One of the advantages of being a compulsive book buyer is that I tend to have a book available for every occasion. Thus, when I learned that on my visit to Alice Springs in 1997 I would have the chance to attend a demonstration of the customs of the Warlpiri tribe, I thought it was time I read the book I had purchased twenty years before: Desert People, a Study of the Walbiri Aborigines of Central Australia by M. J. Meggitt. Written in 1962, it had the added advantage of describing the tribe as it existed in the 1950s, before they had picked up the worst parts of our civilisation.
"Alice Springs is not the homeland of the Warlpiris," explained our white guide. "Their territory extends from Yuendumu and Mt. Eclipse right up northwest to Hall's Creek in Western Australia."
"So," I said, "they have further extended their range in the last fifty years."
"What do you mean?" he asked.
I then explained how Meggitt had recorded that, originally, they lived south of Winnecke Creek. Nevertheless, with the decline of other tribes, they managed to extend their range - at one stage by force, at another by ceremonial purchase - north to the headwaters of the Victoria River and southeast to Teatree. But by 1962, they still had not expanded to Hall's Creek.
"Well, we were told they had always lived there," the white guide replied.
Don't believe everything an Aborigine tells you, my man.