Thursday, July 30, 2009

From Gumnuts to Buttons


Captain James Cook

Theme Thursday and I had to press the panic button! Where to go with this one?

Indigenous Tasmanians after white contact, became famous for their necklaces strung with tiny, lustrous shells. There is no apparent reason for this and no pre white contact history of the aborigines there addorning their bodies with any type of jewellery.

There is a theory proposed by Antique authority John Hawkins, that Tasmanian Aborigines created these necklaces as a result of being given strings of glass beads and buttons at Adventure Bay by James Cook in 1777.

Between 13 January and 27 February 1802, Nicholas Baudin was sent to map the coast of Tasmania. The expedition successfully explored the southern part of the east coast of the apple isle and Baudin’s journal relates the following regarding necklaces, gifts and trinkets.


15 January 1802
'... One of our sailors exchanged his jacket for a kangaroo skin. The native tied it round his neck and went off a little way. His principal concern was to remove all the buttons, and then he abandoned the jacket. Of these, they all appear to be very fond. Citizen Bonnefoi gave a woman a small mirror in return for her necklace. The locket on it consisted of an English penny and a metal button, but nobody could discover when she had acquired them. With everyone sitting down again, they turned their attention to pockets and the metal buttons on some of the men’s waistcoats. Several did not ask before searching through them for things they might fancy, while others
indicated by unambiguous signs how pleased they would be to own the buttons.
Some were cut off and distributed amongst them to their great satisfaction...’

Indeed, military jackets with brass buttons were also presented to other indigenous populations in Canada and New Zealand, Hawaii and etc. as a sign of status, a faux attempt at 'peace'.

Interestingly, there's an educational kit for Tasmanian school children called "From Gumnuts to Buttons" This activity explores the relationships between the European Settlers (buttons) and the Native Aborigines (gumnuts) throughout history. Not a happy history I am sad to say and we are still trying to make amends and resolve the pain of the past.

Although there is something very innocent and sweet about the indigenous inhabitants of this great brown land, divesting the European invaders of their coats only to only to have them de-buttoned and dropped in the dust! If only white diplomacy could have been pursued through a button exchange instead of invasion and attempted eradication. What a different country this would be.

49 comments:

subtorp77 said...

Baino, I don't think the past can ever be repaid but it's oft repeated, sad enough. Interesting spot of history here( kinda like the whole of Manhattan being traded for $24.00 worth of trinkets ). And strange as it may seem, there are still places one can do some real trading, similar to this. I like the take on the theme, here :)

steph said...

Great history lesson, Baino

My late MIL was a Cook and could be traced back to yer man.

Yesterday, a dear friend visited me in hospital bringing with her the gift of a necklace she'd made specially for me. I wear it with great pride.

The Man at the Pub said...

Just proves that people the world over are attracted to small, sparkly things.

I recently read a James Cook biography. He was an interesting chappy who did some rather interesting things. Quite the 'modern' man for his first two voyages, then went kind of mad on the 3rd one.

Bimbimbie said...

Gumnuts and buttons I've not heard either peoples described that way before. Sweet image of the locals de-buttoning the outsiders coats. Very wise really, can you imagine the whiff coming off their clothing after all that travel time*!*

Megan said...

All that glitters is not gold...

Ces said...

See? They removed the buttons so no one can "press" them!

nick said...

Strange, the fascination for buttons. I suppose the fascination with gold and silver and precious stones is equally strange when you start to think about it. They have little functional value but are highly prized as attractive ornaments.

River said...

"A button exchange instead of invasion.."
Ah, if only. The world is full of 'if only", and even looking back through history and muttering many "if onlys", white people still continue to use invasion as a means of accquiring new places to live/plunder. It's a sad situation, fuelled by greed. We want it, we want it all, we want it now.....

Candie Bracci said...

Interesting post Baino!I was not inspired by buttons,you've done great actually.Have a nice day :)

Paddy Bloggit said...

Cheap way of paying off the natives Baino.

It's always been the case to try and con the other guy ...

Kate said...

Fascinating ...Lets update the system what will anyone trade me for something traditionally English???? All answers considered!!!

Baino said...

Pretty sad our aboriginal history. Especially in Tassie Subby. There was a conscious action to eradicate the aborigines down there.

He was quite the traveller Steph. I did my history major on his exploits on the St Lawrence river. For a man that was barely home in good old Grimsby, he sired a lot of children!

Aww nice to get gifts in hospital.

TMATP - ooh shiny things . .that's me. So distracted right now! He was an interesting chap. There's a replica of the Endeavour at our Maritime museum. Amazing how far he travelled in such a tiny ship. I think it was the Hawaiians that went mad! He got his cummuppence there!

Bimbimbie it's a kit that they use in Tasmanian schools to teach about the diminishing numbers of Aborigines since occupation. I guess by using gumnuts and buttons, they are maintaining a level of political correctness.

True that!

Haha . . true that too Ces!

Just shiny things they hadn't seen before I guess Nick. Apparently invaders were in the habit of presenting jackets and glass beads to a number of indigenous people upon first meeting. Shame they graduated to more lethal gifts.

Candie, it was a tough one alright. And I was a little pressed for time.

Always the way Paddy. I think to some extent we're still paying the third world lip service rather than serious attention.

Ooh Kate . . I'll send you some kangaroos for Walnut Whip?

subtorp77 said...

Baino I did see "Quigley Down Under" many years ago and it touched on this eradiction, all too well. I don't hold out much hope for humans...

Leah said...

A really excellent lesson here, well told too, on something I didn't know about.

Kate said...

Done!!! And I could be pressed to throw in a malt loaf or a nice tea bag or two!!!

Grannymar said...

Very interesting take on your subject. Buttons for me would have gone a very different road.

