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A display of seven baskets mounted on a wall.

Baskets arranged to form the Seven Sisters (Pleiades) constellation

The Canning Stock Route tapped into waters that were already key sites in far longer journeys, and far older stories.

In Aboriginal cultures across Australia, and in other cultures around the world, the Pleiades constellation is associated with the story of the Seven Sisters. Minyipuru Jukurrpa is the Martu version of this story.

The Minyipuru began their journey from Roebourne as a big group of sisters and their mothers. At various places along the way, they lost members of their party until eventually only seven sisters remained.

At Kalypa (Well 23) the Minyipuru met a group of Jukurrpa men; it was the first time either group had seen members of the opposite sex. The men tried to grab the women, but the Minyipuru chased them off, hitting them with their digging sticks and leaving them where they fell.

At Pangkapini the sisters met Yurla, an amorous old man who had followed them from Roebourne. Yurla grabbed one of the women, but her sisters tricked him and managed to rescue her. The sisters ultimately escaped into the sky, where they became stars.

The following short film, called Parnngurr Nyiru, describes the story.

Parnngurr Nyiru 01:05

Director: Curtis Taylor. Writer: Curtis Taylor. Producer: Nicole Ma. Camera: Curtis Taylor, Dave Wells. Editor: Brandt Lee, Curtis Taylor. Narrator: Kumpaya Girgaba. Translator: Curtis Taylor. Executive Producer: FORM Canning Stock Route Project. © Curtis Taylor, 2010

Artists

Slideshow

Ngamaru Bidu

born about 1950, Manyjilyjarra language group, Karimarra skin group, Parnngurr community, Martumili Artists

Ngamayu grew up around Pitu.

As a child she encountered surveyor Len Beadell, who was grading roads near Well 22. He gave Ngamayu and her siblings fruit. Not realising that it was meant to be eaten raw, they cooked the fruit until it was completely dried up.

After meeting Beadell, Ngamayu's family was picked up at Parnngurr rock hole and taken to Jigalong.

Jiwara Sarah Brooks

born late 1950s, Manyjilyjarra language group, Karimarra skin group, Newman, Martumili Artists

Jiwara is the sister of Clifford Brooks and Mantyil May Brooks. Their father was the older brother of Rover Thomas.

Jiwara was an adult when she first visited Kunawarritji, her father’s Country, but she has travelled back often since then.

In 2007 Sarah joined the Canning Stock Route ‘return to Country’ trip, and participated in painting and basketmaking workshops at Kunawarritji in 2008.

Kumpaya Girgaba

born about 1945, Manyjilyjarra language group, Karimarra skin group, Parnngurr community, Martumili Artists

A respected law woman and cultural leader, Kumpaya was born near Kiwirrkurra and grew up around the Canning Stock Route.

For many years her family avoided contact with Europeans, but eventually they moved to Jigalong mission to join their relatives.

Kumpaya learned how to paint and weave baskets while visiting family in Balgo, Fitzroy Crossing and Patjarr. She is credited with introducing these skills to Martu people.

Thelma Judson

born about 1956, Manyjilyjarra language group, Milangka skin group, Parnngurr community, Martumili Artists

Thelma was born in the Percival Lakes region and grew up around Yimiri and Kurturarra. In 1964 her family was one of the last Martu groups to leave the desert and be reunited with their families at Jigalong mission.

After she left school, Thelma moved to Strelley station and married in Jigalong, where she had her children. Today she lives in Parnngurr with her husband, Yanjimi Peter Rowlands, and their children.

Nyangkarni Penny K-Lyons

born about 1932, Juwaliny, Walmajarri language groups, Nangkarti skin group, Wangkatjungka community, Mangkaja Arts

We are lost in our Country. Nobody’s here.

Nyangkarni’s sister, Taku Rosie Tarco, brother, Kurrapa Peter Skipper, and parents walked out of the desert before her. She and her grandmother encountered two murderers preying on the last of the desert people.

One man killed Nyangkarni’s grandmother and forced Nyangkarni to be his wife. They travelled north to Christmas Creek station where Nyangkarni reunited with family.

Jartarr Lily Long

born about 1940, Warnman language group, Milangka skin group, Nullagine community, Martumili Artists

Daddy was from Fitzroy side, droving to Tiwa [Well 26]. He was going to steal my mother from my Warnman daddy and take her [back to] Kimberley. He took a droving horse and took her to Karlamilyi.

Jartarr’s father was the famous Kimberley drover, Jamili. He fell in love with Jartarr’s mother and tried to steal her from her husband. Jartarr was born in Karlamilyi (Rudall River) and grew up with her Warnman father.

Yuwali Janice Nixon

born about 1947, Manyjilyjarra, Mangala language groups, Purungu skin group, Parnngurr community, Martumili Artists

Yuwali was born at Yulpu soak in the Percival Lakes. In 1964 her family group, which consisted only of women and children, tried to evade a native welfare patrol officer who was attempting to bring them in to Jigalong mission.

This story is depicted in the book Cleared Out and the film Contact. Yuwali later worked on a number of stations, but finally moved closer to her Country in 1982 when she moved to Punmu.

Dadda Samson

born about 1939, Kartujarra language group, Milangka skin group, Jigalong community, Martumili Artists

Before Dadda was born, her parents and brothers lived in the Country around Jilakurru (Well 17).

In the late 1930s, as droving traffic intensified, her family relocated west to old Jigalong, the ration station established on the rabbit-proof fence. Dadda was born by the windmill there.

She still lives in Jigalong and is one of the pioneering painters at Martumili Artists.

Nancy Taylor

born about 1940, Manyjilyjarra language group, Panaka skin group, Parnngurr community, Martumili Artists

Kanu grew up around Karlamilyi (Rudall River) and the Percival Lakes where she married Jarran Jan Billycan’s brother and raised a family.

After meeting a white man near Oakover River, the family was taken to Balfour Downs station and then to Jigalong. Kanu now lives in Parnngurr with her second husband, Wokka Taylor, and their grandchildren.

Mantararr Rosie Williams

born about 1943, Manyjilyjarra, Mangala language groups, Milangka skin group, Punmu community, Martumili Artists

Rosie was born at Kurupu, near Kurturarra in the Percival Lakes.

After her father died at Karlamilyi (Rudall River), Rosie and her sisters, Jugarda Dulcie Gibbs and Muni Rita Simpson, met up with some Martu people who told them that their relatives were at Jigalong, and so they moved to the mission.

In 1982 Rosie returned to her homelands at Punmu, where she lives today with her children and grandchildren.

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