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Book: Restoring the Chain of Memory

Chapter: ‘One Hour Before Sunset’: The Loss of Indigenous Religious Knowledge

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.27448


This chapter considers the judgement of T.G.H. Strehlow that the transmission of religious knowledge and with it the collective memory, had been so disrupted among the Arrernte people that, for all practical purposes, such knowledge had been irrevocably forgotten, or as he put it, disappeared into ‘oblivion’. The concerted efforts by white settlers, Government agents and missionary organisations to replace Indigenous culture with the values and practices of the colonising culture provided one of Strehlow’s chief motivations to preserve records of the rituals, ceremonies, stories, social obligations and genealogies as he found them when he began conducting research in Central Australia in 1932. He argued that the memory of ancient traditions was preserved exclusively in his notes, recordings, photographs, films and other documentation he had collected. The concluding section of the chapter asks if Strehlow was right in his conclusion and examines contrary evidence relevant for the repatriation of knowledge movement currently being implemented at the Strehlow Research Centre in Alice Springs.

Chapter Contributors

  • James Cox ( - jamescox) 'University of Edinburgh'