Ngadjonji History of the Rainforest People
inhabitants of the rainforest country around Malanda in Far North
© Ngadjonji Elders - this mirror site dedicated to the memory of "Dulabul"
Note: this site contains images of aboriginal people now deceased
Preface from Earth Science Australia
to this mirror site from Earth Science Australia
The Ngadjonji were among the first to embrace the new technology of the internet. Their web site is, in our opinion, the best indigenous web site in Australia. Reconciliation works best through understanding. Education works best through access.
The Ngadjonji Elders deserve the highest praise in this regard.
Both the Ngadjonji web site and Earth Science Australia web site originated through Bushnet in about 1996. When no commercial ISP would service rural and remote Queensland , this pioneer volunteer ISP provided connected some 12 schools via a single 28k modem. Both sites recovered from the destruction of Bushnet by a lightning strike and both were made "road kill" on the information highway when the educational bureaucracy pulled the plug on Bushnet with five weeks notice and no redirects. Both sites suffered when Telstra twice shut down the local rural and remote commercial ISP we had retreated to. The Ngadjonji site found a new home at Sydney U. while Earth Science Australia lived as a "virtual gypsy" for several years, surviving as a alias on surplus corporate server space until the Geological Society of Australia let us share its server. Now the link to Sydney U is blocked to primary and secondary students and teachers residing in Queensland so Earth Science Australia has created a mirror of this excellent site from bits and pieces it has saved over the past years. Regretably we located only an incomplete copy of the original site's .WAV files and so visitors will be able to hear a little Ngadjon spoken.
The Ngadjonji Tribe
The Name - Many variations in European spelling of the tribal name have occurred down the years. For example:
- Ngachan-ji - tribe encountered in the Atherton area - 1898 W.E. Roth, Northern Protector of Aborigines, ethnological notes.
- Ngatjan (natjen) - belonging to the country from Atherton to the Russel River - N.B. Tindale and J.B. Birdsell - Harvard-Adelaide Univerities Anthropological expedition of 1938-39.
- Ngadyandyi, Ngadyan - R.M.W.Dixon (1972)
- Ngajanji, Ngajan - R.M.W.Dixon (later publications)
- Ngadjonji, Ngadjon - the contemporary spelling, preferred by the tribe itself and used by the Far Northern Land Council, A.T.S.I.C. etc. Ngadjonji means the Ngadjon -speaking people.
The Ngadjonji Lands - The Ngadjonji traditionally occupied an area of upland rainforest country at the headwaters of the Russell and North Johnstone Rivers in north east Queensland, Australia.
- Traditional tribal area of the Ngadjonji. - Lands disputed with other tribes
Pedley (1992) p.1
The language grouping is generally given the name Dyirbal (another spelling for Jirrbal), this being the dialect that has the most surviving speakers.
Linguistic evidence suggests that the six tribes speaking dialects of what we call Dyirbal language are all descended from a single ancestor tribe. As the original tribes members increased, it would have split into two groups, each becoming a tribe in its own right; and so on. Ngadjon is the most northerly and possibly the most divergent. Lexical and grammatical analysis suggests Ngadjon has been separated from the other dialects for the longest time and that the Djirbal-Mamu split was relatively recent...
The use of the name Dyirbal - which properly describes the dialect of just one tribe - as a cover term for these six closely-related dialects would be regarded by speakers of these languages as quite illicit. Speakers are aware of the dialect similarities but are also keen to emphasise the differences.....
All dialects of Dyirbal had two separate languages, everyday language and "mother-in-law language". which was used in the presence of certain 'taboo' relatives. While these languages shared phonology and grammar, they had entirely different vocabularies.
Dixon (1972) p.25
|There is no doubt that the Aboriginal population of the rainforest region were in many ways physically and culturally distinct from the occupants of the open-woodland habitats inland.|
Early observers were struck by
the relatively small stature and
slender limbs of the rain-forest Aboriginal and some cultural elements
are unique and clearly reflect features of the rain forest habitat.
These include dome-shaped, rain proof thatched huts ( Mija ) * , used principally in the wet season; bark cloth hammered from the inner bark of fig trees ( gabi ) ( Ficus pleurocarpa) which were used to make blankets as well as containers both for carrying water and honey and for leaching bitter yams; baskets ( janjuu ) made from lawyer cane ( Calamus Spp. ) and rush ( jiigan ) ( Lomandra ) which were used as sieve bags for leaching toxic nuts; huge wooden swords and shields, the latter made from the flange buttresses of fig trees and painted with intricate designs when a boy was initiated into manhood (McConnel 1935) and, most distinctively of all, two types of specialised
nut-processing stone used respectively to crack open the hard nuts ... and to macerate nut kernels, especially those of the yellow ( ganggi ) and black walnuts( guwaa ). ( Beilschmiedia bancroftii and Endiandra palmerstonii) .
Harris (1978) p.121