Traditionally, seven languages were spoken across Martu country, forming seven contiguous regions named after the traditional language groupings. Martu see these regions of country not simply as being where the speakers of the languages reside, but rather, the languages are embedded in and describe the country. In this way, Martu languages encode a wealth of cultural, spiritual and ecological knowledge.
Through KJ’s language program, the capability of Martu adults to understand the richly complex and intricate cultural and ecological knowledge encoded within Martu languages and stories is being recovered and honed. When once asked what motivates Martu to work, KJ’s senior cultural advisor said three words:
kalyu (sacred waters); and
wangka (language and story).
All three are inseparable from one another, and all three are of vital importance to Martu. For this reason, the language program is being integrated into all facets of KJ’s work:
younger Martu work on-country alongside elders
through KJ’s cross-cultural leadership program; and
in KJ’s Women and Families and Junior Ranger programs.
This work ensure that important linguistic, cultural and ecological knowledge about Martu land, society and values remains alive and passed down to future generations.
“Future generations with tenacity must keep properly holding onto and caring for the languages and stories they belong to, forever. The languages and stories belonging to the old people that will be left behind by the old people – the languages that belong to Martu, that belong to initiated men – future generations of children must keep properly holding onto and caring tenaciously for these languages and stories. Yes, forever! Forever for future generations, by future generations of our children, they will continue being looked after. Our future generations of children will not leave them behind by accident. Truly — they must not accidentally leave behind languages that belong to eternity for the languages that belong to whitefellas, and forget about the languages and stories that belong to us. As people without absence of mind who don’t forget, they need to keep properly holding onto and caring for our languages and stories tenaciously… It’s Martu ninti this — yes — and Martu lead the way for this language program!”
— Muuki Taylor, KJ Senior Cultural Advisor