Cannibalism - Some Hidden Truths


What are the truths and fictions on cannibalism?
Is it primitive starvation barbarism or a necessity for human survival through spiritual belief?
Could we in fact call today’s “human donor/transplant” system a form of cannibalism? Our modern day practice is to prolong life just as the natives believed in reincarnation beliefs.

The “abhorrent” practice was not restricted to the native peoples. In their cultures, the act was mostly performed in relation to spiritual beliefs and the consummation of a victim’s physical attributes. It was also a means of survival from starvation due to food shortages following droughts, disasters and even wars throughout the world. It has even occurred in more recent times by “civilised” peoples.

A few known “modern” examples include a recent plane crash in the South American Andes; Inuit reports of early English Arctic explorers; Japanese eating Australians, local peoples and comrades in New Guinea during World War 2; ritual cannibalism on Mer in the Torres Strait using a “Gaba-Gaba (a stone club), a “Singai” (a cane loop) and a “Upi” (head knife); Skull trading (after meat extraction) by the Maoris of New Zealand in the 1800’s; wide-spread cannibalism of captives in most Pacific Island peoples (notably New Guinea where the term “long pig” evolved).

The cannibal controversies have raged for over a century in Australia between historians and modern “descendents” of Aboriginal peoples. One fact is now certain. The ritual practices did occur with most activities occurring by necessity to avoid starvation and through their spiritual beliefs in “reincarnation” – factors often misunderstood by successive generations of Europeans. To support such avid claims, researchers have recorded hundreds of Australian instances where the clan practices once occurred across the continent. These reports state that child eating; the consummation of family members upon sudden death and of an enemy after battle were reasonably common actions. “Human oils” were highly prized. It was the Christian conversions that saw the finality of the age-old customs. One point often ignored by historians is that the practice also occurred amongst early Europeans in Australia.

Handwritten statements by the runaway convict David Bracefell in the Noosa region state “… Now, twenty years after it all happened, I think it’s about time I put the record straight. After all, Mrs Eliza Fraser and her adventures are part of our history and if you can’t know the truth about history, what can you know the truth about? (Bracefell was also known later as Captain Green of New Zealand, husband to Mrs Green, who was earlier known as Mrs Eliza Frazer. He was also called Bracefield in the media and “Wandi” or “Wondi” by the Queensland tribe with whom he once lived).

Bracefell goes on to say, “… the first mate, Brown, was helping defend Captain Fraser from the mutiny of his ship-wrecked crew when he dozed off. Darge tried to take his musket and the two struggled before Youlden stabbed Brown. Later, as the crew travelled on foot, Bobby Hodges was killed by Darge who apparently was proud of his compassion, relating to Bracewell that he’d offered Hodges a choice of a quick death – choking or throat-cutting. Hodges’ panic, after drawing the short straw, led him to beg Darge to slice flesh from his legs, but to leave him alive – but this “sickened” Darge, who then cut Hodges’ throat (escaping convicts are reported to often take “food on foot”. Straw-drawing it seems was considered a fair way to decide who became the next meal)”.

Speaking of Darge, Bracefell says, “He had, he confessed to me afterwards, become quite fond of that particular repast”. The locals (“Aboriginals”) were often blamed for these particular incidents. (Based on Hodge’s reports presented on 13.09.1836 after his alleged death and a Sydney Gazette Report on the shipwreck of Mrs. Frazer of the same time period). Strange isn’t it that Bracefell’s statement on cannibalism appears to be ignored in accounts of Queensland’s (and Australia’s) pioneering histories?

What then of reports claiming Aboriginal practices? In Queensland, a common habit around Moreton Bay and Fraser’s Island reported by pioneers was that “they skinned the deceased of the people, in one piece, leaving fingers, toes and ears intact (shades of the Aztec Xipe Totec?) before drying the skin on sticks and rolling it up. A torch was applied to the heated body beforehand to remove hair (except scalp and beard) and rubbed to remove the hair and outer skin particles. The meat was then distributed according to custom.”

