasmania, who led attacks against the British invasion of his lands. 
In 1829, he rescued four Aboriginal women and a boy who had been captured and held for a year by John Batman, notorious for enlisting "roving parties" of Aborigines from Sydney to help subdue the Aborigines in Mannalargenna's country. 
Batman, despite his Tasmanian atrocities, was later hailed in Australian history as the founder of Melbourne.
Just a year later, in 1830, Mannalargenna, like Tasmania's most famous Aboriginal woman Truganini, joined up with George Augustus Robinson's so-called friendly mission to try to quell hostilities between Aborigines and the white settlers who were aggressively encroaching on their lands. 
His decision was made on a commitment from governor George Arthur that Aborigines would be protected and could continue to live in a traditional way on their own lands if hostilities ceased. 
Mannalargenna, then in his mid-50s, was so astute that he insisted upon, and was granted, a personal meeting with the governor to iron things out.

Colonial accounts indicate that this Aboriginal leader was regarded as intelligent and affable.
However history shows that, if not the entire purpose, certainly the reality of negotiations by Arthur and Robinson was to persuade the Aborigines to surrender. 
Perhaps Mannalargenna knew this. It appears he acted as something of a double agent by leading Robinson around in circles away from the Aboriginal people.
But Robinson and Arthur reneged on their side of the bargain too. There would be no homeland treaty with the Tasmanian Aborigines.
It is said that Mannalargenna refused to comply with the devoutly religious Robinson's desire that he should wear European clothing throughout the five years of their association, and his dress code seemed to have remained as red ochre and nakedness, with animal furs for warmth when needed.
He was noted for his long ochre red hair and a beard that signified his status. 
But when Robinson took him away from Tasmania to the Aboriginal settlement at Wybalenna on Flinders Island in 1835, Mannalargenna was said to have cut off his hair en route, whether in defiance or as a symbol of his despair over the removal from his country or perhaps a combination of both.
He died in captivity shortly after of pleural emphysema pneumonia.

Record of Mannalargenna marriage

History records that Mannalargenna and his second wife Tanleboneyer, whom he established a relationship with after the death of his first wife, had five children - a son Neerhepeererminer and four daughters Woretermoeteyenner, Wottecowidyer, Wobbelty and Teekoolterme.
Whether or not there were any offspring with his first wife is unknown.
Tanleboneyer had her own tough history. From the Swanport area in the Oyster Bay nation, she had been an "island wife" to white "Straitsman" Jack Brown before joining Robinson's crusade and meeting Mannalargenna.
There is no evidence of any children from the Tanleboneyer and Jack Brown liaison.
Tanleboneyer died in May 1835, seven months before Mannalargenna's own demise.
History was also unkind to their immediate family. 
Mannalargenna's sisters and all but one of his daughters were taken by sealers. 
George Augustus Robinson was unable to rescue them or alleviate any suffering.

1 comment:

bob said...

If only there was some way that these claims could be back up scientifically... http://www.themercury.com.au/news/tasmania/mona-owner-david-walsh-apologies-to-tasmanian-aboriginal-community-offended-by-southdale-display/story-fnj4f7k1-1226966429338

On another note,I have just discovered this website and have to give credit to its operators. I very much look forward to becoming an active member/contributer. Independent news outlets like this must learn to thrive, for the sake of our state, and even our nation.