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Aboriginal people of South Australia: Pitjantjatjara

South Australian Aboriginal people and languages


Ara Irititja, Social History Unit, Pitjantjatjara Council

Ngaanyatjarra Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (NPY) Women's Council

Pitjantjatjara Land Rights Act 1981 (SA)

PY Media is a regional body assisting communities to develop their own community media centres on the APY Lands

Schooling: Richard Kanari reads Eric Api's letter. From Right Wrongs website.

Pitjantjatjara language materials

Mobile Language Team. Pitjantjatjara.

Eckert, Paul and Hudson, Joyce. Wangka wiṟu : a handbook for the Pitjantjatjara language learner, 1988.

Goddard, Cliff (comp.) Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara to English dictionary, 1992.

Pitjantjatjara. Stage A, 1994.

As well as these resources for learning the language, there are a number of resources written in Pitjantjatjara.

To find them, and more sources for learning the language, enter 'Pitjantjatjara language' as a Subject search in our catalogue.

Periodical articles

To locate journal articles, access the State Library's eResources.

Selected South Australian newspapers, published prior to 1955, have been digitised as part of the National Library of Australia’s Trove website.

Further newspaper articles may be identified by using the following, Newspaper index : references to Aborigines in Adelaide newspapers, 1836-1940, 1989.

Getting started

This guide to sources relating to the Pitjantjatjara people was last updated in 2016. It comprises selected material held by the State Library or available online.

To find further material relevant to this topic, try searching with these subject headings in the State Library catalogue

Pitjantjatjara (Australian people)
Pitjantjatjara language

Or conduct a keyword search using the following term: Pitjantjatjara

For more assistance, talk with staff at the Library's Information Desk or Ask Us.

Background and resources

Pitjantjatjara is the name of both an Aboriginal people of the Central Australian desert, and their language. The people are closely related to the Yankuntjatjara and Ngaanyatjarra people.

The Pitjantjatjara refer to themselves as Anangu (people). Pitjantjatjara country is mostly in the far north-west of South Australia, extending across the border into the Northern Territory to just south of Lake Amadeus, and west a short distance into Western Australia. State borders are immaterial to Anangu as land is an inseparable and important part of their cultural identity.

European settlement disrupted the traditional nomadic hunting and gathering lifestyle of the Pitjantjatjara people, but they have retained their language and much of their culture in spite of outside influences.

Today about 4,000 Anangu live in small communities and outstations across their traditional lands, forming one of the most successful joint land arrangements in Australia with Aboriginal Traditional Owners.

Books and pamphlets

Breeden, Stanley, Uluru: looking after Uluru-Kata Tjuta the Anangu way, 1997.

Bryce, Suzy (comp.) Women's gathering and hunting in the Pitjantjatjara homelands, 1997.

Cane, Scott. Pila Nguru : the Spinifex people, 2002.

Duguid, Charles, Ernabella re-visited : the diary of a pilgrimage, 1946.

Edwards, Bill. Mission in the Musgraves: Ernabella Mission 1937-1973, a place of relationships, 2012.

Hilliard, Winifred M., Anangu tjutaka malpa awularinya anu ngaltutjara : 32 years at Ernabella, 1986.

Hilliard, Winifred M., The people in between : the Pitjantjatjara people of Ernabella, 1976.

Isaacs, Jennifer, Desert crafts : Anangu Maruku punu, 1992.

James, Diana and Tregenza, Elizabeth (comps). Ngintaka, 2014.

James, Diana. Painting the song : Kaltjiti artists of the sand dune country, 2009.

Lamshed, Max, 'Monty': the biography of CP Mountford, 1972.

Mountford, Charles. Ayers Rock: its people, their beliefs and their art, 1965.

Mountford, Charles. Brown Men and Red Sand, various editions, 1948-1981.

Ngangkari work - Anangu way : traditional healers of Central Australia, 2003.

Tindale, Norman B. 'The Pitjandjara', in Hunters and gatherers today : a socioeconomic study of eleven such cultures in the twentieth century, 1972.

Survival in our own land : 'Aboriginal' experiences in South Australia since 1836. Ch. 32 'Ernabella'.

Toyne, Phillip and Vachon, Daniel, Growing up the country : the Pitjantjatjara struggle for their land, 1984.

Wallace, Noel and Phyl, Children of the desert, 1973.

Wallace, Noel and Phyl, Killing me softly: the destruction of a heritage, 1977.

Collecting water

PRG 1218/34/1217A, Aboriginal woman collecting water in a dish at Aliwanyuwanyu rockhole, Musgrave Ranges, 1940.

The Library holds many photographs relating to the Pitjantjatjara, which can be viewed online by searching the Library catalogue.

Mountford-Sheard Collection

This record group comprises a unique collection of material amassed by C. P. Mountford during a career spanning the 1930s to the 1960s and includes material relating to the Pitjantjatjara people.

Access to Mountford-Sheard Collection

All access to the Mountford-Sheard Collection is by prior arrangement.

Please consult the catalogue and the list of Mountford's expeditions on this guide to ascertain which parts of the collection you wish to access.

For enquiries contact Ask Us 

If the material that you wish to access is deemed to contain sacred/secret content it cannot be viewed without permission from the relevant Aboriginal community.

Permission will also have to be sought if you wish to copy or publish images that contain Aboriginal people or Aboriginal intellectual property or traditional knowledge.

It is the responsibility of the customer to obtain these permissions. 

Archival material

Dr Charles Duguid. Founding member of the Aborigines Protection Board, and instrumental in the establishment of the Mission at Ernabella.

JRB Love. Presbyterian minister, and first Missionary at Ernabella.

Winifred Hilliard. Craft advisor at Ernabella Arts, 1954-1986.