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The distribution of blankets in Sydney by Govern Macquarie and how it became so symbolic in the aboriginal history.

The tradition of gifting blankets to the Aboriginal people

The history of blanket distribution in Sydney involves various events, perspectives, cultures and heritage. From the very beginning, blankets plays significant role in the history and culture of Aboriginal people. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that, the distribution of blankets among the Aboriginal communities forms an important part of their culture and tradition as it signifies blessings and generosity. The purpose of the distribution of blankets is for the demonstrating respect and admiration to the person to whom it is offered. This practice was observed in Sydney in order to show honor towards the Aboriginal communities and build further relations with them. According to ancient belief, receiving a blanket shall bring good luck and prosperity. It is evident that while providing a blanket to any individual, there develops respect and generosity on the part of the distributor. Therefore, the research essay intends to emphasize upon the distribution of blankets in Sydney under the patronage of Govern Macquarie. In this regard, the essay is commissioned to examine the fact that why such distribution of blanket became a symbolic feature in the history of the Aboriginal culture.

The ancient scholars were of the opinion that, the early Aboriginal communities of Australia were not aware of the indigenous political system and as a result of such deficiency; it gave rise to racial conflicts. In the perspective of modern autocrats, the White communities were of the opinion that the Aboriginal communities may be benefitted from superior civilization. In this regard, attempts were made by Governor Lachlan Macquarie for the purpose of solving the issues associated with the Aboriginal communities. Favorable attempts were made on the part of Governor Lachlan Macquarie which included presenting blankets to the people belonging to the Aboriginal communities in order to develop goodwill and respect. According to the perspective of early researchers, the tradition of distribution of blankets were continued in order to make peace with the Aboriginal communities. According to the evidences provided by early researchers, it can be observed that, Governor Sir Richard Bourke abolished the system of feast however; he continued the annual distribution of blankets for the purpose of ensuring good relations between the early Aborigines and the settlers. Since time immemorial, the tradition of blanket distribution was followed. Modern scholars were of the view that the blanket was given to those Aborigines who has provided useful services for the development of the nation. It is worthwhile to refer here that, from the evidences provided by early researchers, the population of the Aboriginal people were gradually declining however; the demand for blankets increased considerably along with the movement of the Aboriginal communities from the interior parts of the society towards the centre of White settlement.

Governor Lachlan Macquarie's role in establishing the practice


It is not exactly know that why the distribution of blankets were first observed in the Aboriginal culture. In this regard, modern authors emphasized on the fact that the oldest Aboriginal blanket was first introduced in 1815 and by the end of 1820,s the distribution of blankets became a symbolic practice within the Aboriginal communities. Modern autocrats were of the opinion that, most of the blankets during those days were similar to that of the military gorgets with formal decorations in it. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that, the blankets offered to the Aboriginal communities were in most of the cases least the size of the military gorgets. Edmonds and Darian Smith emphasized on the fact that, the tradition of the distribution of blankets has been established in the late eighteenth century. Evidences have shown that, Captain James Cook provided bronze medals wrapped with long ribbons to the Aboriginal people at the Adventure Bay in Tasmania. In this way presenting gifts to the Aboriginal people continued to a great extent in order to honor them. Similarly, in 1911, an Aboriginal man belonging to the Roper River was gifted a medal as he provided valuable services to the nation. Therefore, in this regard, it is worth noting that, from here the tradition of distributing blankets started which represented generosity and trustworthiness. The blankets were signified as gifts which were presented to the Indian warriors in the countries of North America by both the British and French colonizers. The distribution of blankets in North America was signified as a well known practice which was also followed by the rulers of Australia. According to the perspective of Nettelbeck, the first blanket which was presented in Australia was given to a marine officer. In this context, it is worthwhile to refer here that, from the perspective of a colonist, when a blanket is being offered to any Aboriginal person; it is presented with honor and respect.

