Reaching the southern point of the Coorong, Ngurunderi met an evil sorcerer called Parampari. The two fought a great battle. Ngurunderi eventually killed Parampari and burnt his body near Kingston...

Conflict in Ngarrindjeri society was subject to rules that ordered daily life. The local councils of elders, or Tendi, resolved major disputes.

Causes of conflict
Conflicts were usually local and small-scale, although larger numbers could be involved because of kinship obligations.
Disputes often followed death or sickness, believed to be caused by human intervention. The stealing of women and insults to young initiated men were two other main cause of conflict.


The large fighting clubs called Plonggi could be given special powers and used in punishments ordered by the Tendi. Top to bottom : Collector : AE Marval (A5719), Collector : NB Tindale (A21124), Collector : W Howchin (A26694), Collector : Miss Klauer (A5723), Collector : G Taplin (A5725). Two Ngarrindjeri men duelling with wooden clubs and narrow shields at Tolderol near Lake Alexandrina. Single combat was a common way of settling disputes (Photographer : Unknown, about 1900 (AA655).


Ngarrindjeri fighting clubs. The pick-shaped clubs (Marpangye) were used in close combat to strike around the edge of opponent’s shields. The barbed and pointed clubs were either thrown or used for stabbing and hitting. Top to bottom : Collector : W Lyddon Cook (A51705), Collector : T Worsnop (A5789), Maker : J Koolmatrie (A1006), Collector : Unknown (A5776).
Several types of spears were used. The largest single-piece spear (Jundi) was thrown by hand. The others were all thrown with a spearthrower. Barbed spears were most often used in fights. The spears with small chips of stone or glass attached to the tip were most feared. These were known to early settlers as "death spears". Left to right : Collector : Unknown (A4932), Collector : NB Tindale (A21136), Collector : LN Birks (A15256).
Men used spearthrowers (Taralye) with bone, tooth and solid wooden spear pegs to throw spears in fights. (Collector (spearthrower) : Unknown (A3999).


Law and authority
Important decisions about conflicts were made by the Tendi of each group involved. The most powerful men in the Tendi were believed to have special sorcery powers. They were often called upon to fix punishments or to counter the power of opposing elders. Women also held positions in the Tendi.


Pullum the Rupulle was said to be the last head of the Tendi of the Ngarrindjeri living around Point Mcleay during the 1880’s. Photographer : Unknown (AA319). A man defending himself against spears. This test was often used to determine whether men were guilty of a crime. If the accused managed to evade the spears he was considered innocent. Artist : WA Cawthorne, about 1842 (Mitchell Library).
The Tendi sometimes decided that fights between opposing groups were required to settle disputes. Fights usually came to an end when a serious wound was inflicted.


The Ngarrindjeri used two types of shields (Wakkalde) for defence against spears. The rounder of the two was made from the bark of the red gum tree. The other was made from wood beneath the bark. Both were decorated with ochres, white pipeclay and carvings. Left : Maker : J Koolmatrie (A1001), Right : Collector : Unknown (A2211)
Women fought each other with their digging sticks, exchanging blows until one or other gave in. Collector (curved stick) : Unknown (A6367), Collector : NB Tindale (A21126)..
A segde "war basket" with human hair string handle, decorated with feathers of the owner’s totem, a boobook owl. Made by Clarence Long in 1930. Collector : NB Tindale (A67664).