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.

- Traditional tribal area of the Ngadjonji.   - Lands disputed with other tribes



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. 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


* Bold text indicates Ngadjon vocabulary.

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