Tarenorerer: Biography Of This Tasmanian Aboriginal Guerrilla

tarenorerer-biography

Tasmania is a large island in the Pacific Ocean that is currently part of one of the states that make up Australia. First sighted by a European in 1642, the island was named Anthoonij van Diemenslandt (Anthon van Diemen Island), in honor of the governor of the then Dutch East India Company. The name would survive with the arrival of white settlers, who called it Van Diemen’s Land.

The reality was that, when those English settlers first set foot on the land of Tasmania and began to build their villages, there was already a consolidated population of Aboriginal people, whose population is estimated at about 5,000. In the 1830s, and after the bloody massacre carried out by these settlers, barely a hundred remained in Tasmania.. A terrible genocide that has gone down in history as the Black War or the Tasmanian Genocide.

Brief biography of Tarenorerer, the Tasmanian guerrilla woman

It is in this chilling context that we must inscribe the life of Tarenorerer (c. 1800-1831), the Aboriginal woman who led a guerrilla group and kept the invading forces in check for years. George A. Robinson (1791-1866), sent to the island to find a conciliation with the natives, said of her that she was “a true Amazon.” And Tarenorerer kept the white settlers in suspense for three years, during which time she formed and led an Aboriginal guerrilla made up of men and women, including her own brothers.

Kidnapped and sold as a slave

Tarenorerer was born around 1800 in Emu Bay, northern Tasmania, to the Tommeginne tribe. Little is known about her in her early years. It is known that, when she was barely a teenager, she was torn from her town and sold as a slave to the settlers, whom she served until 1828, the year in which she was able to escape and return to her family.

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In those years, the aborigines used to kidnap women and children from other tribes to later offer them to the English in exchange for money. These unfortunate people became slaves of the colonists and carried out the most unpleasant activities, including sexual services.. Quite a few Aboriginal women were raped and tortured; something that Tarenorerer probably experienced firsthand.

All of this planted in the indomitable spirit of this woman a latent hatred towards the luta tawin (white men), which would never fade. During her years of captivity, Tarenorerer vowed to one day take revenge on those who mistreated her people; To this end, while she served the whites, the young woman learned English fluently and, more importantly, to use firearms, a skill that would be essential for her subsequent guerrilla activity.

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The Tasmanian Amazon

In 1828, coinciding with the approval of martial law (which turned a “blind eye” to numerous cases of murder of natives) Tarenorerer managed to escape and return to his people. It is then that she, determined to free the island from the invaders, gathers a considerable group of women and men and teaches them how to handle weapons. Soon, the fury of the guerrilla falls on the Luta Tawin; The men and women of Tarenorerer become the nightmare of the English. The warrior is considered one of the greatest dangers on the island of Tasmania.

The raids of Tarenorerer and his people subject the settlers to a time of terror and uncertainty. Perfectly instructed in the art of war, the young guerrilla has ordered her followers to shoot at the targets at the precise moment they are loading their weapons; that is, when they are most defenseless.

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Not content with killing them, Tarenorerer and his men annihilate their livestock and leave them hungry. In vain, the authorities try to hunt her down. It is impossible. Tarenorerer is lightning fast, and her guerrillas, including her brothers and sisters, are well trained in attack and flight. It seemed that nothing could stop the Tasmanian horsewoman.

Lieutenant Governor George Arthur (1784-1854) pursued her relentlessly for years. He was determined to impose peace in Tasmania (in addition to evangelizing its population) and, to do so, he needed to negotiate with the guerrillas. Finally, Tarenorerer was captured and taken, along with her brothers (and again as a slave), to Bird Island, where her main work consisted of hunting birds and seals for the whites.. It seems that the Tasmanian Amazon had been defeated… or maybe not?

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The last resurgence

Well no. Tarenorerer still had the strength to continue standing up to the invaders.
In the late 1830s, Tarenorerer plans to kill one of his captors and flee again.. More than likely, his intention was to meet with his guerrillas.

However, Arthur’s men, always on her trail, finally find her and send her to Swan Island, where she is recognized as the Tasmanian Amazon. Arthur knows that, if he wants peace on the island, he must either take down Tarenorerer or negotiate with her. But, is it possible to reach an agreement with the intrepid guerrilla…?

In early 1831, Tarenorerer is imprisoned in a prison on Gun Carriage Island. The young woman died shortly after, a victim of a severe flu that she caught in prison. She was about thirty years old and had been harassing white men for three years.

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an aboriginal symbol

The figure of Tarenorerer is an Aboriginal symbol, as it embodies the struggle of the natives against white exploitation. Born in a time of upheaval and terror, Tarenorerer witnessed the abuses towards the Aboriginal population and, horrified, she tried to put an end to it. His response was just as violent as that of his hated enemies; According to some historians, Tarenorerer’s guerrillas not only murdered settlers, but also other aborigines who were either in favor of the invader, or simply passing by..

It is undeniable that European settlers practiced enormous abuses on the Aboriginal population, although historians do not agree on its magnitude. On the other hand, the diseases coming from Europe caused havoc among the native population, as we have already seen with the death of Tarenorerer, who died from the flu.

According to tradition, Tasmania’s last Aboriginal woman, Trugernanner, died in 1876, and with her the island’s native lineage disappeared. However, everything seems to indicate that this statement was nothing more than a government ruse to put an end to the “Aboriginal problem”, and that, after it, some more Palawa or Tasmanians survived. Be that as it may, the genocide is undeniable, and only in this context can we understand the importance of the figure of Tarenorerer, the Tasmanian Amazon..

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