Located in the far northwest of Western Australia, our traditional lands encompass a vast tract of the central and western Pilbara including Nhanggangunha (Millstream). Yurlburr (Python Pool), Gambulanha (Hamersley Ranges) and Yarnda Nyirra (the Fortescue River). Our waterways and springs, and the ceremonies of our yurala (rainmakers) give life to every living creature on our tableland homelands. Across our country, permanent water holes (yinda) have long provided life enriching sustenance to Ngaardangarli (Aboriginal people), as camping places of shade and coolness, rich in plant, animal, bird, fish and reptile life.
Yindjibarndi people were created with the environment, and we have always had a deep knowledge and affinity with local fauna, responsibility for their regeneration.
Since the Creation Times, animals, birds and fish have provided us with food, clothing, warmth, and decorations for our ceremonies. We shared our world with all that lives, and know the seasons of gestation, birth, and maturity, hunting and gathering only at times of maturity and abundance to ensure that all living things continue to flourish.
Many of the geographic features across our tablelands have stories and songs associated with the living creatures with whom we share our lands and water sources.
Our fauna plays an important part in our Burndud Law Ceremonies, spiritual beliefs and practices, our stories and our social system, and feature strongly in our stories which explain the creation of the world, and teach about our Yindjibarndi values. Our children are taught the names of every creature and the stories that ensure their survival.
Each animal has a place in our Galharra kinship system, belonging to one of the four Galharra, or skin groups (Garimarra, Burungu, Balyirri, and Banaga) to which everyone of us belongs. Many of our animals are sung about in the Burndud, the song cycle which is our Law. There are also rules set out in our Law about who can and cannot eat or touch certain animals, birds, fish and reptiles, and the times or places these restrictions apply.
Everyone holds responsibility for ensuring their wellbeing and survival.
There are hundreds of thalu (sacred ritual ceremonial increase sites) across our tablelands that are associated with our animals, birds, fish and reptiles, where the owners of the site perform rituals to ensure that sufficient numbers of every creature will be produced to keep all living things in balance. In the past, our families also moved around our country on a seasonal basis in order to ensure that not too many animals were hunted in any one place.
Today, we continue working our thalu, and take care that our animals, birds, fish and reptiles are given every chance to survive so that every generation will inherit their country with same the abundance of living things as was given to us all by the Marrga.
In 2005, Juluwarlu published Garruragan: Yindjibarndi Fauna. This bi-lingual 90 page book contains photographs, Yindjibarndi, zoological, and common names of more than 70 animals, birds, fish and reptiles living in our country, together with photographs of ancient rock engravings, and explains the habitats, habits, uses and relationships that these creatures have in our Yindjibarndi lives and knowledge systems.
Our Yindjibarndi ancestors were created with our environment and we were given responsibility to care for all that lives on our earth by the Marrga Creation Spirits. Ensuring that plants flourish is central to the lives of animals, birds, fish, and reptiles and Ngaardangarli (Aboriginal peoples) who are themselves part of the seasonal, annual and long term inter-dependent relationships of life on this world. Yindjibarndi have always had an intimate, deep and abiding ethno-botanical knowledge of the needs of the many plants that are our responsibility, and which in turn support all life, providing food sources, shelter and medicines to our people and the other living creatures that inhabit our environment.
We have known the importance and value of our flora since the beginning of time. For 50,000 years, every generation has passed on the skills of survival using nature’s materials down through 2,000 generations via demonstration, song, story and memory. As climate changed our ability to thrive depended upon careful observation, creative adaptation, ritual and ceremonial practices and the careful management of our grasses, shrubs, trees, water sources and top soil.
Our flora has sustained our people by providing a significant part of our traditional diet and the diet of animals, birds, fish and reptiles that we hunted, as well as providing the medicines that cure infections, heal wounds and promote health and wellbeing. Plants provided us with seasonally varied seeds, fruits, berries, sources of honey and gums; they provided shelter, wood for making fire and logs for fishing the deep yinda. Wood was cut and carved to create implements and weapons; grasses were used to create rope and string, and for weaving baskets and fishing nets, and plants provided materials for making ornaments and decoration for ceremonies and other personal purposes.
Grinding stones and artefact scatters across our tablelands give evidence to the lives, camping and ceremonial grounds of our ancestors and old people, and our inherited songs, dances, stories, knowledge and memories are rich with our Yindjibarndi knowledge and deep appreciation of our flora.
Our plants are integral to our culture and our relationships with our world. People, plants and animals are inter-related and mutually supporting. Our important plants are incorporated in our Galharra (skin system). We sing plants into life in the Burndud Law song cycle and in thalu increase rituals, and our Old People drove Rain and Sun thalu to ensure the survival of all living things. Today, we are reminded and teach our children about the importance of plants in our culture, to our country and its animal inhabitants. We still collect and eat plant foods and use the jami (medicinal qualities) of plants to heal sickness and take ourselves into our country to experience the pleasure of being among the unique plants that inhabit different places – the rivers, gullies, tablelands, hills and flats that are part of our tableland country to alleviate the stresses of modern life. We follow the seasonal pathways and fruiting that are known to us in our hot arid environment where every plant has its own requirements. We map our environmental and cultural knowledge, carry out plant thalu rituals and provide knowledge of our plants to others, and our Yindjibarndi Ngurrawaana Rangers work with fire and preserve our ecology and access to water.
Between 2002 and 2004, guided by 17 Elders, Juluwarlu recorded our Yindjibarndi knowledge, uses and names of more than 160 plants found on our country, and published Wanggalili: Yindjibarndi and Ngarluma Plants in 2005.