Correspondence and manuscript relating to Australian Aboriginal mythology and ceremonies as well as a hand drawn map

Archive Collections / Edmund Albert Colson / Series AA62/01 / Correspondence and manuscript relating to Australian Aboriginal mythology and ceremonies as well as a hand drawn map

Series AA 62/1 consists of correspondence between EA Colson and Norman Barnett Tindale (see AA 338) during the period 1931-32, a detailed manuscript account by Colson of the 'Inmiga' myth of the 'Unterkerina tribe' of north-western South Australia, and related manuscript and typescript notes by Tindale.

The correspondence between Colson and Tindale relates to Colson's request for help from Tindale in recording and publishing details of the totemic myths of the 'Unterkerina' (Antakirinya), 'Kookattah' (Kokata) and 'Pidgeontarra' (Pitjantjatjara) tribes from north-western South Australia. In his first letter to Tindale, dated 17 November 1931, Colson stated that he had recorded a number of these myths and included one, 'Notes on the story of Inmiga', with his letter. Subsequent correspondence relates to Tindale's suggestions as to how they could cooperate on editing and publishing the ethnographic data that Colson obtained.

Colson's letters provide some information on Australian Aboriginal myths and ceremonies in the Everard, Musgrave and Mann Ranges and there are references to places such as 'Warrengutta' (Warrungadinna, a waterhole on the Alberga River near Lambina Station), Mt Davies (Tomkinson Range) and Munitcha (an important rain-making site in the Rawlinson Range area). Colson refers to tribal groups such as the Arunta, Arrabana, Unterkerina, Kookattah and Pidgeontarra.

Colson provided a detailed account (26 handwritten pages) of the Perentie or 'Inmiga' myth which he enclosed with his first letter to Tindale. It documents the ancestral travels of Inmiga (the large goanna known as the Perentie or Ngintaka) who left his home near Ilaura (near Mt Sir Henry, Northern Territory) and travelled eastwards to the Finke River and then southwards to Wire Creek and Dalhousie Springs (in what is now Witjira National Park in northern South Australia). At Dalhousie Springs, he abducted some women and fled with them westwards to Peerless Pool on Lindsay Creek and then to Bloods Creek and Eringa. There Inmiga learned that the husbands of the women he had abducted at Dalhousie Springs were pursuing him. He sent the women on to the north-west, towards Tieyon, while he stayed behind to fight the Dalhousie men. When they attacked him with their spears, Inmiga turned the day into night, and was able to flee in the resulting confusion. He caught up with the women near Umbearra (in the Northern Territory, about 40 km east of Kulgera) and lived with them there for some time before he returned to his home at Ilaura.

The Colson collection includes some hand-written and typescript notes by Tindale relating to the Inmiga myth. Tindale notes that 'Inmiga' should correctly be written as 'Innja' or 'Indja'. Tindale also notes that an eclipse of the sun occurred in the Tieyon area on 5 April 1856 and suggests that Inmiga's transformation of the day into night may relate to that eclipse.

The collection also includes a map, handdrawn by Colson on tracing film, showing some landscape features in the area between the Basedow Range and Lilla Creek in the Northern Territory and the Hamilton River and Alberga River in South Australia. Several watersources are marked on the map, including Ethawarra Waterhole and Bulbun Soak on the Hamilton River, Hughes Waterhole on Blood's Creek and Kulali Waterhole on Lilla Creek.

Note that there are several published versions of the Perentie/Ngintaka mythology. See, for example:

  • R & C Berndt, 'A preliminary report on fieldwork in the Ooldea region, western South Australia', Oceania, 15(3), 1945, pp. 255, 267-8.

  • V Potezny, 'The Perentie and the Women' in Natural History of Dalhousie Springs, edited by W Zeidler & WF Ponder, 1989, South Australian Museum, Adelaide.

  • B Shaw & J Gibson, An Aboriginal history of the Oodnadatta region. Volume 1: Invasion and succession, 1988, Aboriginal Heritage Branch, SA Department of Environment and Planning, Adelaide.

This series includes references to the following regions of South Australia: North West; North East.

This series contains references to Northern Territory; Western Australia.

This series includes references to the following named groups: Arunta, Arrabana, Unterkerina, Kookattah and Pidgeontarra.

Corresponding Tindale Tribes: Antakirinja; Arabana; Aranda; Kokata; Pitjandjara.

Corresponding AIATSIS Language Groups: Antakarinja; Arabana; Arrernte; Kokatha; Pitjantjatjara.

CreatorEdmund Albert Colson
ControlAA 62/1
Date Range1931  -  1932
Quantity 5cm,     Correspondence and manuscript/typescript notes
FormatsGeneral Correspondence, Loose Notes
Series AA62/01