Aborigine skulls to be taken home
Monday, 7 July 2008
A delegation of Aboriginal people from Australia has arrived in Edinburgh to take home human remains. The six skulls and a human ear bone are in collections belonging to the National Museums of Scotland and Edinburgh University. Four members of the Ngarrindjeri people made the trip to take home their ancestor's remains.
Aboriginal people and the Australian Government have fought to repatriate remains from museum collections. On Monday morning, the Ngarrindjeri people burned eucalyptus leaves in front of the university's McEwan Hall in a "smoking ceremony". The ritual marked the completion of a decade-long process during which remains held in the university's collection have been returned.
The delegation is in Edinburgh for the handover of the last piece of human remains still held at the university - a fragment of bone from a woman's ear. It later moved on to the Museum of Scotland to collect six human skulls, also dating back to the 19th century. The remains were acquired by the university more than 100 years ago, when Australia was a British colony.
Dr John Scally, director of the University of Edinburgh collections, said the handover completed an important process. "Over the past decade we have been returning human remains to the Aboriginal cultures which they came from," he added. "Times have changed dramatically since we were given these remains, but we are very happy that through returning them we are able to build a new relationship with the indigenous people of Australia."
Two new Books on Aborigines
May I draw your attention to two new editions out this month. Both are by Jan Roberts
Jack of Cape Grim, A story of British Invasion and Aboriginal Resistance - this book is a true story of how Truganinni with four companions made a last stand against three British military expeditions. ... it is written from Aboriginal oral history and the handwritten accounts of some British settlers and soldiers.... it is a story of Aboriginal heroes
The other book is Massacres to Mining: The Colonization of Aboriginal Australia. - this was launched by Aboriginal elders and it is at their request that it has gone into a new edition.
First Aboriginal remains to be returned from U.S.
Fri Jul 25, 2008
A group of Aboriginal elders on Saturday left Australia for the United States to bring home the remains of 33 ancestors from the Smithsonian Institute, the first Aboriginal remains to be returned from the United States. Aborigines have fought for decades for the return of ancestral remains from overseas universities and museums where they have been taken for scientific and anthropological studies.
Aborigines have inhabited Australia for some 45,000 years and have the world's longest living culture. They believe that their spirit can not settle until it is reunited with their land, which they regard as their mother. "Sixty years after leaving our shores, these are the first indigenous Australian remains to be returned from a major American institution," said Indigenous Affairs Minister Jenny Macklin.
The remains of 33 Aborigines from the Gunbalanya and Groote Eylandt communities in Arnhem Land in northern Australia are held in the Smithsonian Institute's National Museum of Natural History.In 1948 the American-Australian Scientific Expedition to Arnhem Land collected the remains of 46 Aborigines from four communities in Arnhem Land; Gunbalanya, Groote Eylandt, Yirrkala and Milingimbi. Aboriginal elder Jacob Nayinggul from Groote Eylandt believes the collection may include the remains of their grandmothers.
"Most of us can only begin to imagine how the grandchildren and great-grandchildren must be feeling, knowing that after such a long time they will soon be able to lay their ancestors to rest," Macklin said in a statement. On their arrival in Australia, Aborigines will stage ancient welcoming home ceremonies before laying the remains to rest in private ceremonies. The return of the ancestral remains follows the recent return of three remains from Britain to the Ngarrindjeri community in South Australia earlier in this month.
The Australian government is currently negotiating the repatriation of indigenous remains with a number of countries.