Norman Tindale states that the name is based on their word for 'no' (ii).
In Tindale's estimation the Iwaidja possessed some 100 square miles (260 km2) of tribal lands. Their centre was at Mountnorris Bay, in the eastern area of the Cobourg Peninsula. Tindale interprets Paul Foelsche's Unalla as a reference to the Iwaidja. Foelsche informed Edward Micklethwaite Curr that:
Four other groups were reported to share the same territory, though for Tindale their status as either hordes or independent tribes was undetermined. They were listed as:
- Wonga:ran (in the mainland area immediately opposite Croker Island
- Ka:ri:k. (east of Cape Don)
- Nga:dalwuli. (a coastal people lying to the east of the Ka:ri:k.)
- Mandu:wit. (northwest, and east of the Nga:dalwuli).
History of contact
If we take the Unalla as interchangeable with the Iwaidja, they were a once numerous tribe which, with the onset of colonial settlement, was reduced to a mere 30 members by 1881, consisting of 7 men, 12 women, 9 boys and 2 girls. Foelsche stated that the community was ravaged after Malay traders introduced smallpox (mea-mea) during a visit in 1866.
- Tarula. (Melville Islanders exonym meaning 'riflemen'.
- The last two tribes were mentioned by Foelsche (together with the Eiwaja (which Tindale identified as another name for the Iwaidja which Tindale was unable to identify
- According to Tindale, they earned this monicker from the fact that they were employed by an early settler, Joe Cooper, to assist him in defending himself.
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