Born: 12 October 1900, Perth, Western Australia
Died: 19 November 1993, Palo Alto, California, United States of America
Norman Tindale’s contribution to Aboriginal Australia was born from an association with Maroadunei, a Ngandi songmaker from Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, on his first expedition to Groote Eylandt from 1921-22. Maroadunei introduced Tindale to the concept of ‘Tribal Boundaries’, establishing that Australian Aboriginal people were not ‘free wanderers’ but linked by culture, kinship and language and were bound to the land geographically and ecologically. From that moment on Tindale set out to collect and collate empirical data from numerous expeditions culminating in the 1974 map and accompanying catalogue ‘Aboriginal tribes of Australia, their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits and proper names’. Tindale’s collection in the South Australian Museum Archives comprises expedition journals and supplementary papers, sound and film recordings, drawings, maps, photographs, genealogies, vocabularies and correspondence.
Tindale first secured employment at the South Australian Museum in December 1918 as a entomologist’s assistant. In 1928, Tindale was appointed as a part-time ethnologist whilst still continuing as assistant entomologist until he relinquished the position in 1933 to become the South Australian Museum’s full-time ethnologist.
The Norman Barnett Tindale collection was inscribed onto the UNESCO Australian Memory of the World register in 2013.