Yagan s head reburied in Swan Valley
Yagan's head reburied in Swan Valley

"The spirits, when they’re really happy they cry. So they were crying happy tears this morning with all that rain."

Nyoongar man Neville Collard wasn't sad about the rain that fell on the Swan Valley this morning.

"It wasn’t just the rain that was falling here, the tears were flowing too," Mr Collard said.

To him, the rain was an indication the spirits were happy with a wrong being righted.

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On what Premier Colin Barnett described as "a wonderful day for all West Australians", the head, or kaat, of Nyoongar warrior Yagan was buried and a ceremony held to open the Yagan Memorial Park this morning.

The burial site in Belhus is close to where it is believed his body was buried.

More than 300 people – many of them families with small children – and Aboriginal elders were joined by local and State government representatives at the service.

The head was buried at a private ceremony attended only by invited Nyoongar elders in the early hours of Saturday morning after spending 13 years since repatriation from England at the State pathology centre.

Yagan helped lead a local resistance at the time of European settlement.

With a £30 price on his head and after at least one daring escape, a white settler shot him in 1833 for the reward.

Yagan was killed on July 11, 1833. His head was preserved and given to the British Museum and was brought back to Perth by a delegation of Nyoongar representatives in 1997.

Minister for Indigenous Affairs Kim Hames described Yagan as a "diplomat and negotiator" who had the ability to communicate with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people. He said it was a "great shame" Yagan's kaat was ever shipped to England.

Nyoongar cultural ambassador Ken Collard said the day was for contemplation, celebration and recognition of the spirit of elders.

"Our ancestors' eyes would be pleased to see Yagan coming home to his motherland," he said.

Premier Colin Barnett said Yagan was respected not only by Aboriginal people but also settlers.

"They were times where brutality occurred, and indeed Yagan himself had a very violent and sudden and tragic death," he said.

"His remains were not respected and now, 177 years later, his head, or kaat, has finally been put to rest ... and I hope from that that Yagan and his memory will have a sense of peace and his spirit will be free."

It was a very important day in West Australian history, Mr Barnett said.

"I hope this corrects our history, balances our history and that Yagan will have his true place along with other leading West Australians and he will be remembered and respected and provide some inspiration, particularly for young Aboriginal people, to succeed and be proud of their race and endeavour to go forward."

The rain stopped after the speeches just long enough for a group of young men to perform a traditional dance.

The ceremony will reach completion tomorrow at dawn when the sun rises for the first time on the site where the kaat is buried.

Last month, Nyoongar elder and reburial committee chairman Richard Wilkes said the reburial would be according to Nyoongar custom, with the elder ceremony in traditional language and women wailing to show respect.

"We think of Yagan as a hero and he was the first one to speak up for land rights within the Swan River area and of course it cost him his life because he was in the way," he said.

The West Australian

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