Name: Nyangkarni Penny K-Lyons
Nyangkarni Penny K-Lyons - So-called husband [ORAL HISTORY]
Synopsis: Penny K-Lyons talks about travelling north from the desert, and her two uncles in Japingka. She then talks about how she went east to Tapu (Wakartu Country). She travelled north again after that, for sugar and tea leaf, where she learned Kukatja and Wangkajungka. She then went back to the desert, andf after that travelled and ate at the well of Kaningarra. She then talks about being taken to Kurungal, and spearing bullock there, after which police took men to jail.
Language spoken: Walmajarri, Wangkajunga
Catalogue number: CSROH_59_Nyangkarni_Penny_K-Lyons
Interviewed By: John Carty
Translated By: Putuparri Tom Lawford
Location Recorded: Fitzroy Crossing
Caution: Contains some coarse language.
Cultural Protocols: Public Access
Full transcript: Nyangkarni Penny K-Lyons: No, I will speak in Walmajarri. I was a Walmajarri speaking person living there as a kid. My two fathers were there also, my two fathers: one was young and the other was a bit older. We all lived there at one place, one Country, when we were kids. We lived there until we were getting a bit older, then my two fathers went east. Me and my sister, we lost one of our brothers recently [Skipper]. There’s only four of us alive now, all sisters. The mob all went east. They left me behind, I was walking around on my own. I had water there on top of a hill, my home called Paryarr. I left Japingka. To the east my other grandmother [ngawiji] was walking around alone as well. The others left her behind too yuwayi [yes]. My uncles and them, they all went east. My grandmother and I started walking east, walking until we found my two uncles. ‘We will have to take these two with us,’ my grandmother told me. From Japingka we came ...
We all went east. We came to a jumu [soak water]. We camped there for the night. In the morning my uncles went away towards their Country. Me, I went back. My ngawiji was there. Old man, my jaja [maternal grandfather] was there too. My fathers were at Japingka. You [talking to her sister Rosie Tarco] already went. Your husband took you away. I was a young girl then. I went back then and saw my ngawiji sitting down. We used to go hunting. We killed plenty of goannas and other animals. Game was plenty then. As kids we used to kill plenty. We weren’t frightened. We killed them because they were our source of meat. We were staying at Japingka then. We then said, ‘Everybody left us, we should go after them. They left us when we were kids, now that we have grown up we should go look for them. Our parents have already gone too.’
We went east until we came to a place called Tapu, Jila [spring] Tapu. Warkartu [Cory Surprise] left Tapu before we came. She went looking for her husband. She left my uncle then [her first husband]. We lost him there, my uncle. We cried, us kids. We threw ourselves on the ground. We never hit ourselves on the head with rocks. My sister already left with her husband. She left me. My brother was with me and our fathers were looking after us. From Tapu we went to a place called Kurrtjalpartu. We stayed there where there was water. Ngurrara, our homeland there, Country.
I left my country back there, jila country. ‘They’re not here,’ someone said. ‘They’ve gone somewhere far away. We’ll have to go back to Tapu.’ ‘Yeah, let’s go back. They’ve left us, there’s nobody here. We’ll find them some other time.’ My father was gone too. We lost one of them, the older one. My mother and aunty went away too. ‘Let’s go back to Tapu. We’re big kids now, we’ll be able to look after our own selves. There’s plenty of jurnta [bush onions] to gather and goannas there to hunt.’ So we went back and stayed around there for a while. Then we wanted to go looking for our mob again from a place called Ngijirl Ngijirl, it’s a jila [spring] too. We went and came upon a big creek bed. We were gathering jurnta along the creek bed. ‘Ah, leave this jurnta alone, let’s go hunting for goanna!’ My father came there. (He passed away at old Cherrabun. These mob lost him, not me. I was still at bush.) We told him that our other father, his brother, the oldest one, passed away. [His two sons drowned here at the old station.] We sat there with him for a while, crying, then we got up and went away. We left him there.
