Latji Latji

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The Latjilatji, sometimes spelt Latji Latji or Latje Latje are an Indigenous Australian people of the state of Victoria, Australia.


The ethnonym Latjilatji consists of a reduplication of the word for "no" (latja).


Latjilatji is a Western Central Murray language classified as a member of the Kulinic language branch of the Pama Nyungan language family. It is closely related to Matimati and Wadiwadi. A vocabulary of the tongue, compiled by E. M. Curr from informants interviewed at Kulkyne, was published in 1887. It is critically endangered, with 10 speakers being recorded in 2004.[1]


The Latjilatji lands extended over some 3,500 square miles (9,100 km2), ranging from Chalka Creek to Mildura on southern bank of Murray River, and stretching some 50 miles to its south. It encompassed Kulkyne, and ran south as far the vicinity of Murrayville and Pine Plains.[2]

Social organization[edit]

The Latjilatji are divided into two moieties, the Kailpara and Makwara, the former connected to the emu, the latter to the eagle-hawk. A child's descent was traced through the mother.[3]


The early explorer Edward Eyre mentioned them in his work (1845) under the name Boraipar and transcribed a number of words from their language.[2] The smallpox that devastated the Latjilatji, as it did all the Murray riverine tribes (Tatitati, Jitajita, Nari-Nari, Barapa Barapa, Warkawarka, Watiwati, Wemba-Wemba) after initial contact with whites was established, was described by Peter Beveridge, writing of his impressions in the 1850s.

All the old men in these tribes shows distinct smallpox traces, In speaking of this scourge they say that it came with the waters, that is to say,[a] it followed down the rivers in the flood season, laying its death clutch on every tribe in its prime until the whole country became perfectly decimated. During the early stages of its ravages the natives gave proper sepulture to its victims; but at last the death rate became so heavy, and naturally, the panic so great, burying the bodies was no longer attempted- the survivors merely moved their camps leaving the sick behind to die, unattended, and the dead to fester in the sun, or as food for wild dogs and carrion birds, until in a short time the whole atmosphere became tainted with the odour arising from the decomposing bodies...When the bright torrid summer displaced the moister spring, after devastating these tribes, gradually died out, leaving but a sorry remnant of the aborigines behind, to mourn the depopulation of the land, and many, many moons waxed and waned before the fell destroyer's foul presence was even partially forgotten. To this day the old men who bear such patent traces of the loathed distemper speak shudderingly and with so much genuine horror as it is impossible for any other evil to elicit from them their inherent stolidity'.[5]

The death of John Mack in 1918 was reported as that of the "last blackfellow" of the "Murray River tribes" and specifically of the original people of Mildura, which was on Latjilatji lands.[6][7] His precise tribal affiliation has not been established however. Mack's aboriginal name was, according to Ronald and Catherine Berndt, who interviewed his first wife, the Jarildekald woman Pinkie Karpeny in 1891, was Djelwara/Telwara, (born 1842 and he was said to have hailed, east of Mildura, from Laitjum, near Culcairn station in Kalkine territory, in New South Wales.[8] From the Berndts's classificatory Kukabrak perspective that would be Munpul clan territory and Mack would have been a Walkandiwoni. James Matthew, who knew him and corresponded with his son, Albert, variously has him as born in Jarijari lands, or in the Wimmera[b] and taken as a child to the Mildura Murray area as a child, where he underwent initiation.[9]

Alternative names[edit]

  • Laitchi-Laitehi
  • Litchy-Litchy
  • Sitchy Sitchy (a misreading )
  • Leitchi-Leitchi
  • Laitche
  • Latjoo-Latjoo
  • Lutchye-Lutchye
  • Latyu-latyu, Latyoo-Latyoo, Litchoo-Litchoo, Laitci-laitci, Laci-Laci, Laitu-Laitu, Laitu
  • Walkandwani (the term used by tribes to their west to designate them.
  • Baluk-mernen ("people of the sandhills") an exonym for them used by the Wotjobaluk
  • Boraipar
  • Banju-bunan
  • Wortongi (variant: Woortongi, meaning "man".[2]

Some words[edit]

  • manul. (type of bony fish, also name of a totem).[3]


  1. ^ The aborigines attributed this disease to the malign machinations of tribes away on the upper rivers, with whom they were not on terms of amity; that however is only a matter of course, since they ascribe all the ills with which nature smites them to the same source.[4]
  2. ^ "It would appear from Albert's letter that Mack was originally a member of the Mallee Gandeet-or blacks that dwelt on the Wimmera rivers and lakes, as contrasted with the Mille Gundeet, or tribes lining the banks of the Murray, who were fierce and domineering."[9]


  1. ^ AUSTLANG.
  2. ^ a b c Tindale 1974.
  3. ^ a b Brown 1918, p. 249.
  4. ^ Beveridge 1883, p. 35.
  5. ^ Beveridge 1883, pp. 35, 40.
  6. ^ Matthew 1918a, p. 15.
  7. ^ Matthew 1918b, p. 10.
  8. ^ Berndt, Berndt & Stanton 1993, pp. 221, 517.
  9. ^ a b Matthew 1917, p. 13.