Some useful Arrarnta/Arrernte resources

Self-exercise 1.

Locate Arrernte language on this AIATSIS map:

Arrernte is also spelt Arrarnta (for Western Arrernte); and formerly,  Aranda and Arunta. Linguists say it is definitely Arr…. (double r) and not Ar…

Note the two different contemporary spellings of ‘Arrarnta’ and ‘Arrernte’. That is because there are two competing orthographies – the former (which is easier for English speakers to recognise) is said (Strehlow Research Centre) to be preferred by Western Arrarnta people themselves (so i am told) and the latter is preferred by linguists as it is more accurate (but less easy for  English speakers to recognise).

Read one account of this at:

The Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD) IAD Press in Alice Springs/Mparntwe has really good language (and other) resources, but some are often out of stock. See Their website mentions their Apple app but I could not find it?

Here’s two useful dictionaries for Western Arrarnta. 

WAPD compress.jpg

Self-Exercise 2. Have a look at the notes from inside the Western Arrarnta Picture Dictionary regarding the cover picture and compare the Arrarnta – English translation. Name some plants? Marna means ‘food, vegetables and fruit.’

cover notes WAPD compress.jpg

IDWA compressed.jpg

These apps in Apple Store are well worth a look and a good place to start:

Not the sign of the Cross


In his great work on Arrarnta (Aranda) people’s Dreaming narratives the German Lutheran missionary at Hermannsburg/Ntaria Carl Strehlow wrote:

Carl S Adlersfuss.jpg

(Carl Strehlow 1907:25.  8. Der Komet. Full reference below)

Google Translate gives:

Carl S google trans.jpg

My Google Translate of Carl Stehlow’s original 1907 comment may be a little rough (i left the final ‘t’ off ‘knupft) but the sense is clear – the stars which many Europeans (and others?) see as the Southern Cross are not seen this way by Arrarnta people in the centre of this continent.

This was studied in more detail in the early 1930’s by B. G. Maegraith, who confirmed Carl Strehlow’s statement (and much more). (Maegraith, B. G. (Brian Gilmore), The astronomy of the Aranda and Luritja tribes. More info below.)

Why should it be strange that Arrarnta do not have the same constellation for what Europeans (and others?) see as the Southern Cross? This important fact demonstrates that Arrarnta people have a very different cosmology to that of Europeans.

There is a world of difference between the Ways of First Peoples and those of European peoples of the last several centuries.

For Carl Strehlow, a Lutheran missionary, the sign of the Cross had the greatest of transcendental significance. First Peoples, on the other hand, had and have a much richer transcendental tradition which we know as ‘Dreaming’.  

The arrangement of stars, not visible to people in the Northern Hemisphere in recent times,  as a Cross played – and continue to play – an important role in providing some kind of astral blessing to the ‘expansion’ of Europeans into the lands of people in the Southern Hemisphere.

From Magellan on, seeing this imaginary Cross was something which had strong significance for the explorers, missionaries and colonists.  

Anyone who seriously wants to find out more about Arrarnta cosmology, and the arrangement of stars in that region which European’s group at the Southern Cross, can make a start at a piece from my earlier series on Arrarnta cosmology:!AlcvXZV0m016jVtWxEYtIXob6fhK

And for more on how Europeans and their colonisation of the Southern Hemisphere and Southern Cross see:!AlcvXZV0m016kkCGG3AZAu4iRJcN


Maegraith, B. G. (Brian Gilmore). 1932. “Astronomy Of The Aranda And Luritja Tribes.” Transactions And Proceedings Of The Royal Society Of South Australia 56 (10). Adelaide: 19–26.

Carl Strehlow: Die Aranda- und Loritja-Stämme in Zentral-Australien, Ed. Städtisches Völkerkunde-Museum Frankfurt am Main and Moritz Freiherr v. Leonhardi, Vol. 1-5, Frankfurt 1907-1920 (No published English translation.)

Banksia – what’s in a name?

Banksia – what’s in a name?


Europeans first referred to this country as  “New” Holland and, while Cook had used “South Wales”, it soon became “New South Wales”. There is a pattern – New World, New Spain, New Amsterdam, New Zealand, New Guinea, New Caledonia, New Hebrides, New Britain …

In some instances, these are said to become ‘Neo-Europes’. (Alfred W Crosby 2004 ‘Ecological Imperialism – The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900.)

The imperial colonising process can be compared to the cloning process – that is, the existing cultural nucleus is forcefully excluded or suppressed and another foreign culture is forcefully inserted in its places in order to monopolise the rich resources of living country. Keeping the original culture(s) suppressed is a key part of maintaining the privileges thus acquaired.

In this country, at least, European one-sided cultural forms were conceived in bad-faith vis-a-via First Peoples – and remain so in present times.