We went to a place called Walypa. We were hunting mirta [a type of cat], that animal that lives in the hole. We used to chase them until they went into their hole, then we dug them out and killed them. Us ladies used to do that. We were there, that’s true. Then my brother came [Skipper]. He came from the station, Cherrabun. He brought sugar, flour and tea leaves with him. We were sitting down and then I saw him coming. ‘Hey! That’s my brother coming!’ Yes, it was him, my brother. I’m his sister. Polly is the youngest. She’s in Looma, and Murrungkurr’s [Terry Murray] mum. He came and sat down. I told him, ‘We are lost in our Country. Nobody’s here.’ We cried there with him. We stayed there for a while.
We started eating that stuff he brought from the station. I kept on asking him if this thing they call flour tastes alright. ‘They’re from the kartiya [white people],’ he told me. ‘They sent them with me for you people to taste. And this one, what is this? What shall we call it? This one is walyarra [sugar]. This tucker I brought from the stations, we shall eat it to make ourselves full.’ He then told us ‘Let’s go back home.’ We took off past Tapu, past another place called Jitartu. There’s a hill there at Jitartu, I went there lately. We then went to a place call Kurnajarti, our ngurra [Country]. This is our Country. There’s a Turtujarti tree there on the side. It died. We made a bough shed there.
Jukurna’s mum, my ngawiji and my jaja [maternal grandparent] and my young mum, we were there. Then I told my father ‘You must take me with you when you go to the station! Don’t leave me.’ Polly was a little girl then. That night he took off taking only Polly with him. The next day I was crying, feeling sad, wondering why my father and mother left me. I cried for two days. Crying for my mother and father and my little sister Polly. Today she’s a parnany [married woman]. She’s at Looma. My jaja told me to stop crying saying. ‘You might get sick. They’ll be back. We shall wait for them here at our home. He will come back for us.’ I settled down then.
From there I went hunting looking for goanna. On top of the sand hills I went looking. I was a bushman walking around. I didn’t have anything on. We stayed there for a while hunting and gathering. A while later my jaja [maternal grandparent] decided that we should leave my young mother. Me and my jaja, we went south hunting and gathering along the way. I told her ‘There’s big mobs of tucker around here.’ We’ve got goannas, snakes and other animals. Real meats that belongs to us. I was getting to be a big girl now, walking around in the desert. Then I said to myself, ‘Why are we walking around here? I think we should go and look for my parents. They took Polly with them when she was a little girl.’ Then I was thinking, ‘Will we find our way there? Because we didn’t know where they went. We only knew they went somewhere east.’ So we stayed.
We saw smoke. Somebody lit a fire. We said ‘It’s them! Let’s go!’ My jaja said ‘No, let’s wait here.’ But it wasn’t them. It was two men, two murderers. At Ngijirl Ngijirl we were there. Then me and my young mother, we went hunting around dinnertime. We came across those two men. They speared my jaja and my other mother. I took off crying. They where cheeky those two old blokes. One of them died at Leopold Station lately. They killed Jukurna’s [Jukuna Mona Chuguna] ngawiji as well as some other old ladies. That’s good that other one died at Leopold. Then that man who died at Leopold grabbed me and took me north. He was teaching me Kukatja [language]. Big shame.
There was Iris Jack and her husband, that man [who died at Leopold] and his wife, and he added me as his wife. My other mother, she took off, frightened of them. I went with him. We were travelling north. He was belting me along the way too, that old man. That one that died at Leopold. He was teaching me Wangkajunga [language] then. ‘We are going this way,’ he used to say in Wangkajunga. After stealing me to be his wife, we went north somewhere, a long way, to a place called Piluwurlu. Big hill, that place called Piluwurlu. And Jikarn [Well 50], through there we went walking. I got sick along the way. That old man fixed me up. He sang me until I got better. Then in the afternoons he kept asking me, ‘Are you ok?’ ‘Yes,’ I would say.
