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The Saga of Aboriginal Warrior Yagan's Head

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  • The Saga of Aboriginal Warrior Yagan's Head

    The head of an aboriginal warrior who died resisting the British colonisation of Western Australia has been laid to rest near the city of Perth.

    Yagan was killed by a settler in 1833 and his severed head sent to England where it was displayed in a museum. Prior to his death, Yagan had speared a number of settlers to death during the Noongar resistance to British claims over their land and a bounty was put on his head.

    Leaders of the Noongar tribe succeeded in having the head repatriated in 1997, and have now buried it in a traditional ceremony in a memorial park. The rest of Yagan's body is believed to have been buried somewhere in the park.

    Western Australia's indigenous affairs department said the burial concluded a "long campaign by the Noongar people to reunite the head of the warrior Yagan with his body... (He was) a leader of his people, a man who fought for his beliefs... (and) was killed doing what he believed was right," the department said in a statement.

    Campaigners brought Yagan's head back to Australia in 1997

    After he was shot dead, his head was cut off and his back was skinned in order to obtain his tribal markings. The head was shipped to England to be studied and put on display and it was eventually buried in Liverpool's Everton cemetery in 1964. The Noongar tribe campaigned for decades before it was exhumed and returned to Australia.

    Since its return to Australia, the warrior's head has been at the centre of a wrangle over where it should be buried. Some groups wanted it buried in the memorial park in the Swan Valley, but others said it should never have been returned. One tribal elder blamed a heart attack he suffered on Yagan's "angry spirit".

    Noongar spokesman Richard Wilkes, who travelled to the UK to collect the head, told Australian broadcaster ABC before the ceremony: "We are all proud that Yagan will be buried with dignity."


    At a handover ceremony at Liverpool Town Hall on 31st August 1997, the City Council handed Yaganís head in an inscribed wooden box to a representative of the Australian High Commission. Photo: Liverpool Echo




    Portrait of Yagan's severed head by George Cruikshank.

    Information and newspaper images provided by member Glossy on the My Liverpool Forum, @Liverpool1207 on Twitter, https://www.bbc.com/news/10585852.

    This portrait was painted from observations of Yagan's severed head, which had shrunk substantially during preservation by smoking. George Fletcher Moore said it bore little resemblance to the living Yagan, whose face was "plump, with a burly-headed look about it." It occurs to me that the memorial statue set up to keep the memory of the slain warrior, shown below, probably doesn't look like the real-life man either!



    Yagan statue. Heirisson Island, Perth, Western Australia. The statue was sculpted in 1984 by Robert Hitchcock. Photo by Nachoman-au. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yagan
    Christopher T. George, Lyricist & Co-Author, "Jack the Musical"
    https://www.facebook.com/JackTheMusical/ Hear sample song at https://tinyurl.com/y8h4envx.

    Organizer, RipperCon #JacktheRipper-#True Crime Conferences, April 2016 and 2018.
    Hear RipperCon 2016 & 2018 talks at http://www.casebook.org/podcast/.

  • #2
    How sad. Yagan’s head should never have been repatriated. Now all he could teach us is gone forever

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Kattrup View Post
      How sad. Yaganís head should never have been repatriated. Now all he could teach us is gone forever
      Are you seriously saying the warrior's remains should not have been returned to Australia? Or is there some misunderstanding here?
      Christopher T. George, Lyricist & Co-Author, "Jack the Musical"
      https://www.facebook.com/JackTheMusical/ Hear sample song at https://tinyurl.com/y8h4envx.

      Organizer, RipperCon #JacktheRipper-#True Crime Conferences, April 2016 and 2018.
      Hear RipperCon 2016 & 2018 talks at http://www.casebook.org/podcast/.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Chris G. View Post
        Are you seriously saying the warrior's remains should not have been returned to Australia? Or is there some misunderstanding here?
        No misunderstanding, thatís exactly what Iím saying.

        Do you think erasing him and his history, and depriving him of contributing to mankindís progress, is the best way to honour him?

        Comment


        • #5
          I don't wish to become embroiled too much in the topic, but as an Aussie citizen I don't quite understand just how poor Yagan's head ( alas) could have assisted in any further' learning' in the UK, nor anywhere else for that matter.Unless there has been a sudden re-emergence of the pseudoscience of phrenology, perhaps?

          It is interesting to note that when it hit the WA shores arguments arose as to the manner of what to do with it. This in not that uncommon in people of the 'First Nation'.

          I do agree , Chris that the sculpture doesn't bear too much likeness to the original sketch, infact I thought there might be a bit of Marlon Brando in the finished effigy.

