Smallpox came first. Possibly in the 1790s and certainly in the 1820s, before any British came.
There were many deaths, but there was still a large population around the lakes when the British explorers came. The explorer Sturt reported that, along the river, he never saw “less than 200 at a time”.
Sturt and Mitchell came in the 1830s and between them traced the Darling from Bourke to Wentworth.
Later, in 1848, Mitchell, as Surveyor General, sent one of his employees, Francis MacCabe, to take a party of men to survey the river. MacCabe performed painstaking work, producing detailed maps as he went.
Mitchell asked MacCabe to “write down the native names” along the river, which MacCabe did very conscientiously, so that he was able to record names for almost every reach and bend of the river.
Thomas Mitchell was the first British explorer in these parts. He met the “spitting tribe” at Wilcannia in 1835. He fired on Aboriginal people at Menindee. He “dispersed” a large Aboriginal gathering (including Paakantyi and Ngiyampaa people) at Mount Dispersion in 1836.
He, as expedition leader, was responsible for at least 30 Aboriginal deaths in his two expeditions in the west of NSW.
The first depictions of Paakantyi people was produced by Ludwig Becker, artist to the Burke and Wills expedition in 1860-1861.From the book Changing times along the Darling, 2009