[She is now speaking in Wangkajunga]
We kept on travelling until we came to one of those wells. Long time ago kartiya [white people] dug a hole and put a well there. We stayed there at that well for a while. From there we went to Pilya. We stayed there for a while. ‘Let’s go! Come on my two wives, let’s go,’ that man said. He was talking to his own wife and me. I was quiet. ‘Get up! Let’s go and dig for karnti [bush potato].’ We went north. Her daughter was there too, Mungantiya. She’s at Guwardi [Ngarti old people’s home in Fitzroy Crossing] now, along with her husband. We dug up plenty of karnti and after a while he told us to go and look for goanna. ‘There’s plenty around here,’ he said. ‘We need meat. We’ll eat meat as husband and wives,’ he said. We killed plenty that day. We sat down, cooked em all up and had a big feed. We didn’t have anything, we just went with what we had, trying to avoid other people.
From the east we saw two camels coming. [I’m speaking Wangkajunga because he taught me, that man who died at Leopold. My so-called husband. Not husband really, granny. Yeah, he was my granny in some way.] ‘Hey you two, let’s follow this camel track. I’m sure we’ll get a big feed.’ We followed the tracks until we saw them standing to the north in a shade. I came along behind, slowly. [We left another lady with her daughter behind, digging for karnti [bush potato] at Pilya. There’s a hill there.] Finished: that old man, he scared them camels off. They took off running, those camels, towards a waterhole. He wanted to kill one. One old lady was there at that waterhole where those camels were heading. I thought something was wrong. I thought them camels were bringing bad news. I didn’t know what they were. They stood along side that old lady. She tried hunting them away but they just stood there. That’s when I thought of those animals bringing trouble. Then that old man came along and scared them off again. They went up a hill and stood there. We sat there looking at them camels on top of the hill. I thought to myself, ‘What are they are doing on top of that hill?’
We stayed there at that waterhole, camped there. I got up and had a look, they were still there, them camels. I got up in the morning: them camels were still there. When the sun came up they came down and stood in between us and the water hole. Then I thought to myself, ‘There’s trouble here. Why can’t this animal go after that old man tried to spear it?’ That old man got a glass spearhead then and put it on his spear and speared the camels through the ribs, killing it. They cut it up and starting cooking it. Then one lady said to us, ‘Hey! Come here and cut some of this meat and cook it and eat it. Why are you getting shame?’ ‘That meat is no good. It hasn’t got any fat on it,’ I said. ‘I thought you two liked eating meat,’ our daughter and the old lady who passed away told us. They were growling at us. I tasted it. It wasn’t good, it tasted horrible. ‘Let’s go,’ I said. ‘Leave the husband here. Let’s go get real tucker.’ We went digging for karnti [bush potato] near Kaningarra.
We came back with plenty of karnti [bush potato]. They told us, ‘You two are mad walking off like that while there’s meat here.’ ‘We went to get good tucker, not that horrible tucker. It doesn’t taste good.’ We cooked our tucker and had a feed while the others were eating camel. We took off again, us two, hunting, the other mob still eating camel. That horrible tasting meat, they were eating it all day. After digging for [karnti] we came back and sat down and had a rest on the other side. ‘I’ll lie down for a while,’ she told me, my sister, ‘I’m feeling a bit sick.’ She started to bleed from her privates. We stayed with her for a while until about dinnertime. She passed away then, poor thing, right there at that place called Pilya. Her two daughters were crying and hitting themselves over the head with rocks. I cried too. I told them, ‘That meat that you mob were eating is the one that made her die! That’s not good meat! We lived on good meat before that animal came.’