West of Cooktown, Chinese were roasted in clay white-ant ovens, “smelling and looking exactly like roast pork, even the yellow skin crinkled like that of pork … they have declined to eat white men who were tobacco eaters … the blacks suspected the flesh of being poisoned, knowing the odor was not that of clean, healthy human flesh.” In Castletown, 1895, another report stated, “Once I asked Joci what he liked best to eat. He replied – Talgoro (human flesh)…”

Carl Lumholtz in his report stated, “Among cannibals … On Herbert River expeditions are sometimes undertaken for the special purpose of securing “Talgoro”… The Kalkadoons in their prime were reputedly not fussy, and would exhume bodies to eat, as did the emu-slippered peoples of central Australia. Babies, plump young women, and strong young warriors, including the so-called “half-caste” babies and youths were good eating in many parts of Australia. A “half-caste” born in western Queensland (recorded at Westlands Station on the Thompson River) was permitted to live for about three weeks thereupon it was roasted on the fire and distributed amongst those present, and eaten.”

At Herberton 1882, he claims one of the Mourilyan Aborigines stated “… piccaninny makes quite a delicious meat… North Queensland rainforest “pygmies” were well known for their cannibalism and “would go out and tease” the tall lanky aboriginals until they were chased back into the rainforest where they ambushed their pursuers. Of course, some weren’t quick enough to make it back to the rainforests either! … tables were turned on local cannibals in the Cardwell area when plantation owners like Charles Eden bought slaves (Kanakas) from other Pacific Islands … One by one all ten Aborigines were caught. The fires were lit and a great feast was held (“Sunday foraging” was the joke of the time)”.

In NSW, many instances were recorded on the Bollon and Mooni Creek regions of “human burnings”, “meat eatings” and “collections of body fat juices”. In Victoria, there are numerous reports that the Maneroo, Brajeracks, Narrinyeri, Merkani and the Tattiara were indeed cannibals and seekers of “fat” people to eat – and to gather body fats. The reason? Their claim was “that because father belonging to you and me” – that is, the ancestors did it; in other words, as a traditionary custom of which the meaning was lost. Ancestral mythologies from clans all over Australia – even to the Altjiringa legends of the central Australian Aranda peoples, mention cannibalism as a common practice. Despite all of these known instances reported Australia-wide, political, self-interested individuals and associated organizations continue their search to erase all books and references that mention cannibalism and infanticide in Australia – changing past histories to suit modern objectives is nothing new.

To all of these reports, we can now add the most in-depth instances where cannibalism was actively practiced amongst the Ka’bi clans of the Mary River Valley and nearby Cooloola Coast regions.

A report (edited) on the Kgut’dhirri clan north of Gympie dated 29th June 1853 states:

“…should take care with our association with those of such close association with the man-eaters of the Kga’kgari … heard they eat men when the iguana is hard to find… iguana were in big mobs at present so the Kgut’dhirri’s bellies were full.”

An eyewitness report (edited) dated 5th August 1865 on the killing of a white man states:

“… an observation of six males from the Kgut’dhirri (clan) … taken hold of a white male… was affronted by five of the Kgut’dhirri males… sudden movement of the sixth native who had come in from behind… attacker hit hard and cracked open his skull with the force of a large club… dead at the moment of striking despite the contortions of his body on the ground... With great haste, they took away his clothing leaving him naked on the ground…”
“… three of them produced sharp European knives… relieved him of his innards… arms and legs were trussed with vine in the manner of a captured iguana… in two swift strokes, cut away the victims appendices… held them high in his hand… gave forth a cry of victory… placed his trophy in a dilly bag… carried forth the poor soul's body on a pole towards their camp… old women… examined the body… placed large logs on the fire… given a coat of grease to the body… the body was in place on the coals of the fire… knew of no other time or place where a white man was killed and eaten… "

The following is a report (edited) on the Kga’kgari Clan dated 9th July 1853:

“… men and women had many scars of a quite hideous appearance over their bodies… large quantities of meat are in the process of being roasted… necklaces of quills held by gum upon a hair string are large and elaborate… the same name title was used not only for these Kga’kgari peoples but also for the island of K’gari… Fraser's Island. I ask myself – are these descendents of a race upon that island? The words indicate ”blood” and “meat that is sweet”.”

