Looking for Barney Warrior

As mentioned in my first blog, my directed study is focusing on the life of the Ngadjuri man Barney Warrior and investigating what influence he had regarding anthropological and archaeological knowledge.

Barney Warrior’s knowledge is mostly couched within the written accounts and data made by anthropologists during the 1930s and 40s, a time when anthropology in South Australia was a burgeoning field of study. Warrior would be the primary source regarding Ngadjuri culture for some of the most prominent professionals and amateurs of the day, these included AP Elkin, who was working from the anthropology department at the University of Sydney (the country’s only “professional” anthropology department), Norman Tindale, South Australian Museum ethnographer and field worker with the University of Adelaide’s Board of Anthropological Research, Charles Mountford, honorary assistant in ethnology at the South Australian Museum and future foundation professor of anthropology at the University of Western Australia, Ronald Berndt.

So far my investigations have led me on a trail of trying to locate articles and field notes where Barney Warrior is visible in the text, and then to interpret how he is presented and how this knowledge has been publicised and used. What I have discovered is that Warrior is often referenced as the source of knowledge regarding the Ngadjuri, yet this is often an oblique reference, frequently only using one of his many traditional names in acknowledgement and in some instances only cited as a nameless “Ngadjuri informant”.

Obviously, it seems somewhat speculative to assume that a nameless Ngadjuri informant would be Barney Warrior, the paucity of information regarding the Ngadjuri and his prominence in interviews tends to imply this conclusion.

Despite the limited amount of information available, it is anticipated that this report will present Barney Warrior as more than just an “informant” but a key performer in these encounters, who engaged with anthropologists as a resource to record aspects of his culture that was rapidly changing and also supplying a commentary on the prejudiced society he lived through and was then living in.

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