Nancy, who I met at the airport, before flying out to Croker, has become my most useful contact so far, and today we spent time together having a good look at the photographs taken by Paul Foelsche , the first police inspector at Darwin (then known as Palmerston) which I had copied into my lap-top from the ‘net. I have about fifty odd pics of Iwaidja people taken in the late 1870’s and early 1880’s by Foelsche, whose important collection also documented many of the early buildings of Palmerston. They will prove to be a great ice-breaker with the Iwaidja people of Croker Island during my stay, I am sure.
Nancy has suggested I talk with her brother, who has much knowledge of the history of the Croker Island people, and she has also offered to lend me a CD containing a lot of information about the creation stories of Croker Island, including the big one – for Croker is the birth of the Rainbow Serpent. Among the photographs is a shot of a fierce looking warrior with a bone through his nose called Wandy Wandy, taken by Foelsche soon after he arrested him for manslaughter in 1880. Apparently, when two Europeans, E O Robinson and T H Wingfield started a trepang fishery on Croker Island in 1878, the people expected tobacco in recompense. When an Iwaidja man demanded tobacco from Wingfield, an argument ensued, and Wingfield shot the man dead. Wandy Wandy then killed Wingfield with a tomahawk and announced he would kill every European who came onto his country. Wandy Wandy was charged and convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to ten years, with hard labour added when he tried to escape. After his release he was among a group who killed six Macassans who were shipwrecked on Croker. He was tried and sentenced to death, and was hung in his own country as a lesson to his people. Practically everyone I have talked with so far, knows about Wandy Wandy.
After Nancy and I had viewed the photographs, she wanted some print-outs of various selections, and as I have no printer with me, she took me across to see Deb, the headmistress, who is coming on the boat trip to Fort Wellington with me next Tuesday. Deb agreed to do the job for me, but as we went on ahead to the school, I spotted a faded fifty dollar note in the grass. I picked it up, and Nancy congratulated me on being so lucky. After a while she said, “Bob, I wonder if I could ‘borrow’ thirty dollars from you, so I can buy some kava tonight?” (The controlled supply of kava to the people has just begun on Croker. This, it is hoped, will control both the black market and the abuse of kava in the community). I cursed myself for picking the note up so openly, then searched my pocket to see if I had thirty dollars in notes, but of course I didn’t. I gave her the fifty, and she thanked me and took off.
A Midnight Oil song came into my head. “The time has come, To say fair’s fair, To pay the rent, To pay our share.” What the hell. I’m doing what I love, and it was very nice of providence to toss me fifty bucks to give away.