Thanks for the history lesson.

Alan Burnett said...

Great post. Very interesting. Just my kind of blog.

JeffScape said...

Sweet. Love obscure history.

kj said...

dearest baino, i love you but
zzzzzzzzzzz.

i know: i'll flunk the exam.

xo

Baino said...

Sorry Subs. Although I have heard it was passable.

Me either Leah although I've just done the TT rounds and it's a bit dour! I try to do something Aussie for Theme Thursday but this one had me stumped.

Nah Kate the Tea's good. We get Twinings *elvates pinkie*

GM I'd love to post more on aboriginal history but much of it is a hard read.

Thanks Alan . .keep coming back!

Jeff not so obscure for those involved. Our indigenous population are not treated well and then they're allowed huge discretion. The balance between historical guilt and making rights is difficult.

kj you're so in holiday mode! Check out some of the other's they're more your cup of tea there's quite a bit of Vampire sex going on!

willow said...

Fascinating post, Baino. Gumnuts is a new word to me. Wish I could trade my button collection for something really big...like Sub said...Manhattan.

laughingwolf said...

you know it, baino :(

Brian Miller said...

you had me at gumnuts...at least i was wondering what? interesting in how what we leave behind (or trade) can impact those that we come in contact with, changing how they view and act...nice take on the theme.

Renee said...

What has been done to the indigenous people of Canada is a disgrace.

I love these interesting things.

By the way, I am not a Marriage Celebrant, in Canada you are allowed to marry one person in your lifetime as a justice of the peace type thing. My neice asked me last year and I said yes, so you just send in your vital statistics info and then you can marry someone once. I am going to write about it sometime.

Love you.

Renee xoxoxo

Roy said...

Darn! Subby beat me to the Manhattan story! But it just goes to show, you can buy people off with just about anything.

That cracks me up that they saved the buttons and threw away the coat. Art in the eye of the beholder and all that, maybe?

Poetikat said...

We are all drawn to shiny objects. Imagine if coins were just tiny, flat pebbles. Do you think we would be so keen to acquire them? I doubt it.
This was fascinating. Of course I never think of Captain Cook without thinking of Inspector Morse.

Kat

VE said...

If only there were just one more island nobody has ever found...

Wings said...

Wow, learn something new every day. Interesting post!

J A Harnett-Hargrove said...

These people fascinate me...interesting history.
Hey Todd R. (one of my R&R enigmatic heroes) produced Meatloaf!
-Jayne

Betsy said...

I agree with poetikat...we are all drawn to shiny objects! This was great...really interesting and I learned a bit of history, too!

...mmm... said...

I love history so this post defeintely intrigues me. Thank you. But, but....where's Captain Cook's hook and all that?! :) Good post for "button" btw. nice job.

kj said...

vampire sex, baino?

i know of no such sites. but if you happen to go i will follow....

:)

Dot-Com said...

Great story and I certainly learned a lot here. Never would have associated buttons with history *grin*

Colette Amelia said...

cool! I always refer to being broke as having no buttons...but a search could not come up with buttons as money. I think you showed that yes buttons were highly desirable and were used as an exchange.

Baino said...

Willow they're just the seeds on gum trees but very unusual looking. Yeh a few buttons for Australia, the largest Island continent in the world was just about all it took!

Haha Brian, plenty of gumnuts around here, they fall off the trees and play hell with bare feet!

At least there was a treaty signed with the Canadian aboriginals and also in New Zealand. No such thing in Australia. In fact it was declared Terra Nullis - uninhabited!

Funny what impressess Roy. I guess they had no need of coats as clothing or a status symbol.

Kat I dunno, paper notes aren't all that attractive and we seem to like them . .a lot!

Perhaps there is but we don't know cos we've never found it!

Thank God for Google Wings!

Jayne you speak in riddles. Meatloaf the dude or the food?

Betsy I try to put an Aussie spin on TT if I can.

No crook and no hook for Captn Cook. Didn't even have a parrot or a wooden leg and as far as I know said 'ee by gum' rather than "arrghghgh"

Off you go kj

Haha . .bit of a stretch eh Dot!?

otin said...

Why do all of the native people of foreign lands always get pushed away or wiped out by settlers, it hardly seems fair to me! Then we build walls to keep people out!

liza said...

How interesting that with all the innovations and pieces of technology at the time, that the aborigines were drawn to the buttons on a sailors jacket. It's all about perspective, I guess.

R.J. Edwards said...

Who would have thought buttons could lead to such an interesting history lesson? Great post!

VE said...

Oh...and by the way...

Tomorrow, Friday, your blog will be officially spoofed over at my place. That's right...your time has come!

jay said...

Interesting piece of history there. Who'd have thought the Aborigines would have been more interested in the buttons than the jackets? But I guess clothing wasn't useful, and the buttons were something they hadn't seen and couldn't make.

Jaime said...

james cook. nice one - good history lesson.

The Silver Fox said...

Interesting historical lore. Thanks.

Jill said...

My history lesson for today! Good one.

Annie Ha said...

We have a sad history here, too. I think pretty much every country does. It is sad.

Annie Ha said...

p.s. I have a Captain Cook t-shirt from the Republica Dominicana...

Kris said...

Good to see Tasmania get a run.

I blame Abel Tasman for the buttons myself...

Brandi said...

I have long been fascinated with aboriginal culture and am always happy to learn more. As you said, what I have read has been sad-the issues aboriginals faced once in contact with white settlers. so it is a funny image to picture a native taking a jacket and then dropping it in the dirt once he/she got what they wanted. :-)

lettuce said...

button exchange.
makes sense to me.


(tho I spose you might favour avocado exchange?)

Dreamhaven said...

Love learning new things. Too bad humans can be such idots.