Language of the Week: Week Twenty-Five - Luthigh

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this blog post may contain images or names of Aboriginal people who have passed; this is not meant to cause distress or offence but raise awareness of our shared history and the story of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages across Queensland.

Welcome to Week Twenty-Five of the A-Z of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages!

This week's language of the week is Luthigh, one of the languages of Western Cape York. Luthigh is also known as Luthig, Okara and often referred to as Winduwinda, Uradhi or Teppathiggi. This uncertainty over the language and its name is due to the proximity of a cluster of related languages and dialects on Western Cape, particularly in the Ducie River Catchment where Luthigh was traditionally spoken. Hale and McConnell have undertaken linguistic research in the region and identify Luthigh and Mpalitjanh as being closely related dialects.

Pama Language Centre map, showing location of Luthigh.

The map above is from the Pama Language Centre website and shows the location of Luthigh and neighbouring languages.

The expansion of cattle and later gold into the region and the presence of Native Police on the Cape resulted in frontier violence with remnant Aboriginal groups removed to missions such as Batavia River Mission. Batavia Mission was established in 1891 by Moravian missionaries James Ward and Reverend Hey. Initially groups from Teppathiggi, Mpakwithi, Thaynhakwith, Warrangku, Wimarangga and Yupungathi along with Luthigh peoples were sent to Batavia. It was later renamed Mapoon and operated by the Presbyterian church; the name ‘Mapoon’ is believed to be an anglicised translation of a Tjungundji word meaning ‘place where people fight on the sand-hills’.  

At Batavia Mission, traditional languages were forbidden and there is minimal documentation on Luthigh - Roth collated some words from Hey at Batavia Mission, while later linguistic work in the region by McConnell and Thomson included references to Luthigh. Contemporary work by Hale, Sutton, Rigsby and others found little evidence of Luthigh which shares some words with neighbouring languages of Teppathiggi, Mpalitjanh and Tjungundji.

The following words are from an historical list from Ducie River published in The Queenslander, 10 April 1897:

  • ippee - water
  • ongoin - saltwater
  • ongwa - fire
  • anannambulla - walk
  • eeamballa - crocodile

In the 1960's with the advent of bauxite mining in the region, the Queensland Government forced residents to relocate to New Mapoon on the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA). There are some Luthigh knowledge holders at New Mapoon; however, according to Austlang the language is considered endangered. Community efforts on NPA as well as family groups who have returned to Old Mapoon are supported by the Pama Language Centre as well as Northern Peninsula Area Regional Council.


State Library collections hold limited material on Luthigh with some vocabulary included in general references on languages from Western Cape York. Some published works of Roth, McConnell, Thomson, Hale, Sutton and Rigsby are held in the collections; however the bulk of their work is held in other institutions, including UQ Fryer Library and AIATSIS.


Join State Library for next week's Language of the Week - Maiawali from Western Queensland!


Desmond Crump

Indigenous Languages Coordinator, State Library of Queensland

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Webpages

State Library of Queensland Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Languages Map


Spoken: Celebrating Queensland languages exhibition

Spoken Virtual Tour

Jarjum Stories exhibition

Minya Birran: What next for Indigenous Languages?


Additional material for this blog post was drawn from the Pama Language Centre, AUSTLANG and the Queensland Government Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community Histories wepbages.



Cover image: Three children on a swing at the Mapoon Presbyterian Mission, 1935, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Negative number: 72523

Language groups of Cape York. Sourced from Pama Language Centre website.


References and Further Reading

State Library collections have some material relating to Luthigh language and people; such items are usually part of generic language materials from Cape York.

Dixon, R. M. W. and Blake, B. (Eds) (1981) Handbook of Australian languages, vol. 2. J 499.15 HAN

Erkenbrecht, C. (2017) "German Moravian missionaries on western Cape York Peninsula and their perception of the local Aboriginal people and languages", in Petersen, N., and Kenny, A. (2017) German Ethnography in Australia. Available online via One Search.

Paton, F. (1911) Glimpses of Mapoon: the story of a visit to the north Queensland mission stations of the Presbyterian ChurchP 266.52 PAT

Roth, W. E. (1901-1910) North Queensland Ethnography: Bulletins 1-18.  NAT 306.089 rot 

Roth, W. E. (1898-1903) "Reports to the Commissioner of Police and others, on Queensland aboriginal peoples 1898-1903." FILM 0714

Sutton, P. (ed) (1974) Languages of Cape York: papers presented to the Linguistic Symposium, Part B, held in conjunction with the Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies Biennial General Meeting, May,1974 G 499.15 1976

Tindale, N. B. (1974) Aboriginal tribes of Australia: their terrain, environmental controls, distribution, limits and proper namesQ 994.0049915 tin

Ward, A.(1908) The miracle of Mapoon, or, From native camp to Christian villageRBJ 266.52 WAR

Wharton,G. (1996) The Day They Burned Mapoon: A Study of the Closure of a Queensland Presbyterian Mission. Dissertation available online via One Search.

The Queenslander, 10 April 1897, p. 794. Accessed from NLA/Trove Newspapers.



AUSTLANG Australian Indigenous Languages website

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS) website

Pama Language Centre website.

UQ Fryer Library website


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