The places referred to in this song are the main language areas of the Sydney region.
The Bidjigal and Wanegal peoples are now regarded as being a part of the Darug area with links to Darkinjun.
A man from this region stands in history as a hero of his people, and was the first to conduct organised warfare against the invasion of Australia.
His name is Pemulwuy.
Pemulwuy is described as standing about 6′ tall and having a distinct cast in one eye. His story is unforgettably told in the book ‘Pemulwuy – The Rainbow Warrior’ by Dr Eric Willmot.
Battles with the British began when Pemulwuy and his people were cheated and mistreated soon after trade began.
The writings of Judge Advocate David Collins, Marine Captain Watkin Tench and Chief Constable of Parramatta George Barrington, all contain many references to Pemulwuy. They record his active hostility and resistance to the British invasion throughout the rule of the first three Governors.
The First Battles
Pemulwuy was the first to lead an organised Aboriginal resistance. He operated over a large area from Castle Hill in the north to Lane Cove and Kissing Point through to Toongabbie and Parramatta in the west, south to Botany Bay and north to Broken Bay. Some escaped Irish convicts also joined and fought beside Pemulwuy against the British.
Pemulwuy fought from 1790 until his death in 1802 and his son, Tedbury, continued to lead the fight for several years afterwards. The Governor had placed a reward on his head and he was killed by two settlers in an ambush. After Pemulwuy’s death, Governor King wrote of him:
“…Altho’ a terrible pest to the colony, he was a brave and independent character….”
Pemulwuy was said to be at the head of every party that attacked the maize grounds. Aboriginal people believed Pemulwuy to be a Clever Man, which means having special powers. Collins mentioned the mystery that surrounded him:
“…they entertained an opinion, that, from his having been frequently wounded, he could not be killed by our fire arms.”
Until recently, Pemulwuy’s name has been omitted from most Australian history books. His name means Earth: Man of the Earth.
Elements of mystery still surround our knowledge of Pemulwuy and there are still secrets of his life which are known only to Aboriginal descendants of the Darug and Darkinjung people.
He’s a Bidjigal man –
He’s a Bidjigal hunting man
He’s a Bidjigal hunting man
The best in all the land
Clever so they say –
Don’t you mess with Pemulwuy
You would never get away from him…
White spirits came here down from the sky
I saw this with my very own eye
They sailed the sea on boats with wings
People have said they are the strangest things!
He’s a Wanegal man. He’s a Wanegal warrior man
Just initiated – see the marks upon his shoulder
Keepers of the Law – like ancestors gone before
Dwelling here forever more we know this land
From Parramatta the place of the eels
Up to Berowra with dust on our heels
Down to Cronulla with the wind on the sand
This is our home – we belong to this land!
Eora – Kuringai – Darug – Dharawal – Darkingung way