Jandamarra was born in the early 1870’s sometime between 1870 and 1873, to the Bunuba Tribe in the Kimberley district of Western Australia. As a young boy Jandamarra was well known for his ability to ride horses, sheer sheep and shoot firearms. He learned these skills while living amongst William Lukin and other European settlers. He spoke English fluently and was well liked by all who knew him. William Lukin gave him the nickname “Pigeon” because of his frail features and graceful movements. At the age of 15 Jandamarra left Lunik and the other’s occupying Lennard River to return to his homeland.
After returning to his home he was initiated into the traditional ways of the Bunuba people and mastered the skill of hunting. In 1889, Jandamarra and Ellemarra his tribesmen were arrested and charged with killing sheep. The charges against them were dropped after they agreed to take care of the police horses. Jandamarra was unaware that this decision would lead to trouble in his future. He took excellent care of the horses and became popular at the local Derby because of his skills. Jandamarra was exiled from his tribe for violating sacred law; he then left to live in Lillimooloora station.
He began forming a relationship with a man named Bill Richardson who was a stockman. Jandamarra was unaware that this relationship would become tragic for his people. Richardson joined the police force and naturally recruited Jandamarra as a tracker for the force. Constable Richardson, an Aboriginal named “Captain” and Jandamarra formed a successful tracking trio. This was the first time the Europeans used Aboriginals to track their own people. Once again Jandamarra was gaining fame from the white man; this time his fame was gained from oppressing his own people. He once went as far as saving Constable Richardson from an attack by a fellow Aboriginal.
One night as Constable Richardson slept Jandamarra shot and killed him, he then released 16 Aboriginals who Richardson captured. The men formed and militia and quickly began fighting back against oppression. Their first victory was against a stock party which they killed its members and seized their weapons. Using the skills he gained over the years, Jandamarra planned a strategy to recapture their land from the white men. The police force learned of the uprising and ordered their men to fight back; they retaliated by killing many Aboriginals. In 1894, a militia of 50 Aboriginal Warriors fought fearlessly against the whites at Windjina Gorge. During the battle Ellemarra was killed while Jandamarra was severely wounded.
He only just escaped the battle and sought refuge in the caves of the land; the Bunuba people believed he held supernatural powers because he escaped death. After two years of hiding in the caves Jandamarra raided the Lillimooloora police station; the raid surprised the police because everyone thought he was dead. The raid was unsuccessful because most of the Aboriginal warriors were deceased or arrested. In 1897 Jandamarra led his last raid; he invaded the Oscar Range homestead but was stopped by the police. Jandamarra managed to escape again temporally; he was tracked and killed by a fellow Aboriginal Minko Mick. The Bunuba eventually lost their land to the whites within a two year period and were rendered homeless. Jandamarra made some bad choices which affected his people negatively; but ultimately he understood that his people were more important to him than the affection of the white man. He found the courage the led the fight against the oppression of his people. He gave his people hope that they could defeat the white man and live in peace. Jandamarra, we proudly stand on your shoulders.
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