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Barngarla people

(This information is provided by current representatives of the Barngarla people.)

The Aboriginal people who lived around the western shore of the northern Spencer Gulf were predominantly Barngarla people, who culturally belonged to the Lake Eyre and Lake Torrens people. The Aboriginal people inhabiting the Whyalla area were identified as Malkaripangala, a subdivision of the Barngarla people. However, the major Dreaming significance of this north-east corner of Eyre Peninsula is also shared by two culturally and linguistically different groups – the Adnyamathanha people of the Flinders Ranges and the Kokatha people from the north-western desert in South Australia.

Important sites include Cultana Range, Tregalana salt lake, the seasonal sand camp at Weeroona Bay (now Santos), Stony Point and Black Point, Hummock Hill in Whyalla and Wild Dog Hill in the Whyalla Conservation Park. Artefacts recovered from these areas are dated within the last 6,000 years. A significant cave painting has been found at Cultana Range (within the Defence training area).

The Barngarla (Malkaripangala) people were known to other Aboriginal people as people who “sang to the sharks”. This is a unique ceremony that is usually associated with the Pacific islands (Tonga and Solomon Islands) rather than the southern coast of Australia. The men gathered at the rocks at Weeroona Bay while women danced on the beach. The men sang to the sharks and when sharks and dolphins gathered schools of fish and drove them towards the shore, the men killed the fish in the shallows. The last person known to sing to the sharks died in the late 1960s.

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