The Pintupi Nine were a group of nine Pintupi people who lived a traditional hunter-gatherer desert-dwelling life in Australia's Gibson Desert until 1984, when they made contact with their relatives near Kiwirrkurra. They are sometimes also referred to as "the lost tribe". The group were hailed as "the last nomads" in the international press when they left their nomadic life in October 1984.
The group roamed between waterholes near Lake Mackay, near the Western Australia-Northern Territory border, naked except for their hairstring belts and armed with 2m-long wooden spears and spear throwers, and intricately carved boomerangs. Their diet was dominated by goanna and rabbit as well as bush food native plants. The group was a family, consisting of two co-wives (Nanyanu and Papalanyanu) and seven children. There were four brothers (Warlimpirrnga, Walala, Tamlik, and Yari Yari) and three sisters (Yardi, Yikultji and Tjakaraia). The boys and girls were all in their early-to-late teens, although their exact ages were not known; the mothers were in their late 30s.
The father – the husband of the two wives – died, possibly from eating spoiled canned foods found at an old mining exploration camp. After this, the group travelled south to where they thought their relatives might be, as they had seen 'smokes' in that direction. They encountered a man from Kiwirrkura but due to misunderstanding they fled back north while he returned to the community and alerted others who then travelled back with him to find the group. The community members quickly realised that the group were relatives who had been left behind in the desert twenty years earlier, when many had travelled into the missions nearer Alice Springs. The community members travelled by vehicle to where the group were last seen and then tracked them for some time before finding them. After making contact and establishing their relationships, the Pintupi nine were invited to come and live at Kiwirrkura, where most of them still reside.
The Pintupi-speaking trackers told them there was plenty of food, and water that came out of pipes; Yardi has said that this concept astounded them. Medical examination revealed that the Tjapaltjarri clan (as they are also known) were "in beautiful condition. Not an ounce of fat, well proportioned, strong, fit, healthy". At Kiwirrkurra, near Kintore, they met with other members of their extended family.
In 1986, Yari Yari went back to the desert. Warlimpirrnga, Walala, and Tamlik (now known as "Thomas") have gained international recognition in the art world as the Tjapaltjarri Brothers. One of the mothers has died; the other has settled with the three sisters in Kiwirrkurra.
- The Last Nomads at Aboriginal Art Store
- Myers, Fred (November 1988). "Locating ethnographic practice: Romance, reality and politics in the outback.". American Ethnologist 15 (4). doi:10.1525/ae.1988.15.4.02a00010.
- Charlie McMahon: Sunday Times
- Lost tribe happy in modern world; the Herald Sun, Nigel Adam, February 3, 2007
- Tjapaltjarri Brothers at the Aboriginal Art Store
- "The End of an Era" The Sunday Times (Western Australia), Feb 4, 2007, pp 14–17
- Aboriginal art website
- Photo on Newspix - Nine Pintupi speakers who made national headlines on their first contact with white Australia. (NPX396927 - October 31, 1984)
- Colliding worlds: first contact in the western desert, 1932-1984. National Museum of Australia reCollections journal, vol. 1 no. 2, September 2006