Aboriginal Heritage

First Nations and Karta Pintingka

From 14 000 to 11 000 years ago an indigenous people inhabited Kangaroo Island, but over aeons, as sea level rose, they left. No one knows why. The island became uninhabited, though some scholars (Draper et al.) believe it was visited by the mainland peoples during that time.  

It was not until the late 18th Century that Europeans - sealers and others - arrived, and by 1816 thirteen Europeans lived on Kangaroo Island. Soon a second group of First Nations people arrived on Kangaroo Island: Indigenous women from Tasmania and the Fleurieu, abducted by the sealers. 

An acknowledgement of these two groups of First Nations Peoples can be heard on a Listening Post at the Scenic Drive Car Park, American River:

 “The lands and waters of and around Kangaroo Island are of cultural and spiritual significance to a number of Aboriginal Nations, particularly the Ramindjeri, Ngarrindjeri, Kaurna and Narungga, and all have cultural stories associated with the island. We acknowledge and respect the deep spiritual connection and the relationship that they have to Country.

We also acknowledge the many Aboriginal women brought here by the sealers against their will. These women made a substantial contribution to the livelihoods of early settlers, and to the island's industries. Their descendants live among us today.”

The sealers understood the importance of these skilled women in trapping wallaby, in hunting and in sealing. An interpretation sign at the Independence Memorial hints at the role of the Aboriginal women in sealing:

“During the early 1800s, well before the official settlement of Kangaroo Island in 1836, salt was scraped from the surface of Muston Lake to be used for meat preservation and the tanning of hides. Salt scraping was performed by the sealers from Independence and at times, by Indigenous women brought by force to the island throughout the early 1800s.”

On a large stone behind the RIG Boathouse is some script, referencing the indigenous women living on KI many millennia ago, and the more recent arrivals, the Aboriginal women of Tasmania and the Fleurieu, brought here by the sealers. While the message on that stone is brief and does not encompass the nuances of the complex history of these two strands of Indigenous and Aboriginal habitation it does remind us of the basic truths of Indigenous habitation pre-European exploration and the cruel abduction of the Tasmanian and Fleurieu women by the sealers. 

Karta Pintingka  is the Kaurna Miyurna name Kangaroo Island. Kaurna Miyurna  call the eastern side of the island Karta and the western side of the island is called Pintingka that means "the place of the dead". (https://www.jamestylor.com/karta-the-island-of-the-dead.html)


Memorial stone telling a story of the abducted Aboriginal' women.

Contemplation Seat Penneshaw https://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/culture/indigenous/display/116897-contemplation-seat

A Dreamtime story tells of the travels of Ngurunderi who "stepped over the water to Kangaroo Island where he rested before travelling to the western end" https://aboriginallivinglanguages.sa.gov.au/story/2006/