TRUGANINI: THE LAST FULL BLOOD TASMANIAN
On May 7, 1876, Truganini, the last full-blood Black person in Tasmania, died at 73 years of age. Her mother had been stabbed to death by a European. Her sister was kidnapped by Europeans. Her intended husband was drowned by two Europeans in her presence, while his murderers raped her.
It might be accurately said that Truganini’s numerous personal sufferings typify the tragedy of the Black people of Tasmania as a whole. “Don’t let them cut me up,” she begged the doctor as she lay dying. After her burial, Truganini’s body was exhumed, and her skeleton, strung upon wires and placed upright in a box, became for many years the most popular exhibit in the Tasmanian Museum and remained on display until 1947.
Finally, in 1976–the centenary years of Truganini’s death–despite the museum’s objections, her skeleton was cremated and her ashes scattered at sea.
CONCLUSION: TASMANIAN ABORIGINALS TODAY
In 1998 I was invited to come to Australia
and in November 1998 a dream came true when I spoke at the World’s Indigenous Peoples Conference in Toowomba, Southern Queensland, Australia. I considered it a truly great honor. During my Australian sojourn, in addition to the conference, I was able to travel to several regions and three states.
For the first time I interacted with large numbers of Aboriginal Australians. The conference itself was magnificent; a real triumph and one of the great experiences of my life. Even before the conference convened, however, I was shocked to meet for the initial time a Black man from Tasmania. He was professor Errol West of the University of Southern Queensland. West (a noted scholar and an excellent poet who is an ancestor now) and I quickly developed a close bond and became good friends.
We talked and socialized together a great deal and it became readily apparent that only the full-blood Blacks had perished in the holocaust, and that there were Black people living in Tasmania today.
In August 2004, I went to Tasmania itself where I actually met with some of the survivors of the European storm. I talked with them and cried with them. And I went to Oyster Cove, a cold and grim clearing in the woods on the edge of the water where remains of some of the Tasmanian Aboriginals were kept. It felt to me like I could look out of the corners of my eyes and see Tasmanian Aboriginals looking at me from just beyond the trees. It was an emotional, uncomfortable, and almost frightening experience. And I went to the Tasmanian Museum in Hobart and actually stood next to the very spot where Truganini’s body was kept on display for such a very long time. It was an experience that I will never forget. Indeed, as I always say now, “Always remember and never forget.” That expression, in essence, typifies the legacy of the Tasmanian Aboriginals. Always remember, never forget.
*Runoko Rashidi is a noted historian and anthropologist based and the author or editor of numerous scholarly works, including Black Star over Europe in 2011 and African Star over Asia in 2012. He is also a world traveler and is the coordinator of numerous group tours, including four scheduled for 2014. For more information visit www.travelwithrunoko.com or email him at [email protected]
WAR AGAINST THE TASMANIAN ABORIGINALS: A BIBLIOGRAPHY
Chauncy, Nan. Hunted in Their Own Land. Introduction and Afterword by Barbara Bader. New York: Seabury Press, 1973.
Davies, David. The Last of the Tasmanians. New York: Barnes & Noble, 1974.
Diamond, Jared. “Ten Thousand Years of Solitude.” Discover 14, No. 3 (Mar 1993): 48-57.
McMahon, Anne. “Tasmanian Aboriginal Women as Slaves.” Tasmanian Historical Research Association, Papers and Proceedings 23, No. 2 (1976)
Price, Pat Peatfield. The First Tasmanians. New York: Rigby, 1984.
Reynolds, Henry. Fate of a Free People: A Radical Re-Examination of the Tasmanian Wars. Baltimore: Penguin, 2004.
Turnbull, Clive. Black War: The Extermination of the Tasmanian Aborigines. Introduction by Ian Hogbin. 1948; rpt. Melbourne: Lansdowne Press, 1965.