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HomeIssue 5NAIDOC celebrates the Wild Dog Story of Alice Springs

NAIDOC celebrates the Wild Dog Story of Alice Springs

“When I look at my Country I see this story all around me.” Apmereke-artweye (custodian) Doris Stuart yesterday shared Ayeye Akngwelye Mpartnwe-arenye – the Wild Dog Story of Alice Springs – with the crowd of hundreds, Aboriginal and other Australians and no doubt some lucky visitors, celebrating NAIDOC on the Town Council lawns. Helping her do it were grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends.
2345-NAIDOC-dog-story-2We heard how long ago, “at the beginning of time”, Akngwelye, the local dog, lived here happily with his family – “caring for each other and playing in their desert home” – until a stranger dog came from the south. Climbing Alhekulyele – Mount Gillen, the peak of the range that towers over the town – the stranger came across a girl dog in a cave. He attacked her and left her to die.
He picked up the scent of Akngwelye’s mate and puppies and was coming for them when Akngwelye confronted him down on the dusty plain. They fought. Akngwelye ripped the stranger’s belly open, and left his guts on the ground. You can see this trace of their battle in the site known as Yarrentye (below right, photograph of site by Melinda Hooper)on the west side of town.
Neither dog died. The stranger, hurt and scared, went back through the Gap (Ntaripe) and fell asleep in the fork of a tree. Akngwelye limped to the shelter of a tree from where he had a clear view of his country and lay down, keeping watch.
He never made it back to his mate and her puppies, metamorphosing into a boulder embedded in the ground, where he is still, guarding his Country. This is the site known as Akngwelye Thirrewe. Today it is “chained, confined and surrounded by concrete”.
When Mrs Stuart was a child her old people still had ceremony at Akngwelye Thirrewe. Her father would tell her to stroke Akngwelye whenever she passed near.
Yesterday her friends held up large photographs of each of the main sites where Akngwelye’s story unfolds: “It is my job to protect these places,” Mrs Stuart (left) told the crowd in her recorded narration. “I inherited this responsibility from my Father’s Father. It is a hard job, you can see from these photos that a lot of damage has been and continues to be done to our sacred places.”
The re-enactment was a beautiful reminder of the way in which Mparntwe / Alice Springs is inherently an Aboriginal cultural centre. This is spelled out in the country itself and is kept alive by its Arrernte custodians.
As Rosalie Riley said in her opening remarks to the crowd, richly inter-mingling Arrernte and English: “In the 21st century we are still strong in our language … ceremony … still singing the country, still dancing the country, telling the story for the country, we are still strong, that makes us proud …”
p2345-NAIDOC-dog-rockDoes the town as a whole do enough on all the rest of the days of the year to acknowledge this cultural achievement and legacy? How can the disrespectful situation at Akngwelye Thirrewe (right, photograph by Melinda Hooper) be tolerated?  These are questions worth asking, especially as the bid to host a national Indigenous cultural centre here on Mparntwe country gathers pace.
Notes: The narration of the Wild Dog Story was adapted from the story as told by B. Stevens, 1988. The reenactment was directed by Mrs Stuart’s granddaughter Leanora Stuart. The cast included grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends: Djarrin Stuart, Eli Clarke, Cushla Murphy, Kealeigh Stuart, Nahvee Stuart, Jacob Clarkson and Dominic Richards.
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  1. The question posed for the “Dog Rock”: “How can the disrespectful situation at Akngwelye Thirrewe be tolerated?” could be turned around as “how has it managed to continue to exist there”.
    It’s in the vicinity of where the Central Australian Railway passenger terminal once used to be, which for decades was the principal transport hub servicing Alice Springs.
    When you take into account the war materiel and tens of thousands of Allied troops that passed through this site during World War Two (up to 56 trains per week at one stage) and that the Alice railhead was actually one of Australia’s busiest in the 1950s, handling the bulk of the NT’s cattle exports transported to South Australia – all at a time when Aboriginal sacred sites simply didn’t register in the public consciousness, it’s astonishing to me that this little outcrop of rock avoided being demolished through all of this time.
    Inconspicuous as it is now, Akngwelye Thirrewe for the last 30 years is safe as it’s ever been since the railway arrived here in the late 1920s.

  2. Here’s another thought to gnaw upon – the Wild Dog story on face value cannot be ancient, given that it’s known from fossil records and other sources that wild dogs or dingos were introduced to Australia about 5,000 years ago.
    That’s comparatively recent; and Aboriginal people would have been living here in the Centre many thousands of years prior to dingos turning up on the scene.
    There’s at least one very old rock art site in the Top End which illustrates this point nicely, as it clearly depicts not dingos but thylacines (Tasmanian tigers). These animals, along with Tasmanian devils, were displaced across the Australian mainland by dingos (which in turn never made it to Tasmania).
    So it begs the question, what was the original Dreamtime creation story for the Alice Springs area? Is today’s Wild Dog story an adaptation of a Thylacine story?
    Recent research into Aboriginal stories along Australia’s east coast relating to changes in sea-level rises has proven to be remarkably accurate, giving an account of events that occurred at the end of the last Ice Age some 11,000 years ago.
    In light of this, it seems to me there is a potentially rich field of inquiry into a similar aspect to the Creation stories pertaining to Mparntwe, which to my knowledge, hasn’t been given any consideration.

  3. Good story and thanks to commentator Alex Nelson who made it all the more interesting

  4. Terrific day down at the council lawns where the significance of the theme (songlines) for NAIDOC week was displayed by all the speakers and artists who performed that day.
    One thing I would like to highlight is that the Akngwelye (dog) story performed was brilliant and was very well spoken and presented in the form that was open and available for all to watch and hear, well done to all.
    The Akngwleye (dog) story belonging to this place Tyerretye is very important. The true story of the battles and the disagreements that took place in the Altyerre to create the spectacular landscape that we all live here in Alice Springs belongs to men and people are encouraged to acknowledge this.

  5. This story at least on one level seems to be about entering this country Mparntwe without respect and trying to claim for your own.
    This story was given by old Mr Stevens to be shared with kids and people living in Mparntwe it was narrated by Ms Stuart Kngwarreye Apmereke Artweye with every right to share it.
    So many people have no respect for the Mparntwe Arenye people, few know who they are.
    Some are trying to claim their country as their own, showing a lack of respect for their own grandparents and the country where they belong and no respect for the Mparntwe people or Arrernte law.
    These people, and you might find a few of them down at Lhere Artepe, are continuing the process of invasion and colonisation. Where are your grandfathers from?


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