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The survival of the Anindilyakwa language of Groote Eylandt on its encounter with English is a story of Aboriginal people’s adaptability and perseverance in the face of alternate visions for their island. When the Church Missionary Society arrived and, with Anindilyakwa people, established the Angurugu mission, an ongoing tension began over which language would be the language of the land: English or Anindilyakwa? This article argues that, since that time, Anindilyakwa people have used strategies of both accommodation and strategic resistance to maintain the strength of their language, compelling even missionaries and government to adapt to Anindilyakwa interests. Australia’s language histories such as this have implications for historians as they consider whose languages they listen to and remember. For historians, part of the ongoing process of reconciliation will be using Aboriginal languages as well as acknowledging and incorporating the stories of Australia’s languages in their work.


Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry

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Journal Article

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