The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Name of Australian Aborigines...

A few weeks back, I used the term "Abo" to refer to the native peoples of Australia. A reader observed that this was similar to the term "Nigger."  I don't know if that's true, but it immediately sent up a red flag in my head, and a call out to anyone who knew what the appropriate term might be. I had a chance to speak with a knowlegeable anthropologist this last weekend, and he remarked that they call themselves "the people"--like everyone else does, and that their mythology suggests (of course) that they were made first, that they are closest to God, who loves them best, and so  on.  But by what term do they refer to themselves?  The closest answer I've found is: Anangu.  This term originally seems to have meant human as opposed to non-human life forms, but since the arrival of those pesky Europeans has come to mean Aboriginal as opposed to non-Aboriginal.  So until new information arrives, it's Anagu.  And apologies to my many Anagu readers.

Steve

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

"But by what term do they refer to themselves? The closest answer I've found is: Anangu. "

I read this and first thought "isn't there more than one Aboriginal language?" Then I remembered that languages can have words in common and went looking.

According to http://www.environment.gov.au/parks/uluru/tjukurpa/anangu.html,

Anangu is the term that Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal people from the Western Desert region of Australia use to refer to themselves.

In the past the word Anangu had a more specific usage, being used to refer to a person or people as opposed to other non-human forms of life. Over the years, since contact with Europeans, it has come into common use in the region as a term referring to Aboriginal people, as opposed to non-Aboriginal people, as well as Aboriginal people who come from other parts of Australia.

Many Mutitjulu Anangu speak Yankunytjatjara and Pitjantjatjara. Ngaanyatjarra and Luritja are also spoken in this region. These are all dialects of what linguists term the Western Desert Language, Aboriginal Australia's largest language group. Western Desert dialects are sometimes grouped together and conveniently, though inaccurately, labelled Pitjantjatjara. Anangu who speak Western Desert dialects can be found from Halls Creek and Balgo in the north of Western Australia through to Oodnadatta and Yalata in South Australia...

[interesting map]

The many different Aboriginal languages and dialects throughout Australia are evidence of the cultural diversity of Aboriginal peoples. Around 250 languages have been recorded and these languages are spoken by more than 500 named language groups...

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