Devils and Tigers - Why Tasmania Has A Dark History
The Tiger is gone but is the Devil still at large?
In April 1770 Lieutenant James Cook of the British Royal Naval ship Endeavour disembarked at Botany Bay, Australia. By the 23rd of April he had recorded in his journal that they had made an initial contact with indigenous people "four or five ... Indians ... naked and very black" . However, his report back to the king was simply that there was “nobody there” .
We all know the tragedy of the Tasmanian Tiger which alongside the plight of the Dodo remains an all too recent reminder of humanity's callous irresponsibly with the privileges afforded to it. Yet, so often history tells only half the story of the cruelty and evil of which the Human race are capable. The extermination of the Tasmanian Tiger was a tragedy but its story remains something of a smokescreen to an even more horrendous annihilation that took place on that very same colonial outpost.
The other story of extinction on Tasmania rarely told
It took approximately 140 years for settlers to exterminate the Tasmanian Tiger population with the last know animal dying in captivity in 1936. Yet On the 7th of May 1876 only 60 years prior and over a period of less than 80 years, the extinction of the last full-blood indigenous human being took place with the last gasp plea "Don't let them cut me up". This woman by the name of Truganini had lasted 73 torturous years during which time she had seen her mother stabbed to death, Her sister kidnapped and her husband drowned in her presence while his murderers raped her.
it is estimated that approx. 5,000 indigenous Aborigines inhabited Tasmania around the time of Cook's arrival. An article published on December 1, 1826 in the Tasmanian Colonial Times declared "We make no pompous display of Philanthropy. The Government must remove the natives - if not, they will be hunted down like wild beasts and destroyed!" Before not too long, whites were given the authority to 'kill Blacks on sight'. With wooden clubs and sharpened sticks being no match for gun powder, the Aborigine population were hunted like wild animals with a savagery that is unimaginable.
"Black catching" soon became big business with £5 paid for an adult and £2 for a child. Horrific and inhumane acts of Barbary ensued with Aborigines being casually shot, speared and clubbed to death. To add to the brutality, men were tied to trees as target practice, women chained up, tortured and raped as sex slaves and infants roasted alive. Historical notes describe one foray where 70 Aborigines were killed with the men being shot while women and children were dragged from rocky crevices to have their brains dashed out. Other stories described children being kept as pets and a native man being decapitated and his head hung round his wife's neck before she was taken away to the murderers shack.
The last indigenous male known as King Billy, died on March 2, 1868. Ridiculed in life, his bones became things of desire after his death. There are stories of numerous individuals seeking his remains and the suggestion that his skull was secretly removed and replaced by that of another patient who had died that same day. With the clamour for his body parts being impossible to fend off, his hands and feet were also removed so that nothing should be left that was worth taking.
As for Truganini, despite her last plea, her body was exhumed and her skeleton became the Museum of Tasmania's most popular exhibit until their removal in 1947. Against the museums wishes in 1976, only 34 years ago, her skeleton was finally cremated and scattered at sea.
This little known barbaric piece of human history I am sure is one of many events that remain hidden in the depths of journals that show what mankind is capable of if the perception of collective views deem it acceptable. The holocaust and African slave trade episodes were large scale stories of human darkness involving entire nations under governmental controls. However, so many more localised atrocities remain suppressed rather than be recounted as a harsh reminder of the depths to which humanity can sink when left to its own devices. With no known penalty given to any of the perpertrators of the Aborginal genicide the question remains to whether the devil to whom Tasmania was once home is still at large?
The above article is based on various accounts but most notably those written by Dr. Runoko Rashidi while the pictures depict Truganini after and before her death.