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The Old Days

Matja (The Old Days)

In the old days, we had lots of stories, strict kinship rules, long and short ceremonies, weapons, tools, games, and we could even predict or change the weather through ceremony. Rain was very important to our country so we would perform rain ceremonies and ask our ancestor and spirits to bring a big flood down the Culgoa River.

We came together with our neighbours and performed our sacred ceremonies and settled our disputes. Our neighbours are the Badjiri, Guwamu, and Ngemba people.

We lived on giwa (fish) such as yellow-belly and cod. We snared emus, hunted birds, goannas and snakes. Watjiin dug for yams, waterlilly roots and collected grass seeds, bumbul (wild fruit) that are found around the rivers and swamps on our mayi.

Stories

Stories are passed on from our old people and they helped learn about our laws and our land. Our old people held many secret dialects, some of which died with them. These stories provide us with the knowledge and how we are related to the mayi and everything within the mayi.

The Sacred Fires of the Muruwari

Muliyan the Eagle

Kinship

Puthuul gave us our kinship system and our pitjuru (totems) or 'witji' (meat) - pawarra pitjuru (red kangaroo), wirlaputha pitjuru (grey kangarooo), kukay pitjuru (possum), kamurl pitjuru (carpet snake), parnngala pitjuru (black bream fish), kaan pitjuru (snake), and maliyan pitjuru (wedge-tail eagle). Our pitjuru and kinship systems was given to us through our kaya (mother).

Relationships

We all know our relatives and who we can marry. Our relationship section has four sections. No one was allowed to marry within their own section. So we married each other according to our relationship laws.

Mayinj (Man)
Mukinj (Woman)
marri
matha
kapi
kapitha
yipay
yipatha
kampu
putha

When our children were born, they got a different Section Name to their pathanj (father) and kaya (mother). They got a section name from their kaya because we follow our kaya's line. In English, this is called a matrilineal line.

For example, their Kaya's Section Name decided their name:

Kaya Section Name
yangkurr (young boy)
kuni (young girl)
yipatha
kampu
putha
kapitha
marri
matha
matha
kapi
kapitha
putha
yipayi
yipatha

We also had the kula (kangaroo) and ngurrunj (emu) people.

This is our kula section names for our witji (meat). 

For men:

Mayinj (Men)
Witji (our totem and dreaming)
marri
kamul (carpet snake)
kapi
pawarra (red kangaroo) or kula (grey kangaroo) or tukunj (small wallaby)
yipay
kukay (possum)
kampu
panngala (black bream or fish)


Ceremonies

Ceremonies helped us get in touch with the spirit world and to pass on our secrets to young people. Ceremonies were a time for sharing and interacting with our neighbouring groups. Through ceremony, we asked our spirit ancestor for everything. Thirra (songs) and kulkura were common. In some kulkura, bushes were tied around the ankles, and legs were shaken to make a swishing sound.

Ceremonies were also associated with the loss of a family member and 'sad time' would continue for weeks at a time. Our people were buried in local traditional burial grounds (mostly sand dunes). Today, these traditional burials grounds have unmarked graves that are evident by old bottles, broken glass and other materials. These graves very important and sacred to the Muruwari people.

Weapons & Tools

Mayinj (men) used kuliya (spear), pulku (shield) , kutjuru (spear thrower), murru (fighting club), marli (boomerangs), yakipul (stone axe) and nhaypa (stone knife). Weapons were made from resources all around us and we often traded weapons with other groups. Mayinj spent their time hunting, fishing, fighting and doing ceremonies.

Kuliya (Spears)

The kuliya used for everyday hunting of ngurrunj (emu) and kula (kangaroo) was long with no barbs. Our old men wanted things killed quickly with little pain or effort and they did not want any barbs staying inside the bird or animal. Wathul-wathul would stay at the camps to make and repair spears and weapons for the kuthara-kuthara to spend a lot time getting witji witji.

Boomerangs

Muruwari people were probably the first people to make a propeller. The Mari or propeller-like boomerang that was used for hunting birds but also thrown for fun. Our people also made non-returning boomerangs called wagwenara and lil lil boomerangs. The lil lil boomerang looked like a modern-day axe. The lil lil was used to get around behind the shield and hit the attacker. It had a sharpened blade, which made it a formidable weapon. The wagwenara was the most feared boomerang of all. It was mainly used for fighting. If a fighter was struck with this boomerang the blow was usually fatal. 

Bundi

A bundi is a club was also used for fighting and punishment if you did something wrong in our lore. Clubs are usually made from Acacia aneura (mulga) wood and it has a bulb on one end. The largest club was a mayinj-muru. It was so big that it could only be used by a strong mayinj. The bulb on the end was very big and it sometimes had points sticking out from its centre. Another type was the 'wuginurra'. It had three to four blades sticking out from its bulb. Both murra were needed to swing it at an opponent and if you connected, it would cause fatal injuries.

Mukinj (Women)

Mukinj had tungkun (coolamons), pila (bags), watjala (dilly bag), karray (digging stick), kipa (grindstone), wiitja (firestick). Mukinj gathered shellfish, vegetables, seeds, and berries, and they caught smaller witji witji and did a lot of cooking. Our kuthara-kuthara stayed with the mukinj, played in the river, and watched wathul-wathul making weapons.

Shelter

We made our shelters from the bark of the red box tree.