Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Aboriginal Tribes of the North Queensland Rainforest                                                                                  

In 1941 Tindale and Birdsell identified what they termed a Tasmanoid group living in the rainforests of North Queensland. This group was comprised of about 12 tribes that were described as small or pygmoid in stature, with crisp curly hair, physical characteristics that led Tindale and Birdsell to believe they were similar to Tasmanian Aboriginal People. Because they had territories near Lake Barrine, they were also called Barrineans. Both Tindale and Birdsell believed they represent 'a separate small-framed type of modern man forming one of the earliest stocks in southern Asia' (Tindale, 1974:89). They suggested they may have represented the 'first wave of the Aboriginal occupation of Australia' (Dassett, 1987).

The tribe comprising Tindale's Tasmanoid group are: Ngatjan, Mamu, Wanjuri, Tjupkai, Barbaram, Idindji, Kongkandji, Buluwai, Djiru, Djirubal, Gulngai and Keramai.

Tindale & Birdsell noted a number of cultural characteristics that were shared by the tribes, a patrilineal moiety system, or a 4-class system, partial mummification of the dead, carrying the skull and jaw bones of the dead for long periods before disposal by burning, food cannibalism, large decorated fighting shields, the wearing of beaten bark blankets, fig-tree baskets sewn with lawyer cane, specialised food collection and preparation, such as leaching alkaloids from toxic nuts. (Tindale & Birdsell, 1941).

An American anthropologist, Lauristan Sharp, studied the Aboriginal People in North Queensland in 1933 and 1935. Sharp divided in excess of 100 tribes into 9 groups based on combination of totemic traits. Dixon (1976) classified Aboriginal groups on the basis of linguistic groups. 

The statement concerning Dixon's work, at the 1993 Julayinbul Conference, a tribal elder of the Ngadjon-Jii, Ernie Raymont, shows that the Aboriginals don't always agree with the categories they have been assigned to by non-Aboriginal experts. He stated, 'He found that we're all one people but our language was just slightly different and...all that time we were thinking we were all strangers and we were all enemies and that's the attitude I was brought  up when I was a kid in the camp in Malanda from the old people... So it's only in the last 10 years that Professor Dixon went amongst our people and wrote books about it, that we have come together and started talking to one another and all these years we thought we were all enemies talking different tribal dialects.' Rainforest Aboriginal Network 1993; 23) (Stork & Turton, 2008).

Sources & Further reading

  1. Edited by Nigel E. Stork & Stephen M. Turton, Living in a Dynamic Tropical Forest Landscape, Blackwell Publishing, 1988


  1. Ngadjonji History of the Rainforest People


Author: M. H. Monroe
Last updated: 30/09/2011

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