Tiwi - History and Cultural Relations

The prehistory of the Tiwi is related to that of other Aboriginal Australians. Recently calculated (1981) dates for earliest signs of human cultural activity are approximately forty thousand years ago. The Tiwi themselves are mentioned in historic records from the early eighteenth century, when they came in contact with Dutch, Portuguese, and British explorers. Prior to these recorded contacts by Europeans, there is evidence for early Chinese and Indonesian contact but no sustained settlement. The first foreign settlement on the Islands occurred in 1824, when the British established Fort Dundas near the contemporary Parlingimpi township. After five years of hardship the settlement was abandoned and it was nearly seventy-five years before European settlement was again attempted early in the twentieth century. In 1911, Father Gsell, M.S.C., established a Catholic mission at Nguiu on the southeastern coast of Bathurst Island, and following this development there was a significantly increased amount of contact with White Australians. The township of Parlingimpi, located near the ruins of Fort Dundas at Garden Point, was first established as a government settlement in 1939. In the late 1940s the government settlement was moved from Garden Point to Snake Bay (Milikapiti). Milikapiti continued as a government settlement until the late 1970s, when it became the first of three communities to incorporate as a township.

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