Australia’s Original People: The Great Aboriginal Tribes

Before the British came to Australia, native tribes, called the Aboriginal Bush people, inhabited it. Where did they come from and what happened to them? Keep reading to learn about the original Australians.

Aboriginal History

The Aboriginals were one of two indigenous peoples living in Australia before 1788, the other being the Torres Strait Islanders. At one time, over one million aboriginals resided in Australia. They were a well-established group with high living standards. They originally came from Asia, through the Southeast part, at least 50,000 years ago. New DNA research proves that all Aboriginals descend from one migration and the same lineage. The first people that came to Australia were all directly related.

At the time of migration, sea levels were lower. That meant more land bridges between Asia and Australia. Although these conditions made it easier to travel by land, some long-distance water travel had to occur as well. For example, the distance between Bali and Lombok is over 100 miles of ocean. That fact makes the Aboriginals the oldest documented seafaring people.

Over 200 Aboriginal languages were spoken by the late 1700’s. Most native people spoke several of them. The languages were territorial and tribe-based. Cultural expansion between tribes happened through marriages, kinship and trade.

Aboriginals were a nomadic people but tended to stay in the same “home” area. This territory is where they hunted and gathered food. They moved in small groups, according to the season, to make the most of the resources available. They didn’t take part in the domestication of animals, except in the case of the Dingo. Archaeologists have found many Dingo bones, so it’s fair to assume that they brought that animal, a wild type of dog, over from Southeast Asia.

The Arrival of the British

In 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip landed on Botany Bay. He was in the British Royal Navy and on a mission to set up a penal colony. 18 years earlier, when Lt James Cook sailed around the coast of Australia, he claimed the land to be the property of King George III. Cook ignored the fact that there were natives there. He declared the island uninhabited. In reality, by the time cook got there, the Aboriginal people already occupied the entire Australian continent.

Conflict between Captain Phillip’s men and the Aboriginals quickly ensued once the Europeans started taking over the land. The guns of the Navy men were an unfair match for the spears of the natives. To make matters worse, smallpox ravaged the tribes, killing half of them in the first year. They had lived for thousands of years isolated from diseases that were common to Europeans; they had no defense.

Later, in the 1900s, the government forced many more from their lands, even separating children from their families in the process. Nine of the last Australian Aboriginal nomads still lived in the bush without any knowledge of modern society until 1984. Discovered in the Gibson desert, located in Western Australia, the Pintupi Nine were part of the Pinup clan.

A Call to Remember

Today, Aboriginals account for only 2.7% of Australia’s population, with most of them living in the northern territory. With so many of them wiped out with the arrival of Europeans, the loss of their history and culture is a real threat – without elders to pass it on, it could get lost altogether.

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