The blankets were presented to Aboriginal communities was referred as a token of gratitude for providing valuable services towards the people. Contemporary scholars emphasized on the fact that, the idea behind the distribution of blankets was first formulated by King Bungaree however; Governor Lachlan Macquarie forwarded such idea to a great extent. Governor Lachlan Macquarie has experienced various practices related to the distribution of blankets to the Indigenous people during wartime. In this regard, Macquarie made further attempts to make the government authorities realize that, how important was it to involve Aboriginal people as they possessed greater power over the prevailing general community. According to modern researchers, Governor Lachlan Macquarie presented the first blankets to the Aboriginal leaders who attended the first annual gatherings concerned with the Aboriginal population at Parramatta. As explained earlier, annual feast was hold by Governor Macquarie for the purpose of maintaining trust and good relationship between the rulers of colonial administration and the Aboriginal communities. There was an intention on the part of Governor Lachlan Macquarie to civilize the Aboriginal communities of Sydney in order to receive assistance from them whenever required. In the opinion of ancient scholars, in order to affirm his position within the Aboriginal communities, Governor Lachlan Macquarie implemented the process of blanket distribution.

The impact of blanket distribution on the relationship between European settlers and Aboriginal communities


In the perspective of Chen and Wang, by the middle of the nineteenth century, most of the people existing within the Aboriginal communities were offered presented with blankets by the colonists in order to show gratitude for the services rendered by them in the past. Mention can be made on the fact that these blankets were also provided in expectation of future services. It is worthwhile to examine here that the practice of blanket distribution in Sydney within the Aboriginal communities became symbolic in the history of Aboriginal people because it established peace and prosperity within the country.

While discussing about the distribution of blankets within the Australian communities in Sydney, emphasis can be laid upon the fact that how Governor Lachlan Macquarie treated the Aboriginals with attention and kindness. In the perspective of Rogers, from the very beginning Governor Lachlan Macquarie was peacefully inclined towards the Aboriginal communities. After conducting detailed research upon the emergence of Aboriginal communities in Australia, modern researchers were of the opinion that, as most of the Aboriginal communities moved from the isolated areas to the areas of settlement and as a result of it there developed conflict between the early settlers and the Aboriginal people. In this regard, scholars also emphasized upon the history of the Aboriginal communities in Australia. From the evidences of modern historians, it is evident that, most of the Aboriginals inhabited almost in the whole of Australia however; some of them lived on the islands situated between Australia and Papua New Guinea. These Aboriginals were different from the general communities as their languages, cultural beliefs, traditions and practices were did not match with them. However, the number of Aboriginal people reduced considerably as a result of their removal from their traditional lands. It can be stated that these Aboriginal people in the recent era are quite different from those in the past. There have been considerable changes in their language, culture and way of living.


Different authors have presented their argument regarding the welfare of the Aboriginal people. According to the perspective of Somerville, emphasis can be laid upon the welfare of the Aboriginal people which can be observed between the period of 1815 and 1830s. From the evidences provided by modern researchers, it is evident that, during such period, there has been acute transition of both legal and conceptual framework. According to the point of view of Reece, Governor Lachlan Macquarie was involved in the process of civilizing the Aboriginal communities. During this period, hostilities broke out in the form of conflict which were addressed to the settlers and in such process destroyed their farms, stock and crops. In order to safeguard the interests of the Aboriginal communities, Governor Lachlan Macquarie instituted an inquiry in which it was found that the settlers and their convicts were responsible for such violent outbreak. Contemporary authors were of the opinion that, from the very beginning Governor Macquarie took significant steps against the colonists in order to prevent them from taking the law in their own hands.

Both Edmonds and Darian-Smith emphasized on the fact that, Governor Lachlan Macquarie was the one who first began the practice of distributing blankets in 1814. This is due to the reason that Governor Macquarie was in fact concerned with increasing good relations with the people belonging to the Aboriginal communities. However, Chen and Wang had different point of view. These Aboriginal people did not have access to their traditional lands which were seized by the White settlers. As a result of which, these Aboriginal communities were roaming from one place to another, they could not hunt or even earn a living and heavily relied upon the Europeans. In this context, Norman laid emphasis on the part that according to Governor Macquarie, the distribution of blankets at least once in a year would reduce the sufferings of these Aboriginal groups to a large extent which was initially decided in Parramatta. In this regard, mention can be made about the fact that by the end of 1860s, it was held by the State that blankets shall also be distributed to the local police in order to honor them for their services. Belmessous and Curthoys were of the opinion that, as a result of the gradual changes in the moment of transition of the traditional structure of the Aboriginals, it has been replaced with a new form of lifestyle which is associated with the interaction with the Europeans.