This country was never an empty space – either in terms of population or in terms of culture. As we now know, it was completely populated and completely cultured by the time Europeans arrived.

A kind of counterfeit reality was constructed. We know this one-sided form of reality as ‘Australia’. We do not yet have an agreed indigenous name (or names) for this country.  

From the outset of European designs on this country they proceeded to fill the imaginary ‘empty space’ with culturally one-sided cultural forms. Irrespective of First Peoples forms of signification for places, plants, animals –  and people –  European cultural constructs were prefabricated and imposed on to life here.


The role of the Gentleman’s pursuit of botany in the Endeavour’s voyage of exploration is given recognition when ‘Stingray Harbour’’ was later renamed ‘Botany Bay’ by James Cook. Initially, the presence of the many very large stringrays, which were caught for food, was the significant feature recorded in the English name for the large bay.

As Cook noted, with the change of name from Stingray Harbour, the Naturalists – Banks and Dr Solander – had been engaged in collecting plant materials while they were there. On board the Endeavour where plants being taken to Europe.

Joseph Banks had an interest in botany from his teenage years. He actually paid for for a Linnaean lecturer of botany when he attended Oxford University as there was none. (See, for example, Richard Holmes “The Age of Wonder” The Folio Society MMXV pp7-8). He also contributed 10,000 pounds (two years of his exceptional income) for the study of Natural History on the Endeavour voyage.

In September 1770, as the Endeavour sailed away from the East Coast of this country, Banks wrote in his journal:

“Of Plants in general the countrey afforded a far larger variety than its barren appearance seemd to promise. Many of these have no doubt properties which might be useful, but for Physical or oeconomical purposes which we were not able to investigate, could we have understood the Indians or made them by any means our friends we might perchance have learnt some of these: for tho their manner of life, but one degree removed from Brutes, does not seem to promise much yet they had a knowledge of plants as we plainly could percieve by their having names for them.”  J. Banks 1770 ‘The Endeavour Journal of Sir Joseph Banks’ (The Echo Library 2006:308 – emphasis added)

Well, First Peoples ‘botantists’ may have had names (and much knowledge of the plants) but the next step in this process was to name a whole genus, not merely a species, in honour of Banks:

“The genus Banksia was first described and named by Carl Linnaeus the Younger in his April 1782 publication Supplementum Plantarum; hence the full name for the genus is “Banksia L.f.” The genus name honours the English botanist Sir Joseph Banks, who collected the first Banksia specimens in 1770, during James Cook‘s first expedition.” ( )

The Wikipedia entry on Banksia integrifloia also provides some useful information

“B. integrifolia was first collected at Botany Bay on 29 April 1770, by Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Daniel Solander, naturalists on the Endeavour during Lieutenant (later Captain) James Cook’s first voyage to the Pacific Ocean.[10][11] However, the species was not published until April 1782, when Carolus Linnaeus the Younger described the first four Banksia species in his Supplementum Plantarum. Linnaeus distinguished the species by their leaf shapes, and named them accordingly. Thus the species with entire leaf margins was given the specific name integrifolia, from the Latin integer, meaning “entire”, and folium, meaning “leaf”.[12] The full name for the species is therefore Banksia integrifolia L.f.[1]

Now widely known as coast banksia or coastal banksia, B. integrifolia was previously known by a range of common names. The Checklist of Australian Trees lists four other common names: honeysuckle, white banksia, white bottlebrush and white honeysuckle;[1] and some older sources refer to it as honeysuckle oak.[2][3]” (accessed 5 April 2017)

But what happens next? Wikipedia notes of this species of tree:

It was known to Indigenous Australians before its discovery and naming by Europeans; for example, the Gunai people of Gippsland called it birrna.[4] Because of its wide range it would have a name in a number of other indigenous languages, but these are now lost. In 2001, a search of historical archives for recorded indigenous names of Victorian flora and fauna failed to find a single name for the species.[5] (emphasis added)

Now, while Joseph Banks never returned to this country, it was not long after he returned to England that, partially on his recommendation, the First Fleet was on its way to found a penal colony at Botany Bay.

With the large number of Europeans arriving, there also arrived the opportunity for some Officers and, later, Gentlemen to fill in the great blanks in Banks knowledge of indigenous plants (and etc). But this did not happen.  As was noted in the case of Banksia integrifolia mentioned above, few (if any) of the original names survive.

The colonising process in this country was been one where, instead of making good use of first-hand experience to falsify and correct initial and mistaken European notions of life here, the opposite seems to be the case – life here has been forced to conform with the mistaken notions imported from overseas.

The name for this culturally one-sided process is ethnocide. This dreadful history has left us with a most challenging legacy – to make good (using the best possible healing means) the errors and omissions of the past.

It is an enormous task. They say healing ourselves is a necessary first step.

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