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Arrernte people

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Arrernte welcoming dance, entrance of the strangers, Alice Springs, Central Australia, 9 May 1901, photograph
Artist Albert Namatjira was a Western Arrernte man.

The Arrernte (/ˈʌrəndə/) people, sometimes referred to as the Aranda, Arunta or Arrarnta, are a group of Aboriginal Australian peoples who live in the Arrernte lands, at Mparntwe[1][2] (Alice Springs)[a] and surrounding areas of the Central Australia region of the Northern Territory. Many still speak one of the various Arrernte dialects. Some Arrernte live in other areas far from their homeland, including the major Australian cities and overseas.

Arrernte mythology and spirituality focuses on the landscape and The Dreaming. Altjira is the creator being of the Inapertwa that became all living creatures. Tjurunga are objects of religious significance.

The Arrernte Council is the representative and administrative body for the Arrernte Lands and is part of the Central Land Council.

Tourism is important to the economy of Alice Springs and surrounding communities.[3][b]

Arrernte languages


"Aranda" is a simplified, Australian English approximation of the traditional pronunciation of the name of Arrernte [ˈarəɳ͡ɖa].[5] The ancestors of the Arrernte all spoke one or more of the many Arrernte dialects in the Arrernte group of languages. Today several are completely or nearly extinct, but some (especially Eastern or Central Arrernte) are widely spoken and taught in schools.

The Arrernte also had a highly developed sign language.[6]


The Hunters of the Central Australian Desert: Arunta Hunter diorama at the Milwaukee Public Museum

Arrernte religion and cultural life were documented thoroughly from the late nineteenth century by the Lutheran missionary Carl Strehlow, the seminal Australian anthropologists Walter Baldwin Spencer and Francis Gillen and later by T. G. H. Strehlow. The Arrernte men worked with Strehlow to document their songs and ceremonies between 1932 and 1974.[7] Arrernte oral history discusses the region of Alice Springs (Mparntwe) and its environs being shaped by primordial caterpillar-beings known as Ayepe-arenye (Hyles livornicoides), Ntyarlke (Hippotion celerio), and Utnerrengatye (Coenotes eremophilae) which were ancestral to the Arrernte people. The eastern MacDonnell Ranges was formed by the Ayepe-arenye, while the western portion of the ranges was formed by Ntyarlke.[8][9][10]



The Arrernte's lands, according to Norman Tindale's estimate, encompass some 47,000 square miles (120,000 km2).[11] Of their overall territory he wrote that they were:

At Mount Gosse, Mount Zeil, and Mount Heughlin; on the Finke River to Idracowra, Blood Creek, Macumba, Mount Dare, and Andado, and some distance east into the sandhills of the Arunta (Simpson) Desert; northeast to Intea on the lower Hale River, thence north to Ilbala on Plenty River; west to Inilja and Hart Range, Mount Swan, Gillen Creek, Connor Well, and Narwietooma; in Central MacDonnell, James, and Ooraminna Ranges.[11]



The name Arrernte refers to the following distinct groups (or "mobs"):

See also

Spirituality & mythology



Explanatory notes

  1. ^ Earlier the town was also referred to as Tjoritja, the word for the MacDonnell Ranges, and also frequently as Kapmanta (etymologically, kaputa(head) plus manta (thick), because it struck Arrernte visitor as so many packed corrugated roofs together ('head' as in househead/roof) ('In neuerer Zeit wird Alice Springs häufig Kapmanta genannt:kap ist eine Abkürzing von kaputa = Kopf und manta = dicht.) Kapmanta heißt wörtlich: dichter Kopf. Gemeint sind:dichte Dächer (Dach = des Hauses Kopf) weil hier die Eingeboreren zuerst mit Wellblech gedeckte Dächer gesehen haben'. (Strehlow 1907, p. 42, n.7)
  2. ^ The Arrernte way of life is presented through tour guides and storytellers speaking of the life, their artwork, their culture and language in a variety of different ways. Tours are run regularly to Hermannsburg and Wallace Rockhole, both of which are (Western) Arrernte,[4] so as to learn more about the Arrernte way of life, from their artwork to their culture and language.


  1. ^ Brooks 1991.
  2. ^ Short 2013, p. 196.
  3. ^ Ryan, Deane & Cunningham 2008, pp. 286–288.
  4. ^ AAA&CC.
  5. ^ Turpin 2004.
  6. ^ Kendon 1988, pp. 49–50.
  7. ^ Gibson 2020.
  8. ^ "Local Community & Culture". Alice Springs Town Council. Retrieved 13 August 2021. Arrernte stories describe how the landscape surrounding Alice, including the MacDonnell Ranges, was created by the actions of their ancestors, the caterpillar beings Ayepe-arenye, Ntyarlke and Utnerrengatye.
  9. ^ Walsh, Fiona (13 February 2017). "Box BIO11 Caterpillars as big as a mountain: the role of spiritual beliefs about animals and plants". Australia State of the Environment Report. Archived from the original on 6 October 2019. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  10. ^ Sleath, Emma. "Sacred caterpillars plentiful after the rain". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 13 August 2021.
  11. ^ a b Tindale 1974, pp. 220–221.

General and cited sources