Aborigines are indigenous people living in Australia. A recent data states that the Aboriginal people make up just 2% of the whole population of Australia. They are considered to be the descendants of the first group of humans that migrated out of Africa thousands of years ago. These people have different art, culture, storytelling and a strong spiritual belief. Isn’t that fascinating? Well, there are plenty of more incredible facts and information waiting for you. Just keep reading!
Aboriginal History And Culture Facts For Kids:
1. The Migration Of Aboriginals:
Experts believe that the Australian Aboriginals migrated from African continent 30,000 years ago. They opine that their arrival in Australia was by accident. These people were carried across the Pacific Ocean on drifting fragments left from a flood or a tsunami that occurred somewhere in the north.
Today, the aborigines reside in all the major centers of the continent, with most settling in the arid regions of Australia’s outback. What’s an outback? The outback is a dry and remote inland region of Australia. Some of the Aborigines live in the area around the Ayres Rock, which is a huge formation in the center of the continent. It’s called Uluru by the aborigines.
They are also settled in the northern part of the Kakadu National Park, which the Aboriginals call ‘Arnhem Land’, meaning land of their ancestor.
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2. Early Life:
It is estimated that there were around 320,000 aborigines in 250 tribal groups when the first Europeans arrived in Australia in the year 1778. Each of the tribe had its own traditions, territory, beliefs and language.
The aboriginals started as nomadic hunter-gatherers. They roamed from one place to another, hunting animals and gathering nuts, fruits, and insects. They never engaged in farming or building towns and cities. It’s believed that they could not cultivate as Australia did not have plants suitable for agriculture. Neither did the early aboriginals have animals suitable for domestication, like horses, goats and cattle.
3. Their Encounter With The White Setters Or Europeans:
The aborigines hadn’t met Europeans until James Cook made his landing in the Botany Bay in the year 1770. The natives were surprised to see white skinned people on their shore, wearing strange clothes. Initially, they thought that these people were spirits of their ancestors. But in reality, they were European invaders led by Captain Arthur Phillip.
4. The Quarrel Between Aboriginals And White Settlers:
While exploring the settlement, Captain Philip made friendship with an old aborigine man. He even presented him with a hatchet and beads. Later, in the night, Captain discovered his new friend taking one of his tools. This infuriated the captain and he slapped the man and pushed him away. The old aborigine man was very upset with the reaction of Captain Philip. He could not comprehend why his friend behaved this way. He went away, feeling disheartened.
5. The Carnage Of Aborigines By The White Settlers:
By the time natives realized that the Europeans were not the spirits of their ancestors, it was too late. The white men were occupying their land and terminating their settlements and wildlife. The aborigines then started fighting back. Led by their chief Pemulwuy, the aborigines slayed a number of invaders. The attack even wounded Captain Phillip.
The settlers counter-attacked by poisoning and slaughtering the natives and destroying them systematically. They were forced to move out of their lands and retreat into barren and uncongenial parts of the country.
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6. Dream Time:
Dreamtime is a western term used to describe the basis of Aboriginal cultural and spiritual identity. It’s their way of understanding the world and the relationship of things and rules governing their lives. You can say it is similar to the Bible stories or Hindu and Greek mythology. But unlike these mythologies, Dreamtime is a continuing story. In fact, it continues even today.
The spirituality of the Aboriginals involves a close tie between the land and humans. In Dreamtime, the Aboriginals believe that their ancestors emerged from below the earth to form nature, including the sky, water bodies, and animal species.
Unlike other religions, the aboriginals do not put humans on a level higher than nature. They believe that some of their ancestors changed into nature, where they are still living spiritually alive.
7. The Aboriginal Art:
The aboriginal music survived for over hundreds of years, and continues to be one of the oldest art forms practiced today. It mainly consists of symbols, which were once used as a means of communication. The symbols were also used to show the presence of different objects and things that existed around them in those times.
The aboriginal art in the northern territory includes sculpture, rock and bar paintings, beadwork and baskets. Painting on the bark is the oldest form of aboriginal art, but some of these paintings have perished over time. The paintings and rock carvings are still found in Nourlangie, Ubirr and Arnhem Land. Some aborigines earn a living by selling their artworks.
The tradition of storytelling gives us an insight into the vibrant, cultural life of the aboriginals. The songs illustrate the Dreamtime and several other tales of the land.
8. The Aboriginal Music:
The music of the Aboriginals is recognized for its renowned musical instrument didgeridoo. The didgeridoo is a wind instrument made from bamboo. The instrument extends about five feet and creates a low and vibrating hum. The aborigines use the didgeridoos in ceremonies and events such as funerals, sunsets, and circumcisions.
9. Family, Hunting, And Weapons:
Within each aboriginal community lived family groups called clans. The central principle in their society is the kinship. The family group owned the land and thrived on hunting and gathering. Men killed large animals using weapons like boomerangs and weapons, and women collected plants and smaller animals.
