Tiwi people
The Tiwi people are one of the many Indigenous
Indigenous Australians
Indigenous Australians are the original inhabitants of the Australian continent and nearby islands. The Aboriginal Indigenous Australians migrated from the Indian continent around 75,000 to 100,000 years ago....

 groups of Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. Nearly 2,500 Tiwi live in the Bathurst and Melville
Melville Island, Northern Territory
Melville Island or Yermalner Island lies in the eastern Timor Sea, off the coast of the Northern Territory of Australia. It is west of the Cobourg Peninsula in Arnhem Land and north of Darwin....

 Islands, which make up the Tiwi Islands
Tiwi Islands
The Tiwi Islands are part of Australia's Northern Territory, north of Darwin where the Arafura Sea joins the Timor Sea. They comprise Melville Island and Bathurst Island, with a combined area of ....


Tiwi art and language
Tiwi language
Tiwi is an Australian Aboriginal language spoken on the Tiwi Islands, within sight of the coast of northern Australia. It is one of about 10% of Australian languages still being learned by children....

 are markedly distinct from those of nearby Arnhem Land
Arnhem Land
The Arnhem Land Region is one of the five regions of the Northern Territory of Australia. It is located in the north-eastern corner of the territory and is around 500 km from the territory capital Darwin. The region has an area of 97,000 km² which also covers the area of Kakadu National...

. Compared with Arnhem Land art, Tiwi art often appears to be abstract and geometric. With its strong patterns and use of colour, Tiwi art is considered very attractive and highly collectible.

English is taught at schools as a second language, and the Tiwi communicate principally in their own language. When in mourning, it is part of their beliefs to paint their body and not feed themselves. Another person therefore must feed them. Body painting has been practised for thousands of years as a part of ceremonies. Tiwi use natural ochre
Ochre is the term for both a golden-yellow or light yellow brown color and for a form of earth pigment which produces the color. The pigment can also be used to create a reddish tint known as "red ochre". The more rarely used terms "purple ochre" and "brown ochre" also exist for variant hues...

 pigments. Notably, some of the Tiwi have large, continuous brow ridges.

Hunting for food is still an important part of Tiwi life. On land, they hunt for wallaby
A wallaby is any of about thirty species of macropod . It is an informal designation generally used for any macropod that is smaller than a kangaroo or wallaroo that has not been given some other name.-Overview:...

, lizards, possums, carpet snakes
Morelia spilota variegata
Morelia spilota variegata is a subspecies of python found in New Guinea and Australia, smaller than the nominate subspecies Morelia spilota spilota and has a more restricted geographic range.-Description:...

, pig, buffalo, flying foxes, bandicoot
Bandicoots are a group of about 20 species of small to medium-sized, terrestrial marsupial omnivores in the order Peramelemorphia.- Etymology :...

, turtle and seagull eggs and magpie geese. From the sea they hunt for turtle, crocodiles, dugong
The dugong is a large marine mammal which, together with the manatees, is one of four living species of the order Sirenia. It is the only living representative of the once-diverse family Dugongidae; its closest modern relative, Steller's sea cow , was hunted to extinction in the 18th century...

 and fish. Dancing or yoi as they call it, is a part of everyday life. Tiwi inherit their totemic dance from their mother. Narrative dances are performed to depict everyday life or historical events. The land on both islands is heavily forested.

Notable Tiwi people include David Kantilla
David Kantilla
David Kantilla was an Australian rules footballer who is recognised as the first Indigenous Australian to play in the South Australian National Football League. Throughout his footballing career he was known by his 'Anglo' name David Kantilla but also had his tribal name of Amparralamtua.Kantilla...

, Austin Wonaeamirri
Austin Wonaeamirri
Austin Wonaeamirri is a professional Australian rules football player of indigenous origin. He previously played for the Melbourne Football Club in the Australian Football League .-Early life:...

 and Adam Kerinaua. The stolen generation
Stolen Generation
The Stolen Generations were the children of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander descent who were removed from their families by the Australian Federal and State government agencies and church missions, under acts of their respective parliaments...

saw many indigenous people brought to the Tiwi Islands but not of direct Tiwi descent.

Marriage in the Tiwi

The Tiwi believe that a female can become pregnant at any time no matter the age. This, along with their belief that no child should be born fatherless, creates a system in which all females have to be married at all times. Newborn girls are engaged to men of at least 60 years of age, although they do not start to live with their husbands until the age of 14. In addition, women whose husbands have died are remarried to someone else, no matter their own age. All marriage contracts are arranged by the "father" of the female (whether its the first marriage or a remarriage). When a man dies, the woman's new partner takes on the role of father for all of the woman's children from all previous marriages.

A powerful and elderly man can have as many as 100 wives at the time of his death, yet many of these could still be under the age of 14, meaning they do not live with him.

External links

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