Nharangga Wargunni Bugi-Buggillu, A journey through Narungga History. Written by Skye Krichauff.

When the Narungga of Yorke Peninsula saw Matthew Flinders’ ship Investigator sailing up Spencer Gulf in March 1802, little did they realise the great changes that were in store for them. Before official settlement of South Australia, Narungga had experienced at least 34 years of spasmodic but significant exposure to Europeans, particularly sailors, whalers and sealers.

The encounters between the two vastly different cultures were often violent resulting in a much more hostile and distrusting attitude towards the early settlers. When pastoralists began settling on Narungga land, relations between them and Narungga were far from friendly. As Narungga learnt to differentiate between ‘visitors’ and their weapons, they shifted from avoiding the white settlers to aggressively confronting them. Because of this they were soon seen as treacherous, untrustworthy savages.

With a potential for enormous profits huge leases were taken up and by the end of 1849 more than a hundred Europeans were living on seven pastoral properties. Soon both Europeans and Narungga committed brutal acts and both groups feared for their lives. While the records show that Narungga acted with restraint and in accordance with their own laws, the same could not be said of the Europeans.

The first official report of a Narungga killed was on 20 January 1849 when George Penton shot one of them. No government action was taken against him. Instead he was hailed a hero. Soon more Narungga were shot or poisoned with arsenic laced flour. None of the perpetrators were ever charged.

While killing of Aborigines on Yorke Peninsula was not, or at best much later, reported in newspapers, the spearing or killing of Europeans made headlines within a few days. Regardless of the violence on both sides the potential for huge profits was too enticing to contemplate abandoning their investments and stations. By the early 1850s Narungga showed a great deal of interest in European culture and cross-cultural relations improved vastly as did the employment of Narungga on pastoral stations. When Moorhouse visited Yorke Peninsula in 1852 he found the natives generally quiet and on good terms with the settlers.

When the Sub-Protector of Aborigines, John Parker Buttfield who was stationed at Port Lincoln, made an extensive tour of Yorke Peninsula in 1866 he found Aboriginal people at most places who were treated with kindness and were for the most part in good health.

After the pastoralists came the farmers and miners and Narungga were once again forced to adapt to new circumstances. A very different aspect of cross-cultural experience was the establishment of the Point Pearce Mission by 32 years old Moravian missionary Julius Kühn in 1868 with the full support of both Narungga and Europeans.

While trying to dispel many of the misconceptions held about Aborigines in general and Narungga in particular, the book explores many of the relationships and interactions between Narungga and European settlers in the nineteenth century. At the same time it aims to honour those Narungga who witnessed the takeover of their country, who watched as their people were decimated and the life they knew was destroyed.

Skye Krichauff powerfully demonstrates he agency and autonomy of Narungga and, in doing so, challenges stereotypes of Aboriginal passivity, aggression and victimisation. The stories of long forgotten people have been painstakingly resurrected from the archives. Drawing on a range of sources, this book provides an original and fresh interpretation of the historical records. They illustrate that Narungga decisively and actively engaged with newcomers and influenced key events.

Review by Nic Klaassen

Nharangga Wargunni Bugi-Buggillu, A journey through Narungga History.
Written by Skye Krichauff, with extensive footnotes and index, @ $34.95, is available from
Wakefield Press

Telephone 08 8352 4455


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