By Pastor Paul Traeger
Kamutu Tjungurrayi was born north of Kintore, NT.
Pastor Albrecht first met him in 1930 at Ilpili (Ehrenberg Range, east of Kintore) where he was a leader of the Pintupi people. This was the first time that the local people had seen a ‘white-skinned’ person. They thought Pastor Albrecht was a ghost. But Kamutu was perceptive enough to realize that this wasn’t the case.
In the 1930s Kamutu helped TGH Strehlow record traditional Pintupi stories. He also met evangelist Moses Tjalkabota during one of Moses’ trips to the western desert. He spent a lot of time with Kamutu, travelling with him, teaching him and sometimes being led by him, as Moses was blind. Everyone was amazed how well Kamutu memorized the stories Moses taught him, and how quickly he learnt Arrarnta and English.
Kamutu was most effective during the 1940s, when Haast’s Bluff operated as a ration station. By this time the worst of the payback killings in Central Australia were over and the church was able to operate in relative peace. He led many other Pintupi people into Haast’s Bluff and helped them settle in. Although Kamutu never learnt to read, he faithfully taught his people stories about God and his ways with human beings. They enjoyed hearing the gospel from one of their own tribe.
The church grew under Kamutu’s influence. Although there were occasional attacks on his character, he remained a respected leader of his people and faithful evangelist of God’s word. However in 1950 he was accused of using sorcery to kill two men. As payback for this alleged murder he was speared in a surprise attack late one afternoon at his camp near Haast’s Bluff. He died soon after from his wounds. The entire community was deeply shocked and lamented his death for many days. He was buried in a lonely grave near the place where he had been speared.
But the work Kamutu had done lived on. Not only did his family members grow in their faith (his younger brother became an evangelist), but his teaching continued to bear fruit in the lives of many others.
Kamutu is the only Pintupi person commemorated in song. And people at Haast’s Bluff and Papunya still tell stories about him today. It is possible that he was the first and only Aboriginal Christian martyr.