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The Pintupi Nine

A family of Australian Aboriginal people lived all alone in the desert for decades, until 1984. The group, called the Pintupi Nine, were nomads roaming the Western Desert of Australia, cut off from not only white civilization, but also from other Aborigines. In the 1950s, Australia conducted missile tests in the desert, and rounded up the Pintupi people who lived there for resettlement. One family was overlooked, and lived off the land, wandering from water hole to water hole. Gradually, the Aborigines were allowed to return to their homelands, but the Pintupi settlement Kiwirrkurra wasn’t built until 1984. The isolated family by then consisted of two women and their seven teenage children, who had never seen an automobile or a person wearing clothing before. The oldest brother, Warlimpirrnga, remembers the day he and his brother Thomas approached a couple of men who were camping.

"We had just speared a kangaroo. We could smell the faeces of other humans in the air" - they were probably a couple of kilometres away - "and we saw smoke in the distance.

"We moved closer and stood on a rock and could see people camping down below. So I began to move closer to their camp. I ran towards where they were standing. Then I snuck over closer. I coughed. The people heard me. It looked like they were scared. They became frantic, running back and forth," he says.

"This is my grandfather's land," Warlimpirrnga said. One of the men started filling a billycan with water for them. "When he did, we thought, we won't spear him," says Warlimpirrnga. "They were so scared. They were really scared of us, scared out of their wits."

The campers were a Pintupi man, Pinta Pinta, and his son, Matthew, who had decided to set up an outstation at a place named Winbargo, 45km from Kiwirrkurra. The young man panicked and fired a shotgun in the air - all parties scattered, and the two men drove off at speed, despite a flat tyre.

Read the story of how the Pintupi Nine were integrated into the community and into the modern world at BBC News Magazine. -via Nag on the Lake

(Image credit: Osiris)


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