Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Last Tasmanian

Fanny Cochrane-Smith (1834-1905)

Mainstream white histories tell us that Trugernanner [Truganini] (1812-1876) ...

Trugernanner [Truganini] (1812-1876)

... was the last surviving full-blood Tasmanian aboriginal.

As a not directly relevant issue here, aboriginal people I know say aboriginality is a matter of identification rather than full bloodedness.

Truganini is now widely used by liberals, like me (and you?) to signify the genocide with repect to the indigenous inhabitants of this country by the European settlers.

However, born on Flinders island of a Tanganutura mother of the North-eastern tribe and of a Nicermenic father from the Robbins Island group of the Northwestern tribe, Fanny Cochrane-Smith (1834-1905) LINK can better claim to be the last of her race from the Australian island State of Tasmania.

That Fanny's claim has been largely ignored may well be due to the politics surrounding identity and its requirement of living a more complete and typical indigenous lifestyle. From the age of seven and with no known aboriginal name, she lived and later worked in white homes and institutions and married married a white man, the English lawyer and ex-convict, William Smith.

Fanny, husband William Smith and perhaps two of her sons

However, Fanny continued traditional practices - hunting, gathering bush food and medicines, making baskets, diving for shellfish and engaging in aboriginal religious rituals. And was heralded as the 'last Tasmanian aboriginal' at a concert held in her honour in 1899 in Hobart.

You must know by now I'm pretty drawn in by the 'Window into the Past' experience - and it was flung wide open this morning in cyberspace, when I happened across some wax cylinder recordings made by Fanny between 1899 and 1903.

Fanny - 1903 Recording

They are the only extant examples of a Tasmanian aboriginal dialect - spoken and in song, songs which in some cases she also recorded in English ...

... and just just managing to survive, due to the dawn of wax cylinder recording!

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