Anniversary of Windradyne’s death
Anniversary of Windradyne’s death
March 21 2020, is the anniversary of Windradyne’s death. Who was Windradyne?
In the 1820s in the Bathurst region of New South Wales, an Indigenous leader became prominent in a guerrilla resistance campaign against the British invasion of Wiradjuri lands.
This was Windradyne (c.1800–1829) also known as Saturday.
The British landholders’ greed for land was insatiable. As they moved beyond the Sydney region across the Blue Mountains the British entered the lands of the Wiradjuri nation where they occupied thousands of hectares of Wiradjuri land along the Fish and Macquarie Rivers.
Bathurst was developed as a military and supply base for the British.
Tensions developed between the British military and the traditional Wiradjuri people as the soldiers and their convicts took over at gunpoint the best land and permanent water supplies of Wiradjuri country.
Overnight the Wiradjuri found themselves dispossessed and the British did as they pleased.
The British occupied the lands, took the food supplies, and then they turned to the Wiradjuri women taking the women away by force and raping them.
In retaliation in 1823 Windradyne, emerged as the local Wiradjuri leader.
He was so successful in leading his warriors that the British declared Martial Law in 1824.
Windradyne’s reputation and standing among his people grew higher than ever and his strength and stamina became legendary.
What has been regarded as the Battle of Bathurst commenced about 10 September 1824.
On 18 September of that year and for days after that, the British military sought out, killed, and systematically destroyed everything.
Wiradjuri people were hunted like dogs. They were surrounded and shot.
The British were on a campaign to exterminate. Daily there were reports of slaughter and killings.
A reward of 500 acres (202.3 ha) was offered for Windradyne’s capture.
Windradyne and his now small guerrilla force of four to eight men moved through the Bathurst district but the British had been unable to kill or capture him.
By November small groups of Wiradjuri began to surrender because the British firepower and tactics had caused a devastating toll on the Wiradjuri.
In the drawn-out conflict which had turned into a massacre, it is estimated that one-third of the Wiradjuri population was wiped out.
But the British authorities failed to capture Windradyne and this had delayed the repeal of martial law until 11 December. On that date, Governor Brisbane finally lifted martial law formally ending four months of hostilities.
The Governor formally proclaimed the lifting of martial law. The war was over and peace would reign.
The Governor decided to offer Windradyne peace with honour and he wanted to meet Windradyne who had defied his soldiers for so long.
Windradyne was a man who had become a legend in his own lifetime.
A peace conference was organised and this ended the days when Windradyne would lead his guerrilla forces against the British. He was presented with a straw hat decorated with a label bearing the word “peace” and a little branch representing the olive.
While Windradyne made peace with the British invaders he sometimes had disagreements with his fellow men.
When a Wiradjuri group came to visit him a dispute occurred and Windradyne was wounded in the knee. He ended up in the local hospital where his wound was dressed and he was cared for by some of the convict women.
The hospital was just too much! He tore off his bandages and headed for a Wiradjuri burial ground where his wound turned gangrenous. He died on 21 March 1829.
Windradyne’s death has also been recorded as 1835.
Windradyne was given a ceremonial burial wrapped in his possum skin cloak with his weapons bearing his clan designs.
His grave was marked by a large mound of timber and earth flanked by two wild apple trees.
Australian Dictionary Of Biography http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/windradyne-13251
Barlow, Alex and Hill, Marji The Macmillan Encyclopedia Australia’s Aboriginal Peoples. South Yarra, Vic, Macmillan, 2000.
Grassby, Al and Hill, Marji Six Australian Battlefields: The Black Resistance To Invasion And The White Struggle Against Colonial Oppression. North Ryde, NSW, Angus & Robertson, 1988.
National Museum of Australia