Identification. The term "Pintupi" refers to a group of Australian Aboriginal hunting and gathering people originally from the Western Desert region of Australia. Their shared social identity derives not so much from linguistic or cultural practice but from common experience, destination, and settlement during successive waves of eastward migrations out of their traditional homelands to the outskirts of White settlements. Pintupi is not an indigenous term for a particular dialect nor for any sort of closed or autonomous Community.
Location. The traditional territory of the Pintupi is in the Gibson Desert, in Australia's western territory. This territory is bounded by the Ehrenberg and Walter James ranges in the east and south, respectively, by the plains to the west of Jupiter Wells in the west, and by Lake Mackay to the north. These areas are predominantly sandy desert lands, interspersed with gravelly plain and a few hills. The climate is arid, rainfall averages only 20 centimeters annually, and in some years there is no rainfall at all. Daytime temperatures in summer reach about 50° C and nights are warm, while in winter the days are milder but nights may be cold enough for frost to form. Water is scarce here, and vegetation is limited. The desert dunes support spinifex and a few mulga trees, and on the gravel plains there are occasional stands of desert oaks. Faunal resources, too, are limited—large game animals include kangaroos, emus, and wallabies; smaller animals include feral cats and rabbits. Water is only periodically available on the ground surface after rains; the people rely on rock and claypan caches in the hills and underground soakages and wells in the gravel pan and sandy dunes.
Demography. Population figures for the Western Desert peoples as a whole are difficult to obtain. The sparsely populated Pintupi region was estimated to support one person per 520 square kilometers, but given the highly mobile, flexible, and circumstance-dependent nature of the designation "Pintupi," it is difficult to come up with absolute numbers. The people suffered a population loss during the years of settlement in the east due to the unaccustomed overcrowding and to violence that arose between the Pintupi and White settlers and other Aboriginal groups.
linguistic Affiliation. Pintupi is a member of the Pama-Nyungan Language Family, also called the Western Desert Language Family.