The Significance of Uluru to Australian Indigenous Culture
Uluru might be one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, but it’s also a hugely important part of the country’s cultural history.
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The landscape surrounding the monolith has been inhabited for thousands and thousands of years – long before the country was invaded in the 1800s. Today, Uluru and the Aboriginal culture that imbues the area are very much entwined in a historic narrative that spans generations.
Anangu People in Uluru
Aboriginal Australia’s have been living on and cultivating these lands since the beginning. They were here for centuries before European invasion in the 1800s. Across the country there were more than 500 Indigenous nations. Out of the 500 nations estimated to have lived here, there was over 260 distinct language groups and 800 dialects.
In the Uluru region, the local tribe are named the Anangu people. Dating back more than 60,000 years, the Anangu culture has always been a vital part of Central Australian life. Anangu Tjukurpa teach that the landscape was formed as their ancestral beings moved across the barren land.
For the Anangu people, live revolves around Tjukurpa, the cultural underpinnings of their society. Life and rebirth is vital in their beliefs, with Tjukurpa stories passed down from generation to generation. These stories, dances and songs underpin all of Anangu belief systems and society behaviours. Elders pass the stories to younger generations as deemed appropriate. Anangu must share their oral history to keep to ensure the continuation of their culture for generations to come.
While at Uluru and Kata Tjuta, you can learn more about the Anangu people and their past, as well as the strong ties the natural formations have to the culture of the region. The on-site Cultural Centre provides ample opportunity to get to know the unique narratives of the region. Additionally, local Aboriginal tour guides show tourists around the base of Uluru every single day.
Why is Uluru Important
It has been a significant landmark to Aboriginal people since the Beginning
The natural landmark is thought to have been formed by ancestral beings during the Dreaming. According to the local Aboriginal people, Uluru’s numerous caves and fissures were all formed due to ancestral beings actions in the Dreaming. Still today, ceremonies are held in the sacred caves lining the base. The term Dreaming refers to the time when the land and the people were created by the ancestor spirits. They creates the rivers, hills, rocks, and more, forming everything in the natural world. The ancestors also made particular sites to express to the Aboriginal people which places were to be sacred.
The Anangu people’s Dreaming story on how Uluru formed resolves around 10 ancestral beings. Each region of Uluru has been formed by different ancestral spirit. In the southern side of Uluru, the rock structure was due to the war between the poisonous and carpet snakes. The north-west side was created by Mala, the hare wallaby people. Another area was formed by the Tjukurpa of Kuniya, the sand python, who left her eggs a short distance away, and was dancing across the rock.
It is a Sacred Site
For many, Uluru and its neighbour Kata Tjuta aren’t just rocks, they are living, breathing, cultural landscapes that are incredibly sacred. Known as being the resting place for the past ancient spirits of the region. A large portion of its surrounds is Indigenous Protected Area, which protects the biodiversity, cultural, and social features within. Cultural customs and traditions are handed down and link the people with the land and animals.
Owned by the Anangu people, they still act as guardians of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park and are the oldest culture known to man.
The Anangu People Hold numerous traditional Customs at Uluru
Living in a modern society, the Anangu have continued to centre their lives around the ancient laws of the land and traditions passed down to them. These laws, also known as Tjukurpa, act as a baseline to this unique culture. They govern all relationships that take place between people, animals, and the land. If you visit Uluru and its surrounding landscape today, you’ll see that these cultural connections are still a strong part of life there. With numerous customs and rituals taking place nearby its looming formation. The Anangu people work hard to protect their lengthy, fascinating history, and continue to live in the same way they did thousands of years ago.
Uluru is an Important Geological Site
These days, it isn’t just the Aboriginal people who find this site significant. Although the Anangu people have their own beliefs on its creations, scientists have studied the rock, and found it to be an extremely unique geological site. The structure is said to have formed 500 million years ago, first beginning in water when the entire region was underwater. At this time, the earth’s plates were shifting. With two fans, one made of sand and the other conglomerate rock, continually pressing against each other in friction. Soon, the pressure burst, and the two fans formed together to create a rock formation, now known today as Uluru! Its creation, material, and size make it one of the most momentous sites for geologists.
It plays a vital role in Conserving our Environment
Uluru is extremely popular, listed as one of the most recognisable natural sites in the entire world. Millions of visitors flock its grounds every year, with Uluru being the biggest tourism site in Australia. However, it is not only Uluru that is important, but its surrounds as well. For the Anangu people, the sacred site expands past the rocks ends, and goes into the nearby riverbanks and trees surrounding the site. Due to its outstanding worth, protecting the area is a vital to maintain the country’s success. This has resulted in majority of the region protected under the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
Related article: When is the best time to visit Uluru?
Uluru: Australia's rock of ages – Lonely Planet travel video
Author John Vlahides visits Uluru (Ayers Rock), the iconic monolith in the heart of Australia; a geological wonder, cultural landmark, and sacred place. Visit http://www.lonelyplanet.com/australia/northernterritory/ulurukatatjutanationalpark/sights/outdoors/uluruayersrock for more information about Uluru.
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