The People and their Traditional Country
Yindjibarndi people traditionally lived in the area near the town of Roebourne in the Pilbara region of Western Australia. The area is bordered by Kariyarra and Nyamal land to the north, Ngarluma to the west, Martuthunira and Kurrama land to the south and Nyiyaparli and Palyku land to the east. It is around the area of the Fortescue River.
The award-winning documentary Exile and the Kingdom produced by Frank Rijavec tells of the resilience of the Yindjibarndi, Ngarluma, Banyjima and Kurrama people of Roebourne from early times to the European settlement of the area and the mining boom of the 1960s and 70s.
In 2004 there were estimated to be between six and seven hundred speakers of the Yindjibarndi language. A number of other people are partial speakers, have a passive knowledge of Yindjibarndi and many more identify as being from Yindjibarndi heritage.
Remaining Yindjibarndi speakers live in the towns of Roebourne, Port Hedland and Karratha and a number of communities in the south-west Pilbara. Most speakers are elderly with some children of speakers having a strong partial knowledge of the language.
Language Resources and Recordings
O’Grady recorded the language in 1958 and again in 1967, Brand and Thomas in 1974, Dench in 1980, Hale in 1959, Brand in 1964, 1969 and 1964/67. Geytenbeek recorded the language in 2001. Wordick produced a grammar in 1982 and Wangka Maya published the Yindjibarndi Dictionary in 2003. This dictionary can also be viewed on-line as an e-Book Dictionary.
Juluwarlu Aboriginal Corporation has produced many high quality Yindjibarndi publications in recent years.
In the children's book A Sticky Day in the Bush, Merinda Churnside tells the story of a family outing to gather gardangu (sweet sticky gum) from the ganyji bush, Acacia pyrifolia. (Picture by Nadine Hicks)
The documentary DVD How the West was Lost, which tells the story of the 1946 Strike by Pilbara Aboriginal pastoral workers, includes dialogue in Yindjibarndi and other Pilbara languages, with English subtitles.
Yindjibarndi is part of the Pama-Nyungan language family; a large group of indigenous languages spread over much of the Australian continent. It belongs to the Ngayarta subgroup and is related to the languages of Ngarla, Nyamal, Palyku, Najima, Kurrama, Yinhawangka, Ngarluma, Kariyarra, Martuthunira, Nhuwala and Jurruru.
Past spellings of the Yindjibarndi language include Indjibandi, Indjibandji, Indjiban, Indjibandjie, Ingibandi, Jindiparndji, Yingiebandie, Binjiebandie. The language may also have been referred to as Kakardi ("eastern people" by Ngarluma), Mandanjongo ("top people- by Nyamal), Mardanjungu (by Ngarluma), Janari (by Thalanyji) and Yanari.
This is a short story told by Ken Jerrold to Frank Wordick.
Barnga muyhungga jimbuwarlaarri. Tharrawayi ngurrayi ngarrili thurnungga.
In winter, the female bungarra is full of eggs. She goes underground and lies there.
Tharlayigu jinawari, muji thardamarnu. Ngarri muwawa.
She kicks with her feet, plugging the hole. She lies there, buried alive.
Ngaarda ngarrguwayi barngayi jimbuwarlaa.
Suppose a person eats a female goanna with eggs.
Ganaji barndigayi ngaardawu, ngarrgaayi jimbu barngayi.
Lightning would smell the person who ate the goanna eggs.
Ganaji wanbigayi, nyurndimarnu.
Lightning would strike them dead.
Jujungali wandaa ngarrguwayi. Yangubala mirda.
Older people can eat them, but not young ones.
Manggurla nhawu mamangu.
The child sees the father.
Ngayi mijagu bawayi.
I’m drinking the water.
Ngaarda thuwayina bajarriwu.
The man speared the euro.
Ngaardalu thuwayngulinha bajarri.
The euro got speared by the man.
Wanyja bananggarrinha manggurlawari.
The dog went with the child.
Manggurla gananggarrinha wunduwangu.
The child came from the river.
Winter wildflowers on Yindjibarndi traditional country. (Picture by Eleonora Deak)
Some Kinship Terms
||woman's brother's child
||mother's younger sister, father's younger brother's wife
||father, father's brother
||wife's brother, man's sister's husband
||mother's brother, father's sister's husband
||man's sister's son, man's daughter's son, wife's brother's son
||mother's older sister
||father's older brother, mother's older sister's husband
Every Yindjibarndi person is born into a skin group which is determined by the skin group of their mother (in most cases). Traditionally this system meant that people knew which group of people their husband or wife would come from. The four groups for Yindjibarndi people are Banaga, Balyirri, Burungu and Garimarra.
- A Banaga man marries a Burungu woman and they have Balyirri children.
- A Garimarra man marries a Balyirri woman and they have Burungu children.
- A Balyirri man marries a Garimarra woman and they have Banaga children.
- A Burungu man marries a Banaga woman and they have Garimarra children.