Greater Ancestors

World Museum

Daintree Aboriginal Amazons

The Amazon Tribe of
Quite a number of readers have
asked me whether I have heard of
the ‘Amazon Gins’ as described by
Mr. W. H. Rudd. in the December 28
issue of the ‘Herald.’ The article
mentioned was quite correct, and
brought back memories to me (writes
Ion I. Idress in the Sydney ‘Morning
As a young fellow, while prospect
ing hi the dense jungle i-anges behind
the Daintree (North Queensland), I
had often tried to coax «.-ur aboriginal
joys to take me to the country of the
‘amazon gins,’ but without avail. The
huge bulk of the gloomy mountain, its
crown often cloaked in mist, loomed
up across the valley from our half
way camp. Mt. Alexander, side by side
with Mt. Peter Botte, whose ‘Stone
Sisters’ are a landmark to mariners
far at sea. There is an interesting
legend attached to those Stone Sisters,
It is in the labyrinths cf Mt. Alex
ander that the tribe of Amazons are
supposed to hold sway. The belief is
only a legend, of course, but is be
lieved to be fact by the present-day
aborigines. No native will go closer
than three miles to the base of the
mountain, let alone venture into the
valleys and jungle scrubs that hedge
it round. My mates at the time were
two educated half-castes, who also
were acknowledged as the leaders ;md
advisers of the Daintree, China Camp,
and Bloomfield River tribes. They had
absolute control over these 1000
natives (the two big influenza epi
demics, alas, have almc-st wiped out
these aboriginal friends ot mine), but
the brothers could not induce any of
their henchmen to take me to the
mountain and explore. Neither would
the brothers come with me. To ven
ture alone would have been a big job,
besides which I might easily have oi
fended the men with whose tribe I
The Amazons are supposed to be
a tribe of giant women warriors, who
can run faster than a man, and throw
a longer spear father than a man.
They are a fierce, athletic tribe of
furies, hunting over the spurs of their
big mountain, in packs. Should they
see tracks of a man within their
boundaries, they immediately raise the
hue and cry, which in shirll, piercing
screams goes echoing up the valleys,
floating from-craig to craig. Then
they give chase, and never stop until
they catch the man. They tear him
to pieces, rend him limb from limb.
No wonder my abo friends would
not venture with me to the land of
the amazon gins; they used to make
my spine ‘creep’ with their descrip
tions of how the gins kill p. man. To
listen . to them talking, though, was
impressive of their deep belief. We
would be sitting down among the
sweet forest grass at the jungle edge,
gazing across the blue valley at the
hazy bulk of Mt. Alexander, our bags
of flour and cases of provisions where
we had dropped them, each warrior’s
spears close to hand, the dogs at the
forest edge scenting a tree-climbing
‘roo. After a long climb up the pre
cipitous spurs, we would be resting,
preparatory to plunging into the
jungle. In low tones the tribesmen
would discuss the furies across the
valley, telling me of their intimate life
with such detail that at time I found
myself vaguely wondering if there
could be some shadow of fact in the
belief. There is not. of course. An
old man used often to travel with us.
He had lost one arm — now, even my
two half-caste mates could not tell
mo. But every aboriginal within a
radius of 2000 miles knew. The
amazon gins had pulled that arm
from its socket! He was the only man
within their memory who had been
caught by and yet escaped the gins.
Kis story of the happening was ‘vivid
in detail and uncannily convincing,
but is rather long to tell here. How
ever, not only the tribes but he him
self believed that his arm had been
torn from his body by the gins.
Men Held as Slaves.
These gins keep a few men, selected
specimens of magnificent manhood,
utter slaves. They are kept necessar
ily for breeding purposes alone. Other
wise, they are harshly treated, the
builders of the gunyahs, the wood and
water carriers for the gins. They are
not allowed to stray from camp, and
when the gins move camp they are
loaded up like pack animals. Male
babies are allowed to live long enough
to be judged as to their future physi
cal development. The pick of them
are then allowed to live, the others
are killed. The female babies all sur
vive, except any weakly ones, who are
knocked on the head. The gins love
their female babies, but it is a crying
disgrace to bear a man-child, and
sometimes, in a fury, the gin who has
been so disgraced will seize a fighting
stick and belabor the nearest man into
insensibility. It is probable that after
she has finished with him, he will not
be capable of being a father any more.
From earliest childhood the girl
babies are trained in tracking, spear
throwing, endurance, running, and
more severe athletic exercises. They
are trained to regard men as fiends to
be run down and killed at every pos
sible chance. The discipline of the
tribe is very strict; its destiny is guid
ed by the Council of Women, to dis
obey whom means death.
The full details and history of this
alleged amazon tribe, as told me by
my aboriginal friends, is deeply inter
esting, but I think I’ve told enough
here to assure readers that Mr. Rudd’s
account is quite correct. One further
thing I might mention, though, just
to assure readers that these wild she
women are not nice girls to meet.
They love snakes! As she gins move
from camp to camp their snakes rustle
through the grass after them. On
sunny afternoons, lying among the
gunyahs, the snakes coll up at the
feet of the gins. Should a sudden
alarm be raised, the snakes slither
down -the gins’ mouths, cut of which
their heads hiss towards the expected
Occasionally, by accident, one of the
men slaves will kill a snake, probably
by dropping a heavy load of wood
upon it. He has little time to regret
the mishap, for the gins tear him to
By many other hair-raising stories
I was solemnly warned against ever
venturing in the country of the
amazon gins. Being young and a bit
romantic In those days, I used to won
der whether they would treat a white
man as they would a black stranger,
or would they— — ?
Being a small man, and not a dash
ing Samson, I let well alone, but
would dearly have loved a roam over
the big old mountain. There may be
gold there.

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