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10. The Aboriginal Language:
There were over 300 different aboriginal languages spoken in the 1780s, but now just 75 remain. The Warlpiri language, spoken in and around Alice Springs in the center of Australia is well-established and in no risk of being lost. This language is taught in school, and even a growing body of literature is produced in the language. But the other languages, including Dyirbal, are nearly extinct. The largest aboriginal language, in terms of speakers, is the Western Desert, and is spoken by thousands of Aboriginal people in the Western Desert region of the continent.
Today, most of the Aboriginal people speak English as their first or second language. In some parts of Australia, a distinctive kind of English has developed within the aboriginal communities. In the northern territory, Kriol, a kind of English is spoken by the aboriginal people.
11. The Importance Of Relations For The Aboriginals:
The family is of utmost importance to the Aboriginal people. The elders are respected for their guidance, mentoring and maintenance of their aboriginal heritage. They define what a person can or cannot do, each person’s entitlements and responsibilities and how they are related to others and their land. The elders also ensure that their language, sacred ceremonies, rituals, and knowledge are passed on from one generation to another.
12. Land Rights Movement:
When the British arrived in Australia, they thought that the territory was empty, which means nobody owned that land. This was called ‘Terra nulls’, Latin for ‘empty land’. Under the British law, the land belonged to the king, who could sell it to other people.
In the year 1976, the Australian Government passed the law that gave the Aborigines the right to their land where the tribes were originally located. It also gave them the right to use their land. On 3 June 1992, the Australian High Court declared the idea of ‘Terra nullius’ wrong and the government brought new laws to set up the Native Title. If the aboriginals can prove their right to the particular land, and if it is not sold or changed by state acts, then they could claim it as their property.
The land and property rights also gave rise to the civil rights movement. The Aborigines asked for equal rights, more specifically, for the rights of property that was taken forcibly by the European settlers. The Aboriginal Land Rights Act passed in the 1990s returned the degree of autonomy. It also increased the wages and gave welfare benefits to the Aboriginal people.
13. Urban Life:
By the late 19th century, most of the Aborigines had joined the urban communities, primarily because of forced assimilation. Most of the Aboriginals now dwell in towns and cities. Some have benefited from aid programs and government education and settled as doctors, teachers and lawyers. But many of them are poor and completely isolated from the white society. They have lost with the tribal ways of the Aboriginal, but because they do not fit neatly into the white Australian society, they cannot share its benefits as well. We can only hope that their situation betters.
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Aboriginal Facts For Kids:
Here are a few facts about the Aboriginals:
1. There are about 1.3 million people in Canada with the Aboriginal ancestry. In terms of population, Canada ranks second behind New Zealand. Archeologists believe that the Aboriginals have been living in the Maritimes provinces of Canada since 11,000 years.
2. Only around ¼ of the Aborigines can conduct a conversation in their native language.
3. Some of the today’s Aboriginal artists and craftsmen are famous all over the word. You will find their works in museums, galleries and even at homes. Most of these artists create work celebrating the beliefs and traditions of the Aboriginals.
4. The Aboriginals created duck and goose decoys carved out of cedar or made out of tamarack branches. The decoys are still used today.
5. Most of the English words that we know today are native adopted from the Aboriginal’s language. For instance, Canada comes from Iroquois, which means village. Chicago comes from Algonquians, which means skunk.
6. The aboriginals of the eastern woodlands developed a unique method for hunting moose. They used old moose antlers to ransack the shrubs in the forest, which attracted the moose. The hunters also used birch bark as megaphones to imitate the voice of the female moose, which in turn attracted the males.
7. The Aboriginals developed a specific way of protecting themselves from mosquitoes. The Salish aboriginals from the west coast rubbed onion on their skin to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Those from the eastern woodlands used bear fat on their skin. The Cherokees, on the other hand, made a mixture using ground up Goldenseal roots and bear fat. This was their mosquito repellent.
8. Did you know that the Mohawk aboriginals are the inventors of hockey? As per the Jesuit priest journals, the Aboriginals played a game with a stick and a small block of ice embedded with stones and mud. Whenever a player was struck with the stick, he would shout ‘Aukie,’ which means ‘ouch’. The Jesuit priests wrote that the aboriginals played Aukie, and over the years, the name changed to hockey.
9. The Aboriginals also developed the method of tanning of the hides to prevent the skin of the animals from rotting. They removed the skin from the animals and scraped off the fat. To avoid the rotting of the skin, they soaked the hide in a liquid salt concentration, which included other special ingredients. They further rinsed the skin in water and stretched it slightly. Some people also chewed the skin to make it softer. They hung the skin to dry in the sunlight. The dried skin was cut into pieces to make moccasins and clothing.
10. The aboriginals used maple syrup as an energy drink. They drank one cup of maple syrup for one lunar cycle to restore minerals, vitamins and energy that they needed to hunt and plow the fields.
11. The Aboriginals also developed dyes to add color to the clothing. They made dyes from natural materials like bark, flower, roots, and fruits of various plants. Blueberries were used for dark blue shade, and larkspur flowers were used for light blue color. Red, yellow and dyes were made from alder trees and oak bars. Cranberry juice was used as a red dye.
We hope you and your kids enjoyed reading these facts about the Aboriginals. If you want to add some more facts to the list, please do that in the comment section below!
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