The Umpithamu, also once known to ethnographers as the Koko Ompindamo, are a contemporary Aboriginal Australian people of the eastern Cape York Peninsula in northern Queensland. Norman Tindale, transcribing their ethnonym Umpithamu as Umbindhamu, referred to them as a horde of the Barungguan.[1]

They are one of several Lamalama peoples.


Main article: Umpithamu language

The Umpithamu language belongs to the Paman subgroup of the Pama–Nyungan languages.[2] By the early 2000s, there were only two completely fluent speakers of Umpithamu, one of them being Florrie Bassani.[3] In July 2020, A Dictionary of Umpithamu was published, compiled by Flemish linguist Jean-Christophe Verstraete, with main language consultants Florrie Bassani and her niece Joan Liddy.[4][5]

People and country

The Umpithamu were the southernmost group of the Kawadji or "sandbeach peoples" (in Umpithamu ma-yaandhimunu or "people who own the sandbeach".[6]), followed in order to their north, by the Yintyingka, the Umpila, the Pontunj (Yankonyu)[7] the Pakadji(Koko Yao) and the Otati(Wuta(h)i).[8] Their territory embraced an estimated 700 square miles (1,800 km2) on the western coastline of Princess Charlotte Bay with its northern limits around Cape Sidmouth.[1]


For some years in the 1950s a cattle station owner in Umpithamu territory had been complaining of the presence of this Aboriginal people on his grazing lands, and after successful lobbying, he managed to have them removed in 1961. The Umpithamu were deported, reportedly by a ruse that deceived them, by the local police from their home country around Port Stewart to the Aboriginal reserve near Bamaga, 400 km (250 mi) to their north. After decades they eventually managed to return south, to Coen, a mere 70 mi (110 km) from their tribal centre. Since then they have managed to set up three outstations in the Port Stewart area.[9]

They form one of the several peoples composing the Lama Lama people.

Alternative names

Source: Tindale 1974



  1. ^ a b Tindale 1974.
  2. ^ Verstraete & De Cock 2008, p. 219.
  3. ^ Verstraete & De Cock 2008, pp. 217–218.
  4. ^ Rigby, Mark (5 August 2020). "First Cape York Indigenous language dictionary in 20 years published by Flemish linguist". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  5. ^ "A dictionary of Umpithamu". AIATSIS Shop. 22 April 2020. Retrieved 7 August 2020.
  6. ^ Rigsby & Chase 2014, p. 307.
  7. ^ Thomson 1933, p. 255.
  8. ^ Rigsby & Chase 2014, p. 308.
  9. ^ Verstraete & De Cock 2008, pp. 220–221.