There are several issues when it comes to sacred trees …

Comment on Old tree danger: council was told two years ago by Smithy.

There are several issues when it comes to sacred trees in Alice Springs that the public need to be made aware of.
The fact that some trees have totemic or associated stories is just that, a fact.
These trees may be landmarks that indicate where something significant happened, either in the altyerre or in the distant past, an individual’s conception place, or like the Ntyalke tree near the library roundabout, be of the sacred nature.
One of the main problems has been that the public has just been told that any mature redgum tree is sacred; that it cannot be touched, trimmed or interfered with, even if it is on their residential block or falling onto business premises, endangering the public’s safety.
Just look at the picture in the article. My question to the senior custodian(s) is, how can you expect the broader public to understand or respect sacred trees, when no traditional names / interpretations are given on signs for these trees (bar a couple and very limited info at that), no public stories are told and generally, the community are shut out to how important these sites really are?
Some of the trees in question in the past cannot have been more than 40 to 50 years old, but the community are told as a blanket rule, they are all sacred? Well if so, educate us!
What about the twin trees at Traeger Park that were deliberately killed and, will likely fall some day? The immediate site is important, no doubt, but why hasn’t the removal of these dead trees and then respectful replanting of the same species taken place?
The public’s understanding of sites in general in Alice Springs is so limited, yet Aboriginal people just expect that the community should respect them.
Well, while sites have gates up (Judge’s Hill) that make a once special place appear like a dungeon (with weed / buffel infestations), the public who don’t understand Aboriginal relationship to land will not respect it.
The many, many sites in Alice Springs clearly show the current TOs and caretakers are doing nothing to protect / respect these places and it’s time that these people take steps to ensure these special locations are looked after.
They need to be maintained and cleaned and not wait for Government to fund these activities, but just do it because that’s what the people before you did.

Smithy Also Commented

Old tree danger: council was told two years ago
@ Just saying;
You make some interesting and valid points, but I think in some ways you are just reinforcing what the actual problem/issue is.
One only needs to look at the recent article on this site about the Claypans Group who have taken positive action, gotten organised, their hands dirty and started to remove rubbish from the claypans. All voluntarily. The group should be commended.

What you are saying is that sites cannot be maintained without the approval of AAPA; or in other terms, AAPA are now the custodians, removing responsibility and accountability.

Your point that identifying sites leads to desecration is true and we see examples of that all over Australia. However, many of these trees or sites have been identified through media (such as this site) or publications, yet the only information the public gets is ‘it’s a sacred tree’. The public hear or know about many special sites in town but when they resemble rubbish tips or badly kept gardens, or have barbed wire around them it is not a good look.

While buffel was not a factor in pre-European days, it’s highly likely that sites were maintained through weeding to prevent overgrowth and risk of fire. We all know that fire was a constant in this landscape to maintain and protect land, so to prevent site desecration from fire, TOs had responsibility to ensure these places were not destroyed; just as they do now. Ranger groups throughout central Australia take similar measures to prevent wildfire destroying sacred places. Why can’t the Mparntarenye? Rock art was also touched up and repainted over generations and we are lucky enough to see the fruits of the previous generations labours at rock art sites close to town. How long till these paintings fade out?

If we put up more fences, or have to ask an outside body like AAPA to do anything with our sites, while allowing them to slowly rot and be damaged, then responsibility for their neglect can only lie with the current generation.


Recent Comments by Smithy

Conflicting stories for Parrtjima’s lights on the hill
Why shouldn’t Elders be paid for their consultancy work? Any other person providing professional advice in any other profession would charge a consultancy fee – and a steep one at that! $$. These Elders are constantly humbugged by Government and Organisations in Alice Springs because of their status as key owners and caretakers. Government and Org’s do not see or live the stress these Elders have to deal with that exists in the Aboriginal landscape here. These leaders are torn down and heavily criticised within this community by their own people, and also by Government or non-Aboriginal people who want them to make immediate decisions about events, festivals, land developments etc. This is why even the simplest of decisions about land or development is a major issue.

We should be applauding Apmereke-artweye Benedict Stevens and Kwertengwerles Coco and Felicity for engaging with this highly contentious process.


Dreamtime stories in the palm of your hand
Anthwerrke, Emily Gap, is a major Utnerrengatye site. Not Yeperenye and not Ntyarlke.
The signage/name change is even wrong. The CLC anthro should be helping TOs with proper research as there has been a breakdown in knowledge.
This looks to be a great idea but CLC/TOs, do us a favour and get the story and placenames correct. Jessie Gap signage is wrong too.


Song injects life into lights on the hill
Great to see Apmereke-artweye, Benedict Stevens, involved. He is the owner of the area we now call Alice Springs and as a community we should support and get behind him.

A side note – the organisers should be using the correct eastern/central Arrernte spelling ‘Pwarrtyeme’. The current spelling ‘Parrtjima’ is using the western dialect and is not the correct language for the Alice Springs area. It may also encourage the public to use the correct orthography, developed by Arrernte language workers since the 1980’s.


Indigenous art gallery, cultural centre: combined or separate?
To the committee:
If the rumour mill is true, you cannot call the centre ‘Nganampa’. It is to be built on Arrernte country and should have an Arrernte name.


Elders appeal to respect sacred sites
@ Mike,
Thanks for your comments. However, I cannot agree that for any sort of minor weed management on significant sites (such as hand weeding for example) or rubbish collection – AAPA needs to be consulted.
That implies that AAPA are now the owners / caretakers and takes real decision making and Aboriginal governance away from the hands of TOs. Unfortunately, this has become a reality as there is too much conjecture over who the TOs are (despite who you may think they are), who has the right to talk and whether the people that do talk have the authority to.
The addition of AAPA into any such conversation over simple NRM management is ridiculous, especially when local Aboriginal people want to be proactive in the management of their country.


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