Who We Are
The Kalkadoon People, also known as the Kalkatungu, Kalkatunga or Kalkadungu, ruled what is called the Emu Foot Province and have been living on these lands for over 40 thousand years. The Kalkadoon People owned vast tracts of land extending from McKinley’s Gap in the east where they joined the Goa tribe of the Winton district to Gunpowder Creek which was the territory of the Waggaboongas. On the southern side of their territory the Kalkadoons were touched upon by the Pitta-Pitta tribe of the Boulia district, and on the northern side by the Mittakoodi of the Fort Constantine country.
The Kalkadoons would mark their territory boundaries with an emu or cranes foot that was either painted onto rocks and trees or carved into the hard granite rock. This was also a warning for other Aboriginal clans not to pass these boundaries.
The Kalkadoon (Kalkatungu) are descendants of an Indigenous Australian tribe living in the Mount Isa region of Queensland. Their forefather tribe has been called 'the Elite of the Aboriginal warriors of Queensland'. In 1884 they were massacred at "Battle Mountain" by settlers and police.
The first Europeans to visit the area were explorers Burke and Wills who crossed the Cloncurry River in 1861. Though their journals make no mention of the tribe, their passing through is said to have been recorded in Kalkatungu oral history, and in their language they coined the term walpala (from 'white feller') to denote Europeans. Three parties sent out to search for Burke and Wills, led respectively by John McKinlay, William Landsborough, and Frederick Walker, passed through the general area. Walker, a former commander of the Dawson native police, shot 12 natives dead and wounded several more, just to the north east of Kalkatungu territory.
Another early European settler, Edward Palmer, who was described by George Phillips as 'one of that brave band of pioneer squatters who in the early sixties swept across North Queensland with their flocks and herds, settling, as if by magic, great tracts of hitherto unoccupied country', settled on the edge of Kalkatungu country in 1864, at Conobie, on the western bank of the Cloncurry River. Decades later, Palmer described the natives as a peculiar people of which little was known. Palmer was critical of the use of native police, and interested in indigenous tribes. His station lands did not cover any Kalkatungu sacred sites, he did not object to their presence in the vicinity, and found no problem in his relations with the Kalkatungu. He tried to learn their language. Ernest Henry arrived in 1866, discovering, with the assistance of Kalkatungu guides, copper deposits the following year, and founded the Great Australia Mine. He successfully enlisted some Kalkatungu people to work one of these mines. A short attempt at settlement by W. and T. Brown at Bridgewater in 1874 experienced, like Palmer, no difficulties with the indigenous owners of the land.
The Scottish settler Alexander Kennedy then took up land in the area in 1877. He had managed, since his arrival in 1861, to accumulate land holdings of some 4,800 sq. miles, holding 60,000 cattle, and established himself in a residence he built, called Buckingham Downs. Kennedy is thought to have begun the troubles with the native peoples of the area by instigating murderous assaults on the Kalkatungu. Iain Davidson describes him as 'the man who led the destruction of the tribes of North West Central Queensland.'
The traditional white heroic narrative version of what then occurred drew on the account provided by Sir Wilmot Hudson Fysh in 1933. According to this version, the Kalkatungu was by nature a hostile and bellicose tribe, exceptionally brave with 'primitive' military cunning and guerilla-like tactics of strategic withdrawals to the mountains to evade reprisals for their savagery. They were eventually vanquished and broken after a last stand against men like Alexander Kennedy.
Our Sovereignty Fight
The Massacre at Battle Hill
In December 1878, a settler called Molvo, with three of his men, were killed near Cloncurry, at the important Wonomo watering hole on Suleiman Creek near Cloncurry, where they camped with their herd. This was the starting point, in Indigenous history, for Kennedy and other settlers in the district joining forces with native troops under Inspector Eglinton, stationed at Boulia, to war down the native tribes of the region. Subsequent to this incident, scores of Kalkatungu in the surrounding hills were shot down.
Over the following years, the Kalkatungu gained a reputation among graziers for tactical wiliness both in resisting police and settler forays against them, and in harvesting the cattle game they found on their lands. Kennedy pulled strings in Brisbane to get reinforcements that might guarantee greater immunity for people and property in the area. The first Queensland Commissioner of Police D. T. Seymour is said to have given Kennedy a blank cheque to war down the tribe. He also dispatched the aristocratic Marcus de la Poer Beresford, a nephew of the Marquess of Waterford, as new head of the Cloncurry native police unit to that end.
Battle Mountain. The Fight for our Land
On 24 January 1883, Beresford camped with four of his troopers at Fullarton River in the McKinlay Range. After skirmishing with a group of Kalkatungu, they managed to corral a number, who appeared to give no resistance, into a gully nearby and post a guard over them for the night. Queensland historian Arthur Laurie suggests Beresford's error lay in 'stupidly treat(ing) them like cattle'. It is presumed that they had a stash of arms prepared for the occasion, and rose up, and killed Beresford and 3 of his men. One, though speared in his side, managed to escape and cover the distance, some 20 miles, to Farleigh station the following day. For a year, the Kalkatungu managed to hold sway over their tribal lands, as both settlers and the police felt intimidated by their unbeaten territorial ascendancy. According to an anonymous person writing for the Queensland Figaro, nonetheless, sometime towards the end of 1883, the native police 'willfully' murdered eight Male Natives and several Female Natives in the area.
In March 1884, Sir Thomas McIlwraith sent Frederic Urquhart, a Sussex immigrant, employed in the Queensland Native Mounted Police Force to handle the crisis. The Kalkatungu were said to have directly challenged him to fight, via a messenger called Mahoni. Urquhart, though based in Cloncurry, set up a forward camp 25 miles outside of the town, on the Corella River.
Urquhart was galvanized into action in August on hearing from a native boy, Jackie, who came in and reported that his employer James White Powell of Calton Hills, some 60 miles west of Cloncurry, at Mistake Creek, had been speared to death. Powell was a partner of Kennedy's, and the latter, together with Urquhart A.F. Mossman from White Hills station buried Powell, with Urqhart composing a poem vowing vengeance:
Grimly the troopers stood around that newly made forest grave and to their eyes that fresh heap mound for vengeance seemed to crave. And one spoke out in deep stern tones and raised his hand on high 'For every one of these poor bones a Kalkadoon shall die'.
The responsible group was tracked down to a gorge, where they were feasting on the cattle, and most were mowed down. Over the next 9 weeks, settlers and Urquhart's police tracked the Kalkadoons relentlessly in a war of retaliation, killing many. In September, a Chinese shepherd from H.Hopkins's Granada Station on the Dugald River was speared to death in the foothills of the Argylla Ranges. It was rumoured he had been eaten by 'cannibals'.
Soon afterwards, an estimated number of 600 Kalkatungu warriors gathered on a rocky outlook to fend off the parties of well-armed settlers, the local constabulary and native troopers. At one point the attackers under Urquhart tried a flanking movement, which caused the assembled Aborigines to charge straight down on them, only to fall in waves under the withering fire of the muskets. These were called makini by the Kalkatungu. More than 200 was said to have died in this battle. Urqhart himself was knocked out, and this broke the back of organized resistance at a tribal level. It was often touted that the Kalkatungu had been wiped out. The estimated number they lost over 6 years, from 1878 to 1884, in counter-attacking incursions and the exercise of expropriation over their lands, runs to 900.