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Food and Medicine

The Tiwi people’s understanding of their environment has developed over tens of thousands of years. Knowledge of seasonal patterns, plants and animals, passed down the generations, ensured an ongoing supply of food, medicines, and other resources. The Tiwi interpreted the stars, weather, and other indicators, such as the timing of flowering and fruiting of plants, to predict natural events and signal when to pursue cultural activities. The Kurlama ceremony, for example, is held at the end of Jamutakari, the wet season, and is timed to coincide with the maturation of the Kurlama yam (Dioscorea bulbifera).

The Tiwi harvest about 80 plant species and more than 100 animal species for food, while other species are used for the necessities of life such as weaving, carrying food and for medicine. The social aspects of hunting remain important part of Tiwi life, although many traditional tools have been replaced by rifles, plastic buckets and 4WD vehicles. Gathering is done by women, while men hunt for larger game. For Tiwi, hunting, collecting and cooking food is a shared and enjoyable activity.