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Kwatye - Water

Image of Arrernte Elder MK TurnerIn the deserts of Australia, survival depends on knowing how to find water. Kwatye includes all forms of water including rain, dew and running water. It is also used in describing related things such as frost, ice and steam as well as sources of water such as rainclouds, rockholes and soakages in creeks.

In the old days women carried water back to the family on their head in a wooden bowl (pmwerre) with a head ring (akarnte). Grasses were layed across the top of the water to stop it heating up.

Water from Soakages

Arrernte Kwatye ngentye
Story When the water in the creek dries up, you can still get water by digging with a pmwerre. You scoop out the first lot of water you find because it is dirty and then clean water flows back into the hole. That's the water you drink and share.

Water from Tree Hollows

Arrernte Kwatye wape
Story When it rains the water runs down the big old gum trees and the hollows fill up with water. You chop the solid part of the tree below the hollow with a rock or an axe.

Water from Tree Roots

Arrernte Kwatye utnarlperte
Story The roots of the Bloodwood Tree store water. You dig up the roots and drain the water into a bowl.

Water from Rock Holes

Arrernte Kwatye arnerre
English When the dark clouds were coming over the men would clean out the rockholes they filled up with clean water.

Compare with Sonoran Desert culture.