Ngadjonji History of the Rainforest People

Note: this site contains images of aboriginal people now deceased
© Ngadjonji Elders  - this mirror site dedicated to the memory of "Dulabul"

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Traditional Aboriginal Knowledge

The original inhabitants of the rainforest country around Malanda in Far North Queensland


Preface 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
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.  ESA expanded the Ngadjon vocabulary via a glossary and spreadsheet on-line from about 80 to  about 1800 words. Some scientific terms to match Ngadjon words have been added and separate lists have been amalgamated. Since creating the mirror Earth Science Australia has updated the format twice to keep the look contemporary and responsive to different screen sizes. This version incorporates flexbox CSS and external CSS in order to remove formatting clutter.

The Ngadjonji Tribe

The Name - Many variations in European spelling of the tribal name have occurred down the years. For example:
Other spellings include Madandji , Majanji , Ngadjandji , Ngadjen , Ngai-djandji , Ngendjen . 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.

    Ngadjon Wooden fighting shield with clan markings...

Traditional tribal area of the Ngadjonji.and disputed areas

Language Distribution

Between Cardwell and Cooktown, Nth-East Qld, lies the largest area of natural rainforest in Australia. The southern part of this region with the neighbouring tract of open forest is the traditional territory of the Aboriginal people who speak the six languages shown on the map. - Giramay, Jirrbal, Mamu, Djiru, Gulngay and Ngadjon. The speakers of these languages belong to separate tribes, linguistically their dialects are considered one language group.
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. (**webmaster note: "small stature" now attributed to a traditional low protein diet rather than genetics**)


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