          In the end it seemed a along way to travel just to get ahead!
          Be nice to one another!
          Merv

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Chris G. View Post
            Are you seriously saying the warrior's remains should not have been returned to Australia? Or is there some misunderstanding here?
            Originally posted by Kattrup View Post
            No misunderstanding, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

            Do you think erasing him and his history, and depriving him of contributing to mankind’s progress, is the best way to honour him?
            Then I still don't understand your point of view. Surely the point of bringing Yagan’s head back to Australia and erecting the monument is to honor his memory rather than to erase it. I don't see how keeping the head gruesomely on display in the UK or else having it buried in Britain instead of buried appropriately in his native land helps in any way. I support the repatriation of his remains to Australia and, as a historian, importantly, the need to make his story and that of his people better known.

            The story of slavery in the American South is fairly well known. What happened with the Aborigines of Australia is much less well known, at least in the United States and the UK and elsewhere around the world. The following shocking image, which was published in Nyibayarri: Kimberley Tracker (1995), helps to put a spotlight on what life was like for the Aborigines and on how they were treated by British colonial authorities and white Australians alike. In short: less than human.


            Aborigine men and boys in chains at Wyndham Prison, ca. 1901
            Christopher T. George, Lyricist & Co-Author, "Jack the Musical"
            https://www.facebook.com/JackTheMusical/ Hear sample song at https://tinyurl.com/y8h4envx.

            Organizer, RipperCon #JacktheRipper-#True Crime Conferences, April 2016 and 2018.
            Hear RipperCon 2016 & 2018 talks at http://www.casebook.org/podcast/.

            Comment


            • #7
              The head had been buried in Everton Cemetery for 33 years, if I understand correctly.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Chris Phillips View Post
                The head had been buried in Everton Cemetery for 33 years, if I understand correctly.
                And all this time I thought he was a L'Pool supporter.
                Be nice to one another!
                Merv

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Chris Phillips View Post
                  The head had been buried in Everton Cemetery for 33 years, if I understand correctly.
                  Originally posted by jachim3926 View Post
                  And all this time I thought he was a L'Pool supporter.
                  Of course, geographically, speaking as a Liverpool-born ex-pat, Anfield, Everton, and Goodison are all the same area, the two historic football grounds being separated only by Stanley Park. That won't be the case though if Everton follow through with their plan to relocate to Bramley Moore Dock. . . a move that might prove foolish if, as the scientists predict, the seas are rising with climate change.
                  Christopher T. George, Lyricist & Co-Author, "Jack the Musical"
                  https://www.facebook.com/JackTheMusical/ Hear sample song at https://tinyurl.com/y8h4envx.

                  Organizer, RipperCon #JacktheRipper-#True Crime Conferences, April 2016 and 2018.
                  Hear RipperCon 2016 & 2018 talks at http://www.casebook.org/podcast/.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Chris G. View Post



                    Yagan statue. Heirisson Island, Perth, Western Australia. The statue was sculpted in 1984 by Robert Hitchcock. Photo by Nachoman-au. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yagan
                    Comment from "Canetoad," a Liverpool ex-pat who lives in Australia:

                    The statue of Yagan on Heirisson Island has twice been beheaded by some morons, probably fueled by drink or drugs.

                    I replied:

                    Why does that not surprise me?

                    Much like the moron in Kirkby [Merseyside] who spray painted their initials on the plaque for the historic Weeping Cross at St. Chad's as revealed on Facebook by Steven Horton.





                    Steve Horton commented, "shame someone has had to put their initials on it."

                    Canetoad replied:

                    I used to clean the Admin offices and toilets in two of Perth's cemeteries after dark. Karrakata, Perth's main cemetery and after dark it was very quiet but there was a light always at one of the graves. It turned out to be a solar powered light at one of the graves. At the other cemetery Pinnaroo I was locking up in the dark and heard something behind me. Thought it was a mugger or something more sinister but it was a kangaroo. At that same cemetery the burglar alarm would go off in the Crematorium after dark and me being the only one there would check it out. Why that alarm would go off I don't know because everything was always OK, very strange.
                    Christopher T. George, Lyricist & Co-Author, "Jack the Musical"
                    https://www.facebook.com/JackTheMusical/ Hear sample song at https://tinyurl.com/y8h4envx.

                    Organizer, RipperCon #JacktheRipper-#True Crime Conferences, April 2016 and 2018.
                    Hear RipperCon 2016 & 2018 talks at http://www.casebook.org/podcast/.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      An aunt of mine was married to a grave digger who eventually made it up to cemetery superintendent. As such they had to live in the cemetery lodge which was isolated in the middle of the cemetery. My aunt said at least they had no troublesome neighbours.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Phillip Walton View Post
                        An aunt of mine was married to a grave digger who eventually made it up to cemetery superintendent. As such they had to live in the cemetery lodge which was isolated in the middle of the cemetery. My aunt said at least they had no troublesome neighbours.
                        Sounds
                        like they had nice 'digs'!
                        Be nice to one another!
                        Merv

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jachim3926 View Post
                          Sounds
                          like they had nice 'digs'!
                          I recall it had very high ceilings but was quite compact, only two bedrooms. It was built around 1850.

                          Comment

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