Lessons to be learnt
The last story talked about the essential items that the Ngurai-illum Wurrung women would have carried around with them as they moved around country. Similarly, the men would need to select just a few easily-carried items e.g. spears and clubs. Heavy items, such as grinding stones, were left at regularly used campsites.
Carrying essential items
Although it is well established that Aboriginal people in the Waranga area were much more than just hunter-gatherers, there is plenty of evidence of seasonal migration around Ngurai-illum Wurrung country. Before times of travel, the women had to decide what items they would need to always carry with them. There would certainly be a number of small tools, such as a scraper (shell), an awl (bone), a cutting blade (stone) and a yam digging stick amongst the items that would be regularly used. These items could be carried in a bag or basket. In addition, the women may have used another carrying vessel (these days most often referred to as a ‘coolamon’, although that is an anglicised NSW Aboriginal word), an oval U-shaped piece of bark or wood which could be used for transporting food collected on their travels. This would often be carried on the head. It could also be used under an arm to carry a small baby.
Another local resource that has been mentioned in relation to the making of possum skin cloaks was the shells of freshwater mussels. Apparently, the shells were used to scrape excess animal fat from the inside of the possum skins before they were dried. They were also used to incise patterns into the cloaks before they were painted with ochre.
Use of ochre
In recent stories about corroborees and possum-skin cloaks, mention was made of the use of ochre.
As noted in the previous story, perhaps the most prized possessions of local Aboriginal people were their possum skin cloaks.
Possum Skin Cloaks
Squatter Edward Curr’s description of a corroboree on his run in the 1840s, near present-day Tongala, makes two references to the use of possum skin cloaks. In one, he talks about the women rolling up their cloaks, leather-side out, and bashing on them to make a bass percussion accompaniment to the corroboree. In the other, when each man started to prepare himself for the corroboree by painting his body and appending various parts of his costume, “his opossum-rug (was) discarded for the occasion.”