We left that place, heading towards Kaningarra. We came to a well, I don’t know the name of that well. We saw big mobs of emus there. They went hunting, trying to catch one. They didn’t catch any, they were too quick and fast. We camped there at that well. All that time people were asking, ‘What’s the name of this place?’ ‘I don’t know, I’m not from here,’ I said. ‘My Country is further south from here,’ I said. Even that that old man didn’t know. In the morning we went to Jikarn [Well 50]. ‘I know this place. This is Jikarn,’ I said. ‘We heard about this place a long time ago.’ We got some water from the well there, with a tin, with rope tied to it, at Jikarn on the Canning Stock Route. From there I asked that old man, ‘Where to now from here?’ I asked him. ‘We are going back,’ he told me. ‘This is as far as we came to, this well now. We are all going back to where we came from.’ ‘This is Jikarn. People have talked about this place, I heard them,’ I said. He lit a fire on other side at Jikarn. We kept on walking til it got hot. We sat down under some trees to rest in the afternoon then we took off again.
I told these two kids, ‘Look around for goannas. They should be in their holes by now, they’ll be more easy to catch. Go and get some for us, we don’t want to be walking hungry,’ I told them. We kept on walking til we came to a well not far from Piluwul [a hill not far from Well 46, she is probably talking about Kujuwarri, Well 46]. As a child I heard about this place. We camped there that night. In the morning we took off. We saw smoke from a distance, ‘Hey, there’s somebody over there lighting fires,’ I said. I asked that old man, ‘You know this Country?’ He said, ‘No, my Country is a long way from here.’ We kept on walking until I saw two Turtujarti trees next to a jumu [ephemeral water]. [Talking to her sister] ‘What’s that water called where there’s two trees next to it?’ ‘Ah, this is Puntarrpuntarr. Let’s dig for water,’ I said. Nothing. No water. So we camped there that night.
In the morning we took off again. We saw Jukuna’s [Mona Chuguna] mother-in-law along the way. When I saw her I started crying with her. ‘You’re still alive,’ I said to her, ‘I thought you were dead!’ We sat there and cried there for a while. After we finished crying she said, ‘Come on, let’s go look for our people. They went east, let’s go and look for them.’ We got up early that morning and started walking east. We didn’t carry any water with us, we just went. We kept on walking until we came to a salty marsh area. ‘I know this place,’ I said. ‘This is Pirnti. They told me about this place.’ We kept on walking, went up a sand hill and then I saw Puntarrpuntarr with two tree beside it. I dug for water there but didn’t find any. It was too far down. No, that’s Parkarnyung not Puntarrpuntarr. Parkarnyung with one Turtujarti tree beside it. We saw where people had camped. There were blankets on the ground and bough sheds. They built their camp not long ago and left that place now, Parkarnyung. ‘Where’s the water?’ That old man kept asking me. ‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘Somewhere this way.’
We kept on walking. It started to drizzle rain. We kept on going until we found water in a clay pan. We had a good drink. We were thirsty, two days without water. We kept on going. In the morning we came to place where there were two hills and a jumu [ephemeral water]. We dug there but no water. ‘Let’s go,’ I told my so-called husband. So we kept on going until we came to water. We watered ourselves down, had a drink and a rest. After a while I told them, ‘Let’s go hunting. You mob know how to go hunting for goanna or what?’ So I went off. I found a big one on a tree and I killed it. It was so big and full of fat. We cooked it and ate it. There was plenty of kumpupaja [bush tomato] there too. That was the last time we saw it. After eating and drinking water we set off again, hunting goannas along the way. We kept on going and then that old man said, ‘We’ll wait here until the moon comes up.’ So, while we were waiting we cooked up the goannas we got along the way. When the moon came up a bit high we took off, at night with the moonlight, walking, no water.
We kept on going until we came to a rockhole. It had a stone as a lid over it, covering it up. We threw the stone away. There was water in there but too far down to reach, so we covered it back up and kept on walking over sandhills. We went walking until the sun came up. In the morning we were walking through hilly Country. Now we came to a creek and there was water there, so we had a good drink. There was a windmill there, belong to kartiya [white people]. That old man cooked a goanna. He didn’t cook it properly, he cooked it with shit and everything still inside it. ‘Why did you muck up that meat?’ I told him. ‘I don’t know how to cook these big goannas,’ he said. ‘I only know them little ones, wirlka.
