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The Tiwi. The Beginning “Out of the ground rose an old, old woman. She was blind, and she carried three babies. Across the land she crawled, clutching.

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Presentation on theme: "The Tiwi. The Beginning “Out of the ground rose an old, old woman. She was blind, and she carried three babies. Across the land she crawled, clutching."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Tiwi

2 The Beginning “Out of the ground rose an old, old woman. She was blind, and she carried three babies. Across the land she crawled, clutching her children, and in the furrows left by her knees fresh water bubbled up. She turned westward and formed the shores. She crawled further and created the ports.”

3 Introduction and History The Tiwi live on Melville and Bathurst Islands, which are not only a cultural unit but also a geographical one. They are located off the north coast of Australia and lie about 30 miles north of Darwin. The land is mostly flat, with a low central ridge on Melville Island rising to about 300 feet, and running west to east.

4 Introduction and History (cont.) On Bathurst, which boasts less elevation, rivers are small and largely tidal. Both islands are heavily forested. Northern people were most likely in contact with outsiders before those living in the south. The Tiwi most likely had contact with outsiders long ago but definitive records can not be found.

5 Introduction and History (Cont.) In 1986 the Tiwi population was aroun 2,000. Around 1,300 lived on Bathurst Island and around 700 lived on Melville island.

6 Subsistence Native Australians are traditionally hunter and gatherers. The Tiwi live in a varied environment that provides them with dietary abundance today as it did it the past. Men hunt turtles, geese, lizards, fish, and wallabies. Women gather edible plants, fruits, and vegetables.

7 Subsistence (Cont.) The Tiwi day begins with women and children fanning out to begin the day’s subsistence activities. The younger men hunt and fish. Young boys and older men participated least in daily foraging activities. After European settlement, Tiwi became employed in a variety of jobs which had to do with settlement life like education, health, community service, and government.

8 Subsistence (Cont.) Each community has a shop where food and other material goods may be purchase, however the majority of Tiwi are concerned with the maintenance of hunting and foraging skills among the young.

9 Settlement Modern-day Tiwi live in two- to four-bedroom houses built by outside contractors during the past fifteen to twenty years. Modern-day Tiwi houses include a kitchen, bathrooms, electricity, and plumbing. Traditionally, Tiwi set up camp in a cleared area around a fire, with the kind of shelter constructed dependent largely on the season.

10 Settlement (Cont.) Every Tiwi woman and man owns land, and has a landowning name.

11 Social Organization The word “tiwi”, in their own distinctive tongue, means “people.” Traditionally, Tiwi referred to themselves by names indicating their membership in one of several landowning groups, which they call countries.

12 Social Organization (Cont.) A key feature in the history of the Tiwi was their isolation. Because the Tiwi were so isolated and rarely disturbed, they thought less of protecting or identifying their group as a whole. Hunting and gathering activities were organized as a band, but the focus of the daily routine was the household.

13 Kinship Tiwi belong to their mother’s matrilineal descent group, which they cal their “skin.” This matrilineal clan is a group whose members reckon their common descent from a group of unborn spirit beings living in or near a body of water. For every individual, is is important to recognize two clans: one’s own clan (that of one’s mother), and one’s father’s clan, from whom one chooses an individual to marry.

14 Kinship ( cont.) In the social system of the Tiwi, everyone is, at base, kin to everyone else. The most basic division of kin is between those who are close (geographically) and those who are far away (long-way kin).

15 Marriage Tiwi marriage customs have undergone enormous change in modern times, mainly due to the influence of Catholic missionaries settling on the islands after World War 2. Traditional Tiwi culture mandated that all women must be married.

16 Tiwi Wives Bestowal of infant daughters and immediate remarriage of all widows resulted in households in which successful old men had as many as twenty wives, while younger men than thirty had none. The Tiwi explicitly made the connection between their polygynous system and their subsistence.

17 Tiwi Wives (Cont.) The crucial importance of food gathering was a driving force behind the necessity for men who were starting their own households to begin by securing older widows as wives.

18 Power and Prestige Women have great power and prestige –Senior wives at the center of the powerful, cohesive social and economic unit that included her daughters and co-wives. Big man status a lifelong process Most important marker of success: –Larder of food Power comes with age

19 Religious Beliefs World of the unborn –Tiwi recognize no biological contribution of a man to the conception of a child For any child to be born it must be dreamed of by its mother’s husband World of the living –Time spent in life is focused on personal achievement and economic independence World of the dead –Relationships formed while alive are continued

20 Religion continued No “magical” explanation of the world –No real natural disasters, absence of food or water, threat of wild animals, and diseases

21 Taboo Pukamani –Anything forbidden –People who were not “themselves” After giving birth, in a state of mourning, or undergoing initiation rights –Elaborate restrictions regarding food and sex


23 Kulama Initiation Ceremony Rare occasion when dispersed households come together in joint activity. Yam ceremony; initiation into adulthood Held at the end of the rainy season, usually spans several days Kaluma yams dug up and eaten Initiated adults must participate to ensure their health

24 Sickness and Healing Expectation to live a long life and die of old age. Unfortunate occurrences brought on by one’s own behavior. –Children’s accidents the fault of the child’s parents Healing is first aid or preventive medicine –Bloodletting and application of heat –Urine drank as medicine –Illness prevention contained in lessons about proper behavior

25 Death and Pukamani In attempts to convince spirits to stay around the grave sites, food, water, and tobacco are left Pukamani funeral ceremony –Everyone who had any kind of tie to the deceased expected to participate –Ritual tasks assigned by membership in certain social categories (ex: close kin vs. long-way kin) –Close family become Pukamani –smear white clay ALL over their bodies –Hair is cut/shaved

26 Pukamani cont. Armbands hide Pukamani from spirits Pukamani cannot be near water or touch their own food Sex is forbidden Everything owned by the deceased becomes taboo Ritually cleansed by “smoking” Name and similar sounding words become taboo Messengers painted red and carry special message sticks to announce death Signing and dancing part of the ceremony Three worlds interact through dance Carved and brightly painted poles symbolize status and prestige of the deceased

27 Modern Life Because of their involvement in WWII, Tiwi had become largely dependent upon products supplied by military bases Polygamous marriages outlawed Converted to Christianity Tiwi became owners again of Melville and Bathurst Islands Tourism and art important part of economy Remained active hunters/gatherers

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