JANDAMARRA (PIGEON)

1873 - 1897

 

 

 

 

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The Bunumba Aborigines of the Kimberley region of W.A. had been in conflict with the European settlers over possession of the land for quite some time before the name Jandamarra (or Pigeon (1) as he was known to the Europeans) became notorious.

Jandamarra, like many of his tribe, was arrested for spearing sheep and sent to Derby. This enforced absence from his people meant that he was not properly trained in the 'law' of the tribe and combined with some sexual mis-adventures with a lubra (Aboriginal woman) of the 'wrong skin' he was ostracised by his tribe when he was finally released from prison.

Having little alternative, Jandamarra started working on cattle stations and quickly gained a reputation as an excellent horseman and a crack shot with a rifle.

Jandamarra became friends with William Richardson and later when Richardson joined the police, Jandamarra went with him and together they were very successful at capturing Aborigines wanted for various offences.

It was unusual for an Aborigine who came from the same area as those he was tracking to be used by the police. The problem of divided loyalties meant that most Aboriginal trackers were usually brought in from distant areas.

 

Jandamarra's prolonged acquaintance with the settlers meant that he was trusted and it was this the led him to be used in tracking members of his own tribe - something that led to tragedy.

Richardson and Jandamarra had captured 15 tribesmen and were resting at Lillimilura (also spelled Lillmooloora in some sources) when Jandamarra also managed to capture Ellemarra (3). Ellemara had been a hunting companion and mentor to Jandamarra in the past and while the prisoners and their captors rested, Ellemarra worked on Jandamarra reminding him of his tribal obligations.

In the end Ellemarra succeeded and Jandamarra shot and killed Richardson while he slept (2). Jandamarra then freed his prisoners and the group armed themselves with the weapons the police party had been carrying.

Shortly afterwards Jandamarra and his group attacked a group of 5 drovers, killing Burke (or Bourke in some sources) and Gibbs, as they were bringing a herd of cattle towards Windjana Gorge. In the wagon was a large store of arms and ammunition and the Aborigines now had the means to conduct a prolonged resistance to white settlement.

There had already been a great deal of trouble and killings on both sides but a well armed group of Aborigines, led by a man who had a good deal of knowledge about police procedure, was the settlers worst nightmare.

The government in Perth had been reluctant to act on the issue previously but now they had no choice.

On November 16th 1894 the police set up an ambush at Windjana but their plan was anticipated by Jandamarra. After a prolonged stalemate both Ellemarra (4) and Jandamarra were wounded. The tribe withdrew into the fortress of rocks that they had used so many times before.

A period of guerrilla war now ensued with the Aborigines conducting hit and run raids and then retreating to their stronghold. Jandamarra made his base at what is now called Tunnel Creek and when a group of troopers finally managed to find his lair, Jandamarra was busily raiding Lillimilura - which had been left unguarded.

In March 1897 Jandamarra led a raid on Oscar Range Station where Tom Jasper was killed. A police patrol was quickly on the raiding party's trail and in the ensuing fire fight Jandamarra was wounded as was a member of the patrol. The next day Jandamarra attacked the police party killing a native trooper before retreating once more.

This time the police were not giving up. More mounted patrols arrived and Jandamarra was shot twice more. Again he escaped but this time he could not evade his pursuers. Cornered and out of ammunition he finally fell to the police bullets. (5)

Jandamarra faced the same fate as Yagan, having his head cut off and sent to England.

Many of the 'facts' about Jandamarra's life are simply stories or hear-say. There is very little actual evidence available and this has led to a profusion of different tales in different sources.

(1) There are alternate reasons given for this nickname ranging from how his eyes looked to the idea that he wrung the necks of his victims. William Lukin of Lennard River station may have named him 'Pigeon' because of his small stature, fleet-footedness and his cheeky but endearing personality. The name Jandamurra has be variously spelled Sandawara, Sandamurra and Gendamurra in different sources.
(2) Another story is also told about the killing of Richardson that says Pigeon found Richardson interfering with his woman when he returned from scouting around and hit Richardson in the head with a rifle butt killing him. This second story actually does have a 'ring of truth' to it as it is the sort of thing that the authorities would have been keen to cover up. Much better to have a treacherous Aborigine killing an unarmed policeman in his sleep! It is also said that the gin concerned had a half-caste child that was rumoured to have been fathered by Richardson.
(3) One source says Ellemarra was Jandamarra's brother other sources say uncle.
(4) Some sources say Ellemarra was killed not wounded.
(5) One source says Jandamarra was shot by another Aboriginal tracker named Micki or Mingo Mick.

 

Chronology

 

1873 - Born. The year of his birth is uncertain, some sources quote 1870.

1894 - Jandamarra's band attacked 5 drovers, killing two.

1894 - On November 16th the police set up an ambush at Windjana Gorge but Jandamarra escaped.

1895 - Led a raid on Lillimooloora police station.

1896 - Managed to embarrass police again by raiding and escaping.

1897 - Led a raid on the Oscar Range Station in March.

1897 - Died April 1st.

 

Links to more information:

 

Jandamarra

Jandamarra the man

Jandamarra (1870-1897)

 

 

 

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