ETHNONYMS: Camileroi, Euahlayi, Gunilroy
The Kamilaroi were an Aboriginal group located in New South Wales, Australia, along the Barwon, Bundarra, Balonne, and upper Hunter rivers and in the Liverpool plains. They are now nearly extinct and only a small number remain. The Kamilaroi language, which is no longer spoken, is classified in the Pama-Nyungan Family of Australian languages.
The Kamilaroi were nomadic hunters and gatherers with a band-level social organization. Important vegetable foods were yams and other roots, as well as a sterculia grain, which was made into a bread. Insect larvae, frogs, and eggs of several different animals were also gathered. Various birds, kangaroos, emus, iguanas, opossums, echidnas, and bandicoots were among the important animals hunted. Dingo pups were regarded as a delicacy. Fish were also consumed, as were crayfish, mussels, and shrimp. Men typically hunted, cleaned, and prepared the game for cooking. Women did the actual cooking, in addition to fishing and gathering. Individual Kamilaroi did not eat animals that were their totems, although the Euahlayi, a related group, did not observe this restriction.
Their complex kinship and marriage system has made the Kamilaroi a group of considerable anthropological interest. At the most general level of social organization, the Kamilaroi were organized into exogamous matrimoities. Both moities were divided into four marriage classes. Also present within the moities were various sibs and lineages, each represented by several totems and subtotems. Descent was Matrilineal. The Kamilaroi had a four-class marriage system. Exogamy was the rule for each kin group, from the lineage through the moiety. Paternal half-sister marriage was reportedly the preferred form among the Euahlayi. The primary Economic units were the bands, which were composed of several households. Matrilineages were represented by subtotems and organized into a matrisib, which had its own totem. The sibs were members of one or the other matrimoieties. Intersecting with these groups based on kinship and descent were the four marriage classes, all of which were common to both matrimoieties.
Rites were held to encourage the propagation of totems. There were initiation ceremonies for both sexes, with circumcision for boys. Shamans ( wireenun ) concerned themselves with curing illness and communicating with their dream spirits, who were often sent out on information-gathering missions. The Kamilaroi believed in an "All Father," the moral and kindly deity in the sky who received the souls of good Aborigines upon their death. Each individual was believed to have a soul, a dream spirit, and a shadow spirit. Sickness or death was believed to result if one's shadow spirit were molested or captured by a shaman. Some individuals also had the aid of a spirit helper.
Fison, Lorimer, and A. W. Howitt (1867). Kamilaroi and Kurnai: Group Marriage and Relationship, and Marriage by Elopement. Oosterhout, the Netherlands: Anthropological Publications.
Parker, K. Langloh (1905). The Euahlayi Tribe: a Study of Aboriginal Life in Australia. London: Archibald Constable.