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Tiwi Pitek, Emily
The Tiwi are Aboriginal inhabitants of Australia’s Melville and Bathurst islands. This entry focuses on the Tiwi living on Melville Island around 1929 (before substantial European influence). At this time, the primary social unit was autonomous clans with fluid leadership based upon prestige. The major components of the Tiwi religion consist of taboos (pukimani), beliefs and rituals related to death and burial, initiation ceremonies for boys, and mythology (Hart and Piling, 1960:87). Religion played a minimal role in daily life, aside from occasional ceremonies and the pukimani system. The pukimani system is best described as a temporary state of being, during which certain behaviors are prescribed (for example, a woman is pukimani for a week or two after giving birth) (Hart and Piling, 1960:88). There are no religious specialists or practitioners (such as a priest, shaman, or medicine man) among the Tiwi.
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