We went to the windmill and those two started chasing bullocks. The bullocks came for water at the windmill. We cried for that windmill too! At the windmill we saw buckets full of tar, they used to put that on cattle. These two girls and them two fellas, they started drinking it, then they got sick. Not me, I didn’t drink it. I was cooking goannas. ‘What’s that you mob drinking?’ I said. ‘No, we are drinking this thing like kalaka [honey] that belongs to the white man.’ ‘Up to you mob,’ I said. ‘I’m cooking goanna, you mob drink it.’ They had no shame drinking that thing. Them two fellas then went and jumped into the water and were sitting there, and them two sisters they were vomiting. Me, I was eating. After a while I said, ‘You mob ok?’ Them two girls were lying down and the two old fellas were still in the water. I told them, ‘No shame. You mob went and drank something you don’t know. Me, I was alright I never drink that thing. I was eating goanna.’ That goanna jarrampayi [goanna]from the river Country. Them girls said, ‘Mummy, I don’t what it was that we drank that made us sick.’ ‘Up to you mob, you think you know what you drinking,’ I told them.
They were vomiting too much and they started to eat dirt. I went to sleep then to have a rest, this was at night. In the morning they all woke up feeling better now. The girls told me they were feeling better now but they didn’t know what they drank to make them sick. I told them, ‘I was eating meat, you mob were drinking that thing.’ We took off walking. We killed a pussycat on the way, even the kittens. We kept on walking until we saw this thing spinning around.
‘What is that thing?’ I said, ‘Ah that’s a windmill. There’s water there,’ I said. There were some people there on holidays too [after station work] but they were a bit further down from the windmill, old people, they all passed away now. We saw plenty of marnuwiji [konkaberry] trees there too, they where full of berries. We collected big mobs of them. ‘We’ll cook that pussycat tonight,’ I said. ‘Let’s collect these marnuwiji instead.’ My husband then told me, ‘Let’s go this way. Let them collect them marnuwiji.’ He took me away and gave me a big hiding all because of meat. Because I didn’t save him any he flogged me till I was bleeding from my head. ‘You should have saved me that meat!’ he told me, that man who died, my husband.
I then washed myself in the water to clean my head of blood. ‘You got no shame giving me a hiding! I’m from a different tribe,’ I told him. Yuwayi [yes], finish. We took off at day break to Ngarlpala [Wattle Springs]. He speared a bullock there early in the morning while it was drinking water. I heard that noise he made when he speared it. ‘Light a fire!’ he shouted. ‘I wanna cook this meat,’ he said. ‘You light the fire,’ I told him. ‘Cook some meat for me parnany [wife],’ he said. So I had to cook them for him. I cooked his meat on sand. That’s how we used to cook meat in them days. We saw a person coming, he heard us spearing the bullock. He saw us and left us. He was frightened of us, this person from Kurungal [Wangkatjungka]. He’s dead now. He went and told the other mob and they came with a tractor. ‘Come here,’ they said. ‘We are your countrymen too. We speak Wangkajunga,’ they said. ‘We are Wangkajunga speakers,’ they said. ‘We came here to this Country from the desert before you mob. You mob are the last ones to walk in here. We are family,’ they said. They told us to follow them. We threw the meat away and took off.
After a while I looked back and saw that tractor driving away with people on the trailer. They already told the manager about us spearing bullock, and the policeman too. We kept on walking until we came to a hill, that hill not from the community. We kept going and came to a windmill and drank water there. I don’t know what that windmill’s name is, near that hill. We kept on going until we came to a creek. Them two speared another bullock there. ‘Why aren’t you frightened?’ I told them. ‘We just saw people who worked for kartiya [white people]. They will tell on us,’ I said. ‘I’m hungry,’ he said. ‘Yeah, cook it and eat it.’ I said, ‘They are following behind us. I saw them,’ I said. We started to cook them on the other side of the creek. We were cooking them on hot sand. Some we buried in the sand. We camped there and in the morning we went to the river, Kurungal river. We were lying in the shade in the river. Those mob that we saw were tracking us from behind. They where following us.
