Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Tiwi are aboriginal people inhabiting Melville and Bathurst Islands of northern Australia. They lived independently on these islands for thousands of years, earning their living by hunting, fishing, and foraging in the bush, sea, and along the shore. Their culture and economy have been greatly influenced by the Catholic mission that was built on Bathurst Island in 1911 and by policies of the Australian government.


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Oceania --Australia



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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in eHRAF World Cultures and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

In addition to this culture summary, the IO20 Tiwi collection consists of 11 documents, all of them in English, covering a variety of historical, geographical and cultural information, circa 1900 to 1960s, collected mostly by professional anthropologists and government officials. The most basic source to be consulted is the book by anthropologist Jane Goodale (1971, no. 14) which provides comprehensive first hand ethnographic accounts of Tiwi society as observed in 1950s and 1960s. This book describes major features of Tiwi society through detailed exposition of the experiences of individual women, men and children in different groups (including households, matrilineal sibs, phratries, and moieties) and a wide variety of social situations relating to puberty rites, marriage arrangements and funeral ceremonies. Other anthropological studies in the collection further compliment Goodale (1971, no. 4) by examining specific themes including "status manipulation and political behavior" (Merton 1960, no. 1), art and religion (Mountford 1958, no.2), kinship and social organization (Hart 1931, no. 3), use of personal names (Hart 1930, no. 4), marriage contracts (Goodale 1962, no. 10), puberty and initiation rites (Goodale 1963, no. 11), economic activities (Goodale 1957, no. 12), and division of labor by gender (Goodale 1982, no. 15). The collection also includes two general reports compiled by a government official (Basedow 1913, no. 5) and an Australian journalist (Barclay 1939, no. 13). There is very little information on changes that might have occurred in Tiwi society after 1962 (the year Goodale visited the area for the last time) to the present (2007). For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

Overview by

Teferi Adem

Ambrinua - term of reference of mother-in-law and son-in-law - use "KINSHIP TERMINOLOGY (601)" with "PARENTS - IN - LAW AND CHILDREN - IN - LAW (606)"

Aminiyati - "siblings" who have the same (named) grandfather - use "KINSHIP TERMINOLOGY (601)" with "COUSINS (605)"

Aramipi - group of affiliated matrilineal sibs, also translated as phratries - use "CLAN (614)" or "PHRATRIES (615)"

Dioni - wild yam variety used in rituals - use "FLORA (137)" with "RITUAL (788)"

Imunka - soul (of spirit or man) - use "SPIRITS AND GODS (776)" and/or "ESCHATOLOGY (775)"

Kulama - yam ceremony- use "REST DAYS AND HOLIDAYS (527)" with "PUBERTY AND INITIATION (881)"

Milimika - cleared ceremonial dance ground - use "ORGANIZED CEREMONIAL (796)" and/or "SACRED OBJECTS AND PLACES (778)"

Muinaleta - puberty ritual - use "PUBERTY AND INITIATION (881)"

(Murukupupuni - residence-based communities (literally, "countries") which are also land holding groups - use "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)" or REAL PROPERTY (423)

Pukamani - mortuary ceremony - use "BURIAL PRACTICES AND FUNERALS (764)"

Pukwi - (literally, skin), matrilineal descent group - use "LINEAGES (613)"

Taputa - camp - use "SETTLEMENT PATTERNS (361)" with "COMMUNITY STRUCTURE (621)" and/or "ANNUAL CYCLE (221)"


This culture summary is based on the article, "Tiwi" by Jane C. Goodale, in the Encyclopedia of World Culture, Vol. 2, Oceania, Terence E. Hays, ed. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall &Co. 1991. Teferi Abate Adem wrote the synopsis and indexing notes in May 2007.

Indexing Notes by

Teferi Adem

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