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No Pukamani : aspects of the ecology of the human settlement at Nguiu, Bathurst Island, Northern Territory of Australia

Kean, Thomas Brendan

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'Summit, who died about 1970, had about a dozen wives. He was the last to have more than two. He was the last great pagan leader or put more diplomatically "leader of the old ways". He died a Christian; his final words were there was to be "no Pukamani" adding that, if there was, he would come back and haunt them'. (Brother Pye M.S.C.: The Tiwi Islands, 1977). Bathurst (2072 KM²) and Melville Islands (5098 KM²) form a geological and cultural unit and are located off the north coast of...[Show more]

dc.contributor.authorKean, Thomas Brendan
dc.date.accessioned2017-05-03T23:36:29Z
dc.date.available2017-05-03T23:36:29Z
dc.date.copyright1978
dc.identifier.otherb1834786
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/1885/116775
dc.description.abstract'Summit, who died about 1970, had about a dozen wives. He was the last to have more than two. He was the last great pagan leader or put more diplomatically "leader of the old ways". He died a Christian; his final words were there was to be "no Pukamani" adding that, if there was, he would come back and haunt them'. (Brother Pye M.S.C.: The Tiwi Islands, 1977). Bathurst (2072 KM²) and Melville Islands (5098 KM²) form a geological and cultural unit and are located off the north coast of Australia about sixty kilometers from Darwin. The topography is generally flat with maximum elevation being about 100 meters. The islands have many tidal rivers lined with mangroves and are separated by Apsley Strait. Prior to contact with external cultural influences the Tiwi, a name which has been adopted to collectively describe the people of these islands, were organised into about nine or ten main bands based on land holding (country). Every Tiwi man and woman was a "landowner" inheriting rights to a tract of country through his or her father. All Tiwis were also born into a matrilineal descent group or 'sibs' (pukwi) which acknowledged a common ancestory to the extent that marriage was prohibited between members of the same 'sib'. 'Pukwis' are also aligned into groups (arampi) or phratries which were considered to be exogamous. Marriage of women was by way of contract between men as was often arranged to expand social prestige and power. No Tiwi female could remain unmarried. The Tiwis regarded themselves as 'the people' and their islands as 'the world' and appear to have had little Knowledge of societies beyond, with the possible exception of Portugese and Macassans who both exploited the islands over a considerable period of time, the former for slaves and the latter for 'trepang'. The Tiwi Knowledge of mainland tribes prior to about ]800 was negligible and there are considerable cultural differences between the Tiwis and the mainlanders. Women have roles in the Tiwi ceremonies of Kulama and PuKamani. Initiation of men and women is by the plucKing of pubic hair (rather than circumcision or subincision). The Tiwis did not posses the woomera, boomerang or dug-out canoe. There appears to have been little contact between the Tiwi and the neighbouring mainland tribes of Iwaidja (Cobourg Peninsula) and LarraKia (Port Darwin) prior to the nineteenth century. The Dutch explored the region extensively between sixteen and eighteen hundred but did not consider any value in colonial annexation. The British however after founding Port JacKson and spurred by Napoleon Bonaparte tooK an active interest in the region from the beginning of the nineteenth century, eventually starting the first British settlement in North Australia on Melville Island. Fort Dundas, as it was named, was to survive five years (1824-29) before the Tiwis and disease drove the invaders out. This hostility towards outsiders, which was probably spurred by earlier experiences with Portugese slavers or 'blackbirders', remained up to 1900. With the founding of Palmerston (Darwin) in 1869 contact with the outside world increased, with ships being often wrecked on the coast and South Australian Government activities increasing. Joe Cooper, a buffalo hunter came to the islands in 1900 and with the help of mainland Iwaidja tribesmen and guns managed to make the Tiwi more accommodating to the European. Japanese pearlers arrived and bought the favours of Tiwi women (the men got the goods). Finally Father Francis Xavier Gsell arrived, set up a mission on Bathurst Island (at Nguiu) and went into the 'wife buying' business in direct competition to the Japanese. Gsell succeeded in buying with flour and tobacco the right to educate the young girls at the mission and thereby delay their marriage to their contracted party. So successful was Gsell's wife buying that by ]938 when he was made Bishop of Darwin he had 150 Tiwi wives all of whom were educated in their formative years in Judao-Christian ethic. Most of these girls grew up at the Mission, their husbands came to live at the mission and polygomy was broken down as the normal maritial practice. A new life style began for the Tiwis, one of dependence. By the end of World War Two the nomadic hunter gatherer lifestyle of the community had been broken. Most of the younger people regardless of band looked upon Nguiu as their home. They had grown up at Nguiu and were rapidly losing independence and relying on imported food, shelter and culture for survival. The society remained static and to a large extent self dependent in the immediate post war era having extensive gardens and a small european population. Money was introduced to the community for the first time in 1953. The Tiwi population began to rise through the fifties reaching about 1000 before levelling off and even declining in the sixties. This stagnation in population growth was largely due to the migration of people who were originally west Melville islanders back to their home country. This was particularly so with the migration of families from Bathurst Island mission to Garden Point after it became a government settlement in 1968. The seventies brought a influx of federal government money, advisors administrators and a rapidly expanding non-Tiwi population (]968:20, ]974:45, 1976:65, 1978:100). So too, came European style housing for the Tiwis, ninety seven such dwellings being erected between 1974 and 1978. Organisations based on western concepts of democracy were introduced to give the people 'self determination'. This sudden external economic influence resulted in an influx of external technical advisors, managers and workers into involvement in the everyday affairs of the Tiwi community at Nguiu. This situation has resulted in a further decline in the ability of the society to independently cope with the environment within which it is now living. Introduced technology, housing, political and social structures which now exist are making it extremely difficult for the Tiwi to lead anything but a lifestyle which is almost totally dependent for survival on the wider Australian society at large. The invasion is complete. There will be 'no pukamani' for Tiwi society.
dc.format.extentxiv, 132 leaves
dc.language.isoen
dc.subject.lcshHuman settlements Australia Nguiu (N.T.)
dc.subject.lcshHuman ecology Australia Nguiu (N.T.)
dc.subject.lcshEthnology Australia Nguiu (N.T.)
dc.subject.lcshNguiu (N.T.) Civilization
dc.titleNo Pukamani : aspects of the ecology of the human settlement at Nguiu, Bathurst Island, Northern Territory of Australia
dc.typeThesis (Masters)
dcterms.valid1978
local.description.notesThis thesis has been made available through exception 200AB to the Copyright Act.
local.type.degreeOther
dc.date.issued1978
local.contributor.affiliationThe Australian National University
local.identifier.doi10.25911/5d74e2e39917c
dc.date.updated2017-04-29T08:50:45Z
local.mintdoimint
CollectionsOpen Access Theses

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