Piltawodli, located to the northern bank of the Torrens River, opposite the Adelaide Gaol on the current site of the North Adelaide Golf Links is an important site in the history of relations between Kaurna people and European colonists. The site, covering about 14 acres, was chosen as the first ‘native location’ as the settlers sought to relocate the Kaurna people from their traditional campsites. The name is probably derived from the Kaurna word for ‘brushtail possum home’.
In late 1838 the site was established and German missionaries Teichelmann, Schürmann and Klose established a school there in 1839 to record and teach the Kaurna language. These Lutheran missionaries lived here alongside the Kaurna people until 1845, when the school was moved. The location slipped into disuse by the end of the 1840s.
The goal of the missionaries to translate the Christian Bible into the Kaurna language was unfulfilled, but they did manage to record the earliest and most comprehensive account of the language at the time of European arrival. Teichelmann and Schürmann’s vocabulary of Kaurna language, produced in 1840 contained more than 2 000 words. However, English language had largely supplanted it by the 1860s. The Kaurna woman Ivaritji, born in the late 1840s, who died in 1929, is often regarded as the last native speaker.
Nothing remains of the original ‘native location’ but the site is important because it marks the first attempt by the colonists to ‘settle’ the original inhabitants in a fixed location. It is also a place where a genuine effort was made by European settlers to honor and understand Indigenous culture.
In 2000, a memorial was installed at Piltawodli to commemorate National Sorry Day. It includes images of Kadlitpinna (Captain Jack) a Kaurna elder at the time of colonisation, the German missionaries Teichelmann and Shurmann, as well as the script of a letter sent by a 12 year old boy Pitpauwe, seeking more toys from Germany.