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1816 sydneygazette

Aboriginal Feast Day
28 December 1816

On Saturday last the 28th. ult. the Town of Parramatta exhibited a novel and very interesting spectacle by the assembling of the Native Tribes there, pursuant to the GOVERNOR'S gracious invitation. — At 10 in the morning the Market-place was thrown open, and some Gentlemen who were appointed on the occasion took the management of the ceremonials. — The natives having seated themselves on the ground in a large circle, the chiefs were placed on chairs a little advanced in front, and to the right of their respective tribes. — In the centre of the circle thus formed, were placed large tables groaning under the weight of roast beef, potatoes, bread, &c. and a large cask of grog lent its exhilirating aid to promote the general festivity and good humour which so conspicuously shone through the sable visages of this delighted congress.

The GOVERNOR, attended by all the members of the Native Institution, and by several of the Magistrates and Gentlemen in the neighbourhood, proceded [sic] at half past ten to the Meeting, and having entered the circle passed round the whole of them, enquiring after, and making himself acquainted with the several tribes, their respective leaders, and residences. His EXCELLENCY then assembled the chiefs by themselves, and continued them in the ranks of chieftains, to which their own tribes had exalted them, and conferred on them badges of distinction, whereon were engraved their names as chiefs, and those of their tribes. — He afterwards conferred badges of merit on some individuals, in acknowledgment of their steady and loyal conduct in the assistance they rendered the military party when lately sent out in pursuit of the refractory natives to the west and south of the Nepean. — By the time this ceremony was over Mrs. MACQUARIE arrived, and the children belonging to, and under the care of the Native Institution, 15 in number, preceded by their teacher, entered the circle and walked round it; the children appearing very clean, well clothed, and happy. —The chiefs were then again called together to observe the examination of the children as to their progress in learning, and to civilized habits of life. — Several of the little ones read, and it was grateful to the bosom of sensibility to trace the decrees of pleasure which the chiefs manifested on this occasion. —Some clapped the children on the head, and one in particular turning round towards the GOVERNOR, with extraordinary emotion, exclaimed "GOVERNOR, — that will make good Settler — that's my Pickaninny !" — and some of their females were observed to shed tears of sympathetic affection, at seeing the infant and helpless offspring of their deceased friends, so happily sheltered and protected by British benevolence. —The examinations being finished, the children returned to the Institution under the guidance of their venerable tutor; whose assiduity and attention to them merits every commendation. The feasting then commenced, and the GOVERNOR retired amidst the long and reiterated acclamations and shouts of his sable and grateful congress. — The numbers of visitants (exclusive of the 15 children), amounted to 179; viz. — 105 men, 53 women, and 21 children.

It is worthy of observation that 3 of the latter mentioned number of children (and the son of the memorable Ben-ni-long was one of them), were placed in the Native institution immediately on the breaking up of the congress on Saturday last, making the number of children, now in that establishment, altogether l8; and we may reasonably trust, that in a few years this benevolent Institution will amply reward the hopes and expectations of its liberal Patrons and Supporters, and answer the grand object intended, by providing a seminary for the helpless offspring of the natives of this Country, and opening the path to their future civilization and improvement.

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Sydney Gazette 4 January 1817 pp.2d-3a.

The selection of the date of the '28 December' by Governor Macquarie as the occasion on which to conduct a public celebration at Parramatta with Indigenous tribesmen was a deliberate act to commemorate the anniversary of his first arrival in Sydney in 1809. The first celebration took place in 1814.
[see: First Aboriginal Feast Day at Parramatta 28 December 1814]

The event lapsed in 1815, probably because of severe drought, but was revived again in 1816. Thereafter the event remained an important part of Macquarie's calendar of vice-regal events. Attendances continued after his departure from the Colony in 1822. Approximately four hundred Aborigines attended the 1824 gathering; however, but numbers declined afterwards, and it was eventually discontinued by Governor Bourke in 1835.

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