Gija, also spelt Gidja and Kija, alternatively known as the Lungga,[a] refers to Aboriginal Australians from the East Kimberley area of Western Australia, about 200 km south of Kununurra. In the late 19th century pastoralists were fiercely resisted by Gija people, many of whom now live around localities such as Halls Creek and Warmun (also known as Turkey Creek).
Gija does not belong to the Pamas-Nyungan language family which covers most Australian aboriginal tongues, but is a member of the small Jarrakan language group. It is still spoken by from 100 to 200 people.
The Gija's traditional territory consisted of an estimated 12,500 square miles (32,000 km2). On Salmond, Chamberlain, and Wilson rivers. The western boundary ran up to the foothills of the Bluff Face Range. They also lived and hunted around the upper Margaret River, above the Ramsay Range gorge. Their easternmost lands ran as far as Halls Creek and Alice Downs. Sites associated with the Gija are Macphee Creek, as far north as Sugarloaf Hill, the Durack Range, Lissadell and Turkey Creek Station, Fig Tree Pool and the headwaters of Stony River.
History of contact
The last known massacre of the Gija people took place at Bedford Downs Station in 1924, when, according to Gija tradition, Paddy Quilty and others at the Bedford station took tribesmen off the station and fed them food laced with strychnine. The corpses of those they killed were then heaped up and burnt on a funeral pyre to eliminate traces of the deed.
In 1979, mining explorations teams discovered pink and reddish diamonds, quite rare at the time, at Smoke Creek and at Barramundi Gap, which happens to be a key site in Gija female dreaming. Subsequently the Argyle diamond mine was established. Employment of local people remained low, a mere 10% in 2003, when strategies changed. Now a quarter of the workforce is recruited from local indigenous people.
The Gija have maintained a strong tradition of cultural preservation and active programs include a repository of teaching materials and artwork. Qantas adapted Paddy Bedford's artwork for use on a Boeing 737.
- Paddy Bedford (1922-2007) Gija artist.
- Lena Nyadbi, Gija artist whose works on Barramundi scale (dayiwul lirlmim) designs have been exhibited in Paris, notable on the roof of the Musee du Quai Branly, and only viewable from the Eiffel Tower. The work was commissioned by the Museum and Nyadbi's design represents the dreaming story of the barramundi, eluding capture to shed its scales across the landscape. The scales are metaphors for the pink Argyle diamonds, now mined by Rio Tinto on Gija land. Positioned on the roofstop, Nyadbi's intent was to have the barramundi appear poised to flip back into the Seine.
- "AIATSIS map of Indigenous Australia". AIATSIS.
- Doohan, Kim (2008). Making Things Come Good: Relations Between Aborigines and Miners at Argyle. Backroom Press. ISBN 978-0-977-56153-7.
- Ferrell, Robyn (2012). Sacred Exchanges: Images in Global Context. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-14880-1.
- Kaberry, Phyllis M. (June 1935). "The Forrest River and Lyne River Tribes of North-West Australia: A Report on Field Work". Oceania. 5 (4): 408–436. JSTOR 40327811.
- Kaberry, Phyllis M. (June 1937). "Subsections in the East and South Kimberley Tribes of North-West Australia". Oceania. 7 (4): 436–458. JSTOR 40327647.
- McGregor, William B. (2013). The Languages of the Kimberley, Western Australia. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-39602-3.
- Miller, Nick (7 June 2013). "Dreamtime art celebrated on rooftops of Paris". Australian Broadcasting Commission.
- "Paris museum to host rooftop Aboriginal artwork". Australian Broadcasting Commission. 29 April 2013.
- Ryan, Veronica (2001). From Digging Sticks to Writing Sticks: Stories of Kija Women as Told to Veronica Ryan. Catholic Education Office of Western Australia. ISBN 978-0-949-42609-3.
- Tasker, Sarah-Jane (31 March 2012). "Pink diamonds still Argyle's best friend". The Australian.
- Thomas, Geoffrey (9 November 2013). "Qantas unveils aircraft's Aboriginal art". The Australian.
- "Tindale Tribal Boundaries" (PDF). Department of Aboriginal Affairs, Western Australia. September 2016.
- Tindale, Norman Barnett (1974). "Kitja (WA)". Aboriginal Tribes of Australia: Their Terrain, Environmental Controls, Distribution, Limits, and Proper Names. Australian National University. ISBN 978-0-708-10741-6.