Parrtjima festival is meant to showcase Indigenous culture; instead it has raised the ire of some traditional custodians for infiltrating sacred land and lore

At the base of Mount Gillen, known as Alhekulyele for thousands of years to the central Arrernte people of Mparntwe (Alice Springs), a wild dog called Akngwelye fought an intruder in an epic battle watched on by his pups and their mother. The battle raged east along the ancient mountain range and through the tranquil valley, where the desert town of Alice Springs has since grown.

What might be considered folklore to many is eternally written in the western mountain range for the traditional custodians, whose once-sacred caves have been exposed to 150 years of occupation. A bitumen thoroughfare now runs below Ntaripe or Heavitree Gap, and the sacred markers – the clumps of rocks, a boulder and desolate trees – have been almost smothered, if not partially or completely destroyed by the ever-growing hub.

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