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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Jandamarra of the Kimberley, Western Australia

Old Derby Gaol

In the 1890's, Jandamarra, aka Pigeon, was an intelligent, talented young Aboriginal man, who was an excellent stockman, outstanding bushman and was devoted to his young boss, Police Trooper Richardson. Settlers were complaining that the Aboriginals were killing their stock so a patrol was organised and a number were captured and brought to Derby gaol.

Ellemara was a charismatic, notorious Aboriginal who had escaped from gaol three times and was reported to have murdered many of his own people and killed many cattle, sheep and horses. Word came through that he was camped nearby so Trooper Richardson sent his best tracker Pigeon and another excellent tracker Captain to bring him in. They quickly found and caught Ellemara while he was sleeping. But during the return trip back to the police post, Ellemara somehow convinced Pigeon and Captain to free the prisoners and kill trooper Richardson.

Pigeon handed Ellemara over to Trooper Richardson who was exhausted after being awake for two nights guarding the prisoners. He slipped into a deep sleep, secure in the knowledge that his two best trackers would guard the prisoners. But instead, they shot him, released the prisoners and disappeared.

Pigeon then became the leader of a gang that terrorised the police and white settlers for nearly three years and if he had been allowed more time, could have possibly run the settlers off.

When Richardson's body was found, an angry, avenging party set out to find him. Pigeon raided supply wagons and supplied his men with guns and ammunition. There was a desperate shoot out in a gorge and several Aboriginals were killed and Ellemara and Pigeon were both seriously wounded. The police presumed Pigeon was dead but he was hiding in a deep cave being cared for by his favourite wife and mother. Ellemara also recovered slowly.

Pigeon went on to kill two more white men, raid lonely outstations and killed numerous cattle, sheep and horses. But one by one his faithful followers were either captured or killed and he was constantly on the run. Captain surrended to police and died in prison and Ellemara was hanged in Derby gaol.

After many months Pigeon was captured, he was half starved and physically exhausted. He only had 3 cartridges left and he yelled out "Give me more cartridges and I will fight you". And so ended the story of the brave and courageous Jandamarra of the Kimberley.