The Clans of Kgippandingi


According to the ancient “Legend of Gympie”, there were originally ten major clans of native peoples occupying the jungle lands of Bpi'kgila-dhu'ri - the central Mary River region around Gympie between 1851-1885. The ten ancient clans still spoke variations of an ancient language called Kgaw'bpidhal'i (Kgaw'bvi: Kga’bi: Ka’bi) along the Mary River.

Their rich lands extended from the high banks of the Mary River to the inland and coastal ranges east and west of the mighty river. Their ancient language was the universal language of "nowhere but of everywhere" meaning that it belonged to no one. However, because everyone spoke it in some way or form, this may point to the firm possibility that it may have been one of the earliest surviving language bases and the due forerunner to the five known original language dialects of South East Queensland (Bat'ja, Wak'ka, Yugara'bul, Yugum'bir and Kga'bi).

It appears therefore that, because of these close clan associations, many early historians of Aboriginal history mistakenly called all the speakers of the language collectively as we still do today - the Ka'bi race even though all resident regional clans were separate identities with different dialects, customs and lifestyles. From what we now know from the writings of these early historians and later research projects, this is how the classification “Ka'bi race” originated as an early collective reference.

This “classification” is compounded by the fact that very little was ever recorded of the Mary River Valley clans who by default, supposition and theory, were recorded as having similar characteristics to those clans found in and around the other early European pioneering settlement regions of South East Queensland when such claims were not so. It is now a reasonably established fact from modern-day research that some of these “historians” could not have or never had been in the traditional Ka’bi lands - their travels taking them into the fringe areas of the coast, the Brisbane River valley, Connondale Ranges and the south Burnett regions – even into the early town port of Maryborough. These regions were in the territories of the “Yugumbi”, “U’gara”, “Wak’ka” and “Batja: Batjala”. The Noosa-Tewantin-Nambour region came later – coastal Ka’bi associated areas.

It is now known from modern research into localised pioneering records that there were ten different Mary River Valley clans (not tribes) containing many individual family groups who had ten different totemic names and different territories one could not enter without permission. They enjoyed the same basic customs, rituals and so on. What joined them together was one common notable feature - the fact that they all spoke the same ancient language - Kgaw'bpidhal'i: Kgaw'bi: Ka'bi (depending on the European pronunciation). Some modern “claimants” state the term was “Gub’bi”. This is incorrect – the term “Gub’bi” has been identified as being a little known expletive term used by most clans in South East Queensland according to the earliest known language records.

As far as it is known, the only known local pioneer records list the original ten Ka’bi clans of the Mary River Valley region as the:
  • The Kgi'kgami - The Cockatoo People of the Miva-Woolooga regions
  • The Kgai'ya - The Scar Makers of the Widgee and western range regions
  • The Kgu'li - The Beeswax/Bee Hunting peoples of the Pie-Eel Creek, Mooloo-Kandanga regions
  • The Kga'pbala - The Opossum People of the Imbil-Yabba-Kenilworth-Connondale regions
  • The Kgai'yani - The Forest Dwellers of the ranges west of the Imbil and Kenilworth regions
  • The Kgung'wuri - The River Fishermen of the upper Mary Valley-Obi-Dhawalli regions
  • The Kguala'wani - The Tree Bear Hunters between Six Mile Creek and Mary River
  • The Kgu'thari - The Club Hunters of the Gympie-Deep Creek regions
  • The Kgut'dhirri - The Iguana Peoples of the Gunalda-Curra-Neerdie regions
  • The Kga'kgari - The Cannibalistic Peoples of the Theebine, Gundiah and Bauple regions

From localised records and as far as it is known, all or most of these clans were basically extinct by c.1885. Those that had survived were elderly and incapable of childbirth (a list showing the last known member of each clan still survives). These “survivors” lived the rest of their lives as servants or station workers or were transported to Cherbourg. There are no records of any genuine descendents except for the Ka’bi Kgai’ya of the Widgee and western range regions. His name was Dhakkan’guini (c.1846-1938). He was the last of the clans of Kgippandingi. The only other known descendents of the Gympie Ka’bi Kguthari clan – Willie and Emma Dunn – died c.1923-25 at Gympie. They left no family.

Extracts from an early historian’s report in 1851 states:

“ … has been much feasting, singing and dancing to the late hours of the night… never experienced a show spectacle of this nature before… Were these the vicious, hostile natives we were led to believe inhabited the area? Could this be the place where Europeans dared to tread? I dare to say that some untruths have been surely spread to deter further settlement by unscrupulous land squatters in their endeavours to procure as much land as they can in a manner of their known greed for power… plainly seen in the southern colonies.”

“… anxious to communicate… in mixtures of sign language, ground drawings and words similar to those used by clans around homesteads of the south… different to these people… been difficult translating but one of challenge between our two cultures… the first white men of a friendly nature they have encountered… they have heard of and seen “evil ghost spirits” (Europeans)… they use "thunder sticks" to chase their people… they kill their people…”

“… apparent that there is a clan or tribal council in the manner of the natives from the south and west where the old men of the clan or tribe group take membership… In the case of the Kgai’ya peoples, there appears to be a better system of council. The chosen leader or eldest male of each family group within the clan is the member (there were 12 in the Kgai’ya Council) and from them one seems to have been chosen as the “Clan Spokesman” or “Chief Elder Man” at one time - I am assuming he will hold that honorous position until misadventure or death takes him…”

“… they gather in a circle centred of all the shelters. They stand in an order possibly of rank. The Chief Elder Man gives chant. The others make a short response and sit with legs crossed all facing the Chief Elder Man who remains in the centre of the circle. Discussion takes place with each family leader or elder man in turn expressing his view. I know not of their topic today for I am not of the council. The debate lasted nearly an hour and was of strong venting at times. The Council was at its end when the Chief Elder Man left the circle. Briskly, they returned to their corner of the campsite. I have taken to assuming that these positions in the campsite are also in order of ranking."

A sample from the photo gallery:

An early map c.1870 showing land territories
of the Ka’bi Clans of Kgippandingi.

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