In the afternoon we took off again. We headed towards Pirripa [Chula Yards]. Pirrapa, I’m calling that place on the Kurungal river. We camped there. In the morning I went digging for water in the river bed, then I heard a noise. Them two killed another bullock, then I heard strange noises. We took off. It was the police. We saw the people we saw earlier, they were on both sides of us. Them girls were swimming. Then they came up to me. I was still carrying a bone with me to eat later but I threw it away in fright. The policeman came and he was taking pictures of the bullock they killed. That bullock was fat too. We were crying, frightened of what might happen to us. ‘Stop crying,’ they told us. ‘We are taking you mob to the station. We are family. We are Wangkajunga,’ they said. ‘We are bushmen too,’ they said. ‘You are family.’ They were talking to us in Kukatja too. Me, I’m a Walmajarri person. I been sit down Walmajarri. ‘Pa parnany [let’s go wife]. They’re gonna take us,’ that old man told me. They took us to Kurungal [Christmas Creek].
Along the way I saw gates for the first time. ‘What do these thing do?’ I said. We kept on going until we reached the station. People were everywhere, they were all waiting for us. They were waving and shouting at us. They took us into a house, that policeman did, the policeman from here, Fitzroy. We waited there for a while, inside that house. The policeman was taking photos of us. We were all naked. We didn’t have anything on, yawi [poor thing]. Big shame. My two husband, they took them to jail in Fitzroy [Crossing]. One old white lady, she gave us a bath with water and soap. Then she kept us at the house, looking after us while them other two, they took the two brothers to Fitzroy. We stayed there for a while. Kartiya [white people] gave us blankets. Then the people came over and started talking to us. One old lady, Bluey’s wife, started speaking to the girls saying that she knew their mother. ‘Leave her alone,’ I said. ‘You mob left us with out coming back for us,’ I said. Those kartiya took us around and showed us the station. We stayed with them for a while and then we were allowed to stay with the people, our families. The two blokes, policeman took them, they never came back. One got killed at Leopold Station.
Then we started working. They were teaching us, them old people. They were showing us how to use iron tools. I worked for the station, building fences, even building fences around bores. The white people were showing us. We all worked, men and women. One them fellas from our party, he went back to the desert. I tried following him to bring him back. I only found the clothes he was wearing but he was gone. Probably still there, I don’t know. That young fella, one Tjapaljarri one. My husband, he was working at Leopold with old Bluey and one old man from Billiluna, Campoven, that’s his name. After a while I got sick. I went to hospital for operation. That’s when they told me my husband had passed. The doctors and nurses told me. I cried there at the hospital poor fella. Bluey lost him there at Leopold. Bluey and Lurn [Willie Kew]. I was single now. I went travelling. I went to Balgo and stayed with them two Tjungurrayi’s for a while [Kamara Brandy Tjungurrayi and Olodoodi (Alatuti) Patrick Tjungurrayi – they call Penny K-Lyons aunty].
This is how I’m living now, like this now. Finished. He died. I was travelling around, no husband, single woman. I didn’t want anybody. We’re all women here. Haven’t got husbands. Some in Kurungal [Wangkajunga], some in Ngumpan. He was the only husband I had. He was cheeky. Nyamu [finished].
Rights: Cultural Owner & Storyteller: Nyangkarni Penny K-Lyons; © FORM, transcript only
Provenance: This material is sourced from Ngurra Kuju Walyja — the Canning Stock Route Project, which was initiated in 2006 by FORM and developed in partnership with Birriliburu, Kayili, KALACC, Mangkaja, Martumili, Ngurra, Papunya Tula, Paruku IPA, Warlayirti and Yulparija artists and art centres.