Waranga News

Burial Rites


Recent Waranga Dreaming stories have focussed on three local Aboriginal people who are buried in the Murchison cemetery – “King Charles” Tattambo, his second wife “Queen Mary” and his son by his first marriage, known as “Captain John”. All three were born before European colonisation of the Waranga area and were deeply imbued with Aboriginal spirituality and culture. In view of that, it is somewhat surprising they all chose to be buried according to European, rather than Aboriginal, customs.

Captain John


The Aboriginal man called “Captain John” by the Europeans was the son of Tattambo and his first wife. We do not know John’s Aboriginal birth name or where he was born. When he died in 1874, it was estimated at the time that he was in his late 40s. If true, that would place his birth date in the mid to late 1820s. “Mr William Phillips, the oldest resident in the town, remembers him as a boy of 12 or 13, when the Protectorate was first established under Mr Le Soeuf in 1839.”



“QUEEN MARY” image

When Tattambo died on 1.1.1868, it was reckoned that he was at least 70. If this was accurate, then he was born prior to 1800. This was well before any first contact with Europeans on Ngurai-illum Wurrung country in northern Victoria.

Local kinship connections


Mentioned in the previous story, Tattambo (often referred to by Europeans as King Charles) was apparently born into a clan of the Ngurai-illum Wurrung people called the Gunung Willam, whose home country was on the Campaspe River south of Elmore. The names of his parents are unknown. Like his father and any siblings, he was in the “Waa” or crow moiety. As such, one of his cultural duties was to conserve and protect the crow. His mother would have been from another clan, and if she was from one of the groups of Aboriginal people in the Kulin nation, she would have been from a “Bunjil”, or wedge-tailed eagle, clan and moiety.

Aboriginal spirituality


Closely linked to the systems of kinship that were briefly discussed in the previous Waranga Dreaming story are the advanced notions of spirituality that were evident in the lives of Aboriginal people of this area prior to European colonisation. Compared to some of the major religions of today, Aboriginal spirituality had evolved over tens of thousands of years, with local variations.

Kinship relationships


Each member of the Ngurai-illum Wurrung Aboriginal people belonged to one of two moieties, Bunjil or Waa. Moiety means “half” in Latin, and in the local Aboriginal context means there are two social or ritual groups into which all people are divided.