Asia-Pacific

Aboriginal warrior Yagan laid to rest after 170 years

Period portrait of Yagan
Image caption Yagan had a bounty put on his head by colonial authorities in Western Australia

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.

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.

Yagan 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.

Image caption 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, 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."

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