Smallpox and the Baiame Waganna of Wellington Valley, New South Wales, 1829-1840: The earliest nativist movement in aboriginal Australia

HM Carey*, D Roberts

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

7 Citations (Scopus)


Of all the various infections that afflicted Aboriginal people in Australia during the years of first contact with Europeans, smallpox was the most disastrous. The physical and social impacts of the disease are well known. This article considers another effect of the contagion. It is argued that a nativist movement in the form of a waganna (dance ritual) associated with the Wiradjuri spirit Baiame and his adversary Tharrawiirgal was linked to the aftermath of the disease as it was experienced at the settlement site of the Wellington Valley of New South Wales (NSW). The discovery of this movement is of considerable significance for an understanding of Aboriginal responses to colonization in southeastern Australia. It is the earliest well-attested nativist movement in Australian ethnohistory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)821-869
Number of pages49
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002
Event1999 Contagion Conference - SYDNEY, Australia
Duration: 7 Apr 19998 Apr 1999

Cite this