"… campsite was a place of horrowful reminders of an extreme primitive culture… were man-eaters… was not kept to the eating of the bodies of the enemy… many of the clans did this thing a long time ago but not many now… the Kga’kgari: Ka’gari or Kgari had a special liking for babies or young boys and girls… very sweet and prized meats... these people would make raids upon the Ba’tja of Wide Bay, those of K’gari Island, and others down to the place of Kgu’lulu along the coast… would take surprise upon the clans of the Muruba’kgira (Mary River)… can fully understand why the river clans took to them as outcasts… camp indicates an evil culture from the quantity of skulls on pickets visible about the shelters showing the origins of man, bird and beast."

Another eyewitness report (edited) on the Kga’kgari dated 11th June 1854 states:

"… taken to cover overlooking a large camp of natives… was able to observe an orgy of utter revulsion… in a frenzied motion uttering sounds of madness… consumed a liquid resembling the content and colour of blood… dark bodies were coated with much spillage… witness to a human feast… some ten corpses… ten more victims awaiting a similar fate… a victim brought forward… struck from behind… neck was cut… blood filled containers… head was severed and split… old men took possession of the brain, eyes and tongue… separate cooking stones… body was then gutted… heart was handed to the leader… placed also on the special cooking stones… strips of sweet meat were taken from the lower back… given to all the (old) men and placed on the stones… these parts are important… men gained the knowledge, the sight, speech skills, soul and the strength of the victim…”
“… the victors took portions of the liver and all of the male’s appendix parts… liver was eaten raw… the man’s prides were placed on the coals for roasting… body was trussed and hung on a frame above the coals. The odour drifting in the aire was of burning flesh. When cooked, the arms and legs or preferred portions of those limbs were shared between the men… why such rituals are performed… told that the liver of a man resembled life because it was full of blood… quenches the thirst like water… eating of the male’s appendices passed on the prowess of the victim in his mating capacity… legs and arm pieces represented the strengths of the victim… all the males duly shared. The ritual of sharing the body was completed when the rest was left to the women and the children.”

Another eyewitness account on Fraser’s Island (edited) dated 28th and 29th July 1862 states:

"… cannibalism was still practised by some Dham’bari… those killed in battle or by accident… the Ba’tja performed such rituals also… the Ngu’lu were bad… would seek out such flesh from any means unfortunate… five fine specimens of young (Bat’ja) men accompany us… warned a group of Ngulun’gi roaming the Ba’tja lands… our companions leapt to their feet crying out "Ngu’lu, Ngu’lu"… told to stay well-hidden… gathered their weapons and ran outwards onto the sands... a group of natives was progressing along the seashore from the north with their women… adorned with coloured shells and feathers… eleven of them in number.”
“… confrontation took place… Ngu’lu men… encircled the Ba’tja … unseen blows were struck to the head… bodies lay writhing on the sands… mortally wounded… women set about in a wild frenzy of butchering… slicing open… tearing out their entrails with their hands… threw such remains to the sea… a trail of blood to the water's edge… one must have been still alive… blow not death dealing… agonising screams echoed down the shores… entrails were wrenched from his body… orgie of smearing each other's body with the blood of the victims… proceeded to eat… the livers and hearts… observed them bathing with blood from the bowls of the stomachs… bodies carried to the sea (like) of sacks of flour… washed clean, turning the waters into scarlet… waters turned to froth as sharks appeared in many numbers… bodies were trussed upon their strong spear-like weapons… the party disappeared to the north…”

These eye-witnessed reports are the only known record of ritual “cannibalism” in relation to the Ka’bi clans of the Mary River Valley and the Cooloola-Fraser’s Island region. It is not known if the Ka’bi clans south of Noosa and south of Kenilworth in the upper Mary Valley participated in such activities. One has to presume if one Ka’bi clan performed such rituals at one time – all others would have also.

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