Lifeways to Massacre: A History of Encounter across Dampier Archipelago

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


From the seventeenth century Murujuga became known to the world, first entering onto maps of maritime explorers. Exploration was an essential precursor in the steps towards colonisation and invasion. From the 1860s, following the establishment of the British colony in Western Australia, the Dampier Archipelago became a significant part of the colonial world. For Yaburara and Mardudunhera people of the archipelago white colonisation spiralled into violence and culminated in the 1868 massacre which became known by the same name as its most productive pearlshell fisheries – Flying Foam. And yet, life in the islands continued for Aboriginal people after the massacre. In this chapter we consider the historical accounts of Murujuga, which document Aboriginal and settler lifeways, and the tragic events of 1868 and the insidious impacts of measles and smallpox. These are events documented through the eyes of Europeans unfamiliar with the people they met, not speaking a common language, and burdened by racial prejudices. There is little room here for the accounts of Aboriginal people of their own history. Nonetheless, these do provide significant information which is deeply relevant to our understanding of the ways in which the islands were important to Aboriginal people, and the manner in which Yaburara people dealt with the arrival of outsiders and their diseases —which include curiosity, disdain, incredulity and resistance
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMurujuga: Dynamics of the Dreaming
Subtitle of host publicationA long and short history of this cultural landscape with reference to rock art, stone features, excavations and historical sites recorded across the Dampier Archipelago between 2014 and 2018
EditorsJo McDonald, Ken Mulvaney
Place of PublicationPerth
PublisherUWA Publishing
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-76080-252-3
ISBN (Print) 978-1-76080-255-4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023


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