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Race and Power Collide in Fight Over Sacred Rock Art
(CNN) – Near a dry, red rock peninsula on Australia’s far western coast, a dusty highway separates two communities with contrasting fortunes tied to an ancient land.One is home to the small but booming city of Karratha, a regional hub scattered with four-wheel drives that was purpose-built in the 1960s to accommodate a growing army of miners looking to extract the land's vast stores of iron ore, oil, and gas.The other is Roebourne, a former gold rush town 30 minutes up the highway, where the peninsula’s Indigenous population settled after being driven from their lands by colonialists in the mid-1800s.For years, news reports painted Roebourne as a “misfit town where everyone drinks, smokes, and can’t take care of their kids,” says Josie Alec, a proud descendent of the Kuruma-Marthudunera people, who raised her four kids there.In reality, she says it’s a deeply resilient community made up of families like her own, whose ancestors have watched over “Murujuga” – the peninsula’s Aboriginal name – for generations, while keeping its vibrant cultural traditions alive.For Australia’s First Nations people, Murujuga is the birthplace of songs and creation stories explaining the laws of nature, told through more than a million rock carvings scattered across its deserts and nearby islands.These irreplaceable petroglyphs are 10 times older than the pyramids of Egypt and depict early human civilization, but some of their ancestral guardians fear they could be destroyed by pollution from one of Australia’s largest new fossil fuel developments. Experts say the prehistoric petroglyphs show extinct species and the earliest depictions of the human faceThe company behind the project, Woodside Energy, plans to extract millions of tons of gas