The Ngaatjatjarra are a dialectal group of what is known as the Western Desert Cultural Bloc in Australia. This bloc covers about 600000 square kilometers (Great Victoria Desert, Gibson Desert and Sandy Desert) and is inhabited by more than 40 dialectal groups, all of which speaking the Wati language.
Western Desert Aborigines were among the last Indigenous peoples to get in contact with White settlement. The Ngaatjajtarra, for example, got into prolonged contact from the mid 1950s onwards, when the Australian government decided to establish a meteorological station in the Rawlinson Ranges to control de launch of their test missiles.
Ngaatjatjarra people were, like all Aboriginal groups and tribes, hunter-gatherers. Men would usually hunt large game, such as kangaroos and emus, women would hunt small game such as lizards and collect vegetable food. They were living and nomading in small groups, usually an extended family or even a nuclear family with, possibly, an adopted child or a grand-parent. However, these small groups would regularly meet for ritual activities, such as initiations of their boys and rites for the reproduction of natural species.
Like all Aboriginal people, the religious system of the Ngaatjatjarra is dominated by what is now know as the Dreaming, Tjukurrpa in Ngaatjatjarra. The Dreaming defines the cartography, for mythical beings of the Dreaming have created the world as it is today. The myths that are associated to the Dreaming also enact society, for they describe what is done, how it has to be done, and what is morally wrong: the Dreaming defines the moral order of Aboriginal people.
Author(s): Laurent Dousset, 2004
Date created: 2004-03-09 - Date modified: 2004-07-05