|Fig.1: Bennelong was voted the Best Dressed
Australian of 1791.
Born around 1764, Bennelong became a member of the Koori group of Aboriginal Australians, more specifically the Eora people, more specifically the Wangal Clan, more specifically the third hut on the right when you turn onto Parramatta Street. His group was centered on the east coast of the continent, making them lucky enough to not have to live in the Outback and have nothing but a giant rock to worship. Bennelong quickly became one of the more influential members of the clan, and married off his sisters to other clans as a form of networking (thank goodness we have LinkedIn today). He himself married several times, most notably to a woman named Barangaroo, who appears to have more of an influence on him than giving them their cute, alliterative names.
Bennelong might have settled down to live a not-so-original Aboriginal life, but things changed with the arrival of the British to the area in 1787, who soon created the new colony of New South Wales. Governor Arthur Phillip was ordered by King George III to make friends with the indigenous population, but was dismayed when their invitations for a fondue party were returned unanswered. So the British did the next best thing and decided to kidnap a couple of natives; this is what happened to Bennelong and a friend named Colbee after going for a stroll in November 1789. Colbee soon escaped, but Bennelong stuck around, presumably as curious about the British (who are wacky wig-wearing wackos) as they were of him. He and Phillip developed as much of a friendship that two people who have no idea what the other is saying can possibly form. While Bennelong did escape after being held in the British camp for six months, he soon renewed contact with Phillip, sending him texts that he would "ttyl."
|Fig.2: Bennelong and Arthur Phillip had the kind of friendship that creepy children's books were written about.
|Fig.3: King George III wasn't just
posing; he really gave this crazy
stare at people all day.
Yemmerawanne would unfortunately pass away in England due to a bad stomach infection (that food sure banged and mashed him), convincing Bennelong is was time to return home. When he did so in 1795, the Brits hoped his time in the "civilized" world would cultivate Bennelong's character, and gave him an official position in the colonial government, as well as the key to the special restroom. But Bennelong slowly began to retreat back to his old life with the Wangal Clan, and he eventually shunned the British completely as a chief outside of Sydney. The colonists looked down on Bennelong for this decision; when he died in 1813, the New South Wales Advertiser wrote in his obituary:
Bennelong died on Sunday morning last at Kissing Point. Of this veteran champion of the native tribe little favourable can be said. His voyage to, and benevolent treatment in Great Britain produced no change whatever in his manners and inclinations, which were naturally barbarous and ferocious. The principal Officers of Government had for many years endeavoured, by the kindest of usage to wean him from his original habits, and draw him into a relish for civilized life; but every effort was in vain exerted, and for the last few has been little noticed. His propensity to drunkenness was inordinate; and when in that state he was insolent, menacing and overbearing. In fact, he was a thorough savage, not to be warped from the form and character that nature gave him, by all the efforts that mankind could use.They left out his tenacity to litter and take candy from babies, but I suppose you shouldn't hit a dead man too low. Nonetheless, one really can't fault Bennelong in returning to his previous way of life. After experiencing what Europe and its culture had to offer, he decided that it was best if he went back to what he was comfortable with, and become a leading figure within his own people. Plus the fact that Aboriginal Australians all along the east coast were dying of smallpox and seeing their land slowly ebb away from their control might have convinced him that the British weren't exactly the nicest of blokes (he should have connected with other indigenous populations about his concerns).
|Fig.4: It is unclear whether Bennelong would have
tolerated the racket known as "opera" on his point.