T e a c h e r  C r e a t e d  L e s s o n

Astronomie et cultures autochtones


CHIN, Ottawa, Ontario

The Indigenous Australians

At European contact there was no single, homogeneous Aboriginal society. Groups differed in aspects of their cultural and social organisation, and in the Northern Territory alone, over 100 different languages were spoken. It is estimated that pre-1788 there were approximately 700 languages spoken in Australia and the Torres Strait.

Existence of widespread social networks meant that people had to be multilingual to communicate. The Arrernte group of Central Australia for example, could speak up to 10 languages / dialects.

Likewise, music and dance, kinship systems, art forms and ceremonies differed dramatically between regions. Yet these differences were probably less important than the underlying similarities which brought groups together for ceremonies, for trade, to intermarry, and which allowed the maintenance of myths, and song lines and exchange cycles that extended over hundreds of kilometres. Even today regional variations remain; there is no one Aboriginal society and people in different regions tend to emphasise their own distinctness and identity.

Aboriginal names and stories about particular stars vary from place to place in Australia. Stories from the coastal areas are mostly about fishing because that is the main food source, while stories from the central desert are more often about birds, hunters or tribal heroes. For example, near the coast the Southern Cross is often represented as a giant sting ray being pursued by a shark (the two Pointers) but in the Central Deserts it is often described as the foot print of a giant eagle.
Canadian Heritage Information Network

© Canadian Heritage Information Network, 2003
Learning Object Collection: Sky Stories: Indigenous Astronomy
Learning Object: Indigenous Astronomy: The Australians
Institution: RCIP-CHIN