Mparntwe is the Aboriginal name for the Traditional Custodians and area of Alice Springs. Protecting the stories and sacred sites of this area is an integral part of the Mparntwe people’s history and spiritual life. The landscape surrounding Alice Springs is rich in Aboriginal culture, and is significant in the stories of the ancestral beings of the Arrernte traditional custodians who travelled through the area, creating the natural features.
The caterpillars are the major ancestors of Mparntwe but there are also other ancestral beings that shaped sites in the landscape, including wild dogs, kangaroos, euros, travelling uninitiated boys, and two women.
When the caterpillars created Anthwerrke (Emily Gap) they spread out in the general direction of what is now the Alice Springs town area. As they moved they created the features that we see today. There are three species of caterpillars involved: the Yeperenye, Ntyarlke and Utnerrengatye. The Yeperenye caterpillars are especially important ancestral beings for the Arrernte people, and their associated sites are mainly found on the east side of Alice Springs town centre.
In the Sadadeen Valley there is an extensive group of large coolibah and box trees (Ankerre Ankerre/Coolibah Swamp). In this area dancing and ceremonies occurred in the creative period involving the local Yeperenye Caterpillars and a group of their counterparts.
Near the Schwartz Crescent causeway there is a rock that represents the visiting caterpillars. They would camp at this spot overnight and eat Ayepe vine, paint themselves and establish the ceremonial laws which would ensure the continuance of the species and the culture. Many years ago this rock was covered by the creek sand and was not visible to women or uninitiated men.
Moving on from this site, the caterpillars visited a number of places in the Sadadeen Valley: near the Ankerre Ankerre Swamp is where the caterpillars would pause to rest as the sun rose and where the visiting caterpillars were first seen by the local caterpillar beings.
The small hills which can be seen dotted across the Sadadeen Valley are all connected to the caterpillar beings’ travels, being egg sites and cocoon sites. The hill which is adjacent to Acacia Hill School is a significant caterpillar cocoon site.