The Mirning, also known as the Ngandatha, are an Aboriginal Australian people whose traditional lands lay on the coastal region of the Great Australian Bight extending from Western Australia into south-west South Australia.
Mirniŋ was their name for 'man'.
Main article: Mirning language
Mirning was, properly speaking, a language known as Ngandatha, bearing the sense of "What is it?".
The Mirning's traditional lands covered, according to Norman Tindale, roughly 39,000 square miles (100,000 km2) of territory, reaching from Point Culver[a] eastwards across to White Well in South Australia. Their northern limit was generally the ecological line separating them from the beginning of the karst plateau of the Nullarbor Plain, though good rains would see them penetrating further north. In Norman Tindale's estimation their tribal territory encompassed roughly 39,000 square miles (100,000 km2).
The Mirning were, according to measurements made of old people from a remnant of the tribe in 1939, relatively short in stature and practice rites of circumcision and subincision.[b]
The Jirkala-mirning were first contacted by whites in 1872, when their numbers were estimated to be 30, consisting of 11 men, 8 women, 5 adolescents, and 6 children. It was estimated by the first whites who settled in Wonunda-mirnung territory in 1877 that they numbered no more than 80 persons, 15 men, 15 women, 10 adolescents, and some 40 children. Writing in 1931, A. P. Elkin stated: 'The Wanbiri-speaking tribe, referred to as the Yerkla-mining (that is, the men at Yerkla or Irgala) is now extinct.'
The Mirning were organised into groups of which two at least are known.
For ceremonial rites, involving the tribe's adoption of circumcision and subincision, the Wonunda-mirnung and Jirkala-mirning would gather at Jadjuuna, just south of Cocklebiddy.
Their kinship system has four classes:- Būdera (root), Būdū (digger), Kūra, (dingo) and Wenŭng (wombat).[d]
Alfred William Howitt describes the tribe's marriage system as "very peculiar", in which two classes (Būdera and Kūra) have a privileged position as follows:
|(M) Būdera||(F) Kūra||(M) Būdera, (F) Kūra|
|(F) Wenŭng||(M) and (F) Būdera|
|(M) Kūra||(F) Būdera||(M) Kūra, (F) Būdera|
|(F) Būdū||(M) and (F) Kūra|
|(M) Būdū||(F) Wenŭng||(M) Būdū, (F) Wenŭng|
|(M) Wenŭng||(F) Būdū||(M) Wenŭng, (F) Būdū|
In April 1994 Julian Lennon proposed making a documentary film with the provisional title Eyes of the Soul – Legends of Whales, Dolphins and Tribes, which would have touched on the Mirnung's cultural relationship to whales.
A documentary called Whaledreamers – the Gathering, which includes mention of the Mirning, was made in 2006.