Latin America & Caribbean

Paraguay indigenous Ache skull returned home

Aceh community members in Paraguay with a box containing the returned skull of Damiana Kryygi
Image caption Aceh community leaders intend to lay Damiana to rest in her ancestral home

The skull of an indigenous Ache girl has been returned to her community in Paraguay, more than a century after it was taken to a museum by scientists.

Damiana Kryygi was kidnapped by white settlers in 1896 when she was four in a raid in which her family were killed.

When she died in captivity in Argentina 11 years later her skull was given to anthropologists and eventually taken to a museum in Germany.

Her remains will now be buried in her ancestral homeland in Paraguay.

The skull was handed over in a ceremony in the Paraguayan capital Asuncion after a campaign by indigenous activists.

"We look at the Ache people and we ask for forgiveness, recognising our grave humanitarian failings," Paraguayan Deputy Foreign Minister Juan Esteban Aguirre said.

The skull was accepted by indigenous leader Zunilda Kuanchingui, who used the occasion to demand the return of Ache territory in what is now a national park.

"This is our ancestral land, and more than 300 children were taken from there without mercy, so for us the area is sacred," she said.

"I think it is the obligation of the state to give us back this land to repair some of the harm they have done to us".

In the 19th century the Ache and other indigenous tribes in Paraguay were victims of slave-raiding by settlers moving on to their territory.

After her parents were killed Damiana was given to US anthropologists interested in studying her physiognomy, and then made to work as a maid in a hospital in La Plata, Argentina.

When she died aged 14, her skull was sent to a museum in Berlin.

The rest of her skeleton remained in a museum in Argentina until to was returned to the Ache in 2010.

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