With attention and kind treatment, they certainly might be made a very serviceable people. I have seen them employed in a boat as usefully as any white person; and the settlers have found some among them, who would go out with their stock, and carefully bring home the right numbers, though they have not any knowledge of numeration beyond three or four.
Their acquaintance with astronomy is limited to the names of the sun and moon, some few stars, the Magellanic clouds, and the milky way. Of the circular form of the earth they have not the smallest idea, but imagine that the sun returns over their heads during the night to the quarter whence he begins his course in the morning.
As they never make provision for the morrow, except at a whale-feast, they always eat as long as they have any thing left to eat, and when satisfied, stretch themselves out in the sun to sleep, where they remain until hunger or some other cause calls them again into action. I have at times observed a great degree of indolence in their dispositions, which I have frequently seen the men indulge at the expence of the weaker vessel the women, who have been forced to sit in their canoe, exposed to the fervour of the mid-day sun, hour after hour, chanting their little song, and inviting the fish beneath them to take their bait; for without a sufficient quantity to make a meal for their tyrants, who were lying asleep at their ease, they would meet but a rude reception on their landing.
APPENDIX XI—FUNERAL CEREMONIES
The first peculiarity noticeable in their funeral ceremonies is the disposal of their dead; their young people they consign to the grave; those who have passed the middle age are burnt. Bennillong burnt the body of his first wife Ba-rang-a-roo, who, I suppose, was at the time of her decease turned fifty. I have attended them on both occasions. The interment of Ba-loo-der-ry was accompanied with many curious ceremonies. From being one day in apparent perfect health, he was brought in the next extremely ill, and attended by Bennillong, whom we found singing over him, and making use of those means which ignorance and superstition pointed out to him to recover his health. Ba-loo-der-ry lay extended on the ground, appearing to be in much pain. Bennillong applied his mouth to those parts of his patient’s body which he thought were affected, breathing strongly on them, and singing: at times he waved over him some boughs dipped in water, holding one in each hand, and seemed to treat him with much attention and friendship. On the following morning he was visited by a car-rah-dy, who came express from the north shore. This man threw himself into various distortions, applied his mouth to different parts of his patient’s body, and at length, after appearing to labour much, and to be in great pain, spit out a piece of a bone about an inch and a half long (which he had previously procured).