It can be referred that long before the existence of the European settlers there were no evidences in written form. However, in recent years, with passing time, the breakdown of the Aboriginal communities after the advent of the Europeans has been quite dramatic. This is because; scholars opined that, as a result of it old traditions faded away. According to Peritt and Warren, the European settlers from the beginning enforced segregation from the advent of the mission, settlements and the reserves of the Aboriginal communities. It was observed from the evidences provided by modern researchers; the Aboriginal people were thrown out of their land. As a result of which the Aboriginal people had to change their traditions and customers. In such process, they adopted that European way of living which highly prohibited their traditional customs and expression. In the perspective of contemporary authors, these Aboriginal people were forced to adopt and follow the western culture, customs, traditions and belief. With pace of time, the relation between the Aboriginals and the western settlers worsened. The Aboriginals had no independent choice of their own. They highly relied upon the White Australians for their decision.

Lastly, mention can be made of the sudden epidemic of smallpox that broke out in 1789 in Sydney among the Aboriginal tribes which was a significant chapter in the history of the Aborigines. In this regard, blankets were distributed to the communities of the Aborigines in order to protect them from the disease. Therefore, keeping in view, different perspectives of the scholars and authors, it can be emphasized that, due to the above mentioned reasons, the distribution of blankets in Sydney became a symbolic chapter in the history of the Aborigines.

References:

Belmessous, S., 2014. The tradition of treaty making in Australian history. Empire by Treaty: Negotiating European Expansion, 1600-1900, pp.186-213.

Chen, G. and Wang, W., 2014. Loss of Aboriginal Cultural Identities: A Study of the Fringe Dwellers and Follow the Rabbit-Proof Fence. World Journal of Social Science, 1(2), p.10.

Curthoys, A., 2016. The impossibility of section 70 aboriginal protection, amelioration, and the contradictions of humanitarian governance. Studies in Western Australian History, (30), p.13.

Curthoys, A., 2016. The impossibility of section 70 aboriginal protection, amelioration, and the contradictions of humanitarian governance. Studies in Western Australian History, (30), p.13.

Edmonds, P. and Darian-Smith, K., 2015. Conciliation and Conflict, Performance and Commemoration in Colonial Australia and the Pacific Rim. In Conciliation on Colonial Frontiers (pp. 1-14). Routledge.

Nettelbeck, A., 2015. “We Should Take Each Other by the Hand”: Conciliation and Diplomacy in Colonial Australia and North West Canada. In Conciliation on Colonial Frontiers (pp. 36-53). Routledge.

Nettelbeck, A., 2017. Colonial protection and the intimacies of Indigenous governance. History Australia, 14(1), pp.32-47.

Newton, J., 2017. Two Victorian corroborees: Meaning making in response to European intrusion. Aboriginal History, (41), p.121.

Norman, H., 2015. The aboriginal land rights act: Politics and the art of the possible. 'What Do We Want?': A Political History of Aboriginal Land Rights in New South Wales, p.50.

O'Brien, A., 2008. ‘Kitchen Fragments and Garden Stuff’ Poor Law Discourse and Indigenous People in Early Colonial New South Wales. Australian Historical Studies, 39(2), pp.150-166. 

Pettit, E.J., 2015. Aborigines' Dreaming or Britain's Terra Nullius: Perceptions of Land Use in Colonial Australia. Iowa Historical Review, 5(1), pp.23-60.

Reece, R.H.W., 1967. Feasts and Blankets: The History of Some Early Attempts to Establish Relations with the Aborigines of New South Wales, 1814–1846. Archaeology in Oceania, 2(3), pp.190-206. 

Rogers, T., 2016. ‘Friendly’and ‘hostile’Aboriginal clans: the search for Gellibrand and Hesse. History Australia, 13(2), pp.275-285.

Somerville, M., 2014. Entangled objects in the cultural politics of childhood and nation. Global Studies of Childhood, 4(3), pp.183-194.

Warren, C., 2014. Smallpox at Sydney Cove–who, when, why?. Journal of Australian Studies, 38(1), pp.68-86.

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