The Ngarla People
The Ngarla People are the traditional owners of an area of land east of Port Hedland that covers the DeGrey and Pardoo pastoral stations, which spans approximately 4,655 sq km. They distinguish themselves from other Aboriginal groups in surrounding areas by the geographical description of ngaru kartipaku, meaning "from the coast side".
The Ngarla People are composed of 5 family groups: the Pilu (Draper), Jingkiri (Atwood), Pananykarra (Brown), Warrarinya (Lee) and Makanykara (Coppin) families.
Linguistically, Ngarla is a subdivision of the Pama-Nyungen language family, which is an extensive group of languages spread over a large part of Australia's landscape. Unfortunately, presently there are few Ngarla speakers remaining in the Pilbara. Rather, many Ngarla People have a passive understanding of the Ngarla language.
With that said, extensive work has been done to preserve the language for future generations, through poetry, song and education. For more information on this fantastic venture and the work of Alexander ‘Sandy’ Brown, Brian Geytenbeek and Wangka Maya please see the Wangka Maya Pilbara Aboriginal language Centre.
The following poem is written by Alexander ‘Sandy’ Brown:
MARLKARRIMARNU NGANARNA WITI JAYINTA
Playing with a Dangerous Thing
Yaarnu nganarna Mukurrinya-nguru yurtakarni, Mangkuru Yaayilan-kari
We went fishing from Mukurrinya to Kangaroo Island
Kurturtungura nganarna paamu ngani marnu
Partway there we saw a bomb
Pirla tayimu warni jintaya Kajungulu mangarrjarrguralu
In the war time the Japanese had dropped it from a plane
Warni jintangu nyiniyanta mulya kankara
After it was dropped it was lying nose upwards
Mirta payiny ngarrimarnta paamu
The bomb did not explode
Nganarna witi jayinta pakarlinyjarrilu
We men were playing with it
Nganungalu kajangku marnangura pilyparr yirriny mayinta
My older brother was trying unsuccessfully to lift it by the tail
Mampurlpa payiny ngarrimarnta, punganmarnta nganarnanya, kutu Perhaps
if it had exploded it would have killed us
Palangkanguru nganarna yaarnu yurtakarni
From there we went fishing
Mirta nganrna yurta maanmarnta
We didn’t catch any fish
Karliny jayinyu nganarna para paamurra mgani malu
We returned to look at the bomb
Karlinyju nganarna panalala mirta juntu manmarntna
When we returned to camp we didn’t tell them about it
Makurru murri nyininyu
It stayed there a very long time
Yarti jintaku murri ngani marnuya paama
Much later the others saw the bomb
Muwarr pananga nyaarnuya yatilparra
And sent a message to the experts
Milpanyuya yatilpa para payiny jipalu
The experts came to explode it
Ngarturr mayinyu nganarna partamurri marlkarrimanu
We didn’t know it was an extremely dangerous killer.
For more poetry and stories by name Withheld for Cultural Reasons please see the FATSILC (The Federation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Language and Culture) website.