Ngarigo people
aka: Ngarigo (language name), Ngarego, Ngarago, Garego, Currak-da-bidgee, Ngarigu, Ngarrugu, Ngarroogoo, Murring ("men"), Bemeringal (by coastal tribes "mountain man"), Guramal, Gurmal (by Wiradjuri), Bradjerak (by southern coastal tribes), Bombala tribe, Menero tribe, and Cooma tribe (AIATSIS), nd (SIL)[1]

Language family: Pama–Nyungan
Language branch: Yuin–Kuric
Language group: Yora
Group dialects: Ngarigu[2]
Location: Monaro and Australian Alpine regions of New South Wales and Victoria
Urban areas

The Ngarigo people are some of the Indigenous inhabitants living in South East Australia, and whose traditional lands extended from Canberra to Cooma, on the Monaro and Limestone Plains.


According to anthropologist Norman Tindale in his 1974 catalogue of Australian Aboriginal people groups, the specific areas lands of the Ngarigo are:[3]

Monaro tableland north to Queanbeyan; Bombala River from near Delegate to Nimmitabel; west to divide of the Australian Alps.

However, as stated by the South Australia Museum where his maps are archived, much of the data relating to Aboriginal language group distribution and definition has undergone revision since 1974.

Recent linguistic research showed the northern boundary of the Ngarigu to be north of the present Australia Capital Territory, while the southern boundary of the Ngarigo people extends to the Australian Alps. Further south various dialects of Ngarigu are spoken by other tribes. However, as concluded in the 2013 ACT Government report "Our Kin Our Country", due to lack of accurate contemporary records the exact boundaries are uncertain.[4]


The Ngarigo/Ngarmal are an Aboriginal group whose traditional lands lie in the Monaro and Australian Alpine regions of New South Wales and Victoria, and the Canberra and Queanbeayan area.[5][6]

With their hunting areas being taken over by European settlers running sheep, most Nyamudy/Namadgi people gradually left the area. The population also decreased due to the spread of diseases introduced by the Europeans, such as smallpox, syphilis, influenza, measles and tuberculosis. Thus, all that was left were mixed race people working either as labourers or domestic servants. Many people were moved to New South Wales government settlements, such as at Yass. By 1880 there were no full blood Aboriginal people living in the Canberra area and their long standing traditions went into hibernation.


The Ngarigo spoke Ngarigu. According to some scholars, the language of the Wolgalu is a form of Ngarigu; others that it is the other way round. Linguistic research shows there was a northern dialect, Nyamudy, spoken in the ACT and Queanbeyan area.The Cooma government web site states that "the two main groups on Monaro were the Ngarigo people of the tablelands and the Wogul or Wolgalu group in the high country." A southern dialect, of Ngarigu was used as far south as Goongerah in Victoria.

Dispute over the traditional ownership of Canberra and the surrounding people

According to recollections of settlers living in the area in the 1830s, such as quoted in the Quenbeyan Age, there were three groups in the region, the Yass Blacks (Ngunnwal), the Limestone Blacks (Nyamudy/Namadgi) and the Monaro Blacks (Ngarigo). The last two both spoke dialects of Ngarigu. Battles for ownership of the territory took place at Gundaroo/Sutton with the Yass Blacks and at Pialigo with the Monaro Blacks, in both cases the Nyamudy/Namadgi tribe won to retain first ownership of the Canberra district.

The present dispute originated when Tindall in his 1940 and 1974 maps incorrectly drew its boundaries with that of Ngarigo/Nguramal. A 2013 report to the ACT Government stated "there is no basis within the description of country supplied by Tindale, or in the original sources upon which he depended, for the extension of Ngunawal country through the greater part of the ACT". The report confirmed that the language spoken in the Canberra region was a dialect of Ngarigu, "related to but distinguishable from the dialects spoken at Tumut and Monaro". The evidence that the language spoken in the Canberra Based on known disputes between the two tribes, the boundary ran from north of Sutton on the Yass River to Wee Jasper on the Murrumbidee.

Some Canberra-area people with Aboriginal heritage in inland south-east Australia, including Matilda House and Shane Mortimer, say they are a part of the Ngambri people who spoke Walegulu not Burragorang, and are not part of the Ngunnawal people with its different language. However, the claim of the nation status is disputed by some Aboriginal people who say that the Ngambri are a small family clan of the Wiradjuri nation. However latest research shows, Walegulu were the people south of Cooma in the Australian Alps, while Wiradujuri were the people further inland to the West extending from Wagga Wagga to Young.

In 2013, an ACT Government anthropological report was released concluding that the struggle between various indigenous groups for the mantle of Canberra's "first people" is likely to remain uncertain. The report concluded that evidence gathered from the mid-1700s onward was too scant to support any family's claims.


  1. Dousset, Laurent (2005). "Ngarigo". AusAnthrop Australian Aboriginal tribal database. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  2. "Language information: Ngarigu". Australian Indigenous Languages Database. AIATSIS. 26 June 2012. Retrieved 21 April 2015.
  3. Tindale, Norman (1974). "Ngarigo (NSW)". Aboriginal Tribes of Australia. South Australian Museum. Archived from the original (reproduction) on 29 July 2008.
  4. ACT Government Genealogy Project : Our Kin Our Country : August 2012 Report (PDF), ACT Government, August 2012, retrieved 24 February 2016
  5. Gillespie, Lyall (1984). Aborigines of the Canberra Region. Canberra: Wizard (Lyall Gillespie). pp. 1–25. ISBN 0-9590255-0-2.
  6. Tindale, Norman (1974). "Thaua". Catalogue of Australian Aboriginal Tribes. South Australian Museum. the Bemerigal or mountain people at Cooma belonged to the Ngarigo

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