The Arabana, also known as the Ngarabana, are an
Aboriginal Australian Aboriginal Australians are the various Indigenous peoples Indigenous peoples, also referred to as first peoples, first nations, aboriginal peoples, native peoples (with these terms often capitalized when referred to relating to specific ...
people of
South Australia South Australia (abbreviated as SA) is a States and territories of Australia, state in the southern central part of Australia. It covers some of the most arid parts of the country. With a total land area of , it is the fourth-largest of Austral ...

South Australia


The older tribal
autonym Autonym may refer to: * Autonym, the name used by a person to refer to themselves or their language; see Exonym and endonym An endonym (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( ...
was Ngarabana, which may have been misheard by white settlers as Arabana, the term now generally accepted by new generations of the Ngarabana.


Arabana, like Wangganguru with which it shares a 90% overlap in vocabulary, is a member of the
Karnic subgroup
Karnic subgroup
of the
Pama-Nyungan language
Pama-Nyungan language


Norman Tindale Norman Barnett Tindale AO (12 October 1900 – 19 November 1993) was an Australian anthropologist An anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology Anthropology is the of ity, concerned with , , , and , in both the pr ...
's estimation, the Arabana controlled some of tribal land. They were present at the
Neales River The Neales River is a watercourse located in the Far North (South Australia), Far North region of the Australian state of South Australia. The river is a tributary of Lake Eyre. The original The Ghan, Ghan railway crossed the Neales River floodp ...
to the west of Lake Eyre, and west as far as the Stuart Range, South Australia, Stuart Range; Macumba Station, Macumba Creek. Southwards their lands extended to Coward Springs. Their terrain also took in Oodnadatta, Lora Creek and Lake Cadibarrawirracanna. The neighbouring tribes were the Kokata to the west, with the frontier between the two marked by the scarp of the western tableland near Coober Pedy. To their east were the Wangganguru dialect, Wangkanguru.


Several traditional stories are well documented, especially that regarding a man-eating Buzzard and his Eaglehawk mate. The chief protagonists are three animals: (1) ''Wantu Wantu'', the man-eating Black-breasted Buzzard; (2) ''Irritye'' or ''Irretye,'' a friendly Wedge-tailed Eagle; and (3) ''Kutta Kutta''(variantly called ''Akwete Akwete'') who, though described as a small hawk is actually the Spotted nightjar.

History of Contact

The Arabana were interviewed at Anna Creek Station, Old Peake Station and ''Thantyiwanparda'' in the nearby Acacia, gidgee scrub. by Walter Baldwin Spencer and Francis James Gillen over a ten day period in August 1903 for a specific purpose. Their earlier work had argued that the truly "primitive" nature of the Arrernte people, Arrernte was indicated by the fact that their totemic identities came from the spirit responsible for making individuals' mothers pregnant. James Frazer adopted this to buttress his theories on the development phases of "primitive societies". A Scottish amateur ethnographer Andrew Lang contested their interpretations of the Arrernte, arguing that they were not "primitive", a label he argued was more appropriate to their near neighbours the Arabana, who traced descent through the mother and linked their totemic system to exogamy. It was to address this challenge that accounted for Spencer and Gillen's return to Arabana lands.

Social organisation

The Arabana were divided into Band society, kin groups, whose respective territories were called ''wadlu''. * ''Jendakarangu'' (Coward Springs) * ''Peake tribe'' * ''Anna Creek tribe'' Their moiety (kinship), moieties were named ''Mathari'' and ''Kararru''.

Alternative names

* ''Ngarabana'' * ''Arabuna, Arrabunna, Arrabonna, Arubbinna'' * ''Arapina''. (Iliaura pronunciation) * ''Arapani'' * ''Urapuna, Urabuna, Urabunna, Urroban'' * ''Rabuna'' (an occasional Aranda pronunciation) * ''Wangarabana''. ([a term reflecting a word ''woqka'' /''wagka'' meaning "speech") * ''Wongkurapuna, Wangarabunna'' * ''Nulla'' * ''Yendakarangu''

Some words

* ''thanthani'' (cormorant) also the name of a totem. * ''kutyu''. ritual assassin, kurdaitcha.




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Further reading

* {{Authority control Aboriginal peoples of South Australia