Cook sailed into Waymburr, one of 32 clan lands of the Guugu Yimithir tribal nations. The place that later became known as Cooktown was a neutral zone where surrounding clans would come together for cultural ceremonies and mediations. It was law that no blood was to be spilled on this land.
Cook and his men had several interactions with Bama Ngay which included at least one exchange where Bama Ngay asked the sailors to remove their clothes so that they could see what the men were made of underneath their clothes. This request was motivated by the spiritual beliefs and cultural customs of the Guugu Yimithir people, who believed that their ancestors would one day return with white skin.
The only Guugu Yimithir man whose actions are recorded individually in any of the journals is an elder referred to as ‘the little old man’. He is credited with initiating the first ever act of reconciliation between Indigenous Australians and Europeans following the skirmish aboard the Endeavour when Cook refused to let Bama Ngay take some turtles.
Banks recorded ‘We followed for near half a mile, then meeting with some rocks from whence we might observe their motions, we sat down and they did so too about 100 yards from us. The little old man now came forward to us carrying a lance without a point. He halted several times and as he stood employed himself collecting moisture from under his arm with his finger which he every time drew through his mouth.’
“From what I have said of the Natives of New-Holland they may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon Earth, but in reality they are far happier than we Europeans; …. They live in a Tranquillity which is not disturbed by the Inequality of Condition: The Earth and sea of their own accord furnishes them with all things necessary for life; they covet not magnificent houses & Household-stuff they live in a warm and fine climate and enjoy a very wholesome air, so that they have very little need of clothing and this they seem to be fully sensible of, for many to whom we gave cloth, left it carelessly upon the sea beach and in the woods as a thing they had no manner of use for. In short they seemed to set no value upon any thing we gave them, nor would they ever part with any thing of their own for any one article we could offer them; this, in my opinion argues that they think themselves provided with all the necessities of life and that they have no superfluities.”