Tommy McRae - The Aboriginal Source
Given that Mr Pascoe appears to think that British and Australian historians and academics over the past 250 years have conspired to keep secret, nay erase, all evidence of the ‘Great Aboriginal Agricultural Enterprise’, we decided to see what a contemporary, Aboriginal source, had to say on the matter. Yackaduna or Warra-euea, a member of the Kwatkwat people, was a brilliant artist and known to us as Tommy McRae (1835b-1901d). Surely Mr Pascoe could not discount McRae’s testimony?
McRae did countless sketches of how life was for the Aborigines and early settlers and pastoralists in his region in the nineteenth century. He lived in, or close to, the Upper Murray (Albury to Yarrawonga) all his life. On the evidence of his art and at least one contemporary account, his early years were spent in a relatively undisturbed, traditional lifestyle. His books of drawings mostly recorded traditional Aboriginal life, but during his life he witnessed (and recorded in drawings) the establishment of a pastoral settler society in his country.
So we would think that McRae would be an excellent, unbiased, non-British recorder of traditional Aboriginal life, with his depictions of women ‘cultivating’ the ‘vast cereal fields’ with heavy, stone Bogan picks, ‘reaping’ and ‘storing’ the grain in ‘hayricks’ or ‘stooks’ for miles along the river banks, before heading back to their ‘stone house villages’ to grind the ‘tonnes’ of grain and then firing up the ‘bakeries’ to pump out the ‘bread’ for their menfolk and kids.
Well, we have checked as many of Tommy McRae’s wonderful drawings as we could find and unsurprisingly there is not one that could be described as depicting any Aboriginal ‘agriculture’, ’aquaculture’ or a ‘settled existence’. Not one. Just ‘hunting and gathering’ Aborigines and the encroaching British agriculture and settlements.
So, no record of Aboriginal agriculture here!
Some of McRae’s wonderful work is below.