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Times of Waringari
Anthropologist Deborah Bird Rose has worked with the Ngarinman people of the Northern Territory's Victoria River region, and she has found that their memories include tales of warfare.
Rose makes some interesting observations about the ways in which old men with whom she has worked recall the times of Waringari or warfare:
1. These men agreed that Waringari had been bad Law, and that people were better off without it. However, some also continued to take some pride in their ancestors' fighting prowess. The wiping out of an entire group, the Nyiwanawu, was recalled as a good thing by one Ngarinman man ('They was the cannibal, you know') but other Ngarinman people told Rose a different story: a series of European massacres along the Baines River had put an end to the Nyiwanawu.
2. In the Victoria River region, Aboriginal warfare seems to have ceased around 1920. For a number of reasons, younger men found working for pastoralists and staying on the right side of the police to be an attractive alternative to fighting over the pockets of uncolonised territory, and so they resisted the older men's exhortations to continue fighting.
3. Much of the recalled fighting was over women, but this should not mislead us into thinking that women were passive, mere objects of men's struggles. Rose says that it is not possible to determine, from contemporary memories, the degree to which women disobeyed men's views about to whom they should be married; but it is unlikely that they were never complicit with the men who 'stole' them.
4. Sometimes people fought over territory, and this reason for conflict probably grew more important as the region became colonised and Aboriginal people had to compete over country not yet controlled by the colonists. Rose thinks it likely that fighting occasioned by such colonial pressures was more intense and self-destructive than fighting had ever been before.
Keywords: anthropology, Bird Rose, Deborah, cultural preservation, culture, custom, Northern Territory, warriors

Rose, DB 1991, 'Hidden Histories', Aboriginal Studies Press, pp 101-118.
Author: Rowse, Tim and Graham, Trevor
Source: Bird Rose, Deborah